Friday, February 29, 2008

You Don't Tug on Superman's Cape ...

One of my favorite things about "this blogging thing" I'm doing, is the people it has brought me back into contact with. After 31 years in Kentucky schools I've had the honor of working with a number of the state's leading educators and citizens. But one loses contact over time. KSN&C has become a way to reconnect.

And as you may know, KSN&C readers don't always agree on what's best for Kentucky's children and the future of the Commonwealth - or how we get to a better place. Usually issues get aired out in the open on the blog, but some folks, owing to their particular circumstances, feel the need to keep a lower profile - so we may chat behind the scenes.

I had one such exchange with a colleague recently over Senate Bill 1 - or more particularly - my characterization of Senate President David Williams as one who tends to defer to the constitution only when it suits his purposes.

For that, I got taken to the woodshed. Despite our fundamental agreements on student testing, I caught flack from the reader for being too hard on the Senate President.

"My larger concern is the inability to create a climate in which to have a measured discussion of what we want accountability to be and how we want to assess it."

"...all ideas need to be on the table in a forum where we discuss assessment calmly not defensively, come to a consensus and then place it in the political arena. It is much too easy to criticize David Williams and Dan Kelly as anti-KERA. Richard, neither one of them are anti school reform. ...I found them both to be very thoughtful men who asked good questions and worked to understand the complex issues around assessment. Just because they dare proffer a plan that both of us, as educational professionals, may disagree with, does not make them villains. Such demonizing keeps us stuck with an assessment that does not serve the children, the teachers and parents well.

We must find a way to discuss these issues and bring a variety of views to the table so that we can improve assessment. It isn't changing the assessment that erodes reform, it is the lack of confidence in assessment that erodes our continuing efforts."

First, the facts force me to admit that Williams deserves credit for his early support of education reform. As the Ashland Daily Independent reminded us recently,

As a senator who had no leadership position in 1990, Williams courageously opposed the Republican leadership by voting for KERA. For that vote, he earned the wrath of his GOP colleagues. It took a few years for him to emerge from political exile and rise to become the most influential Republican in Frankfort.
But it's true, I felt little hesitation in calling Williams out his disregard for the constitution for a few reasons: It's germane to the discussion of Senate Bill 1 and he is an attorney who understands how the constitution should function in our democracy. But, evidence suggests he has become (first and foremost) a politician with a willingness to redefine the law to suit his purposes.

It is Williams himself who has convinced me of this. Here's why: He has imagined privileges for himself that don't exist; is unrepentant in the shameful Dana Seum Stephenson affair; dumped his legislative duty to Kentucky's senior judges on the courts; ...shall I go on? It seems Senator Williams has no higher legislative priority than sustaining and adding to his own power as President of the Senate.

But my friendly critic may be correct. Perhaps it's not wise to criticize the state's most powerful Senator. "You don't tug on Superman's cape..." Perhaps we should forget the bad parts of the past in favor of the good parts and believe anew in the senate president's willingness to be involved in an open discussion of the issues. While it might be hard to convince Senator Tim Shaughnessy of this, honey may well catch more files than vinegar. I confess, my first and most natural reaction, has been to call 'em as I see 'em, and let the chips fall where they may.

Photo by Pam Spaulding in the Courier-Journal.

Senate panel mulls replacing CATS tests

This from the Courier-Journal:

FRANKFORT — The Senate Education Committee heard testimony today from both supporters and opponents of a bill that would replace Kentucky’s student-testing system with nationally standardized tests.

There was no action taken on Senate Bill 1, which would eliminate the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, or CATS — the linchpin of the 18-year-old Kentucky Education Reform Act. The bill would also eliminate multiple-choice testing from CATS in the areas of arts and humanities, and would no longer judge schools based on student-writing portfolios.

Supporters who spoke in favor of the bill included David Adkisson, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, who said he is concerned over the lack of alignment of CATS with the expectations for postsecondary-level study...

...Opponents of the bill included Bob Sexton, president of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a school advocacy group based in Lexington, who said he doesn’t believe the bill will help improve student achievement.

The meeting was contentious at times, particularly when some of those who spoke in opposition of the bill were asked to make their comments brief, while those who supported it were not...

...Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D- Louisville, said afterward that he was disappointed with the way the meeting was handled.“There is no question that this was an orchestrated meeting,” he said.“I have never seen a committee meeting where members were prohibited from asking questions during or following testimony, except of course, if you happen to be the Senate floor leader.”

Shaughnessy also questioned why Draud and Mountjoy were not asked to testify.“If they had been invited they would have been here, and the reason why they were not invited is because the Republicans don’t want to hear what they have to say,” he said.

Draud said in a telephone interview this afternoon that he would have testified if he had been asked.“I had an entire document prepared and sent it to all the legislators and educators in the state so that they would be familiar with all of the issues,” Draud said.

C-J audio: Tim Shaughnessy airs his frustrations with the committee and David Williams responds.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

KDE to host First Aspiring Educators Career Fair in Louisville

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – To help Kentucky school districts fulfill staffing needs for their areas, the Kentucky Department of Education’s Division of Educator Quality and Diversity will host a statewide career fair on Wednesday, March 5, at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville.

The Aspiring Educators Career Fair, the first of its kind in Kentucky, will last from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The fair is designed to pair highly qualified, job-ready individuals who are serious about seeking careers in education. Second-career professionals seeking alternative certification also may find the fair informative.

Approximately 36 school districts will be represented at this event. Interested individuals may register online at

Applicants who are hired to fill school district positions may be eligible for incentives:

§ student loan forgiveness

§ undergraduate/graduate tuition reimbursement

§ additional funding resources to complete alternative route programs

The fair is just one initiative of the department’s Division of Educator Quality and Diversity to help connect job applicants and school districts. Through the Kentucky Educator Placement Service (KEPS), a wide range of services is available to job candidates for teaching and school administration jobs.

More information on KEPS is available here:

SOURCE: KDE press release

A frightened girl asked the driver to slow down ...But he didn't

This from The Washingtron Post

School Bus Overturns in
Prince George's County Maryland

44 Students Hospitalized
With Minor Injuries;
Driver Is Accused of Speeding

School bus 1156 was going too fast. That much was clear to the 44 students heading to William Wirt Middle School in the Riverdale area just before 9 a.m. yesterday.

A frightened girl asked the driver to slow down, four passengers recalled. But he didn't, the four said. And the students received an unpleasant lesson in physics: The top-heavy bus, whipping into a left turn from Riverdale Road onto 61st Place, tipped over onto its side, grinding to a halt and throwing screaming children into a heap.

The students and the driver were sent to hospitals with injuries that were not life-threatening, police and school officials said. Antonio Nate Robinson, 46, was charged with speeding, negligent driving and not wearing a seat belt, said Officer Henry Tippett, a spokesman for the Prince George's County police. The violations could result in a total fine of $435 and six points on his driver's license.

Robinson, of Hyattsville, had five traffic violations in Maryland from 1985 to 1992, according to court records. The violations included failing to obey a stop sign and driving the wrong way down a one-way street. In Virginia in 1998, he was ticketed for going 70 to 74 mph in a 55 mph zone.
The Maryland violations were considered minor and old enough not to prevent him from being hired as a bus driver by the Prince George's County school system in August 2006.

Robinson's record "certainly came up during his screening," said John White, a spokesman for the school system. "There were no traffic accidents, so to speak. . . . He had 14 years between '92 and 2006. We thought that was a significant time with a clean driving record, and we thought with training he could be a responsible driver." ...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gutting KERA

This from the Ashland Daily Independent:

Senate Bill 1 would abandon the high standards
of 1990 law

Make no mistake about it: Senate Bill 1 would be a major retreat from the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

The bill would abandon two of KERA’s greatest strengths: Its insistence on holding schools and teachers accountable for how well their students perform on tests, and its demand that students not only prove that they can recite certain facts but also can apply that knowledge in practical ways.

The bill co-sponsored by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly, R- Springfield, and others would replace the high standards and demanding tests of KERA with national standardized, multiple choice tests that were the norm in the days before KERA.

Unlike the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System — CATS — those standardized tests tell us little about whether students can apply their knowledge and absolutely nothing about their ability to write. But CATS and portfolio writing would be scrapped by Senate Bill 1.

Senate President David Williams said his bill would eliminate arts and humanities testing, open response questions and scoring of student portfolios as part of the accountability testing. But one of the greatest strengths of KERA is that is demands that students display knowledge in a wide-variety of subject areas.

In contrast, the federal No Child Left Behind Act tests students only in reading and math. No Child Left Behind may have helped schools improve in other states, but not in Kentucky, which was already holding schools more accountable than the federal law does.

Senator Kelly — who opposed KERA when it was first enacted and has repeatedly tried to gut the law — says Senate Bill 1 will save the state money now spent on grading CATS. He’s right. It takes time and knowledgeable people to fairly grade the essay and open-ended questions on CATS and to evaluate the portfolios, while a computer can grade the multiple choice answers on standardized tests in a matter of minutes. The answers are either right or wrong; there is no gray area.

Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond, complains that under KERA “teachers are encouraged to teach the test, as opposed to teaching the kids.” So what? If the tests fairly measure the skills that we want students to acquire, should not teachers be teaching those skills as opposed to something else?

Senator Williams’ sponsorship of this bill — and the high priority the Republican majority has given it by designating it as Senate Bill 1 — is particularly disappointing. As a senator who had no leadership position in 1990, Williams courageously opposed the Republican leadership by voting for KERA. For that vote, he earned the wrath of his GOP colleagues. It took a few years for him to emerge from political exile and rise to become the most influential Republican in Frankfort. Now he is trying to use that power to gut the bill he boldly supported.

Sen. Charlie Borders, R-Grayson, also has been a strong supporter of KERA. Will he now join his GOP colleagues in attempting to weaken the bill? To his credit, he has at least not signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

There is another former Republican legislator who should buck the GOP leadership in the Senate by opposing Senate Bill 1: Education Commissioner Jon Draud.

In the final weeks of Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s term, Draud, the former superintendent of the tiny Ludlow School District, resigned from his seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives to become the state’s top educator. At the time, Draud’s supporters insisted he was a educator, not a politician. He now can prove that by opposing this GOP attack on KERA. If he fails to do so, Draud will prove he is more loyal to the Republican Party than he is to quality schools in Kentucky.

Sure, we know that KERA is not perfect and neither is CATS. But since its enactment, the law has undergone constant change and so has the way students are
tested. That was to be expected. Kentucky was breaking new ground by enacting a law that moved away from standardized testing. The development of CATS has been an 18-year work in progress. Kentucky public schools have improved in the last 18 years, mainly because KERA has demanded constant improvement.

Public education in this state still is not where it needs to be, but it is no time to abandon the high standards and accountability of KERA.

Exceptional Children Advisory Panel to Meet

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children invites parents of children with disabilities, education leaders and professionals and other interested citizens to a public hearing scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, March 1, at the Holiday Inn University Plaza in Bowling Green.

The public hearing is a part of the State Advisory Panel’s March meeting, which also will be held at the Holiday Inn University Plaza.

The primary purpose of the panel is to advise the Kentucky Department of Education’s Division of Exceptional Children Services on issues concerning the education of children and youth with disabilities.

Parents of children with disabilities, education leaders and professionals and other interested citizens are invited to express their comments regarding any issues in the education of children and youth with educational disabilities during the public hearing. There also will also be opportunities for participants to meet panel members.

The Governor appoints panel members and meetings will be held in June and October of 2008. For more information about the panel, contact the Division of Exceptional Children Services at (502) 564-4970.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Your Kid isn't "College Material" and Senator Kelly is going to prove it.

On Monday, KET's Bill Goodman hosted yet another informative Kentucky Tonight program - this time on student testing.

Within the first five minutes Kentucky Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy expressed the modern school reform philosophy while Senate Majority Floor Leader Dan Kelly revealed the old conservative philosophy that Senate Bill 1 is built upon.

When it comes to state-wide school accountability both philosophies are ...less than perfect. The liberal, because it over reaches; the conservative, because it underestimates.

Mountjoy said she believes that the most important sentence in KERA is, "Schools shall expect a high level of achievement from all students."

Kelly clearly does not.

"Reform of education is a continuing process," Kelly said. "Representative Moberly and I have collaborated on ...Senate Bill 130 that requires the AC[T] testing of all students so that we can make sure that all students have the opportunity to find out ...whether or not they are college material. Some we think, will find out they are, when maybe their family their background would say that they aren't. And some, like my children, who thought they were, might find out they aren't."

Kelly hints that, given their "family background factors," (a reference to James Coleman's 1966 report "Equality of Educational Opportunity") one may be pleasantly surprised when a low-income, inner-city, person of color excels - but it is not to be expected.

These competing philosophies are not new. They've just been given a retread for today's discussion. Their roots run deep into the early 20th century. In the John Dewey/William Torrey Harris "debates" the issue involved what was to be done with the throngs of poor immigrant children who came to America.

The conservative notion was that education should teach a person the skills and knowledge necessary to responsibly assume their place in society.

The liberals believed that education should teach a person skills and knowledge necessary to improve their place in society.

These are very different goals.

Senate Bill 1 would return us to the pre-KERA days when it was fully acceptable for a third of our students to fail because they just weren't "college material." The normative testing that sorted out students during much of the twentieth century would be reemployed as the sole measuring stick under Senate Bill 1. Hidden within group means, individual students can get written off pretty quickly.

Mountjoy has a better idea, one that keeps expectations high for every student.

But today's liberal bias - that refuses to lower expectations below 100% of all students - is unrealistic and threatens to poison an otherwise right-headed notion. Every child proficient by 2014 is the right aspiration, but it fails as an operating principle for high-stakes accountability. Education Trust has downgraded their proficiency expectiations to 80%, but I think something closer to 85% or 90% is within our reach if the system is adequately funded.

It would also be good for education leaders to consider the negative impact of taking too much pressure off of students and assuming that every child who fails does so because the teacher failed.

At the heart of Senate Bill 1 is a failed philosophy. One that dismisses criterion referenced assessment in favor of a normative system that guarantees winners, but also guarantees losers.

Senate Bill 1 is not a step forward.

Also joining the program were Rep. Harry Moberly, Chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and Ft Thomas Superintendent John Williamson.

Watch the full KET video here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dancing for a Cure to Childhood Cancer

Rita and I went to a great event last weekend: Dance Blue at UK.

It was held in UK's Memorial Coliseum, the "Rupp Arena" of my undergraduate days. It was great to walk up the ramp again, past the names of fallen soldiers, and pictures of past champions.

After getting my floor pass from Evie Wilkinson (Harvie & Nellie's daughter and former Cassidy student) I walked into the hall where I once watched LSU's Pete Maravich score 64 and lose to UK by 15 or so.

But this time the floor was pulsing with movement. It was 6 in the evening and 500 students had been dancing for 23 hours straight, all for the benefit of UK's effort to combat childhood cancer. It was great to see so many young adults willing to spend a whole day for the benefit of children they didn't know. In the process they raised almost a half million dollars.

Everybody's favorite part of the program seemed to be the line dance that occurred at the end of each hour.
This photo (from a prior year, I suspect) hardly does it justice. Imagine 500 in synchronous movement, arms waving, bodies bending, hopping, swaying and swooping through intricate routines - largely in unison - to high energy hip hop, country, pop, rock, and movie music. I was amazed.

When we first arrived, the theme for the hour was "1980's high school prom" complete with prom dresses, and a surprising number of students who knew the words to the old school rock that was "spinning" from Mark Denomme's MacBook; even the less popular stuff like Annie Lenox's "Walking on Broken Glass." As a thank you, several cancer survivors performed for the marathoners too.

Good Clean fun all night long.

We had contributed before, but attended this year because of the participation of "our youngest," Catherine, a sophomore. I'd like to take the liberty of saying how proud we are of her participation.

I'd also like to take this liberty....

You never know where those Facebook photos might show up. : )

This from the UK press release:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 23, 2008) − After 24 hours of non-stop dancing, they were exhausted and footsore, but it didn’t show when the 490 University of Kentucky students and dozens of young cancer patients and their families were told all they had sacrificed was worth it – to the tune of nearly $425,000 for pediatric oncology care at the university.

With tears and cheers, the DanceBlue participants celebrated a total that quite nearly doubled last year's.

After his team beat Arkansas Saturday afternoon, Men's Basketball Coach Billy Gillispie dropped by Memorial Coliseum and was so moved by the students dedication that he wrote a check for $10,000.

Earlier in the day, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear declared it DanceBlue Day in the commonwealth. The year of fundraising culminated with a 24-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon and the students' inspiring results – $424,855.89 – for the Golden Matrix Fund and the Pediatric Oncology Clinic at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

The third annual DanceBlue, the UK Center for Community Outreach’s largest student-run philanthropy, involved hundreds of students on the dance floor, on the stage, and behind the scenes raising money on behalf of the Golden Matrix Fund. The fund provides families who have a child with cancer with emotional support and financial aid, and supports pediatric cancer research at UK.

The money students raised also funds improvements to the facilities and services for pediatric cancer patients at UK. In its first year, the students raised more than $123,000. They nearly doubled that last year with a total of $241,515. In addition to fundraising, student organizations are involved with the Adopt-A-Family program, which pairs students with the families of pediatric cancer patients. Students provide emotional support for the families and organize fun activities for the patients and siblings.

KDE Office of Assessment and Accountability responds to ORQ flap

On February 15th Kentucky School News and Commentary ran a story outing some incorrect training a few educators say they received at the hands of Measured Progress, KDE's testing contractor. Worse, the trainees believed they were being told that Measured Progress used some kind of double-secret rubric that redefiend words and penalized students who followed directions.

KDE responded saying it was all a mistake, that they would follow up and get back to KSN&C with a more formal response. KDE did that today.

This from KDE's Office of Assessment and Accountability, Division of Assessment Support:

A PowerPoint has been circulating that concerns formative assessment and answering Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) open response questions. This PowerPoint did not come from Measured Progress or KDE. It includes incorrect

Specifically, two slides in the PowerPoint state:

· The question does not always mean what it says. There is hidden meaning in some of the questions. Students must go a step beyond what the prompt requires (Like in the old days of assessment). We must coach students up on this. As a matter of routine, students must do more than what is asked of them by the question prompt.

· List does not mean list. The hidden meaning is list and explain or list and describe.

There are no hidden scoring features in the KCCT items or scoring guides. The question means exactly what it says -- students do not have to go beyond what the prompt requires. List means exactly that -- “list.” If there is a reason to explain or describe, the question will ask students to explain or describe. Answers should always be thorough, complete and full enough to relay knowledge and abilities about the question.

Scoring has not changed under the new contractor, Measured Progress. West Ed (the item/scoring guide contractor since the 1990s) still develops all the items and follows the same guidelines as used in the previous contract. Measured Progress applies the scoring guides created by West Ed to the scoring session.

Please see the recently released annotated open response questions for more details. They provide insight into how items are scored.

For more facts about KCCT scoring....Who ya gonna call?


KCCT MYTH:Restating the question is mandatory.

KCCT MYTH BUSTER says: No, it is not required, but is acceptable to do.

MYTH: Responses restating the question without further information will earn at least one point.

MYTH BUSTER: No; new or additional information must be included in order to receive any credit.

MYTH: A graphic organizer should be done on the response page.

MYTH BUSTER: Depending on the type of question being asked, a graphic organizer may not be the best way to record the answer. Best
practice would be to use the organizer on scrap paper to plan the

MYTH: Answers must be in paragraph form.

MYTH BUSTER: Scorers are trained to focus on content and not address the format of the response. A response in any format -- bulleted, labeled diagram or graphic organizer -- will be scored. However, the nature of graphic organizers is to outline or abbreviate rather than to give supporting information and/or explanations that are usually required by the questions.

MYTH: Doing more than required by the prompt will score a 4.

MYTH BUSTER: A score of 4 requires the response to completely and accurately reflect the correct answer according to the scoring guide. Extra information is not required to score a 4. If the extra information
is inaccurate, it can prevent the responses from scoring a 4.

MYTH: Content-specific vocabulary must be used in order to score a 4.

MYTH BUSTER: Not necessarily; if the content can be adequately expressed without the use of specific vocabulary, appropriate credit will be given to the response. Content vocabulary is only required if the question specifically asks for its use.

MYTH: Three or more examples always must be given.

MYTH BUSTER: No; the question will specify the number of examples required. Giving more will not increase the score.

MYTH: Scorers only have 30 seconds to score each piece.

MYTH BUSTER: No; scorers can take as much time as needed to score each response.

MYTH: Released items are “bad” items that have been thrown out of the test.

MYTH BUSTER:Not true; the items are good to use in instruction and are representative of the test. Release of items is not based on how the
items performed.

MYTH: “Strike-throughs” on an open response are better than erasing.

MYTH BUSTER: Not necessarily; scorers will score what is written on the page. Strike-throughs may take up more space than erasing, leaving less space to complete a proper response.

MYTH: Open response answers will be scored using the new analytical

MYTH BUSTERS: Each open response item has a specific scoring guide/rubric. The questions are scored for content and not writing

MYTH: Reading and mathematics scores at the new grades added in 2007 will be counted for only NCLB.

MYTH BUSTERS: For grades 3-8, all reading and mathematics scores will be used for NCLB and CATS calculations.

KDE says they have been, as yet, unable to pinpoint the original source of the PowerPoint.

SOURCE: KDE communications

Education Groups Oppose Senate Bill 1

This afternoon a flurry of communications have surfaced from a number of educations groups joining KSN&C, the Courier-Journal, the Ashland Daily Independent in encouraging Kentuckians to actively oppose Senate Bill 1.

Here is KDE's analysis.

The Prichard Committee says:

Senate Bill 1 would take Kentucky education a giant step backward by replacing CATS with an off-the-shelf national norm referenced test, removing all requirements that students be able to analyze data, solve problems, and communicate their reasoning. This bill would lower Kentucky's goals and "dumb down" our testing. Help us stop this proposal by contacting members of the Senate Education Committee today.

What's At Stake?
Vote No on SB1

Senate Bill 1 would change Kentucky’s assessment and accountability system by requiring only multiple choice questions and eliminating all testing where students have to do their own analysis and explain their own thinking. Both open-response questions and portfolio writing would be abandoned.

SB1 would use an off-the-shelf national norm-referenced test as the main assessment: the kind that compares each student to a group of other kids and charts them on a bell curve. Overall, the bill would lower Kentucky’s standards and ensure that our children are less prepared for a successful future.

Arts, humanities, pratical living and vocational studies would no longer be a part of accountability. That would be another reduction in what we prepare our students to know and be able to do, and hard to square with Kentucky's constitutional expectation that schools will work to deliver that knowledge for each and every child.

SB1 would disrupt our schools. Teachers are still working through the major revisions to Kentucky Core Content for Assessment, added elementary testing for No Child Left Behind, and added readiness testing in grades 8, 10, and 11 (the Explore, Plan, and ACT tests). They need and deserve time to complete that process and deliver for students on the standards already before them.

Finally, Kentucky spends about $15 a student for CATS, which measures our own Kentucky standards. This is a fraction of what the state spends per pupil (less than twenty-five one-hundredths of one percent) and less than 25% of the cost of a single textbook. It’s far too small a savings for a bill that will confuse our schools, lower our standards, and weaken our children’s futures.

Senate Bill 1 would dramatically change Kentucky’s assessment and accountability system in ways the Prichard Committee does not support.

This from KASC:

The Kentucky Association of School Councils
stands for educators, for parents, for students
—and against Senate Bill 1.

First and most dismaying, the move to a national, norm-referenced test is an abandonment of our commitment to proficiency for ALL Kentucky’s kids.

The very foundation of Kentucky’s education system is for all students to reach proficiency or above. Only a criterion-based test like CATS measures students against a set standard, affirming that all students can reach that standard. National exams, like CTBS, are normreferenced tests designed to create a “norm” or average, and then tell us where each child falls on the bell curve in comparison to that average.

In Kentucky, we expect that ALL our 4th graders can multiply accurately. We want ALL our high school graduates to be able to explain how democratic governments preserve the rights of their constituents. We test for what our educators have decided all students need to know.

If we believe in proficiency for ALL students, then our tests must assess each student according to a rigorous standard, not as a point along an established bell curve.

Second, the Core Content and Program of Studies are sound guides for instruction and testing. They have been established through collaboration of qualified Kentucky stakeholders, and they are the firm foundation upon which the CATS assessment is built. National tests, no matter how good, are not based on what we as Kentuckians
have asserted that our students need to know to be educated, self-sufficient individuals.

Further, in a world that is demanding workers capable of higher-level thinking, we serve no one by removing the assessments that encourage just that.

Writing is an exercise in thinking and communication; thus, thinking is better assessed through the writing of portfolio entries and open-response answers than it is through the bubbling in of multiple-choice answers. Multiple-choice is an efficient mode of assessing knowledge, but writing allows students to show their work. The challenges of the real world are best met when teachers require students to think and to communicate that thinking in writing.

Those who are looking for longitudinal studies need look no further than the data that is already available in the reading and math CATS scores. Kentuckians who want to
know where our students stand in comparison to other American students already have the EXPLORE/PLAN/ACT testing data to scrutinize. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also provides a respected, nation-wide comparison of our state’s performance.

Finally, the CATS system is an accurate way of measuring the quality of teaching and learning in a school, and shows real strengths and weaknesses that Kentucky educators and council members use regularly to find ways to improve. All educators across the state are working hard and though some may not be satisfied with their CATS results, the system gives them a rich source of information to shape their next steps and a worthwhile ultimate target. No other alternative, including those included in Senate Bill 1, would continue to urge schools to seek proficiency in arts, practical living, writing, and Kentucky history. The spectrum of what students should learn in science, social studies, and even math and language arts would also be diminished.

Improvements were made to the testing system in 1998 and 2007. Between now and 2014, schools need to be able to do their work on the firm foundation of our current accountability expectations. Our schools need to know that our state is committed to CATS and focused on continuing the progress we’ve made with this system. Many schools in Kentucky have made tremendous gains; improvement is underway throughout the state. Educators, parents, and students deserve the credit, but the sense of urgency to improve our schools is rooted in CATS.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bad Advice from KDE lands Superintendent in Hot Water

Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Dianne Cobb broke laws in the process of hiring a new high school principal but did so under authorization of the Kentucky Department of Education, according to a state investigation. As a result, she has been ordered to attend training on how to work with school councils.

The ruling stems from complaints sent to the Office of Education Accountability following Cobb's hiring of Rita Rector as Frankfort High School principal.

In a memo sent to Cobb and Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Jon Draud several weeks ago, investigators examine[d] the realignment of the school district to create a new school at FHS by moving middle school grades, whether Cobb impeded the SBDM council process for council elections and staff hiring, whether Cobb violated statues by failing to post a FHS principal vacancy and/or violated Kentucky law by selecting Rita Rector as FHS principal.
The OEA investigation found,

* Hiring of a new principal was not justified because the Frankfort Independent Board of Education did not create a new high school when it added seventh- and eighth-grade students to FHS.

* Cobb prevented the election of parent and teacher council members for terms beginning July 1, 2007, even though she knew a pool of candidates as early as February 2007.

* Cobb violated state statutes by failing to post the open FHS principal position for 30 days, when the position became vacant in February 2007 and instead posted the vacancy June 26.
While Cobb's actions were direct violations, the report states they were taken on advice and approval of the KDE's Division of Leadership and Instructional Support.

Cobb, whose contract with FIS ends June 30, said the investigation stems from a misunderstanding. She says she acted under the advice of KDE when making decisions and when she found out decisions did not meet regulations she immediately corrected them.
This from the State-Journal.

Illinois District Refusing to Test Kids Still Learning English

A DuPage County school district could be the first in Illinois -- and perhaps the nation -- to refuse to administer mandatory state exams to students who haven't yet mastered English.

The boycott by Carol Stream Elementary District 93 would be an act of civil disobedience against the state's decision to force English learners to take the same tests as their fluent peers.

Nearly 10 percent of the district's 4,300 students were categorized as having limited English skills in 2007.

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that all public schools annually test all students in select grades.

District 93 officials say they're willing to break the law this spring to shield students from the frustration and humiliation of taking an exam not designed for them.

"The board believes it's appropriate to do that," District 93 Superintendent Henry Gmitro said. "While there may be consequences for the adults in the organization, we shouldn't ask kids to be tested on things they haven't been taught." ...

This from the Daily Herald.

Growing an Achievement Gap

Some thoughts from Gerald Bracey in the Huffington Post, a while back.

The Bush administration has claimed lately that rising test scores and a narrowing black-white test score gap reflect the success of No Child Left Behind. Even if this is true -- and it is not at all clear that it is--the achievement gap, broadly conceived, is growing. Let me explain.

I recently visited an elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Although Fairfax is generally affluent, the homes in this neighborhood are modest. The parents are workers -- in food, in dry cleaning, in construction, in lawn care. The school contains students from 40 nations and its ethnic makeup is 39 percent Hispanic, 32 percent Asian, 6 percent black, 18 percent white, 5 percent other. More than half don't speak English well, half qualify for free or reduced price meals and the mobility rate is double that of the district as a whole.

Yet, because it manages decent scores on the Virginia Standards of Learning Tests, the school is fully state accredited and has met the No Child Left Behind law's requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress.

But all the above doesn't really give you a feel for how the school operates or its successes.

The school burbles. It's a sound that emanates from kids who are content to be where they are. Student artwork covers the hall walls. Classrooms walls are richly decorated. Some students are painting a huge cafeteria mural showing the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids at Giza and other wonders of the world. In a hall, I meet a group returning from "butterfly release day." They had watched as caterpillars transformed themselves into butterflies and had just gone outside to set them free. Science from the real world not from a book. Students sometimes worked in small groups, sometimes alone and sometimes listened to the teacher talk to the whole class. Questions were plentiful.

It's as if the school lives under a shield. As if being part of an affluent district, though not affluent itself, offers cover, a Strategic Defense Initiative, from state and federal dictates.

Unfortunately, in many impoverished districts, no such armor protects the children or the teachers. In such districts children endure an endless diet of math and reading test-prep worksheets. Bubble-kids -- those perceived to be on the threshold of passing the test -- get extra time in reading and math, sometimes in gym class. "Sure things" and "hopeless cases" get identified and ignored. Science, if it happens at all, will happen in the two dimensions of a book.

Thinking about those butterflies, I was reminded of a California superintendent's retort on being asked why her district wouldn't be making any more whale watching field trips: "Kids are not tested on whale watching, so they're not going whale watching." Music? Art? Social studies? Plays? Chess club?

In some such schools today, principals patrol the halls listening to make sure that the teachers are all following the exact sequence laid out by the scripted reading programs. One teacher who gave a creative answer to a question while using the highly programmed Open Court reading series was severely reprimanded by her principal. "But it was a teachable moment," she said. To which he replied "There are no teachable moments in Open Court!" Some principals have contracts specifying that test scores must show a certain increment each year. They administer copious "formative evaluations" which are merely mini-tests to see if the kids are making progress towards the big tests at the end of the year.

The outcome of this gun-barrel focus is the gap I mentioned at the outset. It was described well recently by the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Chester Finn, a longtime public school critic, and initially a supporter of No Child Left Behind. "It's increasingly clear that making schools and teachers focus narrowly on test results, especially in basic skills, squeezes a lot of the juice out of the curriculum and out of the educational experience itself...America's true competitive edge doesn't come from producing more engineers than India. It arises from the creativity, rebelliousness, and drive that result from a broad liberal education and the values and convictions that accompany such teaching and learning."

Kids facing an infinite series of phonics exercises are not enjoying that broad liberal education. They're not growing butterflies or watching whales. If the reading and math scores in the drilled schools rise, some people will claim success. Others will say, "At least they're getting more of an education than they used to." Somehow, I don't think so.

Bill to strengthen child sexual abuse law clears first hurdle

House panel approves measure to toughen child sexual abuse laws

FRANKFORT, Ky. --A measure that would hold teachers, priests and others in positions of authority more accountable for child sexual abuse has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation on Wednesday, sending it to the full House for consideration.

Louisville Democratic state Rep. Jim Wayne said the measure is crucial if Kentucky children are to be protected from sexual abuse.

"This problem is of epidemic proportions in our society," Wayne said. "What we're trying to do is say, this is not just clergy; this is not just camp counselors; this is not just teachers. We're talking about relatives, we're talking about parents who abuse their children sexually, aunts, uncles, siblings."

People in positions of authority over children could be charged with first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, for having sexual contact of any nature with anyone under 18 years old.

Under current law in Kentucky, teachers break no criminal laws by having sex with students, as long as the students are at least 16 years old and willing participants. That would change under Wayne's proposal.

Among other provisions, the bill also would increase the statute of limitations to five years after an abuse victim's 18th birthday, and ups the penalty for not reporting abuse to authorities...

This from H-L.

School districts worry about safety budget cuts following recent Shootings

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- After five school shootings across the country in the past two weeks, Kentucky officials are grimacing at the prospect of a 58 percent cut in funding for school safety in the governor's proposed two-year budget.

"I don't want to play Chicken Little," said Jon Akers, director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety. "But … if we start pulling back our services in how we work with kids, we might be having some more problems here."

Gov. Steve Beshear's budget calls for $4.3 million for the safe-schools program each year, down from $10.4 million this year.

Akers said the cut in Beshear's proposed budget would virtually undo the work done by the center, which was established by the General Assembly in 1998 after a 14-year-old killed three students and injured five others at Heath High School in Paducah....

This fronm C-J.

Schools to start using text messaging to notify parents in emergencies

This from Toni Konz at the Courier-Journal:

Two Jefferson County high schools have begun using instant messaging to provide quick and accurate information to parents during a crisis.

Officials hope it can dispel misinformation during tense situations such as Wednesday's four-hour lockdown at Fern Creek Traditional High School, when a flurry of text messages between frightened students and parents spurred rumors that caused some panic.

Louisville Male High School has already implemented the Dynamic Emergency Alert Network, called DEAN, and duPont Manual High School will start using it next week.

The network, developed by two Jefferson County Public School graduates, lets parents register their cell phone number and e-mail address so they can receive important messages from the school within seconds. The schools pay about $1,000 annually to subscribe to the system.

The only cost to parents is the charge from their cell-phone provider for receiving a text message, said Jenny Edelen, an assistant principal at Male. She noted that for those families who don't have unlimited text messaging the cost can range from 2 cents to 15 cents a message...


Recent Court Rulings on Sexual Orientation

This from C-J:

...On Jan. 31, two court decisions and one lawsuit in three states made an already hot fight over sexual orientation in public schools even hotter.

In a Massachusetts case, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by parents who wanted school officials to notify them whenever same-sex couples were mentioned in their children's elementary classrooms.

According to the court, exposure to gay marriage (e.g., reading to second-graders a story about two princes who fall in love) does not constitute "indoctrination" or a discussion of human sexuality, as the parents contended, but rather an age-appropriate acknowledgement of the existence of same-sex couples in a state where gay marriage is legal.

On the same day, a lower court in Maryland rejected a challenge by conservative groups to a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County that includes teaching "respect for differences in human sexuality."

Opponents charged that the curriculum promotes homosexuality. Proponents argued that the curriculum gives students information about sexual orientation in a way that is nonjudgmental and fair.

Meanwhile in the Florida Panhandle, the culture-war shoe is on the other foot: The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit, also on Jan. 31, against a high school that reportedly bans all student expression of support for gay rights, extending even to such things as rainbow stickers.

After this dizzying one-day legal whirlwind, school officials may be forgiven for being
more anxious than ever about how to handle issues related to sexual orientation without calling a lawyer. One thing is clear: As public acceptance of
differences in sexual and gender identity grows, pressure on schools to address
these issues will continue to rise....

And from the School Law Blog:

Schools May Restrict Anti-Gay Speech, Judge Rules

Public school officials may restrict speech disparaging homosexuality, a federal district judge has ruled.

The Feb. 12 decision is the latest in a long-running case stemming from an incident in which a California high school student wore a T-shirt with hand-lettered messages that said, “Homosexuality is shameful. Romans 1:21,” and “Be ashamed."

"In this court’s view, a school’s interest in protecting homosexual students from harassment is a legitimate pedagogical concern that allows a school to restrict speech expressing damaging statements about sexual orientation and limiting students to expressing their views in a positive manner," said the ruling by U.S. District Judge John A. Houston in Harper v. Poway Unified School District.

"There is no doubt in this court’s mind that the phrase “Homosexuality is shameful” is disparaging of, and emotionally and psychologically damaging to, homosexual students and students in the midst of developing their sexual orientation in a 9th through 12th grade, public school setting," the judge added....

...Judge Houston rejected free speech arguments made on behalf of the Harpers, and he said the Supreme Court's decision last year in Morse v. Frederick "affirms that school officials have a duty to protect students, as young as 14 and 15 years of age, from degrading acts or expressions that promote injury to the student’s physical, emotional or psychological well-being and development which, in turn, adversely impacts the school’s mission to educate them." ...

C-J attacks Senate Bill 1

This from the Courier-Journal:

Education reform attacked

It has been state Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly's long-term mission to sabotage the nationally praised education reform program that emerged from the 1990 General Assembly and remains one of the state legislature's historic achievements.

The last great assault came in 1998, and it was beaten back only with furious counterattack and a few tactical concessions.

This year Mr. Kelly is joined by Senate President David Williams in attempting to blunt the thrust of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, by passing Senate Bill 1.

It is difficult to overstate the damage this bill would inflict. Most important, it would undo the accountability that's based on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System. CATS would be replaced with national tests that are not based on the Kentucky curriculum, would not test higher learning skills, would defy the KERA precept that every student can become proficient and would place Kentucky athwart the No Child Left Behind Act.

Most devastating would be the effective removal of portfolios from the accountability system, because writing is the capstone skill with which students demonstrate their ability to gather, interpret and communicate information and ideas. To ensure that writing gets less emphasis in classrooms across Kentucky would be a real travesty...

...Some of those appearing to join the Kelly-Williams attack should remember that there are political consequences, because many Kentuckians are proud of KERA's successes, and proud of the progress Kentucky students have made. Voters will take note of those like Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, who embolden the anti-KERA offensive by insisting "there's nothing wrong with revisiting, revising and updating the accountability system." Shame on Mr. Shaughnessy. He knows full well the intent is to subvert.

Education Commissioner Jon Draud can't let SB 1 go unchallenged. Mr. Draud's defenders, at the time of his controversial rushed appointment, said he is a school man, first and foremost. If so, he can't sit on his hands now. A shroud of neutrality won't cover his culpability if he refuses to stand up to SB 1. He's a former superintendent. He knows it was wrong, as Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum points out, to push "a major change in where we're going without consulting educators."

Sen. Williams, presumably with a straight face, calls the proposed SB1 sabotage of KERA a "natural progression." That must mean be thinks all good things must come to an end.

NKU students blitz on cuts

Legislators lobbied to oppose trims
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - With higher education budget cuts looming, Northern Kentucky University's Student Government Association took to the streets during homecoming this month.

In an initiative called iCare, the association urged students to contact the state legislature to voice their concern.

The association set up three laptops in the University Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during homecoming week, Feb. 1-9, for students to e-mail Frankfort. The senators also passed out index cards advocating students call Frankfort. Several students called on the spot using their cell phones.

"We have been told by Legislative Research Council staff members in Frankfort that NKU has made over 500 calls," said Kelly Sirk, the student association's vice president of public relations.
"Students were giving their personal story. Most were letting the legislators know that they were concerned about the 15 percent budget cut and the value of their quality education being at risk. As SGA, we gave them a sheet of facts about the situation for their own knowledge."...
This from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Lawmakers and education leaders will discuss student testing on KET

State lawmakers and education officials will join host Bill Goodman to discuss student testing on the Feb. 25 show of “Kentucky Tonight” on the Kentucky Educational Television network.
Scheduled guests are Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly, R-Springfield; House budget chairman Harry Moberly Jr., D-Richmond; state Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy; and John Williamson, superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools.

The show will begin at 8 p.m. ET on KET1.

Viewers with questions and comments may participate in the live broadcast by telephone at 1-800-494-7605.

From PolWatchers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In Senate Bill 1 Williams seeks to ignore the constitution and throw the baby out with the bath water

According to the Kentucky Supreme Court opinion in Rose v Council for Better Education, the state Constitution requires the legislature to maintain an efficient system of schools. To do so, the legislature must nurture the system with adequate funding while maintaining certain academic goals.

Instead, largely under the leadership of Senate President David Williams, the legislature has preferred to ignore its obligations, overspend the budget on pork-barrel projects, and use the resulting revenue short-fall as an argument for not fulfilling their duty to the children of Kentucky.

For the "Bully from Burkesville," this is nothing more than business as usual. The Constitution is apparently important to him only when it grants the legislature (him) greater autonomy. At all other times - screw it.

Former KERA supporter Williams, now wants to drive a stake through the heart of the landmark legislation, with Senate Bill 1 by eliminating many of the Constitutionally required elements from the state assessment.
  • The Supreme Court says the legislature must have as its goal that each and every Kentucky child will obtain "sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization." But Williams wants to drop the requirement for open-response questions on the CATS assessment. He wants to use multiple-choice items to check for writing mechanics and editing - evaluating the writing of students who have not written.
  • The Supreme Court says the legislature must provide students with "sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices." But Williams wants to eliminate the practical living and vocational testing from the program.
  • The Supreme Court says the legislature must provide students with sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage. But Williams wants to eliminate arts and humanities testing.
Now, one can argue the relative merits and demerits of any part of an assessment system. Different parts have different roles to play. But Williams wants to toss the whole thing out while shifting responsibility to the local school districts and Councils. This, is unconstitutional.

As the Court stated, shifting responsibility "may not be used by the General Assembly as a substitute for providing an adequate, equal and substantially uniform educational system throughout this state." But that's exactly what Williams wants. He wants to pose, while the CATS assessment dies a thousand deaths.

Whatever its detractors may say, CATS - with its ambitious goals and multiple problems over time (recently made even more difficult by NCLB) - it was squarely focused on satisfying the constitutional mandate, even if some legislators are not.

I have criticized CATS myself on numerous occasions. From the early 90s when I complained to the state board that there was no real curriculum underlying the assessment and that annual changes to the test unfairly required schools to hit a moving target; to the dual scoring system of the new CATS; to this week's farce where KDE and Measured Progress are apparently pressuring teachers to admit that they didn't hear from Measured Progress what they surely heard - my goal has been the improvement of the system. Others have criticized CATS in order to gin up antipathy toward the entire effort, preferring normative measures that favor top students while maintaining a class of bottom students for comparison.

I think the right solution for Kentucky is much more complex. We collect a lot of information about our schools. I'd like to see the state use all of it in a stable, value-added system that collects metrics according to a standard set of well-understood definitions, and that doesn't change much - and never without getting better.

Williams just wants to dump it all for an off-the-shelf normative test where the curriculum Kentucky teachers teach is not the same as the curriculum tested.

This is not exactly an unpopular idea.

From the earliest days of KERA, next to the multi-aged Primary Program, the hardest thing for many up-scale parents to accept was the new assessment which focused on how well the school performed. That's not what most folks wanted. Parents generally want to know, "How's my kid doing compared to others?" Normative tests provide that kind of data.

But in the brokering that led to KERA's passage the business community, appropriately, insisted on accountability in order to support the new law. The larger community, beyond parents, wanted to know how the schools were performing, so that became the focus of the new assessment system.

In a perfect world, one would begin with the curriculum, write assessments according to what students were expected to learn, and the accountability metrics would be layered on last. In Kentucky's case, it came first; exactly backwards and the implementation was long and ugly.

The "performance-based" test was continually and frustratingly reinvented. Performance events came and went. Portfolios came and went. The number of Open Response items was decreased. Multiple choice items increased. Teachers have had to work extra hard. If one ignores the Constitution, William's SB 1 can be seen as just the next step in a long progression. It sure is easier.

I always thought the test should have a normative component, but that that would be the minor player in the overall accountability scheme. Normative tests are not very diagnostic, and their usefulness for improving instruction is very limited - even if results were returned to teachers the next day. But it is good to have an annual snapshot to let parents know where their children stand. The best part of SB 1 is its call for "individual reports to parents on the achievement of their children compared to school, state, and national results."

But throwing the whole thing out in favor of a CTBS-like test surrenders the curriculum to someone else - this, after years of Kentucky teachers helping build a core content based on what is actually being taught in Kentucky schools; as it should be.

But as Kentucky drifts further away from a performance-based assessment, and closer to some national curriculum that Kentucky teachers didn't write and don't understand - we do a disservice to our students. Teaching to the test becomes a real problem. Further restricting Kentucky's assessment to a narrow set of subjects is a problem. And we shouldn't do that just to make some adults feel better about their kid beating some other kid. Winning teams love scorekeepers. Everybody else understands our history, and how important it is to reward growth.

A normative test will apply the old bell curve and only serve to reinforce preexisting stereotypes about who is worth teaching.

At a time when the bachelor's degree needs to become the new baseline requirement for entry into productive work, the exclusive use of the ACT and other normative tests will discourage far too many Kentuckians from seeking higher education. And we will all pay the costs.

Senate Bill 1 should die. If not in the Senate - then, in the House. If not in the House - then on the governor's desk.

Photo from C-J's Politics in Kentucky blog, and a tip of the hat to

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dinkel tossed from sex offender program

I figured this story was pretty much over - but No - Jeni Lee Dinkel was kicked out of her court ordered sex offender program on Valentines Day because she failed to accept responsibility for her crime and refused to take a polygraph. If she doesn't get that a cougar trolling her son's friend was illegal and wrong, then its hard to have any sympathy for her.

But, she was apparently struggling as the only woman among a dozen-ish men in group therapy. Imagine that for a second, and ask yourself: Is it therapeutically efficacious to combine a male and female sex offenders in the same program? the same room. ...with male offenders reflecting on their prior crimes. ...talking about their exploitation. ...their feelings about women. ...with Dinkel in the circle? ...12:1.

I'm not sure how that is appropriate therapy for her.

This from the Cincinnati Enquirer: (Backstory from Enquirer Special Section)

Dinkel out of jail on bond
Charged with violating probation terms

VILLA HILLS - Registered sex offender Jeni Lee Dinkel posted bond Tuesday after spending a night in jail on charges she violated probation.

Kenton Circuit Judge Gregory Bartlett allowed the 52-year-old mother to post 10 percent of a $5,000 bond.

Dinkel pleaded guilty in May to one count of third-degree rape for having sex with a 15-year-old friend of her son. She was ordered to serve 60 days in jail, be placed on probation for five years and register as a sex offender for 20 years....

..."Short of absconding or committing a new offense, failure to complete sex offender treatment is one of the next most important conditions of probation," Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said.

He said Dinkel could be placed back on probation or ordered to serve up to five years in jail if found in violation of her probation. A hearing is Monday...

...Dinkel's husband, former Bengals linebacker Tom Dinkel, said he had been
concerned about the part of the probation that required his wife to participate
in the Kentucky Sex Offender Treatment Program.

He said the treatment consisted of group therapy with his wife
being the only female in the class. He said the 10 to 15 other class members
were men who had sexually exploited women...

Other states are investing in higher education

In his state of the Commonwealth address on January 14th, after lamenting the budget mess given him by the legislature, we heard Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear tell the state:

Ironically, the revenue situation I inherited becomes a golden opportunity to change the way we do business in Kentucky. It is an opportunity to make every state agency leaner, more efficient and more responsive. It is an opportunity to begin preparing Kentucky to compete in the new economy. It is a way to focus on economic development that will create a stronger economy with jobs of the future rather than those of the past.

I smiled thinking to myself, "He's really going to do it. He's going to realign the state tax structure."

Shifting emphasis away from less productive sectors of the economy and more toward the most productive sectors - which as far as I can tell, would benefit the greatest number of tax-paying citizens, if not the truly elite - sounds like the right idea to me. It is the way to take care of the broadest cross section of Kentuckians while investing in the future. I want to save some America for my grandkids.

But anytime one butts heads with the big dogs, one should expect to be bitten.

Now, I have no insight here. I don't know if the governor shied away, or chose to reduced his effort to rhetoric, or is waiting for something else to happen first. Perhaps he has to prove he has fiscally conservative bona fides before gaining the confidence required to move so many political boulders. (Although, I don't know why. The spend-thrift conservative majority at the federal and state levels have gotten us here; and they had some help.)

The governor was right. This is an opportunity. One that requires competence and lots of leadership. I hope to hear more about this soon.

Meanwhile, we get this from, reprinted in C-J:

Faced with increasing global competition in the marketplace in a down-spiraling economy, many governors are asking their legislatures to make a significant investment in higher education.

That's the lead to a story that outlines efforts in several states where the value of investing in education is being kept in the governors' focus, despite a slumping national economy; the same economic conditions facing Kentucky.

Raymond Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association said, "A lot more governors now realize that their systems of higher education are really their major economic strategy for the future … that (companies) go to where you have highly skilled workers.

"It's been easy in the past to cut colleges' and universities' budgets. I think that more and more there's a greater awareness that doing so would put states at their own peril," said Dan Hurley, state director of the Association of State Colleges and Universities.
  • Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland wants to pay for students to spend their final year of high school on a college campus for free.
  • Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano proposed a compact with the state's eighth-graders: Stay out of trouble and get Bs in high school, and we'll give you a college education.
  • Several governors also are proposing to put big money into research and development at their colleges -- particularly in science, math and technology -- to capitalize on the business benefits states could accrue.
  • Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed sending 70 counselors to middle and high schools to help students get into college.
  • Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle is calling for a tax deduction of up to $20,000 for parents saving money for their children to go to college.
  • Delaware's Ruth Ann Minner said she wants to extend the state's two-year scholarship program to cover those seeking four-year degrees.
  • Idaho's C.L. "Butch" Otter proposed in his address Jan. 7 spending $50 million for scholarships for low-income students.
  • Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants $3 million for grants to students.
  • Missouri's Matt Blunt asked for $100 million for Access Missouri scholarships, a sum that would quadruple the state's investment in need-based grants.
  • South Dakota's Mike Rounds and Tennessee's Phil Bredesen want to expand the number of students eligible for grants by lowering eligibility requirements.
  • Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to expand a pilot program that gives students an associate college degree after a five-year high school program and reward colleges that manage to graduate students, as opposed to just enrolling them.
  • New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is proposing a first-in-the-nation plan to lease the New York State Lottery to private investors as a way to fund a higher education endowment.
  • Virginia's Tim Kaine proposed a $1.6 billion bond package to develop new technologies and turn them into commercial successes.
  • West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III wants $50 million for the "Bucks for Brains" initiative to recruit faculty and build infrastructure with the goal of finding success in fields that could result in profits.

In a tough budget year, though, several governors have proposed cuts to higher education...

Such is the case in Kentucky, where yesterday, Governor Steve Beshear addressed a rally of college students from across the state. Mark Hebert tells the story.

Beshear also stood by the podium in an uncomfortable position for a few minutes as UK student leader Ryan Quarles rattled off information about the skyrocketing cost of tuition and how budget cuts to higher education will hurt Kentucky in the long run. And before turning the microphone over to the governor, Quarles told the governor the only thing students want is for him to promise that if there's new revenue in the picture, higher education will be the top priority for the new money.

Beshear wouldn't make that promise but did say higher education "will be among the highest priorities" if lawmakers find more cash for the state budget. He encouraged students to force their legislators to say where they plan to come up with more money. Beshear says his plan is legalizing casinos and he encouraged the kids to push their lawmakers in that direction. But he also said that any new revenue would be fine and students should simply push their legislators to take a stand.

KDE goes to the Cable, Web TV


(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Kentucky Education Issues, a television program hosted by Education Commissioner Jon E. Draud, is now available on the Kentucky Department of Education’s Web site.

To access the program, visit the KDE Web site at and click on the link under “Headlines.”

The half-hour program features lively discussion with leading educators and policy makers concerning topics important to students, teachers and taxpayers. Plans are to produce two programs each month.

Program #1 features interviews with KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney and Division Director Petie Day. The show’s theme is the state budget.

Kentucky Education Issues is produced by KDE’s Virtual Learning Branch primarily for Insight Cable in northern Kentucky and its affiliates throughout the state. The program also will air on the Kentucky Channel (KET3).

Check local listings for specific times and availabilities.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KY School Districts Got Recalled Beef

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has notified Kentucky school districts that 143 million pounds of fresh and frozen beef products from the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company of Chino, Calif., have been recalled.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall on Sunday. USDA officials said about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to the National School Lunch Program and other domestic nutrition programs nationwide. A small portion of that beef was distributed to at least 17 school districts in Kentucky...

This from MSNBC:

Kentucky Teams with Nortel to Enrich K-12 Learning Experience

This from
Education Solution Includes Applications,
Managed Services, Security Services

The first state to bring broadband Internet access into every public school is further enriching the K-12 learning experience with intelligent classrooms and online tools for collaboration and assessment based on an education network solution from Nortel(1) (TSX: NT)(NYSE: NT).
The State of Kentucky is implementing a complete Nortel Education Solution - including infrastructure, applications, managed services and security services - under its 2007-2012 Education Technology Master Plan(2).

This solution, delivered through Nortel channel partner Pomeroy IT Solutions(2), provides web-based access to educational resources from both schools and homes. It is designed to help achieve the plan's goal of providing equal opportunities for roughly 650,000 K-12 students in 174 school districts to become productive and contributing citizens.

"Nortel has a very clear understanding of the K-12 environment," said David Couch, associate commissioner, Office of Education Technology, Kentucky Department of Education(2).

"Typically a vendor will come in thinking K-12 is like a corporate environment and that a corporate solution will work in this environment. But it's radically different because of the concept of local control and autonomy."

"You essentially have 174 corporations that you're trying to move in the same direction, with similar objectives but with each having their own ideas on how to get there," Couch said. "Nortel has people on the ground who understand that, and they've helped us select from their suite of products the best set for this environment." ...

Monday, February 18, 2008

KDE says ORQ information attributed to Measured Progress is in error.

Last week KSN&C heard complaints from teachers that the process for scoring Open Response Questions (ORQ) was changing in midstream....and just weeks before administration of the CATS test.

Teachers claimed there was a disconnect between the instructions received from the Kentucky Department of Education and those from its testing vendor, Measured Progress.

Now, KDE says it's all a mistake and that they are tracking down and correcting the problem.

Apparently, some Grant County teachers recently went to a Measured Progress conference and brought back (or perhaps created?) a PowerPoint slide show titled "Measured_Progress_Conference[1].ppt." The slide show indicated that following KDE's instructions would actually be counter-productive to students scoring well - an obvious problem. That PowerPoint was distributed to teachers widely.

KDE Communications Director Lisa Gross told KSN&C today,

"We heard about this last week and began to look into it. Measured Progress says that its staff did not create the PowerPoint and doesn't know where it originated. The information in the PowerPoint file is incorrect and false."

On the final slide, the PowerPoint listed the following resources:

Julia Payne –Lewis, Measured Progress

Marcia Tibbetts, Program Manager Measured Progress

But, it is not clear that they produced the slides. Gross went on to say,

"We and Measured Progress are trying to track down the source of the document. If we're able to do that, we'll work with the author(s) to correct the misinformation and discuss with the author(s) the mis-citing of sources that weren't involved in its creation."

KDE has agreed to keep KSN&C informed whenever the situation is resolved.

So whatever the situation...

...bad info from Measured Progress
...bad note-taking from conference attendees
...or something else

Teachers complaining about the issue seems to have had the beneficial effect of getting KDE and Measured Progress on the same page...and clarifying for all specifically how students will be scored on ORQs. Further KDE has indicated it will send new guidance to all district testing coordinators to resolve any misunderstandings.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

At Harvard, a Proposal to Publish Free on Web

Publish or perish has long been the burden of every aspiring university professor. But the question the Harvard faculty will decide on Tuesday is whether to publish — on the Web, at least — free.

Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.

Although the outcome of Tuesday’s vote would apply only to Harvard’s arts and sciences faculty, the impact, given the university’s prestige, could be significant for the open-access movement, which seeks to make scientific and scholarly research available to as many people as possible at no cost.

“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.” ...

This from the New York Times.

No Child Outside the Classroom

This from Newswseek:

When No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, teachers suspected there'd be some casualties—they just didn't think field trips would be one of them.

Since the federal government's landmark overhaul of U.S. schools, class trips have plummeted at some of the country's traditional hot spots for brown-bag learning. The new emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in "a reluctance to take kids out of the classroom," says Natalie Bortoli, head of the visual-arts program at the Chicago Children's Museum, which has lost more than a tenth of its field-trip business since 2005.

At Mystic Seaport, a maritime museum on the Connecticut coast, school traffic has slowed more than a quarter since 2005, while Boston's New England Aquarium has lost nearly the same amount since 2003. Even NASA's Johnson Space Center has started to see its figures stagnate, says marketing director Roger Bornstein, "and stability is not our goal."

Teachers blame the bear market in part on No Child Left Behind, which requires schools to get students up to state targets in reading and math by 2014 or face sanctions that could result in school takeovers or closings. "Curriculums are so much tighter than they used to be," says Susan Lewis, an elementary-school teacher in San Antonio, Texas. Add in rising transportation costs, and field trips are fast becoming history.

Compton Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles has halved its trips in the past three years. "They were all academically based," says principal Claudia Ross, but they no longer fit a budget focused on test scores, not general enrichment.

Museums are coming up with new strategies to lure schools back. The Chicago Children's Museum sends teachers a checklist that highlights how the museum can help them meet Illinois state standards, while representatives from the New England Aquarium visit schools in Massachusetts to explain how its programs can give kids a boost.

Many museums have also started giving their young visitors clipboards, worksheets, science journals and the chance to quiz a resident historian or scientist. "We know it's directly linking into the standards," Bortoli says. "But I don't think the kids notice." They're happy as long as they don't get left behind.

Garrison Keillor smacks fellow Democrats for wholesale opposition to flawed Republican NCLB

Garrison Keillor invokes the assistance of Saint Michael the Archangel, patron of mariners, to raise reading scores for struggling 4th graders ...who are "at sea" ...I guess.

Keillor accurately points out that NCLB, which is looking doomed these days, need not be trashed when it can be fixed. The assessment system is a problem for its bad design and resulting tendency to undermine the very growth it hopes to support. The Reading First scandal showed the Republican administration's willingness to subordinate a noble purpose to specific commercial interests, but is still a worthy effort - and one of the few places NCLB actually put some money toward improving conditions for kids.

Keillor keeps the focus where is ought to be - on the kids, and off of partisan politics.
We're failing our kids
No Child Left Behind has plenty of flaws,
but throwing it out because it's a Republican plan
is morally disgusting.

By Garrison Keillor at

...Reading is the key to everything. Teaching children to read is a fundamental moral obligation of the society. That 27 percent are at serious risk of crippling illiteracy is an outrageous scandal.

This is a bleak picture for an old Democrat. Face it, the schools are not run by Republican oligarchs in top hats and spats but by perfectly nice, caring, sharing people, with a smattering of yoga/raga/tofu/mojo/mantra folks like my old confreres. Nice people are failing these kids, but when they are called on it, they get very huffy. When the grand poobah Ph.D.s of education stand up and blow, they speak with great confidence about heories of teaching, and considering the test results, the bums ought to be thrown out.

There is much evidence that teaching phonics really works, specially with kids with learning disabilities, a growing constituency. But because phonics is associated with behaviorism and with conservatives, and because the Current Occupant has spoken on the subject, my fellow liberals are opposed.

Liberal dogma says that each child is inherently gifted and will read if only he is read to. This was true of my grandson; it is demonstrably not true of many kids, including my sandy-haired, gap-toothed daughter. The No Child Left Behind initiative has plenty of flaws, but the Democrats who are trashing it should take another look at the Reading First program. It is morally disgusting if Democrats throw out Republican programs that are good for children. Life is not a scrimmage. Grown-ups who stick with dogma even though it condemns children to second-class lives should be put on buses and sent to North Dakota to hoe wheat for a year.

St. Michael, I beg you to send angels to watch over fourth-graders who are struggling to read, because the righteous among us are not doing the job.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Investment in Education: What's it worth to My Kids?

A parent listening to the public debate over whether, and how much the state should invest in education, might be tempted to ask, What's in it for me? ...or, in this case, my kids.

In his 11th edition of American Education, Joel Spring gives us an idea.

According to 2004 NCES data, the median income for men (and women) was $37,669 ($25,809)Most men who earn that amount have graduated high school and have some college. Men with advanced degrees can expect to earn about $58,362 ($39,330) compared to high school dropouts who tend to earn about $22,255 ($13,951).

Estimated Lifetime earnings for a man with a professional degree comes in at $4.8 million compared to a low of $1.1 million for the dropout. Professional women only come in at $2.9 million and $700,000 lifetime earnings for women who do not graduate high school.

Substantial investments in education benefits the individual who receives the education. But that's not why we should support it. An educated citizenry benefits the entire economy and makes Kentucky a better place to live. Schools educate future workers. Better workers increase productivity and may even create new opportunities. Economic growth pays for future investment in education while employed workers reduce the burden on the state's health care expenses.

Gunman Was Once ‘Revered’ on Campus

A day after a lecture hall was attacked at Northern Illinois University, the gunman emerged in two portraits not easily reconciled.

In recent weeks, Steve Kazmierczak, turned erratic after suspending an unidentified medication. He gathered the tools for a slaughter, and carried it out quickly, silently and without emotion.

But that person bore no resemblance to the 27-year-old man who Donald Grady, the chief of the college’s department of public safety, said “was revered by the faculty and staff and students alike” and was completely unknown to police.

“There were no red flags,” Mr. Grady said. Later, he told The Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s unlikely that anyone would ever have the ability to stop an incident like this from beginning.” ...

This from the New York Times, (Audio, Map, Victim Profiles) Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press.