Monday, March 31, 2008

The Golden Rule Act: Or, Will David Williams take Jesus out of the schools?

If conservatives want to find out who is "taking God out of the schools" they need to look no further than Senate President David Williams.

Williams is comfortable enough pandering to the fundamentalist crowd by supporting Ten Commandments legislation every chance he gets. But what explanation might he provide for removing the central teachings of Jesus from the Anti-Bullying bill currently in conference committee.

Mike Cherry's version of House Bill 91 contained this language:

"...amend KRS 158.148 to require school districts to formulate a code of acceptable behavior and discipline that embraces the Golden Rule as the model for improving attitude and the rule for conduct for students..."

David Williams removed that language. Why? What could Williams possibly find objectionable with the "greatest commandment?" The public deserves an explanation.

This from PolWatchers:

Lawmakers seek compromise on anti-bullying bill

Lawmakers negotiating the details of a bill aimed at curbing schoolhouse bullying said they hit no "major snags" on Monday.

The House-Senate conference committee on the "bullying" bill, House Bill 91, met for about 45 minutes Monday afternoon in closed conference. Afterwards, Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, the bill's sponsor, said "things went well."

"My side presented a compromise piece of legislation that I think was favorably received," Cherry said. He would not go into specifics and would not provide a copy of his proposal. He described it as a blending of the House and Senate versions, "using the Senate as the text."

Cherry's original version, "The Golden Rule Act," would require schools to write codes of conduct that prohibit "harassment, intimidation, or bullying." He added a floor amendment in the House to include "cyberbullying" by electronic communication.

A separate Senate version of the bill had been stalled in committee and Senate Democrats tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to spring it with a discharge petition.

Instead, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, amended Cherry's version to "put some teeth into it." Schools would be required to report bullying to law enforcement, and would be required to issue a monthly report on all incidents.

Cherry sounded optimistic a compromise finally can be reached. "I don't even see any major snags at this point," Cherry said. "We think the reporting requirement of their side is a little harsh, and monthly reporting is a little much." ...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Students of Virginity

This from the New York Times:

There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs.

It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.”

They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already.

At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?

Janie Fredell, an advocate of premarital abstinence, says that "virginity is extremely alluring."

And then Fredell arrived at Harvard. Sitting in a Cambridge restaurant not long ago, she told me that people back home called it “godless, liberal Harvard.” Some discouraged her from going, but Fredell went anyway, arriving in the fall of 2005. She wanted to study government, she said, maybe become a lawyer, and she knew that “people take you more seriously as a Harvard student.”

From the start, she told me, she was awed by the diversity of the place, by the intensity, by the constant buzz of ideas. There were so many different kinds of people at Harvard, most of them trying to change the world, and everyone trying to figure out what they thought of everyone else. “Harvard really puts pressure on you to define who you are,” Fredell said, and she loved everything about Harvard, except the sex.

Sex, as she put it, was not even “anything I’d ever thought about” when, as a freshman, she was educated in safe-sex practices. What she was told was the sort of thing found in a Harvard pamphlet called “Empowering You”: “put the condom on before the penis touches the vagina, mouth, or anus. . . . Use a new condom if you want to have sex again or if you want to have a different type of sex.”

Fredell began to understand she was in “a culture that says sex is totally O.K.” When a new boyfriend came to her, expressing desire, she managed to “stick to my guns,” she said, but there were “uncouth and socially inept” men, as she considered them, all around, and observing the rituals of her new classmates, Fredell couldn’t help being alarmed. “The hookup culture is so absolutely all-encompassing,” she said. “It’s shocking! It’s everywhere!” ...

Photo: Katherine Wolkoff for The New York Times.

A Different Kind of Student Exam

This from the New York Times:

JIM HENNESSY, a Darien High School junior, does not go to school dances anymore.

The 16-year-old is boycotting them because to get in, he has to take a test that he thinks is unfair: Before he and classmates are allowed to enter a dance, they are asked to breathe into a device to determine whether they have consumed alcohol.

Unlike some other students, McKay Potter, 18, the senior class president at Darien High, sees alcohol testing at school dances and parties as something that helps to reduce peer pressure to drink.

Darien is one of many schools across the state that requires students to submit to a Breathalyzer test to gain entrance. School officials say the test is a fair way to ensure the safety of all students and send a clear message of zero tolerance for underage

But Mr. Hennessy and some other students see it as a violation of privacy. “I think they are completely ridiculous and a breach of personal freedom,” he said. “What you do off school grounds should be your own business.”

In Simsbury and other districts like Southington and Clinton, students are tested not only at school parties, but also during the school day if they are suspected of drinking....

Welcome to the Blogosphere Tom Eblen

I had the pleasure of lunch with Tom Eblen a few weeks ago and was pleased to hear that he would be heading back out to the streets - to leave management behind and return to journalism. Congratulations, Tom. I hope you enjoy the return to your roots as much as I have mine. KSN&C will be watching.
In fact, I've already noticed the nice look to his blog. KSN&C has gotta do something about its humble banner.

Tom opens his tour of the blogosphere with an examination of Dudley's big plan for downtown Lexington.

The Hide and Seek Legislature

Budget negotiatons: Day 6 -- Lawmakers hide

Budget updates from John Stamper at Pol Watchers:

FRANKFORT -- House and Senate budget negotiators have decided to take their business behind closed doors.

After pledging to iron out their differences over the state budget in public, members of the House-Senate conference committee used state police to keep media and lobbyists away from their meeting room Saturday afternoon.

Large white shades were pulled down over the windows of the meeting room to block any view of what was going on inside...

A Commitment to Education

This from U of L President James R. Ramsey in The Courier-Journal:
Their work is not finished, but in both the House and Senate budgets, the General Assembly answered that question with a resounding "no." And as we enter the final days of the session, the affirmation of the legislature's commitment to education is a promising message that should not be ignored.

House and Senate conferees remain divided on whether to raise taxes, how to address the state's pension problems and other issues. But one message is clear: Both chambers are willing to make tough decisions to make higher education and financial aid for college students a top priority. They understand our mission to double the number of Kentuckians with college degrees will transform lives and boost Kentucky's economy.

Now it is up to the higher education community to ensure that the General Assembly's decisions on our behalf will be worth the effort.

At U of L, we are putting the finishing touches on our new Strategic Plan to guide us to 2020 -- the date set for higher education reform. This plan will build on the successes of our Challenge for Excellence (1998-2008), our plan that has resulted in better students, an accomplished faculty, growing research and a profound impact in our community.

Our new Strategic Plan will continue to propel U of L toward status as one of the nation's premier metropolitan research universities. Restoration of base budget funding will enable us to provide courses necessary to keep students on track toward graduation. Double-digit tuition increases were certain to follow a 15 percent cut; now we will be able to lower tuition increases to a level that will not make it as difficult for some to finish their education or discourage some from starting at all.

Combined with maintenance/increases (depends on what they agree to in conference) in KEES scholarships and other financial aid programs, the support network that makes college more affordable will not be pulled out from underneath students struggling to pay for their education.

Additional funding for Bucks for Brains will enable us to continue to develop an economy that can attract, employ and retain a highly educated population.

Since the inception of Bucks, U of L has hired more than 40 of the nation's top researchers in areas ranging from logistics and distribution to spinal cord repair. These outstanding faculty, and the dozens of faculty and support staff who have joined them, are conducting research that promises to have a dramatic impact on the lives of Kentuckians and on the state's economy.

They already are having a significant economic impact. U of L's Bucks for Brains researchers already have attracted more than $144 million in research funding, with an economic impact of more than $320 million. That's more than triple the state's $100 million investment.

The General Assembly has embraced many U of L initiatives that are improving the lives of Kentuckians. It has again provided funding for the Dataseam cancer research grid, a unique partnership between private enterprise, U of L, Morehead State University, the commonwealth and Kentucky public schools to support and accelerate cancer research.

Dataseam links student workstations in public schools across the commonwealth -- harnessing previously untapped computing horsepower to facilitate the Brown Cancer Center's drug commercialization at a fraction of the time and cost. The grid allows U of L cancer researchers to perform 300 years of research in a single month.

Dataseam gives Kentuckians "bang for their bucks," as nearly 200,000 students in underserved regions of the commonwealth receive modern computers to drive 21st Century learning, 2,000 teachers receive professional development on engaging students in learning through technology, citizens receive training for high-paying technology-driven jobs, and the public receives health benefits as U of L researchers find answers to cancer.

In these tough economic times, the budget for the next biennium is one that seems certain to say that education is a priority. This is important, as Kentucky has lingered in the bottom rankings of educational attainment and performance.

It's something to celebrate. And, it's something for which I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the General Assembly.

Our legislators have decided we cannot afford the opportunity lost and instead have stepped up to support higher education. You have our pledge at U of L to make sure you see a return on your investment.

C-J Photo by Michael Hayman

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dinkel in court on probation violations

This from the Enquirer:

KENTON CO. -- A Villa Hills woman accused of violating the terms of her probation appeared in Kenton Circuit Court Friday. (Backstory)

Jeni Lee Dinkel was kicked out of a court-ordered sex offender treatment program for violations that include refusing to take a polygraph test, according to prosecutors.

She has appealed that decision, and results are expected next week.

At Friday's hearing, Kenton Circuit Judge Gregory Bartlett denied a motion by Dinkel's lawyer Robert Lotz for access to Dinkel's file kept by the Kentucky Division of Probation and Parole. Bartlett said those documents would be made available before the hearing on Dinkel's probation revocation, set for 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Dinkel's probation officer and the director of the sex offender treatment program have been subpoenaed to testify.

In May, Dinkel pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree rape for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy. Last fall, she served 60 days of a five-year jail sentence.

The ‘terroristic threat’ Thing

Police clarify investigation of principal

Police contradicted media reports this week that New Braunfels Middle School principal John Burks is under investigation for terroristic threats.

Burks actually is being investigated for verbal assault, said Sgt. Mike Penshorn with the New Braunfels Police Department, and “terroristic threat” was merely a term used by dispatchers. “For some reason, people keyed into the ‘terroristic threat’ thing when dispatchers put the call out ...” said Penshorn, adding that the case “is just being investigated as an incident in general.”

According to science teacher Anita White, Burks threatened her life and colleagues’ lives at a January meeting, then nixed White’s 18-year-tenure at NBMS by moving her this week to the district’s alternative Learning Center.

The reason? Standardized test scores, said White, who chaired the school’s science department.

“His statement was that if the scores were not to his liking on the TAKS test ... he would kill us all and then shoot himself,” she said, adding that Burks described himself as ‘ruthless.’

White said her reassignment came March 14 via e-mail, and she said when the two spoke later, Burks again referred to himself as being ruthless.

NBISD officials have declined to comment, save for a statement denying allegations and quoting Burks as saying, “all personnel decisions are made with the best interests of students in mind.” Board president Bill Biggadike said the district does not consider Burks a safety hazard.

Burks was hired last summer, and has about 30 years of experience in public education. He was most recently principal at Lavernia High School.“There are so many kids who can attribute their graduation to him,” said 2006 Lavernia graduate Sam Casey, who transferred from Germany his junior year. Casey felt like an outcast, he said — but Burks became his mentor, and “for the first time, I felt like a teacher was listening to me. That will stay with me forever. I know I’m not the first and I hope to God I’m not the last student who will be affected in the same way.”’

Burks was reached by phone Thursday but politely declined to comment.

This from the Herald-Zeitung.

Teed Off by Principal's Golf Cart

This from the Washington Post:

Some Question Need, Expense
The redesigned $87 million Richard Montgomery High School, flagship of the Montgomery County school system, occupies a building that's as long as two football fields. So Moreno Carrasco, the principal, decided to purchase a golf cart to help him get around.

This has not gone over well with some in the school community.

Parent activists have seized on the golf cart as a symbol of administrative excess in a school system that is asking everyone else to endure cuts. Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has curtailed all but essential spending as the county seeks to close a $297 million budget deficit.

"It gets to the point where you have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation," wrote Jeanne Taylor, a Silver Spring parent, on the e-mail list of the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County. "A teacher hiring freeze is on and kids are being denied services left and right -- but we can buy golf carts." ...

Education spending a key difference for House, Senate

This from Ronnie Ellis of the CNHI News Service from the Glasgow Daily Times:

FRANKFORT — One of the big issues the free conference committee will have to resolve to get a budget agreement between the House and Senate is how much will be spent on education and human services.

House budget chairman Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, said “securing the revenue to have an adequate education and human services budget” is the House top priority.

He reiterated that stance Wednesday during the budget conference, telling Senate members the House wants to resolve those issues before going on to such questions as capital projects and water and sewer projects in single counties.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said the same thing: “We would like to get education and human services – those big things – out of the way before we deal with projects.”The differences in the two chambers’ budgets affect both public schools and the state’s higher education institutions.

The House would restore – and add a little to help cover teacher raises – to current levels the basic funding formula for elementary and secondary education. The House budget increases the SEEK formula in 2008/09 by $12 million and by $30 million in the following year. It would fund teacher salary increases of 1 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second.The Senate on the other hand does not increase the formula and calls for 1 percent salary increases in each year....

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kinda like the way Kentucky Landed Toyota

This from Kevin Carey at The Quick and the Ed:

Lawless Policymaking

...Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that she would allow 10 states to change what they do with schools that fail to make "adequately yearly progress" under NCLB.

...This is not, in the strictest sense of the word, legal.

The black-letter law is pretty clear: If you want federal money, you have to implement an accountability system that works as follows.

There are no sections or subparagraphs that say The Secretary of Education may at her discretion alter or ignore the previous subparagraphs if people seem to agree they're not written well and Congress doesn't get around to reauthorizing the law on schedule.

But this is nothing new; Sec. Spelling did the same thing with a "growth model" pilot project a few years ago, which allowed states to rate schools based on year-to-year improvement, rather than absolute levels of performance.

Sec. Spellings can do this for a simple reason: nobody objects.

She's using what amounts to an extra-legal, consensus-driven process of amending the law without going through the whole hassle of introducing bills, havings votes, getting lobbied, etc. etc.

The check on this method is that anyone with standing can derail it simply by saying so: If Senator Kennedy, Representative Miller, Representative Boehner, or any of the major interest groups hated the idea, it wouldn't be happening. But since the
only real objections have been "it doesn't go far enough," the process goes ahead. It's actually a pretty efficient when you think about it....

University of Kentucky Watching Troubled Students

This from the Associated Press:
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — On the agenda: A student who got into a shouting match with a faculty member. Another who harassed a female classmate. Someone found sleeping in a car. And a student who posted a threat against a professor on Facebook.

In a practice adopted at one college after another since the massacre at Virginia Tech, a University of Kentucky committee of deans, administrators, campus police and mental health officials has begun meeting regularly to discuss a watch list of troubled students and decide whether they need professional help or should be sent packing.

These "threat assessment groups" are aimed at heading off the kind of bloodshed seen at Virginia Tech a year ago and at Northern Illinois University last month.

"You've got to be way ahead of the game, so to speak, expect what may be coming. If you're able to identify behaviors early on and get these people assistance, it avoids disruptions in the classrooms and potential violence," said Maj. Joe Monroe, interim police chief at Kentucky.

The Kentucky panel, called Students of Concern, held its first meeting last week and will convene at least twice a month to talk about students whose strange or disturbing behavior has come to their attention.

Such committees represent a change in thinking among U.S. college officials, who for a long time were reluctant to share information about students' mental health for fear of violating privacy laws.

"If a student is a danger to himself or others, all the privacy concerns go out the window," said Patricia Terrell, vice president of student affairs, who created the panel.

Terrell shared details of the four discussed cases with The Associated Press on the condition that all names and other identifying information be left out.

Among other things, the panel can order a student into counseling or bar him or her from entering a particular building or talking to a certain person. It can also order a judicial hearing that can lead to suspension or expulsion if the student's offense was a violation of the law or school policy.

Although the four cases discussed last week were the ones administrators deemed as needing the most urgent attention, a database listing 26 other student cases has been created, providing fodder for future meetings.

Students are encouraged during their freshman orientation to report suspicious behavior to the dean of students, and university employees all the way down to janitors and cafeteria workers are instructed to tell their supervisors if they see anything.

Virtually every corner of campus is represented in the group's closed-door meetings, including dorm life, academics, counseling, mental health and police.

"If you look back at the Virginia Tech situation, the aftermath, there were several people who knew that student had problems, but because of privacy and different issues, they didn't talk to others about it," said Lee Todd, UK president.

High schools have been doing this sort of thing for years because of shootings, but only since Virginia Tech, when a disturbed student gunman killed 32 people and committed suicide, have colleges begun to follow suit, said Mike Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a leading campus safety firm.

"They didn't think it was a real threat to them," Dorn said.

Virginia Tech has added a threat assessment team since the massacre there. Boston University, the University of Utah, the University of Illinois-Chicago and numerous others also have such groups, said Gwendolyn Dungy, executive director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Bryan Cloyd, a Virginia Tech accounting professor whose daughter Austin was killed in the rampage, welcomed the stepped-up efforts to monitor troubled students but stressed he doesn't want to turn every college campus into a "police state."

"We can't afford to overreact," Cloyd said, but "we also can't afford to underreact."

Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech gunman, was ruled a danger to himself in a court hearing in 2005 that resulted from a roommate's call to police after Cho mentioned suicide in an e-mail. He was held overnight at a mental health center off campus and was ordered into outpatient treatment, but he received no follow-up services, despite his sullen, withdrawn behavior and his twisted, violence-filled writings.

Mary Bolin-Reece, director of counseling and testing at Kentucky, attends the threat assessment group's meetings but cannot share what she knows or, in most cases, even whether a student has been undergoing counseling. But participants can share information on other possible red flags.

"We always look at, 'Is there a change in the baseline?'" Bolin-Reece said. "The student had previously gotten very good grades, and then there was a drop-off. Something has happened. Is there some shift in their ability to function? If a student is coming to the attention of various parties around the university, we begin to be able to connect the dots."

The University of Kentucky has not had a murder on campus since 1984. Still, the threat-assessment effort has the strong backing of Carol Graham of Fort Carson, Colo., whose son Kevin was a Kentucky student when he committed suicide before leaving for an ROTC summer camp in 2003.

"UK is such a huge university," Graham said. "It's important to know there's a safety net — that people are looking out for each other. With Kevin, his professors thought he was perfect. He'd be an A student. But the people around him were noticing differences."

As for the four cases taken up by the committee: The student who got into an argument with a faculty member — and had also seen a major dip in grades and exhibited poor hygiene — was ordered to meet with the dean of students.

The one accused of harassment was referred to a judicial hearing, during which he was expelled from university housing. The student who made the Facebook threat was given a warning. In the case of the student sleeping in a car, a committee member was dispatched to check on the person. No further details were released.

A Lie Told by the Powerful

It's no more or less true, but in the hands of Robert Wuhl, American history is a laugh riot. Get the kids out of the room, and sit back and enjoy: "Assume the Position." Presented in multi-media lecture format, apparently to some film students in a nice-looking American university. (28:48)

March Madness: 2008 NCAA Salary Champs

If 2008 NCAA tournament scores were determined by the median salary of its graduates, how would Kentucky do?

Would the Cats make it to the elite 8? Would they get out of the first round against Marquette? Would it be better to play Vandy, Stanford or Notre Dame?

This is how the March Madness brackets would shake out according to PayScale:

End of term party becomes village square orgy

"The risks are real. Assume the worst."

This from the Telegraph:

A school was forced to help girls get emergency contraception after an end of term party saw under-age pupils having unprotected sex in a village square.

The event is said to have involved "a disturbingly high number of girls" having sex while they were too drunk to know what they were doing, and also left one boy hospitalised.

Witnesses described how "all hell let loose" at the party in a picturesque Lancashire village, and said that two youths tried to break into an ambulance that was called for the collapsed boy.

Alison Hughes, the deputy head of the Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, was so concerned that she detailed the "catalogue of disasters" in a two-page letter to parents, warning them about the sexual activity, violent behaviour and alleged drug abuse that took place.

She wrote: "We have had to help a disturbingly high number of girls through the aftermath of having unprotected sex that evening, most of whom have told us they were too drunk to be in control of themselves. The risks are real. Assume the worst."

In the letter, sent out at the end of term on Thursday, Mrs Hughes said that around 70 pupils from the school had attended the event, along with a large number of gatecrashers. She added that the school was dismayed to discover that many of the pupils had been taken to the party by parents who "must have known" their children were carrying alcohol.

Mrs Hughes added: "A lot of the children who came to us needed sexual health care. These are children we have to protect. Thankfully there is a great deal of trust between ourselves and the children so they felt they could talk to us."

Witnesses said that around 200 youths gathered in and around the village hall in Wray, Lancashire, which is a few miles from the school. The event, to celebrate the end of Year 11, had been organised by pupils, although the village hall committee had understood that an adult had taken responsibility for the booking.

Alan Day, the village hall chairman, said: "All hell let loose at this event. The children were drunk to the eyeballs. They were having sex in the village square standing up."

Neil Taplin, the landlord of the nearby George and Dragon pub, said that youths had urinated against his wall and sworn at him when he refused to sell them cigarettes. "They were a law to themselves," he said. "It was upsetting for people in the village. We are all quite close and look out for each other."

A resident involved in the clean-up said that she saw evidence of drug use, blood stains and broken glass and said that a newly fitted sink had been smashed.

Governor's Office: Kentucky Board of Education Appointments On the Way

Earlier today I posted a story from KyPolitics that indicated Governor Beshear had missed the boat on nominating replacements for four current members on the Kentucky Board of Education and now "lacks the ability to have any late appointments confirmed in the General Assembly that is now in regular session."

The four members in question are: David Webb of Edmonson County, Janna Vice of Madison County, David Rhodes of Montgomery County, and Bonnie Lash Freeman of Jefferson County, whose terms end April 14th.

KyPolitics argues that by statute, "unlike other board appointees that require General Assembly confirmation but can take office during the interim, the Kentucky Board of Education statutes require that Board members be confirmed prospective (sic) to their taking office...on April 15th."

In a followup conversation this afternoon with Dick Brown of the governor's media office Kentucky School News and Commentary was told that according to the interpretation of the governor's General Counsel,

"They're wrong."

It's not too late because the statute... allows that if an appointment is made when the General Assembly is not in session, then at the next convening of the General Assembly...those appointments will be...confirmed. He can fill the vacancy. Well, they're not really vacancies because the people in those positions right now continue serving until someone new is appointed. Really, the governor is looking at trying to find the absolute best possible people for these positions, and in due time, probably
the next month or so, we'll see those nominees come forward. They will be appointed by the governor. They will begin serving, and at the next time the General Assembly convenes, which would be January 09, then they would do the confirmations.

Asked for a timeline, Brown responded,
I think...we'll probably see those, easily by early summer, if not before hand.
Brown confirmed that Governor Beshear has not had a change of heart since his earlier stated disappointments with the board and when ask if he plans to replace the four members said,
Yes he does."

School project sparks N.Y. subway terror scare

This from MSNBC:

Frightened commuters flee
after smoke pours from student's backpack

NEW YORK - A college student has apologized for causing a scare on a subway train when his science project short-circuited and started smoking in his backpack.

Gregory Kats, 29, said the device was just a model of an elevator's inner workings. But it frightened passengers Thursday on the New York City subway.

Kats said he tried to reassure his fellow passengers that it was a school project — not a bomb — but people scrambled for the exits nonetheless. The box he was holding had a small battery, wires and a motor....

Beshear fails to make Board of Education appointments on time

The terms of four members of the Kentucky Board of Education are scheduled to expire on April 14th. But now, it may be too late to get new members confirmed by then.

This from KyPolitics:

It appears that the Kentucky Board of Education has become the newest victim of Governor Steve Beshear's single-minded focus on the legalization of casino gambling in the Commonwealth. Beshear has failed to make timely appointments to the four positions on the board that have terms expiring in 2008, and now lacks the ability to have any late appointments confirmed in the General Assembly that is now in regular session.

Four members of the Board have terms that expire on April 14, 2008. Those members are David Webb of Edmonson County, Jana Vice of Madison County, David Rhodes of Montgomery County, and Bonnie Lash Freeman of Jefferson County. These members serve as at-large members on the Board, and they were appointed by former Governor Ernie Fletcher on January 30, 2004. Each of the current members were confirmed during the 2004 regular session of the General Assembly by both the House and Senate.

Unlike Fletcher, who appointed Board members during the second month of his term, Beshear has yet to name any appointees.

And, unlike other board appointees that require General Assembly confirmation but can take office during the interim, the Kentucky Board of Education statutes require that Board members be confirmed prospective (sic) to their taking office. Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 156.029, which governs the membership and functions of the Kentucky Board of Education, states:

Each appointment by the Governor shall be agreed upon by both chambers in order for the person to be confirmed. Each confirmed appointee shall take office on April 15...

...In the event that the General Assembly is not in session at the time of the appointment, the consent of the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be obtained during the time the General Assembly next convenes...

More High-Stakes Testing Craziness

This from Gerald Bracey in the Huffington Post.

The Degeneration of American Education

The high-stakes testing mania in general and No Child Left Behind in particular have reduced too much of public education to a system to be games. Some people play the game sincerely and seriously. The teachers and principal in Linda Perlstein's Tested are such players. They have doubts about the value of the state test, but they strive mightily to get their impoverished students over that barrier.

After the test is given in late spring, they start acting like real teachers in a real school -- they take the kids to museums and aquariums and to watch the Blue Angels perform. They make art and write poetry. But only in the short time between the state test and the end of the school year.

Some people play it cynically, doing whatever it takes to get children close to the passing score -- the bubble kids -- off the bubble and into the magic kingdom of "proficient." The "sure things" and "hopeless cases" are ignored. Or emphasizing the increasing passing rates on a required test as students enter their senior year, not taking into account the massive dropouts that have occurred along the way.... that a school can have over 1000 9th-graders, fewer than 300 12th-graders and zero dropouts.

Some play it as if they have lost all sense of proportion and common sense. The Texas Education Agency refused to grant a waiver from the state test for a young woman hospitalized after a serious automobile accident that killed her brother and left her memory impaired. Her school dispatched an assistant principal to administer the test in the hospital. Fortunately, one of the girl's teachers overheard what was up, got to the hospital first and told her to refuse to take it. In Colorado, a father, a teacher himself, sought to opt his daughter out of the state fifth grade test. Fine, said the superintendent, but she won't be promoted to sixth grade.

In Washington, a willing testee who simply couldn't think of how to respond to a writing prompt was harangued by his teacher, then by his principal and then by his mother. Unable to respond, he was forbidden to attend a post-test party at which pancakes were served and the movie Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events shown. He was told he had ruined everything for everyone else at the school and suspended for a week.

And some play it desperately. On March, 27, 2008, the Houston Chronicle reported that a middle school principal told a group of teachers that he would kill them and kill himself if the school's science scores did not improve. He was not, the teachers said, joking. "You don't know how ruthless I can be," he is alleged to have said. The incident is being investigated as a "terroristic threat."

At this point we should be asking HAVE WE GONE COLLECTIVELY MAD?

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities," said Voltaire. In a world that contains Clear Skies, Clean Waters, Healthy Forests, an Axis of Evil, Iraqi Freedom, Family Values, Patriot Act, and No Child Left Behind, it is a good reminder for our time.

LBJ's Carrot and Stick

Ten years after Brown v Board of Education II the south was still deeply committed to incrementalism - an intentional and illegal foot-dragging - that was announced in 1955 when 101 of 128 southern legislators signed the Southern Manifesto and declared they would not follow the Supreme court ruling.

Not unlike George W. Bush - Lyndon B. Johnson, another of America's Texas presidents, used the political capital he possessed following the assassination of John F Kennedy to drive the political agenda as far to the left as he could. After 911, W headed right.

Part of Johnson's effort was to put some meaning into the Supreme Court's words - "all deliberate speed." To accomplish desegregation in the muleish south, Johnson thought it was necessary to use a two-pronged attack; a "carrot and stick."

The "stick" was already in place with the signing of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964.

His "carrot" was the $4 billion Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

With the Supreme Court's confirmation in Green v County Board of Education, for the first time it became possible for the federal government to punish school districts that were still refusing to desegregate. Do what the feds say or lose your funds - an approach that did not escape President Bush. In 1963-64, barely 1% of black students were attending school with whites. By 1972 that number had grown to 75%.

The No Child Left Behind Act—the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965—is central to many education policy debates today. But the origin of this groundbreaking law, its structure, and the expansion of the federal role in education since the law's enactment are important to today's debates, yet often overlooked.

Recently, The Education Sector sponsored an event (.pdf & audio transcript) that brought together leaders who have shaped ESEA on Capitol Hill to discuss how the federal role in education began, how it's changed, and what this important history means for accountability debates today and in the future.

Unions: Harmony or Strife?

This from Del Stover at American School (the American School Board Journal):

When striking teachers display a giant inflatable rat outside a school—and name their new mascot after the superintendent—it’s clear that relations between school leaders and the teachers union are not good. Another clue: Teachers are spitting on cars crossing the picket line.

Name calling, rumor mongering, nails spread across the driveway of a teacher who chose not to strike, intransigence at the bargaining table—school officials saw it all during last year’s bitter, four-week strike in Richmond Heights, Ohio. “It got particularly nasty,” recalls Superintendent Walter Calinger. “The methodology was to attack unmercifully. Don’t worry about the truth of the matter. Attack. Attack. Attack.”

Thankfully, most school boards never confront such brass-knuckled tactics when dealing with their union. Last school year, there were only a score of teacher strikes, hardly a noteworthy figure given the nation’s nearly 15,000 school systems. If anything, the numbers suggest the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have decided to forsake militancy in favor of singing “Kumbaya” with school boards.

Not ready to buy that? Then let’s try another explanation: Decades of contract talks have resolved the most divisive labor-management issues, and no-strike laws in many states are keeping teachers at the bargaining table. A new generation of teachers is less interested in bread-and-butter issues and more focused on educational and professional matters. And the standards movement, coupled with inadequate school funding and a growing at-risk student population, has given teachers and school boards even more incentive to make common cause.

Today, the relationship between the school board and the union generally can be described as mature and well-established. But it’s seldom comfortable—or predictable. Thus we see the union in Denver collaborating with the school board in a partnership on performance pay that would have been inconceivable a few years ago.

Meanwhile, in Quincy, Mass., we watched the teachers’ union go on strike in defiance of state law—the first teacher walkout in a decade in that state.

At the national level, the unions have a clear agenda. Union political strategists are planning to put millions of dollars into the upcoming national elections, and lobbyists are working the halls of Congress in hopes of a major rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). And there has been an aggressive effort to bolster the unions’ membership rolls by targeting teachers in right-to-work states, higher education faculty, school nurses, and paraprofessionals. In the last few years, the NEA’s membership has grown by 400,000; the AFT is up 200,000.

There’s a lot going on—and good reason to pay attention, say education policy experts. “They are the most powerful organized force in the politics of education, period,” says Terry Moe, a professor of political science at Stanford University.

“They have a huge impact on education policy, on the way the schools are organized, and on what school boards can and cannot do.” ...

UK Programs Make U.S. News Rankings

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 28, 2008) − Several University of Kentucky graduate programs are listed among the best in the nation according to newly released rankings in the U.S. News and World Report's 2009 Edition of America's Best Graduate Schools.

The UK College of Pharmacy ranked highest on the list as the fifth best pharmacy graduate school in the nation.

"This survey ranking is just one indicator of the success of our students and faculty as national and world leaders in pharmacy," said Dean Kenneth Roberts. "UK College of Pharmacy students and faculty consistently are recognized and honored as among the best in the United States. These accomplishments can be attributed to the dedication and high standards of our students, educators, researchers and clinical care providers. I hope all Kentuckians share our pride in the continuing success and high achievement of our students, 90 percent whom are young men and women from the Commonwealth."

Other UK rankings on the U.S. News and World Report list, scheduled for publication in the April 7–14 issue, include:

The College of Nursing is tied for 26th place for the second year in a row."The faculty in the College of Nursing are very pleased with our US News and World Report Ranking of 26," said Dean Jane Kirschling. "The College has a long history of preparing master’s prepared nurses for the Commonwealth. Our graduates care of Kentuckians in their communities, in ambulatory care settings, and in in-patient settings. This work is done in collaboration with other health care providers, many who have also been educated at UK. Having the opportunity to learn alongside other health professionals is key to the success of our graduates. I am pleased we are recognized for our excellence."

The Martin School of Public Policy and Administration rose two spots from last year to a ranking of 32nd overall and tied for 21st among public institutions. The Martin School's public finance and budgeting program rose from sixth to fourth place."We are delighted to see the continued national recognition of the Martin School Master's of Public Administration and Master's of Public Policy programs. The new rankings reflect the excellence of our faculty, the quality of our students, and the rigor of our programs," said Edward Jennings, director of the Martin School of Administration and Public Policy. "Providing further evidence of our excellence and surely part of the reason for our national reputation is the fact that Martin School students have won national and regional awards for their research every year since 1993, a total of 24 awards in 16 years. We look forward to building on these accomplishments as the university moves to secure its position as a Top 20 public institution."

Clinical Psychology is tied for 33rd place overall and 27th among public institutions.“Our Clinical Psychology program continues to rank amongst the country’s top programs and maintains an exceptional level of excellence,” said Steven L. Hoch, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The Department of Psychology is actively working to find psychological solutions to defeat problems in Kentucky, such as alcohol, tobacco, school bullying and ADHD, and this ranking shows their impact is being felt.”

The UK College of Law is tied for 59th place overall, rising one spot from last year, and 31st among public institutions.“I congratulate the faculty and leadership of these highly ranked programs," said Provost Kumble Subbaswamy. "Our Top 20 plan calls for improving the national ranking of more of our graduate programs, and with support from the Kentucky General Assembly, we are confident we can deliver.”

SOURCE: UK press release

So Far, No Good

This from Tom Loftus at the Courier-Journal:

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- House and Senate budget negotiators have spent seven working sessions over the past three days trying to craft a final 2008-10 spending plan for the state.

And as leaders of each side made their case, the friction between Senate President David Williams and Rep. Harry Moberly surfaced time and time again....

... "We want to do these good things, but we don't want to pay for them," Moberly said. "One of us is just being irresponsible about this."

Williams answered, "We're praying for you that you won't continue being irresponsible."

Moberly replied, "Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate that. I appreciate your smart-ass remark."

The two clashed again yesterday morning when Williams asked House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, "to get your chairman under control and talk to him and have him take a couple of deep breaths."

Moberly shot back, "I don't appreciate that, that I need to take a deep breath. You need to take it just as much as I do." ...

Elsewhere, Governor Steve Beshear waved a white flag.

Kentucky's Health Ranks 32nd, Heading South

Congressional Quarterly today released a ranking of all the states in terms of their health care.

No surprise that Kentucky ranks below the middle, but unfortunately the data seem to be trending in the wrong direction.

The Healthiest State designation is awarded based on 21 factors chosen from the 2008 edition of Health Care State Rankings. These factors reflect access to health care providers, an emphasis on preventative care, affordability of health care, and a generally healthy population.

Negative Factors
1. Births of Low Birthweight as a Percent of All Births
2. Teenage Birth Rate
3. Percent of Mothers Receiving Late or No Prenatal Care
4. Age-Adjusted Death Rate
5. Infant Mortality Rate
6. Age-Adjusted Death Rate by Malignant Neoplasms
7. Age-Adjusted Death Rate by Suicide
8. Average Annual Family Coverage Health Insurance Premium
9. Percent of Population Not Covered by Health Insurance
10. Percent of Children Not Covered by Health Insurance
11. Estimated Rate of New Cancer Cases
12. AIDS Rate
13. Sexually Transmitted Disease Rate
14. Percent of Population Lacking Access to Primary Care
15. Percent of Adults Who Are Binge Drinkers
16. Percent of Adults Who Smoke
17. Percent of Adults Obese
18. Percent of Adults Who Do Not Exercise

Positive Factors
19. Beds in Community Hospitals per 100,000 Population
20. Percent of Children Aged 19-35 Months Immunized
21. Safety Belt Usage Rate

The 21 factors ...were divided into two groups: those that are “negative” for which a high ranking would be considered bad for a state, and those that are “positive” for which a high ranking would be considered good for a state. Rates for each of the 21 factors were processed through a formula that measures how a state compares to the national average for a given category.

The positive and negative nature of each factor was taken into account as part of the formula. Once these computations were made, the factors then were weighted equally. These weighted scores then were added together to get a state’s final score. This way, states are assessed based on how they stack up against the national average.

The end result is that the farther below the national average a state’s health ranking is, the lower (and less healthy) it ranks. The farther above the national average, the higher (and healthier) a state ranks.

"Principal of Year" moves on Mid-Year

This from the Enquirer:

DRY RIDGE – Grant County High, which boasted the state’s principal of the year just a week ago, is now searching for a new one.

Tracey Glass-Lamb, named the high school principal of the year earlier this month by the Kentucky Association of Secondary School Principals, left the school last week to become principal at North Bullitt High in Shepherdsville. The schools are of similar size.

Monty Joe Lovell, a part-time associate principal at Grant County, will fill in as interim principal for the rest of the school year.

Glass-Lamb was in her fifth year at Grant County. She said last week North Bullitt wanted her to start as soon as possible. The school has had an interim principal since
former principal Greg Schultz became Bullitt County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent of learning last August, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Grant County Superintendent Michael Hibbett said Glass-Lamb originally intended to leave June 30.“But we wanted to help her out,” Hibbett said. “They were very eager to get her.”

Grant County’s site-based council, responsible for hiring the next principal, is accepting applications.While losing a principal during the year isn’t ideal for any school, Hibbett said he felt comfortable letting Glass-Lamb leave because of the experience at Grant County...

Kentucky School Districts That Got Recalled Beef Are Listed

This from the New York Times:
The Department of Agriculture on Thursday released a list of all school districts nationwide that received beef included in last month’s recall of 143 million pounds of meat from a California slaughterhouse.

The 226-page document, which the agency released under pressure from lawmakers, includes a list of so-called “school food authorities” — the rough equivalent of school districts — that received the recalled beef.

The Department of Agriculture issued the largest beef recall in United States history last month after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing workers at Hallmark/Westland Meat Company in Chino, Calif., forcing sick cows onto a slaughterhouse kill floor by using forklifts, electric prods and high-pressure water hoses.

There have been no reported illnesses from the meat, and agriculture officials emphasized that the chances of someone becoming sick was slim. ...

...Students at any one school on the list might not have consumed potentially tainted beef. The... inclusion of a school food authority did not necessarily mean that all schools within that district had received the beef.
Kentucky School districts on The list:






































Thursday, March 27, 2008

Do Over in California Home School Case

This from the San Francisco Chronicle:
California homeschooling case to be reheard
(03-26) 18:00 PDT LOS ANGELES -- A state appeals court has agreed to reconsider its decision last month that barred homeschooling by parents who lack teaching credentials, raising the possibility that the judges will change a decision that has infuriated homeschool advocates nationwide.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles granted a rehearing Tuesday at the request of a couple who have taught their eight children at home without credentials.

It is not unusual for appeals courts to reconsider decisions, and the result is often a minor revision that leaves the original conclusion unchanged. But the three-judge panel in the homeschooling case hinted at a re-evaluation of its entire Feb. 28 ruling by inviting written arguments from state and local education officials and teachers' unions.

It said it will hold a new hearing in June.

"Another look at this case will help ensure that the fundamental rights of parents are fully protected," said attorney Gary Kreep of the U.S. Justice Foundation, the father of the homeschooled children.

Last month's ruling, if upheld, could put many parents at risk of prosecution for violating the state's compulsory-education law. Homeschooling advocates say 166,000 children in California are taught by at home, most of them by parents who lack teaching credentials.

The law has been largely unenforced for many years, however. State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell responded to the ruling by saying he favors parental choice in education. Since taking office in 2003, O'Connell has left enforcement up to local school districts and has suggested that parents could comply with the law by creating private schools in their homes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denounced the ruling and promised to change the law...

Several hundred U of L students protest higher tuition

This from the Courier-Journal: Photo by Michael Clevenger.

They also call on state to fund higher education

Chanting "listen to us, we matter," several hundred University of Louisville students rallied yesterday against anticipated tuition increases and state cuts to higher education.

Some of the students walked out of class to take part in the demonstration, which included calls for U of L not to raise tuition more than 5 percent for the coming academic year and to include more students in tuition-setting decisions.

"Student tuition makes up about 40 percent of the university's revenues, and we want a voice equal to that," said Jennifer Wallin, a psychology and sociology major who helped organize the rally. "And we hope Frankfort sees this and thinks twice about the budget."

During the rally -- which was outside Grawemeyer Hall, the school's main administration building -- students talked about the rising cost of getting a degree, burgeoning student debt and the state's low national ranking -- 47th -- when it comes to adults with bachelor's degrees.

Mike Sewell, 50, a student from Bullitt County, said he related to a lot of the contentions raised during the protest.

I've been here since 2003, and every year I have been here there has been a tuition hike," he said....

Jefferson County schools drop racial ratio for teachers

This from the Courier-Journal:
Jefferson yields in face of lawsuit

Faced with a lawsuit they say they couldn't win, officials with Jefferson County Public Schools say they will no longer consider race when hiring or transferring teachers.

The decision ends the district's longstanding policy of dispersing its limited number of black teachers among all schools.

"After consulting a variety of experts, we determined there was no way to enforce it," said district personnel director Bill Eckels, citing last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling rejecting the district's policy of similarly using race in determining student assignment.

The demise of the so-called "Singleton Ratio," which was named after a 1960s desegregation lawsuit and used in Jefferson County since the 1970s, is part of a confidential settlement between the district and Laukhuf Elementary teacher Lorraine Hill.

The teacher assignment policy had required that most Jefferson County schools maintain their percentages of black instructors between 7 and 22 percent, depending on the grade level...

Budget Update

Lawmakers from the House and Senate continued slogging through their differences on the state budget Thursday morning, unable to agree on much of anything. (PolWatchers)

EKU President Doug Whitlock told a faculty group this morning, that as of 6PM yesterday, the conference committee had identified at least 315 items of difference between the House and Senate versions of the Budget Bill.

Whitlock praised both houses for their careful consideration of higher education in the budgeting process. He reminded the faculty that the original "worst case scenario" included the original 3% cuts plus another 12% on top of that. As it stands now, worst case appears to be the original 3% cut, plus another 3% cut; and that second amount could go down to zero if all goes well.

Of course, this compares to an original budget request from CPE that called for $7 million plus in new money for EKU plus a 6% increase in tuition.

KSN&C hears that some universities are considering new...shall we say creative...means of increasing tuition, such as beginning to charge students for every hour they take. Presently, the typical practice is to charge for each hour up to full-time status (12 hours). If students are charged for every hour, it will likely be phased in, and at a reduced rate for hours beyond 12, initially.

Final Decision expected on Casinos this afternoon. (PolWatchers)

Bluegrass Institute declares the budget "dead."

Harry Moberly and David Williams are STILL fighting like two little girls at a Barbie birthday party. (Page One Kentucky) by way of The Arena.

Kentucky Board of Education to Meet

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Wednesday and Thursday, April 2 and 3, in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

On Wednesday, the full board will meet at 9 a.m., with committee meetings beginning after lunch. On Thursday, the full board will meet at 9 a.m.

Agenda items include a presentation on end-of-course examinations, reports from the Christian County and Jefferson County school districts on low-performing schools and preschool funding rates.

A full agenda follows.

APRIL 2-3, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

9:00 a.m. (EDT)

I. Call to Order

II. Roll Call

III. Approval of minutes from the February 6-7, 2008, regular meeting

IV. Report of the Secretary of the Education Cabinet

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

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

VII. Report from the Pre-K to 16 Council

VIII. Report of the Commissioner of Education

IX. Full Board Items
A. Presentation by the 2008 Kentucky Teacher of the Year -- Chandra Emerson, Oldham County Middle School; 15 minute presentation/5-minute discussion
B. AdvanceKentucky – Kentucky’s Participation in the National Math and Science Initiative -- Elaine Farris and NMSI staff; 25 minute presentation/10 minute discussion
C. End-of-Course Assessment Pilot -- Ken Draut; 15-minute presentation/10-minute discussion
D. Minority Superintendent Internship Program (MSIP) -- Steve Schenck and Michael Dailey; 15-minute presentation/10-minute discussion
E. Minority Applicants for Certified Vacancies in Kentucky School Districts 2006-2007 -- Steve Schenck and Michael Dailey; 15-minute presentation/10-minute discussion

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

XI. Full Board Items (Cont'd)
F. Reports from the Christian County and Jefferson County School Districts on the status of school support plans – district staff, Elaine Farris, Steve Schenck and Johnnie Grissom; 2-hour presentation/discussion


XII. Management Committee Meeting

A. Action/Consent Items
1. District Facility Plans: Boone, Laurel and Oldham County School Districts
2. District Facility Plan Amendments: Anderson and Shelby County School Districts
B. Action/Discussion Items

1. 702 KAR 1:001, Implementation guidelines - Kentucky School Facilities Planning Manual (Final)

XIII. Curriculum Committee Meeting
A. Action/Consent Items
1. Appointment to the State Textbook Commission

B. Action/Discussion Items
1. Preschool Funding, 2008-2009 Rates

C. Review Items
1. Presentation by the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development on the Adolescent Literacy Coaching Project and an update on the Kentucky Adolescent Literacy Plan
2. Update on Wallace Grant work: Kentucky Cohesive Leadership System (KyCLS) grant (formerly known as the State Action Education Leadership Project – SAELP)


Thursday, April 3, 2008

9:00 a.m. (EDT)

XIV. Full Board Items
A. Presentation from the Kentucky Council on Economic Education - Jan Mester, President of the Kentucky Council on Economic Education; 15-minute presentation/5-minute discussion
B. Discussion on potential policy changes relative to low-performing schools -- Commissioner Jon Draud; 20-minute discussion
C. Discussion of tabled motion on adding language to KHSAA Bylaw 33 on not penalizing a student or school for following a court order -- Brigid DeVries, KHSAA Commissioner; 20-minute presentation/discussion
D. Hearing Officer's Report -- Kevin Noland; 15-minute presentation/discussion
E. 2008 elementary and secondary education legislation and budget -- Kevin Noland, Bonnie Brinly, Robin Kinney and Petie Day; 40-minute presentation/discussion

XV. Approval of Action/Consent Agenda Items (approved as a block of items)
A. District facility plans
B. District facility plan amendments
C. Appointment to the State Textbook Commission

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

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

XVIII. Board Member Sharing

XIX. Information Items
A. KDE Employment Report

XX. Litigation Report

XXI. Internal Board Business

XXII. Adjournment
SOURCE: KDE press release

Principal: Raise Test Scores or 'I will kill you all and kill myself.'

This from the Houston Chronicle:
New Braunfels teachers: Principal said he'd kill them

NEW BRAUNFELS — A middle school principal threatened to kill a group of science teachers if their students did not improve their standardized test scores, according to a complaint filed with the New Braunfels Police Department.

Anita White, who taught at New Braunfels Middle School for 18 years before being transferred this month to the district's Learning Center, said Principal John Burks made the threat in a Jan. 21 meeting with eighth-grade science teachers.

She said Burks was angry that scores on benchmark tests were not better, and the scores on the upcoming Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests must show improvement.

"He said if the TAKS scores were not as expected he would kill the teachers," White said. "He said 'I will kill you all and kill myself.' He finished the meeting that way and we were in shock. Obviously, we talked about it among ourselves. He just threatened our lives. After he threatened to kill us, he said, 'You don't know how ruthless I can be.'

"We walked out of the meeting just totally dumbfounded because it was not a joke," White said...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Eighth Ring of ...Truth

Alexander Russo has been hanging out at the AERA conference in New York this week. Apparently that set him to thinking psychologically about the sometimes curious relationships among educators, education researchers and education journalists.

Journalistic Self-Loathing & Coverage Of Education Research

Held in a windowless conference room in the massive ant farm known as the Sheraton New York, Tuesday afternoon’s session about media coverage of higher education research was in many ways a preview of the Thursday morning session I’m doing with others about education research and the Internet.

Much of the substance was familiar, if not yet widely heeded: Journalists (NPR’s Steve Drummond, USA Today’s Mary Beth Marklein, and Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik) telling academics and PR folks to send better press releases and explain their findings better. Plus the usual concerns about “real” academic research vs. “pseudo” research that’s more readily available and better translated for popular consumption.

Interesting stuff, and smart people making good points, but most of it not entirely new. The thing that jumped out at me for some reason was the idea (I forget who floated it) that coverage of education research might suffer not only for substantive and structural reasons -- we all know those -- but also for psychological ones: Journalists' tendency to dismiss or downplay ed research because of its affiliation with teacher training, education’s favorite scapegoat.

It’s an interesting thought – especially since lots of ed research comes from far outside ed schools. And it got me thinking that another possible reason that media coverage of ed research is so sparse and so critical: journalists themselves are often underneath it all soft-hearted liberal types who can’t add much less comprehend stats.

But for the grace of God, they might well have been teachers, or academics, or social scientists themselves. And so they dismiss ed research not only because it's sometimes bad and associated with crunchy ed schools, but also because of self-loathing that's projected outward. Totally psychological, and completely unsupported, but it has the ring of truth -- to me at least.

The challenge in education research is the fact that it's social science. The variables don't hold still. The instruments lack the reliability of natural science instruments - like the thermometer - which can be counted upon to produce consistent results. People differ, and they change.

If education was a natural would be like meteorology. Billions of data points constantly in flux, and highly localized. What you get - whether it be sunshine or tornadoes - depends largely on where you are.

As it is, too few research dollars for too expensive clinical trials has left the field with a host of studies that stretch the credibility of the statistics they rely upon. But that's not the worst of it.

The "pseudo"research Russo refers to is a fraudulent condition where one begins their research with the end clearly in sight. The predetermined outcome in advance of inquiry is the modus operandi of far too many (most?) think tanks and other politically (or religiously) motivated groups. Formed for a particular purpose, everything they do is aimed at proving their point - even if that means ignoring conflicting evidence. I suspect there's a nice bonus in it for the think tanker who produces the best pseudo-science. What some groups have done very well, however, is to get the occasional spun outrage into the press before any critical attention can be paid to it; thus trafficking in hyperbole.

Balanced reporting is better.

Dante once wrote about a place - I believe he called it the Eighth Circle - where conscious panderers and falsifiers are beset by disease, or forced to march for all eternity while being whipped by demons. But, I don't believe in that. Do you?

Turning to Home Schools for Religious Reasons

Many American families have turned to home schooling as a means of controlling the curriculum and assuring that an appropriate amount of attention is drawn to Christian principles - said to be lacking in American schools.

Increasingly, Muslims are turning to home schooling for just the opposite reason - to protect their children from a school-going population that is too Christian for their children's comfort.
LODI, Calif. — Like dozens of other Pakistani-American girls here, Hajra Bibi stopped attending the local public school when she reached puberty, and began studying at home.

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

“Some men don’t like it when you wear American clothes — they don’t think it is a good thing for girls,” said Miss Bibi, 17, now studying at the 12th-grade level in this agricultural center some 70 miles east of San Francisco. “You have to be respectable.”

Across the United States, Muslims who find that a public school education clashes with their religious or cultural traditions have turned to home schooling. That choice is intended partly as a way to build a solid Muslim identity away from the prejudices that their children, boys and girls alike, can face in schoolyards.

But in some cases, as in Ms. Bibi’s, the intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life...

This from the New York Times, Photo by David Kadlubowski.

Budget Unlikely to Move Kentucky Forward

The Courier-Journal is rightly disappointed by a budget that now heads into the choppy waters of a conference committee. They're not wild about the partisan gamesmanship still on display from the Bully of Burkesville either.

Probably no final document can prove satisfying this year, given the state's poor revenue situation and the lack of willingness of lawmakers to do anything dramatic to address that problem -- raise significant taxes, for example, or approve casinos and expanded gambling.

But some scenarios are less bad than others, and there are some parts of each chamber's budget that ought to be preserved...

Senate needs to go along with the House on the wimpy little tax increases House members voted to impose....

But the Senate version is superior on some critical justice system issues. ... [and it modestly starts] to fund the pension liability...

Looking at all versions of the budget, the real sadness is the lack of interest in moving Kentucky forward this year. Those who have the power to do so have decided to try and contain damage instead.

Passing any budget will be challenging during this session, given the poor revenue situation, philosophical differences between chambers and the short tempers on display in the last week.

But passing a budget is the General Assembly's main duty. Members must realize neither side has all the best answers.

Digital Learners

In our aged wisdom we "old timers" occasionally forget that our children have grown up in a world very different from the one in which we were reared. We thought the shift from radio to television was a big deal; and one that had implications for teaching and learning. But the rate of technological change our children have experienced has been staggering and challenges our notion of what childhood is really like for today's youth. Blogs, podcasts, cell phones with cameras, distance learning, text messaging, video.... What are the implications for teaching and learning?

This 4 minute take on 21st Century learners encourages an expanded use of new technologies in teaching - but the objectives aren't really new.

We need to teach our students to think...and create.

Thanks Roger.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Residual Pride

I haven't been the principal of Meadowthorpe Elementary School since 1989, or Cassidy School since 2004, but I'm still happy when I see "my" students doing well.

Meadowthorpe tops Region 20

Congratulations to Meadowthorpe Elementary School, which captured first-place honors in the Governor’s Cup regional competition.

The Governor’s Cup, the state’s premier academic event, was founded in 1986 as a way to promote, recognize and reward outstanding achievement.

In the elementary division (grade 5 and below), students take part in a district and regional competition. The March 20-22 regional finals included Quick Recall and Future Problem Solving team contests and individual assessments in six subject areas.

For complete details, go to and click on Governor’s Cup results. Fayette County’s elementary schools are in Region 20.

1. Meadowthorpe Elementary School
2. Cassidy Elementary School
3. Rosa Parks Elementary School
4. Dixie Elementary Magnet School
5. Ashland Elementary School
8. Athens-Chilesburg Elementary School
9. Garden Springs Elementary School

Future Problem Solving (team):
2. Meadowthorpe Elementary School
4. Athens-Chilesburg Elementary School

Quick Recall
1. Meadowthorpe
2. Dixie
3. Rosa Parks
4. Clays Mill

Hume Sportsmanship Award: Maxwell Elementary School


1. David Stevens, Cassidy
2. Elaine Lin, Rosa Parks

Social Studies:
1. Eric Xiong, Meadowthorpe
2. Will Walters, Meadowthorpe

1. Chris Ward, Cassidy
2. Will Walters, Meadowthorpe

Language Arts:
1. Elaine Lin, Rosa Parks
2. Alice Li, Meadowthorpe

1. Chelsea Southworth, Ashland
2. Mariah Mowbray, Cassidy

Arts & Humanities:
1. Erin Christopher, Athens-Chilesburg
2. Max Morris, Meadowthorpe

SOURCE: FCPS press release

Map of the Internet

Here's a little wikiwisdom:
Dark blue: net, ca, us
Green: com, org
Red: mil, gov, edu
Yellow: jp, cn, tw, au, de
Magenta: uk, it, pl, fr
Blue-green: br, kr, nl
White: unknown

From Matt Britt.

Saturn and Titan from Cassini

Just because...

This from NASA.

Explanation: Spectacular vistas of Saturn and its moon continue to be recorded by the Cassini spacecraft. Launched from Earth in 1997, robotic Cassini entered orbit around Saturn in 2004 and has revolutionized much of humanity's knowledge of Saturn, its expansive and complex rings, and it many old and battered moons. Soon after reaching Saturn, Cassini released the Huygen's probe which landed on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and send back unprecedented pictures from below Titan's opaque cloud decks. Recent radar images of Titan from Cassini indicate flat regions that are likely lakes of liquid methane, indicating a complex weather system where it likely rains chemicals similar to gasoline. Pictured above, magnificent Saturn and enigmatic Titan were imaged together in true color by Cassini earlier this year.

Bridging the veteran-and-new-teacher divide

This from the Los Angeles Times blog, The Homeroom:

I want to come clean about something that has bothered me since I started to teach: Veteran teachers get a bad rap.

And now comes the rather difficult part, explaining why this bad rap exists. I will generalize to best illustrate the point. The reason younger teachers are usually suspect of their veteran counterparts has nothing to do with actually seeing these teachers at work. Instead, it has to do with their sense of cynicism and skeptical disregard for proposed change.

As a corollary, most new teachers approach the school system as idealistically as you could possibly imagine. Wet behind the ears, a few too many feel-good-teacher-films under their belt, newer teachers are here to change the world. We are a brash generation of know-it-alls, and we are ever ready to fix all the problems that no one has fixed before! It’s this inexperienced naivete that is at the heart of the bad rap.

After a meeting one day, a veteran teacher said to me, “I was like you once.” We newbies don’t yet know what it feels like to have decades of attempted reform fail, to see the achievement gap widen, year after year. I was both confused and flattered by the remark. Somewhere along the way, school staff stopped viewing us as “teachers,” and we became either (in with) the new or (out with) the old...

A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly

This from the New York Times:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark: All lank and bone, the boy stands at the corner with his younger sister, waiting for the yellow bus that takes them to their respective schools. He is Billy Wolfe, high school sophomore, struggling.

Moments earlier he left the sanctuary that is his home, passing those framed photographs of himself as a carefree child, back when he was 5. And now he is at the bus stop, wearing a baseball cap, vulnerable at 15.

A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his brother beside him that he’s going to beat up Billy Wolfe. While one records the assault with a cellphone camera, the other walks up to the oblivious Billy and punches him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead.

The video shows Billy staggering, then dropping his book bag to fight back, lanky arms flailing. But the screams of his sister stop things cold.

The aggressor heads to school, to show friends the video of his Billy moment, while Billy heads home, again. It’s not yet 8 in the morning.

Bullying is everywhere, including here in Fayetteville, a city of 60,000 with one of the country’s better school systems. A decade ago a Fayetteville student was mercilessly harassed and beaten for being gay. After a complaint was filed with the Office of Civil Rights, the district adopted procedures to promote tolerance and respect — none of which seems to have been of much comfort to Billy Wolfe.

It remains unclear why Billy became a target at age 12; schoolyard anthropology can be so nuanced. Maybe because he was so tall, or wore glasses then, or has a learning disability that affects his reading comprehension. Or maybe some kids were just bored. Or angry.

Whatever the reason, addressing the bullying of Billy has become a second job for his parents: Curt, a senior data analyst, and Penney, the owner of an office-supply company. They have binders of school records and police reports, along with photos documenting the bruises and black eyes. They are well known to school officials, perhaps even too well known, but they make no apologies for being vigilant. They also reject any suggestion that they should move out of the district because of this.

The many incidents seem to blur together into one protracted assault. When Billy attaches a bully’s name to one beating, his mother corrects him. “That was Benny, sweetie,” she says. “That was in the eighth grade.”

It began years ago when a boy called the house and asked Billy if he wanted to buy a certain sex toy, heh-heh. Billy told his mother, who informed the boy’s mother. The next day the boy showed Billy a list with the names of 20 boys who wanted to beat Billy up.

Ms. Wolfe says she and her husband knew it was coming. She says they tried to warn school officials — and then bam: the prank caller beat up Billy in the bathroom of McNair Middle School.

Not long after, a boy on the school bus pummeled Billy, but somehow Billy was the one suspended, despite his pleas that the bus’s security camera would prove his innocence. Days later, Ms. Wolfe recalls, the principal summoned her, presented a box of tissues, and played the bus video that clearly showed Billy was telling the truth.

Things got worse...

Multimedia Slide Show
A History of Bullying