Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Banana boys' suspended for senior prank. So was the Gorilla.

This from the Waukegan News Sun:

A senior prank at Zion-Benton Township High School seemed quite humorous at first. But as a group of students quickly learned, the administration isn't amused with monkey business.

Zion-Benton High School students re-created their senior prank at Village Park in Winthrop Harbor on Tuesday. Eleven students were suspended for seven days after one dressed up in a gorilla costume and chased 10 wearing banana costumes through the school last Thursday.

And so -- after 10 students in larger-than-life banana costumes ran the halls of the high school with an eleventh student dressed as a gorilla giving chase -- the boys are on the raw end of a seven-day suspension.

The prank started innocently. Senior Andrew Leinonen, who will study criminal justice at Carthage College this fall, wanted to do something that wouldn't damage property or hurt anyone, while still being hilarious.

"What's funnier than a gorilla chasing bananas through a school? Nothing," Leinonen said. "It was a harmless prank."

Leinonen -- who played the role of the gorilla -- went on a recruiting mission, quickly finding 10 guys willing to pay $30 for a banana costume. The group drew up a plan and picked a route. They planned to wear black pantyhose on their heads to remain anonymous, and even planned for escape vehicles.

The boys entered the school's main entrance around noon last Thursday and made their way through the English and science hallways before running into a crowded lunch room and then out a back door. All the while they flailed their arms and yelled "Seniors '08."

The prank was quick, and almost painless. Four bananas were rounded up by school security and the plan would soon unravel. By the next day, the boys were slapped with a suspension and at risk of missing prom as well as being kept off the stage at graduation.

Zion-Benton Township High School Superintendent Deborah Clarke said she couldn't comment on punishment because of student confidentially concerns. Clarke said the school followed guidelines in place for what they consider "serious pranks."

"We're basically enforcing our policy," Clarke said.

The same policy led to five-day suspensions for kids caught fighting in school.

The punishment was not welcomed at first. None of the "Banana Boys" had ever been in big trouble before.

In support of them, other students planned protests. A private group dedicated to "Saving the Banana Boys" was even set up on MySpace.com.

But fearing that the school may carry out its threat to keep them from prom and graduation, the "Banana Boys" said they advised others to relax and agreed to peacefully serve their punishment before returning to class May 2.

"We think this is a just punishment," said Brendon Epker, a banana who'll attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., in the fall. "We broke rules we shouldn't have broken."

Next Up For Edublogging: Full-Time, Professional, Mainstream

This ditty from This Week in Education:

Hard as it may be to believe, all this education blogging that's going on is still so far part-time and/or amateur (unpaid), and little of it part of mainstream news sites.

But that won't last for much longer, I don't think. Someone will soon get hired to blog about education full-time on a mainstream site.

Things have already gone far beyond the first fulltime mainstream hire in other areas. For example, many of the best bloggers who cover economics have already been hired, writes Megan McArdle on the Atlantic blog (Blogging goes professional). Ditto for politics. It could be ether someone new we've never heard about or someone already on the scene.

McArdle says,

I was at lunch with some blog people today, one of whom wants to recruit an economics blogger and asked for names. I basically drew a blank. All of the high-traffic economics bloggers I read are either professors, in some similarly rewarding profession, or already tied up by a media organization.

I think this is becoming broadly true of the wider blog world: the biggest bloggers are either professionals, or they have an even more lucrative job...

...I'm not sure what this means for the blogging world. It's still largely an amateur medium, but it's hard to see how many new bloggers can compete with someone who gets paid to do it, unless they are independently wealthy or have a job, like journalism or academia, that routinely throws them a lot of bloggable material....

Hummm. Sounds familiar. Show me the money.

Dartmouth professor threatens students with discrimination lawsuit

This from the New York Daily News:

A Dartmouth College writing teacher angered by students who didn't agree with her in class is threatening to sue them for discrimination.

Priya Venkatesan, who taught freshman writing at the Ivy League school from July 2005 until last month, ignited an uproar on campus Sunday after she sent a bizarre e-mail warning students she planned to sue them.

"I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you (whom shall go unmentioned in this e-mail) of violating Title VII of anti-federal discrimination laws," she wrote in a message that contained several typos.

"I am also writing a book detailing my experiences as your instructor, which will 'name names,' so to speak. I have all of your evaluation and these will be reproduced in the book. Have a nice day." ...

Any publishers wanna touch this turkey?

Latest comment from RateMyProfessor.com:
"This woman lives in a delusional fantasy world. She is dictatorial in her views, agree with her or be punished with a lower grade. Has no business being a professor."

Did you Hear the one about the Board of Education that Hired a Search Firm?

This from H-L:

Higher ed panel to hire search firm to find new leader
FRANKFORT, Ky. --The Council on Postsecondary Education is planning to hire a search firm to find a new president following the resignation of its current chief.

The panel made the decision during a special meeting Wednesday that was continuing through the afternoon...

Let's all hope that Ray and Associates doesn't do this kind of search.

Former member of higher ed panel contests her removal

This from H-L:

FRANKFORT — More turmoil engulfed the state Council on Postsecondary Education Wednesday as it appointed a search committee to select a new president.

Virginia G. Fox, the former head of Kentucky Educational Television and the education secretary for former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, has challenged her removal from the state Council on Postsecondary Education.

Gov. Steve Beshear, in an executive action, removed Fox from her council seat after her appointment was not approved by the state House of Representatives in the recently concluded legislative session.

Fox, in an April 29 letter to council chairman John Turner, said the Kentucky Constitution requires only that her appointment be approved by the state Senate.

Fox said the state law requiring approval by both the House and the Senate violates the state Constitution as well as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that I was confirmed, am still a member of the council and that no vacancy exists for my position,” Fox said in her letter.

Turner read the letter as the council’s meeting opened Wednesday morning but made no comment about Fox’s claims...

Bullitt Teachers Fuss over ThinkLink Testing

This from C-J:

New testing program ineffective,
teachers say

"I'm hearing from teachers that three tests in a year are too many," said Brenda Hutchison, president of the Bullitt County Education Association.

The teachers raised concerns about the testing program, called ThinkLink Learning, during a special school board meeting held so administrators could update board members on the district's progress meeting recommendations provided in a scholastic audit released last year...

CATS task force to begin work by July

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Lexington, Ky. -- Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud said Monday that he expects to have his broad-based task force to review all aspects of the state's school assessment and accountability system in place and at work by July.

Speaking in Lexington to superintendents and district finance officers at the Department of Education's annual post-legislative session briefing, Draud said he has set a December deadline for the panel to complete its work...

Pleasant Surprise for Growth Districts

This from Pat Crowley at the Enquirer:

Measure to aid school funding

BURLINGTON - Legislation that a lawmaker says repairs a "glitch" in Kentucky's public education funding formula will mean more money for Northern Kentucky school districts.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, said components of the legislation she filed - House Bill 752 - are included in the budget lawmakers passed on April 15, the final day of the 2008 General Assembly session.

"I began working on this issue when I was first elected," said Wuchner, elected to Boone County's 66th House District in 2004. "It has been a long process, bringing the various groups together to work on this matter but, finally, we have a solution to the problem of inequity."

Current funding is based on the previous year's information, including the number of students and the value of property in the district.

A recalculation is done after the second month of the school year.
Wuchner said the provisions of House Bill 752 would allow districts to
request a recalculation in January when numbers are still increasing.

That will allow growing districts to receive additional money based on growing enrollments and rising property values, which applies to many area districts...

Jefferson school plan revised to offer more choice

This from C-J:

The revisions, which will be presented to the school board for discussion Monday night, will reduce the number of elementary clusters, putting more schools in each cluster for parents to choose from.

It's the second time this month that officials have changed the student-assignment proposal, which is designed to keep schools diverse in the wake of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the district's old plan...

Interventions Panel to Meet

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Blue Ribbon Panel on Interventions in Low Performing Schools and Districts will meet on Monday, May 5, at 1 p.m. EDT in the ground floor auditorium of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

The panel is charged with reviewing intervention strategies that have been successful in improving academic achievement in low-performing schools in Kentucky and other states. The panel will:

· determine the best possible strategies for intervention and make recommendations on findings

· make recommendations for how the Kentucky Department of Education may intervene and provide assistance differently to dramatically improve student achievement in the lowest performing schools and districts

· make recommendations for a legislative package to deal with lowest performing schools and districts

The ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive listing of replicable programs that can be used by schools across Kentucky. The group will hold periodic meetings throughout the calendar year.

SOURCXE: KDE press release

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cowgill Steps Down

This from Art Jester at H-L:

Brad Cowgill announced Tuesday that he is resigning as president of the state Council on Postsecondary Education.

“I do this for one reason: In the foreseeable future, it would be necessary to devote excessive time and effort to unproductive activities, denying me the satisfaction of fruitful work,” Cowgill said in a statement.

Officially, Cowgill’s eight-month interim term as the council’s president ends Wednesday. The council hired him as its president on April 14, over the objections of Gov. Steve Beshear, who said the council should obey state law by conducting a national search to fill the post.

Council Chariman John Turner praised Cowgill for his work.

“Brad Cowgill took the reigns of the CPE as interim president last fall during a challenging time in the life of the Council.” Turner said. “Brad’s singular energy and intellect, attention to detail, and unique communication skills. He handled each assignment with distinction and aplomb.”

Earlier Tuesday, Turner acknowledged that it is “very possible” the council will revisit in a closed session on Thursday the group’s recent decision to appoint Cowgill as their presidentTurner and council member John R. Hall of Lexington, the former chairman of Ashland Inc., had little else to say after meeting with Gov. Steve Beshear in the Capitol for 38 minutes early Tuesday afternoon...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

KBE Suit with Ray and Associates Stagnant

Nothing new regarding the suit between the Kentucky Board of Education and Ray & Associates. Lisa Gross informed KSN&C recently, "...after both parties engaged in some discovery, the case has been inactive for about four months."
Meanwhile, this from the Birmingham News:
School officials criticize
superintendent search firms
Previous superintendent hunts seen as costly

The president of the Birmingham Board of Education and three other board members say they don't want to pay headhunters to find the system's next schools chief.

"We had our search firm last time and it cost us a lot of money, and the search firm was not sensitive to our needs," board President W.J. Maye Jr. said. "They didn't understand the dynamics of the city, and Birmingham is a complicated city."

An Iowa-based search firm brought four semifinalists to the Birmingham school board for interviews in June 2006, including the board's ultimate choice for the post. Stan Mims, who came from O'Fallon, Ill., resigned last month as part of a settlement agreement...
...Board member Virginia Volker said she will not support hiring a search firm again. The school board paid Ray and Associates $20,000 for its work when Mims was hired. It also used a search firm to hire his predecessor in 1997.

"I will raise more heck than you have ever seen me raise," Volker said. "We have been burned two times."

In her experience, Volker said, executive search firms push certain candidates by "stacking the deck" of finalists, including only one person who meets their clients' criteria. They coach candidates for a fee, too, she said...

Court Encourages Adulterous Dads to Walk Away

This from the Courier-Journal:

Defining Fatherhood

An adulterous relationship that leads to pregnancy and a child is a deplorable situation that will lead to troubling results. It also apparently is a pathway to twisted legal reasoning.

To wit, Kentucky's Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 that a man who fathers a baby during an affair with a married woman has no legal claim to fatherhood. Instead, the court said, the woman's husband is the legal male parent.

Justice Bill Cunningham, who wrote one of the majority opinions, made clear that a key concern was to defend the status of marriage. But that is a social policy goal. What about the legal interests of the child?

The majority's view would have made more sense in an earlier time, when paternity was hard to determine. However, DNA testing now allows positive identification of the man who has contributed to half the baby's genetic makeup.

As Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson correctly noted in a vigorous dissent, denying "inconvenient truths" about who is really the father accomplishes nothing for families, communities or the justice system.

Indeed, the ruling has the capacity for inflicting great harm. It could be used to deny a child contact with one of his natural parents -- something likely to interest a child far more than the mechanics of her mother's marriage.

Moreover, as far as policy goes, the ruling is at odds with efforts to prod men to play a greater financial and emotional role in their offspring's lives.

The court should take a second look at this turkey.

H-L: Higher-ed needs national search

This from the Herald-Leader:
Panel should seek new leader while Cowgill studies rising tuition

When it costs more to go to community college in Kentucky than in the rest of the country, someone needs to ask questions.

Brad Cowgill is right to shine a bright light on proposed tuition increases. But Cowgill can't be an effective advocate for affordable higher education, or anything else, under the current circumstances...

...Beshear is demanding a national search and correctly says that for the search to be fair, Cowgill cannot be a candidate.

Without the uncertainty of a governor's race looming, the CPE should be able to attract a stronger pool of candidates than last year when it called of the search.

And now that Beshear has drawn a line in the sand, the council, still made up mostly of Fletcher appointees, and its chairman, John Turner, cannot produce a graceful resolution without opening a new search.

Sure, they could duke it out in the courts and media. But to what end? An expensive, protracted fight and ugly rift between the president and the governor he's supposed to advise, with the council's staff and work frozen in the crossfire...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

This from C-J:

What's a father?
Ky. Supreme Court has its say

In a 4-3 vote, a deeply divided court upheld the presumption that a child born to a married woman living with her husband is a child of the marriage.

"While the legal status of marriage in this early 21st century appears to be on life support, it is not dead," Justice Bill Cunningham wrote in a concurring opinion. He wrote that married couples have a right "to be left alone" from the claims of "interloper adulterers."

The court ruled in favor of a Louisville couple, Julia and Jonathan Ricketts, who had sought to block James Rhoades Jr. from trying to establish paternity of a child he allegedly fathered during an affair with Julia...


Here's Mark Hebert's story at WHAS:



And BioDad has a blog.

Fayette Co. Schools sued by former student

This from H-L:

LEXINGTON, Ky. --The Fayette County Public School system is being sued by a former student who claims school officials did nothing to stop an inappropriate sexual relationship between the student and a former teacher.

The lawsuit alleges the girl endured a pattern of abuse during a two-year relationship with instructor Anthony Graves during her time at Tates Creek Middle and Henry Clay High School.

Graves, who is named as a defendant in the suit, allegedly initiated sexual contact with the student in 2004.

The suit claims the school system is negligent because it failed to intervene...

Jefferson school plan revised to offer more choice

This from C-J:

Parents get more elementary choices
Jefferson County Public Schools is making more changes to its proposed student-assignment plan, reducing the number of elementary school clusters, in part to give parents more choice.

The revisions, which will be presented to the school board for discussion Monday night, will reduce the number of elementary clusters, putting more schools in each cluster for parents to choose from.

It's the second time this month that officials have changed the student-assignment proposal, which is designed to keep schools diverse in the wake of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the district's old plan...

...Berman said the changes would still require between 1,700 and 3,400 elementary students to switch schools.

The district might grandfather in those students, allowing them to stay in their schools. But that would cost between $800,000 and $2.1 million in 2009-10.

"At this point, both the school board and I would like to grandfather all these students in, because it would mean that their lives would not have to be interrupted," Berman said. "But I am very concerned about the cost of grandfathering."

Letting students stay in their schools is extremely important to many parents, said Traci Priddy, president of the 15th District PTA...



Photo by Pam Spaulding.

CPE's Turner Questions Beshear's Motives

This from H-L:

John Turner, chairman of the state Council on Postsecondary Education, sent a letter to council members last week, questioning Gov. Beshear's motives for trying to block their hiring of Brad Cowgill.
Turner speculated in the April 21 letter to council members that the governor might have political motives for questioning Cowgill's hiring.

"I'm wondering if it's possible that the real focus of the governor's attention is us, not Brad," he wrote, noting that a move by Beshear to dissolve the council "would hasten the point (by a couple of years) when the council has mainly people appointed by Governor Beshear."

Turner said it would be "premature" to say how the council will react to Beshear.

At Least Mine was Better Than His

In today's C-J Senate President David Williams offered a retort to those who would criticize his leadership. Williams argues that his budget plan had more highlights than Governor Steve Beshear's and he calls that an accomplishment. Miniscule; but OK...I get the point.

Nevermind that the Kentucky Constitution requires much more of the legislature. If that factored into his calculations, Williams didn't mention it. Constitutionally, the legislature has two choices: adequately fund the schools to reach their goals, or reduce the goals. Politically, the legislature has many choices, (so long as that pesky court isn't involved) and Williams chose to clear an ankle-high bar that will not advance Kentucky.

Tough luck kids.

This from C-J:

Session accomplishments

While The C-J editorial board continues to call for raising taxes on working Kentuckians who are taxed enough already (a move opposed by our governor often during the fall campaign), even the Governor himself has acknowledged that the legislature's budget is better than his own plan which mandated 12 percent cuts on universities and no teacher raises. In contrast, by targeting our resources, this budget keeps Kentucky competitive by funding education and not increasing taxes.

Some highlights:

The budget restored enough money to ensure a manageable 3 percent reduction in higher education funding. University presidents praised the General Assembly for
restoring their funding.

The legislature increased the Department of Education's funding by $142 million more than the Governor's proposal. In addition, KEES funding was also increased over the Governor's budget.

Teachers and state employees received 1 percent pay increases in each of the next two years with the commitment of two additional 1 percent raises if the state's revenues increase less than .6 percent. Taken in concert with the state's contribution to health insurance premiums, the increase in total employee compensation is over 4 percent a year.

To most Kentuckians, this bipartisan budget is the only responsible choice in unsure economic times. I commend both the Democrats and the Republicans, Senate and House members, for together crafting a prudent fiscal roadmap for the next two years.

DAVID L. WILLIAMS
President
Kentucky Senate
Frankfort, Ky. 40601

Mr. Williams is a Burkesville Republican. -- Editor.
Photo by Pam Spaulding for C-J.

More from Whitlock on the Eastern Spirit

I was glad to see that the Herald-Leader got Dr Doug Whitlock's comment at yesterday's inauguration in reponse to those who thought the university presidents, as a group, appeared a bit too happy with the recent 3 percent budget cuts because they feared a worse-case scenairo of 12 percent cuts.

During his remarks Whitlock clarified his stand saying

"I am content that the budget was as good as we could expect given the available revenues, but I am not satisfied," said Whitlock, who stood before a dais that included [Governor Steve] Beshear and Brad Cowgill, president of the state Council on Postsecondary Education. "This is a case of the best that we could do being hardly good enough."
This from the Herald-Leader, by photo by David Perry.

Whitlock is installed as president of EKU
HIS HISTORY THERE GOES BACK 38 YEARS


RICHMOND --Hailed repeatedly as "one of their own" by alumni and faculty, Doug Whitlock was officially installed as Eastern Kentucky University's 11th president Friday afternoon.

Whitlock's inaugural speech detailed his goals for the university, which include increasing enrollment, strengthening ties to the elementary and secondary education community and amplifying the school's global focus and involvement. He also displayed a commitment to reach those goals despite a smaller budget and higher tuition...

...On Tuesday, EKU's Board of Regents approved a 9 percent tuition increase for the next school year in response to the grim budget outlook.

"It would be easy to wring our hands and engage in a mutual 'pity party,'" Whitlock said. "But we are not whiners. That's not our way and it would counter to the Eastern spirit." ...

... "It is accurate to conclude that his 38 years at EKU makes him somewhat of an institution here," Beshear said...

“Your Child Could Be in Danger”

There's a big fuss
at the Prestonsburg Elementary School
and the principal's husband is right in the middle of it.

By law, school councils in Kentucky are in charge of staffing; that is to say, how many teachers and support personel get jobs. It's a good law. But since it involves some people's livlihood, tempers can flare - and that has caused a rukus in one Kentucky elementary school.

Police were called to a PTA meeting recently. It seems the principal was fixin' to get out-voted on a plan that would cost her two assistant principals and more, in favor of 2 new teachers. Then, an anonymously distributed announcement of Thursday's PTA meeting went home telling parents that their children "could be in danger."

A bunch of parents showed up to see what kind of danger their kids were in...and the meeting turned out to be about staffing.

Things really got going when the principal's husband took the microphone and ascribed questionable motives to some individuals. Apparently, folks got worked up. Some went ot the parking lot. The police responded. Now, it's off to court.

No matter what the court does, let's hope this gets the OEA's attention.

This from the Floyd County Times:

Our View: Time for a time out

The issues at play last week as the Prestonsburg Elementary site-based council tweaked its staffing levels certainly merit a fair amount of controversy, but nothing warrants the astounding lack of civility that was on display as both the council and PTA met Thursday night.

Certainly, the debate over whether to spend the school's money on administration or instruction is worthy of lengthy discussion and fraught with a host of consequences whatever the ultimate decision. There can be perhaps no more important decision for a school than how to utilize limited resources to accomplish the goal of educating our children.And we do not deny the very human ramifications any decision will have.

Talk of "staffing levels" belies the fact that we are talking about a decision that will have a very profound impact on several individuals' livelihoods.But the events of last week rocketed right past important and emotional, and landed somewhere between anarchic and sociopathic. To wit:

  • The anonymously distributed announcement of Thursday's PTA meeting that warned parents, "Your child could be in danger." This statement was far over the line, preying on the fears of parents and causing mortal fear to some children who read it. It should be possible for adults to convey the gravity of a situation without resulting to histrionics.
  • The mere fact that it was necessary to call the police to restore order to the meetings. Can we not set a better example for our children than mob mentality? Is it not possible to show our children how to resolve conflict without implicit or explicit threats of violence?

To view these actions through another lens, ask yourself what sort of discipline would be meted out to a student who sent out a letter warning that other students "could be in danger," or to a group of students who surrounded another in the parking lot?

Certainly those students would be in trouble for their actions, possibly facing suspension or expulsion. So why should we expect any less of adults, who should supposedly know better?

This is no way for school decisions to be made, and there are plenty of people on both sides of the issue who should be deeply ashamed of their actions.

Reasonable people can differ as to which positions are most important, but I'm not aware of any single school variable better correlated to student achievement than high quality teachers; and the quality matters.

The basic idea in staffing is to have your resources deployed to the best benefit of (hopefully, all) the children. (But when you're out of money, you're out of money, even if you have identifiable groups of children who are not on track to reach proficiency. Now, this idea has caused us problems in the past. When funds were scarce, majorities tended to benefit much more than minorities, however one may define them.)

Every March, parents, teachers and principals sit down to compare their local school's progress toward meeting their goals. This is a good thing.

Then, they assess their resources, prioritize, and budget their choices...sometimes producing winners and losers.

The legislature's failure to adequately fund the schools is causing school councils across the state to cut instructional personnel -the place where funding cuts touch children directly - but otherwise, the system works fine.

NOTE: We've seen this sort of thing before. After 1954, Kentucky's Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) was a perfectly reasonable system for distributing resources to the schools but legislative neglect rendered it totally inefficient. Rich schools, poor schools; good schools and bad schools: Kentucky was spending 8 times more on a given Fayette County kid than on a Whitley County kid. Remember, if the legislature had adequately funded the Power Equalization part of the MFP in the early 80s (about $400 million) there never would have been a Rose Decision...or KERA ($1.26 billion).

This from the Floyd County Times:

More charges filed after PTA meeting

PRESTONSBURG — More complaints were issued Friday after the Prestonsburg Elementary PTA and site-based council meetings erupted into chaos following a 5-1 vote by the council to release several Prestonsburg Elementary administrators of their jobs in favor of hiring two more teachers.

Gary Frazier, husband of PES principal Gwen Hale-Frazier, issued three complaints late Friday afternoon against Nancy Bertrand, 35, of Prestonsburg, Alicia Salisbury, 44, of Ivel, and Hope Tackett, of Prestonsburg.

The complaints charge Bertrand with harassment, Salisbury with third-degree terroristic threatening, and Tackett with third-degree terroristic threatening and fourth-degree assault.

According to the complaint, it is alleged that Tackett “threatened Gary Frazier with the police and made verbal threats that she would get Mr. Frazier ... and that Ms. Tackett assaulted him by striking Mr. Frazier with a door.” Salisbury’s charge of terroristic threatening also allegedly stems from her telling Frazier that she would “get him.”

As was reported in The Times [above], tempers reportedly flared during last Thursday’s special PTA meeting, which had been called in response to an alarming letter sent home with students on Wednesday afternoon. The notice, headlined, “Your child could be in danger,” brought a number of parents to the Thursday meeting who were trying to identify the danger, which had reportedly scared a number of students.

A teacher at the school, Robin Nairn, said, “Your children are not in danger,” adding that students would begin testing on Monday and that parents should let their children attend.

The “danger” reportedly springs from the administration’s assertion that the proposed cutting of four staff members — including two vice principals, one secretary and the curriculum coordinator — would cause problems for the school and put more burden upon the teachers.“

Every one of these ladies are working their fingers to the bone to help these children,” Bonita Dove, PTA vice president, said during the meeting. “I’ve been in these offices. The phones are ringing, the children need attending to. One person cannot do it all.”

The cuts would reportedly free up capital with which to hire two new teachers.

Things reportedly got heated when Frazier took the podium to notify those in attendance that, “What we have going on here is noting but a good old-fashioned vendetta.”

“Aside from all the niceties, let’s take a good look at what’s really going on. A primary objective here is to get rid of Ms. Terri Hall; a second one, to make life as miserable as humanly possible for Gwen, so that she will give up and retire,” Frazier said.

Frazier said that the council, which he referred to as “the Junior Mafia,” was using its authority to advance the personal agendas of council members and ruin lives.

Frazier’s comments reportedly touched a nerve among those in attendance, several of whom loudly asked that Frazier desist and leave the proceedings. The actions which led to the complaints being filed allegedly took place when Frazier left the proceedings and was followed into the parking lot by several of those in attendance.

Prestonsburg police officers reportedly responded to the scene to bring some semblance of order to the confusion.

Early Friday morning, charges were brought against Gary Frazier by the same women noted in Frazier’s charges. The charges mirror those issued by Frazier later in the day, with Tackett alleging terroristic threatening and assault, Bertrand alleging harassment, and Salisbury alleging terroristic threatening. A court date of May 14 has been set for Tackett, Bertrand and Salisbury to appear in court and provide an answer to the complaint.

According to their website...
the Prestonsburg Elementary School Administration and Office Staff includes:
Principal
Two Assistant Principals
Guidance Counselor
Curriculum Resource
Attendance Clerk
Office Manager
Secretary
Classroom teachers lnclude:
6 - kindergarten
6 - 1st
5 - 2nd
5 - 3rd
4 - 4th
4 - 5th grades
Plus...the pretty standard deployment of 5 related instructional staff: art, music, PE, library & technology.
Plus, 4 special needs resource teachers 1 speech teacher 3 reading teachers a media assistant and a technology assistant
A Tip of the Hat to KSBA.

Fayette County Public, Private Share Peace Pipe

This from the H-L:

Fayette Co., LCA unveil agreement to prevent boycott

Mike FieldsLexington Christian Academy will avoid a lot of the fallout from the "schedule reduction plan" proposed by the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents last week. And it appears most of the 50 or so private schools across the state won't be affected much by the boycott.

Long before the KASS unveiled its plan before the Kentucky High School Association's Board of Control last week, LCA had been working with Fayette County public school officials to work out a compromise so they could keep playing each other.

They came to an agreement this week. LCA will self-impose tough restrictions, and Fayette County will do likewise. Any student who transfers to LCA from a Lexington public school after the seventh grade will be ineligible to play athletics for a year. In turn, Fayette County will impose the same rule on students transferring from LCA to any of its schools.
Don Adkins, athletic director of Fayette County schools, said that his boss, superintendent Stu Silberman, informed other superintendents of the agreement, and they didn't have a problem with it. Adkins said it is intended to do "what's best for the kids" and to "develop a good relationship between everybody so we can all sit down and work this out." ...

‘Fight Nights’ an underground tradition

This from the News-Graphic:

STAMPING GROUND — More than a dozen Stamping Ground teenagers and one 20-year-old told the News-Graphic Tuesday night that people criticizing their “Friday Fight Nights” don’t know what they’re talking about.

Friday Night Fights consists of teenagers and some young adults getting together to watch and participate in amateur boxing or wrestling matches. The events are held in a variety of locations such as barns and parking lots, and recently came to attention through video footage of the fights posted on YouTube and MySpace under “Fight Night” S.C.“Nobody has to do it,” the group said multiple times. “If you don’t think you can handle it, you can stop at any time.”

Kameron Younts, 19, said it’s safer than critics realize.“People wear mouthpieces, and gloves are worn,” Younts said. “There’s a difference between a knuckle and a padded glove.”Some said they even have fighters, who are ranked by age, height and weight, sign waivers and that they use referees during the matches.A 20-year old who said he’s been a frequent fighter said it’s been a regular event held somewhere in Scott County for the past five years.“

There are many more people watching than fighting,” a 17- year-old said.There are typically about 12 people who fight on a regular basis, they said, but anyone can sign a waiver and fight if they want to.Girls occasionally sign up to fight each other, too, they said. “It’s official, but it’s unofficial,” the 20-year-old said. “It ain’t no big deal. I think if parents watched and saw what was going on, they wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

The group estimated as many as 400 people showed up to watch the last Fight Night held last year.“There were even some cops there,” they said, although they couldn’t say who or what their purpose was for being there.

The location changes all the time, they said. The events are not always in a barn. Just a few weeks ago, they said they were holding a Fight Night behind Burger King in Georgetown when the police came and told them they had to break it up and move on. They use makeshift rings made from plywood or old tires, or use the onlookers to create a circle around the area where the participants fight.

Boxers or fighters keep at it until one either quits or gets “knocked out.”By knocked out, they said they mean the fighter “can’t get back up” like in boxing instead of unconscious, they said.The groups said what people aren’t hearing is that a teenager who was recently knocked out during a Fight Night and reported to have sustained a concussion had been involved in numerous fights held at Fight Nights and nearly always won.

Younts and the others insist drugs and alcohol are not tolerated at the events.“If you’re seen with drugs or alcohol, you’re escorted out,” they said.They also said it’s all for fun and that there’s no gambling involved.“It’s better than skating, bowling or going to Wal-Mart’s parking lot,” a 17-year-old said. “And, it helps keep people from fighting in school.”

Zach “Buddha” Kidwell, 15, and his friend Paul Wolfenbarger said they wanted to let people know it’s an OK event. “I’m fine with it,” Wolfenbarger said.“It’s not something where you set out to hurt someone,” the 20- year-old said. “It’s all about smiling. When you’re done, there’s no grudges.”

Younts said it’s been going on for such a long time that he doesn’t see anyone being able to put an end to it.“I honestly think as much as cops might try to bust it up, it will continue to go on,” Younts said.



Friday, April 25, 2008

Whitlock Installed as EKUs 11th President

I attended this afternoon's ceremony - as a faculty member, not as a reporter. It was a very nice ceremony on a lovely day. I did not have the opportunity to say "Hi" to Governor Beshear or Commissioner Jon Draud, but I did have a nice chat with Brad Cowgill and his wife Margaret.

But this was Whitlock's day.

A string of dignitaries described the various aspects of his service to the Commonwealth, including his service on the Madison County Board of Education. He seemed to wipe a tear during Cowgill's praise for his ability to bring people together.

Whitlock had a wonderful message for the EKU faithful. Literate, expressive and rich with history; he revealed his head and his heart.

This from EKU:

Adopting as his theme the motto of Eastern Kentucky State Normal School many years ago, Dr. Doug Whitlock declared “The Best Is Hardly Good Enough” at ceremonies inaugurating him as Eastern Kentucky University’s 11th President on Friday, April 25.

“They are words that resonate with a challenge to all who seek to advance this great university,” Whitlock said. “At first blush there is an apparent incongruity in that statement. After all, what can be better than the best? On reflection, I think the answer lies in something I once heard said by Robert R. Martin. ‘Greatness,’ he said, ‘is a moving target. It is fleeting and is not something that once achieved is forever.’ Or, in my less eloquent words, today’s best will be hardly good enough for tomorrow.”

Whitlock comes to the presidency intimately familiar with EKU’s legacy, having earned two degrees from the institution and serving it for almost 40 years in various
administrative and teaching roles. From 1976 until 1998, he served Presidents J.C. Powell and Hanly Funderburk as Executive Assistant. He was Vice President for Administrative Affairs from 1998 until what turned out to be a temporary retirement in 2003. EKU’s Board of Regents appointed Whitlock as Interim President in August, 2007, and 10 weeks later removed the interim label.

“Since 1906 to this very day, Eastern has been a great institution,” Whitlock said. “In many respects we are the best at what we do. But remember ‘The Best Is Hardly Good Enough.’ The Eastern I attended was great, but it is not the same institution when I graduated as it was when I began as a freshman.

The Eastern I returned to from the Army in 1968 was different still, as was the one from which I retired, as was the Eastern I found when I returned to work last August.”

One constant throughout EKU’s 102-year history has been its ability to change lives, Whitlock said.

“Our real mission is the business of building better lives,” he said, noting the prevalence at EKU of first-generation college students. “That’s true to some extent for all universities, but I still think it is a basis for part of Eastern’s specialness. When our graduates talk of Eastern’s impact on their lives they are speaking of a profound change. Our record as a school of opportunity makes Eastern special.”

Whitlock also spoke of a willingness of the University community to change through the years to meet the needs of its students, its service region and the Commonwealth.

“There is on this campus a heritage of flexibility, entrepreneurship and educated risk taking that is a part of what makes Eastern special,” he said. “Without it there would be no College of Health Sciences and no College of Justice and Safety. Without it there would not be campuses at Corbin, Danville, Lancaster and Manchester. Without it we would not be developing the Studio for Academic Creativity in the Library, and without it we would not be admitting our first class of doctoral students this coming
fall.”

Eastern’s 11th President asked his listeners to join him in meeting the challenges that lie ahead. Among other desires, he cited in particular the need to:

• preserve and protect Eastern’s heritage as a school of opportunity, while maintaining high quality and adding significant value.

• maintain and enhance an educational and living experience that, in the words of Dr. Williard Daggett, features rigor, relevance and relationships.

• avoid falling into a spiral of diminishing returns on the University community’s effort when process becomes product and form usurps function.

• measure the efficacy of teaching, scholarship and service by student achievement.

• protect the University’s liberal arts-based general education core.

• strengthen ties to the K-12 community and emphasize intervention over remediation.

• strengthen the University’s commitment to regional stewardship.

• build deeper relationships with community and technical colleges and independent institutions.

• play a
leadership role in the statewide effort to increase graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

• reach out to those adults who stopped just short of completing their college degree.

• celebrate diversity for its educational value.

• increase the University’s global focus and involvement and broaden relationships with foreign institutions and enroll more international students.

• increase efforts to secure private support.

Others speaking at the ceremonies were emcee Hunter Bates, chair, EKU Board of Regents; Gov. Steve Beshear; Dr. Brad Cowgill, president, Council on Postsecondary Education; Dr. Jon Draud, commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education; Dr. David Eakin, chair, EKU Faculty Senate; Dr. Malcolm Frisbie, faculty Regent; Steven Fulkerson, staff Regent; David Fifer, student Regent; Bill Jones, president, EKU National Alumni Association; Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson; Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark; and EKU President Emeritus Hanly Funderburk, who was presented a Presidential Award of Merit.


SOURCE: EKU press release

Tuition as Tax

This from the Courier-Journal:

Why tuition taxes?

The Council on Postsecondary Education should do what its president, Brad Cowgill, suggests -- focus seriously, and skeptically, on the tuition increases being promoted at Kentucky's public colleges and universities.

It's a refreshing change to have the CPE do something meaningful. Especially welcome is Mr. Cowgill's focus on the 13 percent tuition hike that the Kentucky Community and Technical College System wants. KCTCS has boosted its rates some 151 percent over the past 10 years, making them 26 percent higher than the national average for community colleges.

This system's students are particularly vulnerable. Many come from lower income
homes. Often they're the first in the family to attend college. They barely scrape together enough cash for tuition, scrimp on living expenses, work multiple jobs and somehow squeeze their college classwork into a crowded schedule. They're especially hard hit when tuition keeps going up.

What CPE really should do is reject all the proposed tuition increases, thereby creating a financial crisis on state campuses and forcing Gov. Steve Beshear to call a
special session, during which the General Assembly could pass at least a 75-cent-per-pack increase in the state's cigarette tax -- something it should have had the guts to do during the 2008 regular session.

The problem is, Senate President David Williams might be content with his usual answer -- a little more belt-tightening. The Governor couldn't do a thing about that, since Mr. Williams controls the Frankfort agenda. So calling a special session might
make a bad situation worse.

Make no mistake about it. These institutions need the money they're asking for in new tuition revenue -- all of it, and more. If they got stuck with the 6 percent cuts already imposed this year, by Mr. Beshear and the General Assembly, that would set Kentucky higher education back a far piece.

What's needed is more state revenue, not only in higher education but across the state budget -- not just now, through a cigarette tax boost, but consistently, over time, through a modernization of the state's tax system.

C-J says Beshear Should Ignore Layzell, Seize Opportunity

This from the Courier-Journal:

Two opinions

Tom Layzell is a gentleman. He's an experienced educator, and easy to like.

However, a quiet and deferential tenure as head of the Council on Postsecondary Education gives him no standing to lecture Gov. Steve Beshear on what to do about a CPE that is (and was, under Mr. Layzell's amiable and well-mannered guidance) embarrassingly ineffective.

Mr. Layzell's letter to the Governor, warning that any conflict with the CPE could set back higher education in Kentucky, is best simply ignored. On the other hand, yesterday's opinion from Atty. Gen. Jack Conway, explaining that CPE acted improperly in naming Brad Cowgill to Mr. Layzell's old post, should be seized as an opportunity.

The council as it now exists is an embarrassment. It is neither a useful advocate for the campuses that make up the state system nor an effective coordinator of those institutions.

What's needed are a council and a CPE president who are willing "to speak truth to power," and to do that even when there is professional risk. To point out that a strong higher education system is expensive -- very expensive -- and will only become more so. To insist that financing it will take sacrifice and pain from all Kentuckians. To affirm that what we really need is a massive, tectonic shift in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of student aid, toward students who need it most, and that well-to-do Kentucky families should be willing (gladly, gratefully, because they are able) to pay full freight at the university of their choice, because it is still a bargain.

To declare universities accountable, but demand something better than pennies–on-the-dollar public support. To point out that, although tuition rates are increasing too fast, the council recommended a 7 percent increase in 2008-2009, not the 6 percent cut the institutions now face. To make clear that these campuses have nowhere else to go for cuts in operating money. To emphasize that KCTCS serves many of our fellow citizens who most need financial help, that its tuition probably shouldn't increase at all, that Kentucky taxpayers should be willing to invest whatever is needed to offset budget cuts and hold the system's tuition steady.

Does the current council speak like that -- boldly, and with authority? Absolutely not. It was more or less silent, when it mattered, on such controversial issues as domestic partner benefits and guns in cars, and on any number of other concerns of importance to students and universities.

The lesson in the tenure of the first CPE president, Gordon Davies, is this: One can't want the job and the paycheck so badly that he mutters discretely, or maneuvers politely, when it's time be bold.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Conway rules out CPE Hiring. Beshear Flexes Muscle: Has not ruled out disbanding the council.

Following the Kentucky's Board of Education's Barbara Erwin debacle, newly minted Governor-elect Steve Beshear asked the KBE to conduct a national search for Education Commissioner. KBE blew him off and hired Kentuckian Jon Draud.

Earlier this month, Beshear warned the Council on Postsecondary Education that they must conduct a national search for its next president. CPE blew him off and hired its interim president Brad Cowgill without a new search. Council chairman John Turner of Lebanon said no search was necessary because "we have the right person in place."

Beshear responded by calling for an Attorney General's Opinion and asked the CPE to refrain from executing a contract with Cowgill. CPE did not finalize the contract.

The Courier-Journal jumped into the fray with an opinion calling CPE "utterly useless" and urging Beshear to shut it down by executive order.

CPE responded by asserting it's power over the universities announcing that schools might be held to 3-7% tuition increases.

The Daily Independent offered their score card which showed Beshear 0 for 2 when it comes to getting a state board to follow his leadership.

The university presidents' gave CPE something less than a ringing endorsement as U of L's James Ramsey said,
"They don't teach any classes, they're not educating students, they don't do any research like that taking place on the campuses," he said. "As long as the universities are focused and committed and moving forward, reform will continue to happen."
Yesterday, Attorney General Jack Conway said CPE erred when it offered the CPE presidency to Brad Cowgill.
"It is clear from the plain language of the statutes establishing the Council that the position of president was intended to be a preeminent position in Kentucky's postsecondary education scheme. KR 164.013 requires the president to possess" significant experience and an established reputation as a professional in the field of postsecondary education."2 The president "shall be the primary advocate for postsecondary education and advisor to the Governor and the General Assembly on matters of postsecondary education in Kentucky."3 Further evidence of the high authority and importance of this position is the fact that the statute requires the president of the Council to be paid more than the base salary of any president of any Kentucky public university.4"
Beshear immediately told CPE to follow the AG's ruling, drop Cowgill, and conduct a new search.

Now CPE's chair, John Turner, member John Hall and former member Walter Baker want a chat with Governor Beshear; while making suggestions of resistance, and a "friendly lawsuit."

Beshear does not rule out disbanding the council.

Beshear, Cowgill and Turner are all scheduled to attend the inauguration of EKU President Doug Whitlock this afternoon.

This from Jack Brammer over at Pol Watchers.


Conway: Higher-education leaders violated law


The Council on Postsecondary Education violated state law when it appointed Lexington lawyer Brad Cowgill as its president without retaining a search firm and conducting a new national search for a permanent president, Attorney General Jack Conway opined.

Conway issued a 12 page opinion Thursday afternoon in response to a request from Gov. Steve Beshear, who opposed the council's decision to hire Cowgill on April 14.

In a news conference, Conway said "the council was duty bound to conduct a national search."

Cowgill, a former state budget director for Gov. Ernie Fletcher, had been the council's interim president since Sept. 1, 2007. He was appointed to that post after the council terminated an unsuccessful search for a president.

Beshear has argued that the council ignored legal requirements that the council conduct a national search and come up with a president who has an established reputation and experience in postsecondary education.

Cowgill had no experience as a postsecondary administrator before being hired as the council's interim president.

Conway stressed that the opinion does not address Cowgill's qualifications. He said he believes a new search is needed, but noted that his opinion is only advisory.

Conway declined to offer advice about what the council or Beshear should do next, but noted that Beshear has the executive authority to reorganize the council.

Beshear said he was "not surprised" by the opinion. He said he wants to review the opinion and will have a statement later in the day.

The council is the coordinating agency for the state's eight public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Among other things, the council recommends a biennial postsecondary education budget and it sets the limits on how much the institutions can increase tuition.

Conway's opinion also identified "numerous" violations of Kentucky's Open Meetings law. He said his office could not find records of the council voting for Cowgill to serve on an interim basis.

In the interest of full disclosure:

An interesting confluence of events has brought together a number of individuals for whom I have great respect and have had some relationship. They now find themselves as players on opposite teams.

I have known both Brad Cowgill and Steve Beshear as "Cassidy School parents."

Steve and Jane Beshear's son Andy attended Cassidy School in Lexington for his elementary years. If my memory is correct, I was Andy's principal for his final year. The Beshears were what we in the school business call terrific parents; knowledgeable, friendly and supportive not only of their own son but they contributed to the well-being of other people's children as well. I worked directly with Jane when she chaired the Kentucky Literacy Commission, of which I was a member in the mid-80s.

Brad And Margaret Cowgill were very active parents during their children's years at Cassidy and I came to know them well over a longer period of time. Active with the PTA and involved in matters related to the school, they volunteered many hours and I always found them to be extremely supportive of the school and its mission. I always found Brad to be passionate about the importance of a sound educational system in Kentucky. I thought CPE made a great choice when they selected Cowgill as the interim president.

Somewhat related, Jon Draud and I go way back. As a young teacher in Kenton County, I coached one of his sons; he was a Kenton County school board member; he was my instructor in the graduate program at Xavier University; my mother was his Board Treasurer in Ludlow (my school district) for almost 20 years...

Before I had any thought of the possibility that Jon Draud might become Kentucky's Education Commissioner I contributed to an effort to unseat Barbara Erwin - which ultimately lead to Draud's appointment.

Go figure.

Draud Sees Great News in Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center Report

COMMISSIONER DRAUD RESPONDS TO KLTPRC REPORT

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Education Commissioner Jon E. Draud says that a report from the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center (KLTPRC) provides “great news” for the state’s P-12 education community.

The report, titled “Reducing Obstacles Will Yield Even Higher Academic Returns to Educational Investments,” was released on Tuesday. In it, the KLTPRC notes that Kentucky’s “investments in education yield higher results than predicted considering the obstacles we face.”

Draud said that, although data in the report indicates that Kentucky ranks 36th in the nation in per-pupil spending, the state ranks as high as 8th nationwide in the area of cost-effective educational spending.

“This means that the teachers and administrators in Kentucky are doing a great job with the amount of money that is available,” said Draud. “If we can moderate poverty, improve health conditions for children and educate more parents, then we can create a better place for all Kentuckians to work and live. This can be done if we invest in education.”

The KLTPRC report provides data on the return states get from their investments in elementary and secondary education. Using states’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the center developed a NAEP Proficiency Purchasing Power (NAEP PPP) index, which indicates how many “proficiency points” are attained for every $1,000 spent per pupil.

The index takes into account education spending, poverty levels, rural populations, limited-English proficiency students, obesity, missed school days and other factors. States with fewer obstacles tend to have higher PPP percentages. Kentucky has the 4th-highest number and extent of obstacles nationwide.

However, Kentucky’s NAEP PPP index is 118 percent of what would be expected, meaning that the state has a high return on a small amount invested in P-12 education, even taking into account the obstacles to cost-effective spending. For every $1,000 spent on P-12 education, Kentucky gets about 3.6 NAEP proficiency points.

Utah has the highest PPP index -- 6.07 – and New Mexico has the lowest PPP index -- 2.31.

Since Kentucky’s NAEP PPP index is 118 percent of what is predicted, the state ranks 8th-highest among the 50 states in cost-effective spending.

The Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center is a state agency dedicated to research into trends and issues that are likely to influence the future of the state.

Created by the General Assembly in 1992, the center is governed by a 21-member board and has a mandate to increase knowledge about issues on Kentucky’s horizon, guide planning efforts throughout state government and engage citizens and policymakers in preparing for the future.




SOURCE: KDE press release, KLTPRC report

Beshear Warns Education Group of Future School Funding Cuts unless Revenue is Raised

This from Pat Crowley at the Enquirer:

Beshear asks for help
ERLANGER - Unable to get his plans to raise revenue through the General Assembly, Gov. Steve Beshear is now looking outside of Frankfort for help.

During a speech Wednesday to the Boone County Education Foundation in Erlanger, Beshear asked members to help convince legislators to pump more money into the state budget.

"I need you to communicate with legislative leaders and the public at large the impact of this budget, a budget full of disappointing numbers," Beshear said. "Let them know there are viable opportunities for additional revenue."

To add revenue, Beshear proposed two measures: putting casino gambling on the ballot and raising cigarette taxes. Both were rebuffed by lawmakers.

Beshear said the state faces more cuts, including in education, if money can't be raised in the future.

"You in the trenches, in our schools, know what I'm talking about," Beshear said. "But many of our elected leaders appear to be unaware of, or unmoved, by these inadequacies." ...

Education Lessons We Left Behind

This from Goerge Will in today's Washington Post:

If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America
the mediocre educational performance that exists today,
we might well have viewed it as an act of war.
-- "A Nation at Risk" (1983)


Let us limp down memory lane to mark this week's melancholy 25th anniversary of a national commission's report that galvanized Americans to vow to do better. Today the nation still ignores what had been learned years before 1983.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once puckishly said that data indicated that the leading determinant of the quality of public schools, measured by standardized tests, was the schools' proximity to Canada. He meant that the geographic correlation was stronger than the correlation between high test scores and high per-pupil expenditures.

Moynihan also knew that schools cannot compensate for the disintegration of families and hence communities -- the primary transmitters of social capital. No reform can enable schools to cope with the 36.9 percent of all children and 69.9 percent of black children today born out of wedlock, which means, among many other things, a continually renewed cohort of unruly adolescent males.

Chester Finn, a former Moynihan aide, notes in his splendid new memoir "Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik") that during the Depression-era job scarcity, high schools were used to keep students out of the job market, shunting many into nonacademic classes. By 1961, those classes had risen to 43 percent of all those taken by students. After 1962, when New York City signed the nation's first collective bargaining contract with teachers, teachers began changing from members of a respected profession into just another muscular faction fighting for more government money. Between 1975 and 1980 there were a thousand strikes involving a million teachers whose salaries rose as students' scores on standardized tests declined.

In 1964, SAT scores among college-bound students peaked. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) codified confidence in the correlation between financial inputs and cognitive outputs in education. But in 1966, the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.

Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced.

But it wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation to freshmen.

In 1976, for the first time in its 119-year history, the National Education Association, the teachers union, endorsed a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, who repaid it by creating the Education Department, a monument to the premise that money and government programs matter most. At the NEA's behest, the nation has expanded the number of teachers much faster than the number of students has grown. Hiring more, rather than more competent, teachers meant more dues-paying union members. For decades, schools have been treated as laboratories for various equity experiments. Fads incubated in education schools gave us "open" classrooms, teachers as "facilitators of learning" rather than transmitters of knowledge, abandonment of a literary canon in the name of "multiculturalism," and so on, producing a majority of high school juniors who could not locate the Civil War in the proper half-century.

In 1994, Congress grandly decreed that by 2000 the high school graduation rate would be "at least" 90 percent and that American students would be "first in the world in mathematics and science achievement." Moynihan, likening such goals to Soviet grain quotas -- solemnly avowed, never fulfilled -- said: "That will not happen." It did not.

Moynihan was a neoconservative before neoconservatism became a doctrine of foreign policy hubris.

Originally, it taught domestic policy humility. Moynihan, a social scientist, understood that social science tells us not what to do but what is not working, which today includes No Child Left Behind. Finn thinks NCLB got things backward: "The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best." Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier.

A nation at risk? Now more than ever.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Did University Presidents Throw CPE Under the Bus?

PolWatchers report that the university presidents didn't say much after their meeting with Governor Beshear...but it sounds to me like they said a lot.

This from PolWatchers:

University presidents say little after meeting with Beshear

The presidents of Kentucky's public universities and community and technical college system said little Wednesday that revealed the specifics of their one-hour meeting with Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear himself declined to comment as aides whisked him into an official vehicle outside the Capitol. "I'm 30 minutes late for my next meeting," Beshear said.

The presidents had requested the meeting, apparently to discuss their proposed tuition increases and disenchantment with the way the state Council on Postsecondary Education is organized and operates.

The presidents largely answered questions in generalities, with University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey making the most pointed remarks.

"It's unfortunate that the council is not seen to play a key role as advisor to the governor and the General Assembly," Ramsey said.

But he emphasized that the current controversy over tuition increases, the council's hiring of Brad Cowgill as its president and the structure and personnel of the council itself should not obscure the "incredible progress" the campuses have made since Kentucky enacted its higher education reforms of 1997.

Then Ramsey kinda ...sorta ...tossed CPE under the bus.

"They don't teach any classes, they're not educating students, they don't do any research like that taking place on the campuses," he said. "As long as the universities are focused and committed and moving forward, reform will continue to happen." ...

That's a far cry from encouraging the governor to keep CPE in its present form, or that CPE is necessary to future progress.

3 Kentucky Teenage Girls Charged in Middle School Murder Plot

This from FoxNews:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A trio of Louisville teenagers has been arrested and charged with plotting the death of a middle school student.

Louisville police spokesman Phil Russell says detectives began investigating after a call from authorities at a middle school in eastern Jefferson County, who reported that there was word of a plot by some students to kill a fellow student.

Russell says three people had been working since March to plan the murder of a 13-year-old girl.

Police arrested two girls, ages 13 and 14, on Tuesday and charged them with conspiracy to commit murder. Neither has been named because of their age. Seth Ryan Woods, 19, of Louisville, also was arrested on the same murder conspiracy charge.

Russell said the teens had planned to execute their plan by this weekend.

Education Site Named “Best of Kentucky”

This from KyPost.com:





The Web application e3.ky.gov, developed in-house by Education Cabinet staff, was named the "Best of Kentucky" for "Best Application Serving the Public" at the Kentucky Digital Government Summit held April 22, at the Embassy Suites in Lexington.

The e3.ky.gov site is a self-service information portal for education, economic development and employment figures. Most data can be displayed by zip code, community, county, Workforce Investment Area or statewide. Access to the site is free and available to anyone.

To date the site averages more than one million hits per month. International hits have been tracked to more than 30 countries.

"I am thrilled that e3.ky.gov is being recognized as among the ‘Best of Kentucky,’" said Education Cabinet Secretary Helen Mountjoy. "This resource is a prime example of how linkages among education and economic development benefit the entire commonwealth. If you are a student, job seeker, employer, career counselor, educator or legislator, e3.ky.gov puts the data you need to make your decisions at your fingertips and at your convenience."

Launched in 2007, e3.ky.gov, offers a broad array of government resources to the public. It allows employers to post job listings, review resumes, profile a community’s workforce, view educational attainment demographics, find information on tax incentives or evaluate locations for a new/expanding business.

Employers can search resumes geographically from areas ranging from zip code to statewide from the convenience of their desktop. Job seekers can post resumes, view job openings, and research companies and communities before an interview. Students can search for careers to see the education required and location and availability in those fields.

Also showcased on e3.ky.gov is data for General Educational Development (GED) diplomas, Kentucky Employability Certificates, Kentucky Manufacturing Skill Standards, and all degrees issued by Kentucky’s postsecondary institutions. In
addition, users can find detailed descriptions of curricula, certifications and degrees at postsecondary institutions and links to colleges and universities.

The site provides labor market data from the U.S. Census Bureau and information on Kentucky payrolls, earnings, turnover rates, new hires and other indicators by geographic areas. In addition, the county-to-county commuting patterns of workers are included.

Purchasing software containing only partial functionality of e3.ky.gov would cost more than $10 million. The investment in this resource is less than $1 million, including development costs, licensing, market research and professional art package
design.

The e3.ky.gov site is co-sponsored by Kentucky Adult Education and the Office of Employment and Training. It was developed by the Kentucky Education Cabinet’s Division of Technology Services.

Funding cut affects raises

This from the Glasgow Daily Times:

GLASGOW — A lack of state funding to support step and rank increases for certified and classified school personnel was not good news for the Metcalfe County Board of Education.

Superintendent Pat Hurt notified the school board earlier this week about the issue. “I told them that while the 1 percent is to be included in the SEEK fund, there is no provision for rank and step changes,” she said...

0 for 2

This from the Daily Independent:



Governor failed to influence choice of top education leaders

Gov. Steve Beshear is 0 for 2 in his efforts to influence the appointment of Kentucky’s two top education officials: The commissioner of education and the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.


It is indicative of just how little this new governor — elected by a landslide last November — has been able to affect policy during his first months in office.


Shortly before his inauguration in December, Governor-elect Beshear asked members of the Kentucky Board of Education to delay the appointment of a new education commissioner in order to conduct another national search to the state’s top education leader. The first search had resulted in the disastrous selection of Barbara Erwin, who resigned before her first day as commissioner after discrepancies in her resume were revealed.


Within days after requesting the state school board to extend its search for a new commissioner, the board named Jon Draud, a Republican member of the Kentucky House of Representatives and former superintendent of the Ludlow Independent School District, as the state’s fourth education commissioner.


So much for the new governor’s advice.


Just last week, Governor Beshear asked the Council on Postsecondary Education to conduct a national search for a president who will have “an established reputation” in higher education.


Less than a week later, the council named Brad Cowgill — the former budget director for former Gov. Ernie Fletcher who had served as interim president since last July — as the permanent successor to former President Tom Layzell.


The governor is so upset with the council’s decision to hire Cowgill that he has asked Attorney General Jack Conway to rule on its legality. Beshear contends the council violated state law by failing to conduct a national search for Layzell’s successor. The governor asked the council to wait until Conway rules on the legality of the hiring before signing a contract with Cowgill.


Cowgill has been serving as interim president after the council said its first national search for Layzell’s successor produced no acceptable applicants. Among those unacceptable applicants was Cowgill.


Created by the Higher Education Reform Act of 1997, the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education is the highest ranking higher education official in the state, drawing a higher salary than the presidents of any of the universities or community and technical colleges. However, as a practical matter, the council has never given the president the authority he needs to do his job. Will it be different under Cowgill? We doubt it.


To be fair, the laws establishing both the commissioner of education and the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education give the governor no direct role in their appointments. In order to remove some of the politics from such appointments, that’s by design. However, as the state’s chief executive, the governor should have at least some influence in naming the state’s top educators.


But not Governor Beshear. Jon Draud is the commissioner of education and Brad Cowgill is president of the Council on Postsecondary Education in spite of Steve Beshear, not because of him.

Stress Test

This from the Courier-Journal:

How Much Does a Dropout Cost?

The real cost
The entire state loses when teenager drops out of school

Believe it or not, high school dropout rates are among the most difficult numbers to accurately determine.

That’s because the rates annually reported by individual schools and school districts show only a small percentage of students quitting school. But one gets a much different picture when comparisons are made in the number of students in a high school’s freshman class and the number of graduating seniors four years later. Those numbers show that as many as 30 percent of the students in a freshman class fail to complete high school.

A 2006 report by the Southern Regional Education Board found that a higher percentage of Kentucky teenagers are dropping out of school than their counterparts in other states, and the numbers are even more alarming when broken down by race and gender.

For example, in 2003, 83 percent of the white females and 76 of white males graduated from high school in the U.S. However, in Kentucky, the graduation rates for white females was a dismal 69 percent and an even lower 63 percent for white males. A higher percentage of black males and female and Hispanic males did graduate in Kentucky than the national average, but the numbers in both Kentucky and the nation as a whole were dismal.

Nationwide, the SREB reports that only 45 percent of black males and 50 percent of Hispanic males completed high school in 2003. In Kentucky, the graduation rate was 56 percent for black males and 62 percent for Hispanic males. Kentucky also reported that almost two out of every three black females (65 percent) completed high school, compared to the national average of 59 percent.But those are just faceless numbers.

Other statistics show that those lacking at least a high school degree are destined to spend their lives on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. Today’s economy demands more and more college graduates; those without high school degrees simply cannot qualify for most jobs. And that impacts not just the economic stability of the dropouts but also the economy of an entire state and region.

In fact, according to an estimate by the Alliance for Excellent Education — a privately funded education advocacy organization headed by former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise — the more than 16,000 dropouts from the class of 2007 in Kentucky cost the federal government some $788.1 million in additional tax revenue.Nationwide, Wise adds that “had all of the dropouts from the class of 2007 received their high school diplomas, they could have contributed enough money in additional tax revenue over the course of their lifetimes to match the amount of discretionary funding that the U.S. Department of Education received for an entire year. If that isn’t the best example of how education pays for itself, I don’t know what is.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average annual income for a high school dropout in 2005 was almost $10,000 less than for a high school graduate. In a single year the average high school dropout pays $1,302 in federal income taxes compared to $3,085 for a high school graduate.

The message is clear: When young people drop out of high school, it not only negatively impacts their economic status for the rest of their lives, it affects us all. Nowhere else is that more evident than in this region where a poorly educated adult population is a major obstacle to economic development.

Parents Concerned About "Fight Clubs"

This from WLEX 18:

Several Scott County parents are concerned after videos of unsupervised boxing matches, known as fight clubs, recently showed up on YouTube.

For the past three years, parents in Scott County have been trying to stop the fights, which involve high school students. While the kids are using boxing gloves in some video clips, teens can also be seen with alcohol, and the danger is very real.



One parent, who did not want to be identified, says her son is involved. She says the fights have been happening in a barn on Locust Fork Road in Stamping Ground, where nearby neighbors say on the weekends, the noise lasts all night long.

"The parents and the authorities need to put a stop to this," the concerned parent told LEX 18. "It's got to end. Someone is going to get hurt and they possibly could die.

The parent of one teen seen in the videos says her son suffered a concussion, and later went to the hospital.

Police say there's not much they can do, because if drugs or alcohol are not present, the fights themselves are not illegal.

LEX 18 tried to contact the owner of the property where the fights happen, but no one was home at the time.

Is the Council on Postsecondary Education Relevant?

For several years now the effectiveness of the Council on Postsecondary Education has been called into question. The most recent volley was fired by the Courier-Journal last Friday.

C-J said CPE was "utterly useless in terms of setting priorities for state spending on public colleges and universities, because the General Assembly ignores its recommendations whenever it chooses." They called for Governor Steve Beshear to "re-invent the council by executive order."

If the governor wanted to preserve CPE's authority over both the universities and the legislature it could be easily done, and at no cost to the public. The way to make CPE respectable is to give them control over the distribution of athletic tickets to legislators. Instantly, legislators would be in a position to listen.

As it is CPE will soon have an opportunity to test its own relevance without any such motivators.

Will CPE hold the line on the 3 to 7 percent tuition increases it previously outlined? Or will it bend to popular opinion (at least among students and parents) that tuition increases must be held down? On the heels of C-J's skewering it is reasonable to suspect that a few CPE members may have their hackles up.

The failure of the legislature to adequately support education, has created a no-win situation.

State universities who take their missions seriously (and follow the requirements of higher education reform as outlined by HB 1) cannot sit idly by while their goals fade to nothing. Absent state support, the only option for staying on track is to raise tuition. But faithful adherence to a mission that is in the best interest of Kentucky students may also price some students out of the market - at a time when Kentucky needs to double the number of college graduates.

EKU President Doug Whitlock told the Herald-Leader that he understands the council's "legitimate" concern over higher tuition, but said a "balance has to be struck" between affordability and the "ability to offer classes and help students be successful."

Meanwhile, Beshear holds little hope for improved state funding for elementary and secondary education in the near future.

This from the Herald-Leader:

Tuition plans to get hard scrutiny
HIGHER ED PANEL TO REVIEW STATE SCHOOLS' PROPOSALS

As two state universities approved proposed higher tuition rates Tuesday, a key state official said those requests and others will face tough scrutiny before gaining final approval.

Brad Cowgill, the embattled president of the state Council on Postsecondary Education, said the group has arrived at a consensus that tuition should generally go up 3 to 7 percent, with room for exceptions if schools successfully make their case at the council's tuition hearings April 30 and May 1.

On Tuesday, the University of Kentucky's Board of Trustees approved a 9 percent rise in tuition and Eastern Kentucky University's Board of Regents approved an 8 percent increase -- both for in-state students.

Officials at both schools said they regretted the increases but found them unavoidable after two rounds of budget cuts reduced their state funding by 6 percent.

Meanwhile, Cowgill called the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's proposal for a 13 percent tuition increase "clearly excessive," noting that its tuition has increased 151 percent over the last 10 years and is now 26 percent higher than the national average for community colleges...


For those keeping score, here are the tuition rate increases
under consideration for Kentucky's universities so far:

KCTCS - 13 percent
Northern Kentucky University - 9.68 percent increase
Western Kentucky University - 9 percent increase
University of Kentucky - 9 percent increase
University of Louisville - 9 percent increase
Eastern Kentucky University - 8 percent increase
Kentucky State University - 8 percent tuition
Murray State University - 6 percent increase
Morehead State University - tuition increase will be based on number of credit hours

Mark Hebert has a statement from CPE head Brad Cowgill: