Tuesday, September 30, 2008

U.S. Education Budget Roiled by Financial Crisis

This from Education Week:

The result of the presidential election will likely help determine how much money education programs receive in the 2009 federal fiscal year, which begins this week. But a multi-billion-dollar federal plan to assist the financial markets may leave the next president with very little room for major increases for K-12 schools, perhaps for the foreseeable future...

...“This bailout is basically going to suck the air out of education funding for years to come,” unless there is a major commitment to boosting education spending on the part of the next president, said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington lobbying coalition. Education advocates will have to make the case that investing in schools is necessary to shore up the economy over the long haul, he said...

Test-prep push said to detract from high school course work.

This from Education Week:

...The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a Cambridge, Mass.-based organization known as FairTest that is critical of what it sees as bias in and misuse of college-entrance exams for admissions decisions, maintains that nearly 800 institutions do not require entrance-exam scores for admission.

“The NACAC report accurately captures the concerns about test-score misuse and overuse shared by many high school guidance counselors and college-admissions officers,” Jesse Mermell, FairTest’s executive director, said in a statement. “The test-scores obsession is undermining both equity and educational quality in our nation’s schools.” ...

Study of Standardized Admissions Tests Is Big Draw at College Conference

This from the New York Times:

[At] the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the main event was William R. Fitzsimmons’s first public presentation of the findings of the Study of the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission.

Mr. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard, led a commission of college admissions officials who drafted the study, which challenges colleges and universities to examine their use of the SAT and ACT and to consider whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages or whether they can make the tests optional for admissions.

The line formed early for Mr. Fitzsimmons’s panel, and with more than 1,000 people jockeying for a limited number of seats — a scene that brought to mind the college admissions process — the event was moved to the ballroom.

“It’s electrifying to both sides of the desk,” said Louis L. Hirsh, admissions director at the University of Delaware, “to counselors who are worried about the stresses that the SAT places on the kids, and from the college end, the people whom all of us respect are looking at a test that all of us use and asking all of us to be more thoughtful about how they use it and what role it plays in our admissions.”

Mr. Fitzsimmons, who took center stage along with the other members of the commission, tried to ease the fears of the ardent supporters of the standardized admissions tests, taking pains to say that the SAT had many advantages.

But he also affirmed what many of those present had been saying for years: that the SAT and other standardized admissions tests are “incredibly imprecise” when it comes to measuring academic ability and how well students will perform in college. He said colleges and universities needed to do much more research into how well the tests predict success at their individual institutions...

...There has been longstanding debate and concern about the impact of standardized testing on socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and the ballroom erupted in applause when Mr. Fitzsimmons called for an end to the use of “cut scores” to determine who qualifies for National Merit and other scholarships. The practice means that one student is rewarded while excluding another whose SAT score may be only a single point lower, Mr. Fitzsimmons said.

What that single point differential fails to take into account, he said, is the context: The two students may have “lived entirely different lives, had entirely different educational opportunities and entirely different access to test prep.”

The audience also applauded Mr. Fitzsimmons’s call for U.S. News & World Report to stop using SAT scores as part of its college rankings.

“At Harvard we get terrific students, and we turn out terrific students later on,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “Is that due to Harvard or is that due to the students to begin with? Who knows? There are fabulous institutions with relatively low test-score averages that are absolutely first rate, that take students from point A to point Z.”

He continued, “Educational quality has nothing to do, or very little to do, with actual average SAT scores.” ...

...Jeffrey Brenzel, the dean of admissions at Yale, said the report raised key questions for every college and university: “Are you using the tests in a responsible manner and in the way they were intended? Is your use of the test relevant to your particular institution’s mission? Are there alternatives?” ...

Breaking: Deasy Out in Prince Georges County

At this moment, Prince Georges County Schools Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs is apparently announcing that Superintendent John Deasy is leaving the district.

Having given the pitch perfect response to the publication of the circumstances surround his degree form the U of L; and having no trouble reading the handwriting on the wall, John Deasy told the Washington Post that he's stepping down from Prince Georges County schools and will be moving on the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Video from ABC News 7:

This from the Washington Post:
John E. Deasy, the superintendent of Prince George's County schools, will leave his post as the head of Maryland's second-largest school system to take a job as a deputy director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Reached at home last night, Deasy said, "I have been offered a job, and I will make a public announcement of it tomorrow." He declined to give further details, saying only that he had been in "an ongoing conversation for several months" about the job.

Deasy told the board yesterday that he was leaving the 130,000-student Prince George's system for one of the largest private philanthropies in the world, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Deasy will leave around February, the source said.

The board held a closed session "to discuss a personnel matter" at 5 p.m. yesterday; public notification of the session was given almost half an hour after the meeting had begun. After the meeting ended, the board's chairman, Verjeana M. Jacobs (At Large), said that she had "positive news" and that a statement would be issued today. ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Battlelines Drawn in the Ville: U of L goes after Page One

Page One Kentucky's
Publication of "incorrect information"
about Donor's Degree Program Cited

The sabre rattling that began last week has escalated as the University of Louisville fired a shot across the bow of "the messenger" of bad tidings. Page One has responded on its pages with invitations and promises to defend itself.

This U of L press release from...you guessed it - Page One:


Sept. 26, 2008 Contact: John Drees
502-553-9793
John.drees@louisville.edu


UofL outraged at release of student records
Information on Internet blog is incorrect, possibly illegal


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The University of Louisville has learned that a local internet blog has printed incorrect information about a degree program and a student’s academic career.

The university expressed its concern at the release of the records, which may violate the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"The University takes seriously its obligation to protect our students’ records and privacy," said University Provost Shirley Willihnganz. "We are outraged that anyone would violate that trust."

The program in question, the Bachelor of Science in Workforce Leadership, is offered through the university’s College of Education and Human Development. It is designed to allow mid- to advanced-career level working professionals to receive academic credit for their workplace learning experiences. In addition, students complete a program of core competencies with a concentration in workplace performance, career and technical education or executive development.

Two hundred thirty eight students currently participate in the program.

The degree program was created in response to a request from the Council on Postsecondary Education and has been praised by Greater Louisville Inc. and Kentuckiana Works as a model program that will help the commonwealth reach its 2020 goal of doubling the number of college graduates.

"This program clearly benefits the community, which has asked us to develop programs that will help in workforce development. And it benefits hundreds of individuals who wish to further their education," Willihnganz said.

More information on the degree is available at: http://louisville.edu/education/degrees/exec-perform.html

Jake Payne responded today at Page One saying,

...If there was major concern, why didn’t John Drees return telephone calls? Why didn’t Shirley Willihnganz email us directly? We have worked with her in the past and have communicated via email.

We have reviewed the leaked information we published time and time again. We can find no super-private confidential information. There are no grades, no specifics. Just communication among University of Louisville employees discussing ways to fake a degree by doing all the portfolio work for a major donor.

This is called damage control and it’s ridiculous.

Payne had previously called for an legislative investigation of events surrounding former Dean Robert Felner, his shady dealings with federal grant money, and an apparent sweetheart deal that granted a doctorate to Superintendent John Deasy, and now, major donor Lewis "Sonny" Bass.

What the Bluegrass Institute Doesn't Seem to Know about the ACT

There is no way to sugar coat this.
Somebody doesn't know what he's talking about
- and it's not Oldham.

Well, Ben Oldham and I got called out by Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute the other day for "ignoring" the ACT benchmarks scores - apparently the holy grail of assessment in his mind.

Of course, this is all part of a larger conversation about Senate Bill 1 and the on-going Task Force on Assessment at KDE.

I wasn't planning on getting into all of this this fall. It's tedious, inside baseball kind of stuff. But the fundamentals are still the same. First, it's just a test. Second, every test has been designed to do a specific job. If test designers wanted a test to do something else, they would begin with that fact in sight. Third, have I mentioned it's just a test?

OK, let's talk about the ACT.

Here's the problem with the American College Test: Nothing, really.

It is a well-designed test intended to help admissions officers at competitive colleges determine which students are most likely to be successful at the university level. Ben Oldham recently went further saying, the "American College Test (ACT) is a highly regarded test developed by a cadre of some of the best measurement professionals in the world and is used by a number of colleges..."

But the ACT is only ONE factor that colleges use to make such determinations.

Why?

I mean, if the ACT can predict success in life, as Innes un-credibly argues (below), why don't colleges simply rely on it and quit wasting time compiling grade point averages and other data they say they need to made the best choices for their school?

The answer lies in the fact that test data are only reliable up to a point. It's just a test score and it shouldn't be turned into anything more.

As Richard C. Atkinson and Saul Geiser recently pointed out,

the problem with general-reasoning tests like the SAT [and ACT] is their premise: that something as complex as intellectual promise can be captured in a single test and reflected in a single score. It is tempting for admissions officers--and parents, legislators, policymakers and the media--to read more into SAT [and ACT] scores than the numbers can bear. Although measurement experts know that tests are only intended as approximations, the fact that scores frequently come with fancy charts and tables can create an exaggerated sense of precision.

And such exaggerations persist.

Newspapers and bloggers rank scores that ought not be ranked - because people like rankings. Some "think tanks" act as though test scores equal "truth" and look for any opportunity to twist data into a pre-existing narrative that Kentucky schools are going to hell in a handcart - this, despite trend data to the contrary, about which they are in full denial.

Georgetown College Distinguished Service Professor Ben Oldham correctly warned that, "since the ACT is administered to all Kentucky juniors, there is a tendency to over-interpret the results as a measure of the success of Kentucky schools. His excellent article clarifies what the test is, and what it isn't.

The problem of over-interpretation has been somewhat exacerbated by the inclusion of benchmark scores in the ACT. But benchmarking does not change the construction of the test nor the norming procedures. It does not turn the ACT into a criterion-referenced exam as Innes tries to suggest - unless all one means by "criterion" is that the ACT derived a cut score. Under that definition a People Magazine Celebrity Quiz could be considered criterion. Socre 18 and you're a Hollywood Insider!

The ACT's "criteria" simply does not measure how well Kentucky students are accessing the curriculum. It is much more sensitive to socio-economic factors attributable to most of the college-going population.

Using a "convenience sample" of schools (those willing to participate) the ACT looks at student success in particular college courses; and then looks at the ACT scores obtained by "successful" students. But regardless of what data such a design produces, "there is no guarantee that it is representative of all colleges in the U.S." Further the ACT "weighted the sample so that it would be representative of a wider variety of schools in terms of their selectivity."

That is to say, they tried to statistically adjust the data produced by the sample to account for more highly selective schools as well as the less selective. This process of weighting data to produce a score that the original sample did not produce should be viewed suspiciously. It would be like...oh, let's say like....using a concordance table to give students a score on a test they didn't take.

If KDE had done anything like this, Innes' buddies at BGI would be crying "fraud."

If we are going to test, and if our tests are going to be used to determine placement in programs within schools, and eventually in college, then we need to understand what the ACT means when it says "college-ready." And we don't. The most important flaw of the ACT benchmarks is conceptual: What is "readiness" for higher education?

As one delves deeped into the statistics other problems arise. Skip Kifer who serves on the Design and Analysis Committee for NAEP told KSN&C,

The benchmark stuff is statistically indefensible. Hierarchical Linear Modeling
(HLM) was invented because people kept confusing at what level to model things
and how questions were different at different levels. The fundamental
statistical flaw in the benchmark ... is that it ignores institutions. Students
are part of institutions and should be modeled that way.

But the ACT models at the "student" level when it should be modeling at the "students nested within institutions" level.

It is possible that the ACT took a kind of average of those "correct" models but that can not be determined that from their Technical Report.

Perhaps Innes could help us understand: How is it that the ACT's benchmarks could have been empirically defined and yet managed to get the same relationship for the University of Kentucky and Lindsey Wilson College?

Unfortunatley, the ACT folks did not respond an inquiry from KSN&C.

But none of this will likely stop the exaggeration of the ACT's abilities.

In response to a KSN&C posting of Ben Oldham's article, Innes made the following claim:

Oldham pushes out-of-date thinking that the ACT is only a norm-referenced test. The ACT did start out more or less that way, years ago, but the addition of the benchmark scores, which are empirically developed from actual college student performance to indicate a good probability of college success, provides a criterion-referenced element today, as well.

"Criterion-referenced element?!" A cut score? The ACT is a timed test too - but that doesn't make it a stopwatch.

So, Oldham is old fashioned and out-of-date? Au contraire. It is Innes who is over-reaching.

Innes argues,

the ACT says that many employers for ... better paying jobs now want exactly the same skills that are needed to succeed in college. So, the Benchmark scores are more like measures of what is needed for a decent adult life. Thus, it isn’t out of line to say that the Benchmarks can fairly be considered a real measure of proficiency. And, that opens the door to compare the percentages of students reaching EXPLORE and PLAN benchmarks to the percentages that CATS says are Proficient or more.

Bull.

One could derive as much "proficiency" evaluating Daddy's IRS form 1040 and then comparing percentages of students reaching EXPLORE and PLAN benchmarks to the likelihood of owning a BMW or affording cosmetic surgery.

I'm afraid what we have here is something other than a nationally recognized assessment expert who is out-of-date.

We have a pundit who thinks the ACT benchmarks constitute a criterion-referenced assessment of the performance of Kentucky students and their prospects for a decent adult life!? This, absent any connection between the ACT and Kentucky's curriculum beyond pure happenstance. There is no relationship between a student's ACT score and any specified subject matter - which is typically the definition of a criterion-referenced test.

There is no way to sugar coat this. Somebody doesn't know what he's talking about - and it's not Oldham.

The best spin I can put on this is that Innes got snookered by ACT's marketing department, which seems to do a fine job, but has been known to overstate the abilities of ACT's EPAS system.

But none of this makes the ACT a bad test. It just means that assessment experts have to take care to understand the nature of the exams and not to rely on them to do too much.

And it is commendable that Kentucky is working toward building an actual relationship between Kentucky's curriculum and that of the ACT through the development of content tests. That work will get Innes closer to to where he wants to be. He should wait for the actual work to be done before making claims.

Just as Atkison, Geiser, Oldham, Kifer, Sexton and virtually everybody else says, the results should not be over-interpreted to suggest relationships that just aren't there. And trying to argue causal chains that are completely unproven is certainly not best practice.

But more to the point, Kentucky recently committed to use the ACT's EPAS system including EXPLORE and PLAN as yet another measure - a norm-reference measure - of student performance. As long as Kentucky is cognizant of the test's limitations we ought to strengthen the connections between Kentucky high schools and universities and gauge student readiness for college. It was because of the large numbers of college freshmen in need of developmental courses that CPE pushed for the ACT/EPAS system to begin with.

Kifer wonders why Kentucky's Advanced Placement (AP) Tests receive so little attention. After all, unlike the ACT, the AP tests are a direct measure of a high school student's ability to do college work; AP courses are particularly well-defined; the tests exist across the curriculum; good AP teachers abound; course goals and exams are open to scrutiny.

When a high schooler passes an AP test he or she not only knows what it means, but the school of their choice gives them college credit for their effort.

Aware of CPE's commitment to the ACT as one measure of student readiness, KSN&C contacted newly named Senior Vice President of the Lumina Foundation Jim Applegate, who until recently served as CPE's VP for Academic Affairs.

Here's what Jim had to say:

Richard,

The article recently referenced in your publication from the admissions officer group addresses the use of ACT for college admissions. The
organizations sponsoring assessments such as ACT, SAT, and others have made clear that no single standardized test should be used to make such decisions. Postsecondary institutions, to implement best practice, should use a
multi-dimension assessment to make admissions decisions. A test score may play a
role in these decisions, but not the only role.

Kentucky uses the ACT/EPAS system (the Explore, Plan, and ACT tied to ACT ‘s College Readiness Standards) to help determine college readiness, place students in the right high school courses to prepare them for college, and place them in the right courses once they go to college. Kentucky’s revised college readiness standards are
about placement, not admission. For the foreseeable future, the postsecondary
system will, as it has always done, accept large numbers of students with ACT
scores below readiness standards, but will provide developmental educational
services to these students to get them ready for college-level work. The large
number of underprepared students coming into Kentucky’s postsecondary system led the Council a couple of years ago to initiate an effort to improve developmental
education order to make sure these students receive the help they need to
succeed in college.

A growing number of states are adopting the ACT or the entire EPAS system to more effectively address the challenge of getting more high school graduates ready for college or the skilled workplace (e.g., Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan). These states also want to better understand the performance of their students in a national and international context. Globalization no longer allows any state’s educational
system to remain isolated from these contexts.

The use of ACT/EPAS is, of course, only one necessary strategy to improve the college/workplace readiness of Kentucky’s traditional and adult learners. Kentucky is working to implement statewide placement tests in mathematics, reading, and English that will be administered to high school students who fall below statewide college readiness benchmarks tied to ACT scores (few states have gotten this far in
clarifying standards to this level). These placement tests will provide more
finely grained information about what students need to know to be ready for
college-level work. We are also working to more strongly integrate college
readiness goals into our teacher preparation and professional development
programs to ensure teachers know how to use the assessments beginning in middle
school to bring students to readiness standards.

The postsecondary system is hopeful the implementation of ACT/EPAS will promote partnerships between postsecondary and high/middle schools to improve student achievement. Some of that has already begun since the first administration of the EPAS college readiness system. For the first time in my time in Kentucky (I grew up
here and returned to work here in 1977) we now know where every 8th grader is on
the road to college readiness thanks to the administration of the Explore. If in
five years the number of students needing developmental education is not
significantly less than it is today then shame on all of us.

Jim Applegate

All of this reminds me of the old Crest Toothpaste disclaimer I read daily while brushing my teeth over the decades.

Crest has been shown to be an effective decay preventive dentifrice that can be of significant value when used as directed in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care.

Let's see if I can paraphrase:

The ACT/EPAS system has been shown to be an effective norm-reference assessment that can be of significant value when used as directed in a conscientiously applied assessment program based on clear curriculum goals, direct assessments of specific curriculum attainment and effective instruction from a caring professional.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Enrollment Drops At Community Colleges and Tech Schools

This from Mark Hebert at WHAS TV:

Versailles, Ky. (Sept. 26, 2008) - Fall enrollment was a major topic of discussion during today's Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) Board of Regents meeting. For the first time in the organization's 10-year history, enrollment did not increase during the fall semester with an estimated 92,175 students compared with 92,828 in 2007.

"This slight drop in enrollment is a direct result of a decline in state appropriations and the Council on Postsecondary Education's decision not to approve our recommended tuition increase," said KCTCS Board of Regents Chair Richard A. Bean. "We can no longer continue to do what was mandated to us in the 1997 Postsecondary Education Improvement Act without appropriate levels of support."

Due to a $13.5 million reduction in state appropriations, KCTCS began the 2008-09 academic year with 240 fewer faculty and staff. KCTCS colleges have absorbed the budget cuts by eliminating academic programs and reducing the number of courses and services offered to students. Specific actions include:

· Elimination of full academic programs on one or more campuses of 10 colleges;
· Enrollment caps in one or more programs at 12 colleges;
· Fewer courses or fewer course sections offered by 14 colleges;
· Raising the minimum number of students required for a class to be offered at 15 colleges;
· Increasing class sizes at nine colleges;
· Reduction in services to students and businesses at 15 colleges;
· Closure of a campus at Gateway Community and Technical College;
· Capping of enrollment at Jefferson Community and Technical College's downtown campus;
· Discontinuation of class offerings at Wayne County High School by Somerset Community College; and

Elimination of weekend operations of the library at Owensboro Community and
Technical College....


But H-L isn't buying it.

Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences Consequence


SOMERSET, NJ—In what local authorities are calling a "near tragedy," Charles Wentworth, a 17-year-old Rutgers Preparatory senior and member of the affluent Wentworth family, came perilously close to suffering a consequence resulting from his own wrongdoing Saturday.

Wentworth made his senior photo shoot even after coming within inches of an actual repercussion from the accident.

Wentworth, reportedly ignoring the protests of his classmates, got
behind the wheel of his turbocharged Supra 2000GT after consuming half the contents of a bottle of Goldschl├Ąger at a friend's party. While driving westbound on Route 27, a disoriented Wentworth drifted across two lanes of traffic and collided with a minivan carrying a family of four, bringing the teen face-to-face with a potentially life-altering lesson.

Wentworth escaped unscathed and unpunished, however, when his airbags deployed and a team of high-powered attorneys rushed to the scene and rescued him from the brink of personal responsibility.

"Amazingly, Mr. Wentworth did not experience a single repercussion for consuming alcohol under age or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and is furthermore completely unaware that he did anything wrong," local police chief Marvin Taylor said. "He is a very lucky boy." ...

... The other four victims of the crash remain in intensive care at St. Peter's University Hospital, suffering from conditions ranging from poor to lower-class.

That, from the Onion.

The future effect of backloaded NCLB models demonstrated in Calif.

There is a day of reconning coming for states that have backloaded their NCLB targets.

As 2014 approaches, more and more successful states will experience the same kinds of decline seen recently in Massachusetts - while their students continue to improve.
The law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), enacted in 2002, set an ambitious goal: that across the nation, every state would test students annually in reading and math, and that the number of students scoring at the level of "proficient" or higher would rise each year, until all students reached proficiency in the year 2014.

Towards that end, each state developed its own assessment tests and identified a rate of adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards full proficiency by 2014. Schools that do not meet AYP can face sanctions ranging from being identified as a school needing improvement to (after five years) being subject to corrective action and restructuring--even a complete reorganization or takeover of the school.

One of the challenges of meeting AYP is that schools, districts and states must report not only a rise in total scores, but also progress in the scores of subgroups of students including minority students, English language learners (ELL) and students with disabilities.

"The result is that the lowest-performing subgroup will ultimately determine the proficiency of a school, district or state," says Rich Cardullo, one of the authors of a paper published in the Sept. 26 issue of Science magazine, which analyzes testing data from California's elementary schools.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) used state assessment data reported for the school years 2002-2003 through 2006-2007 to project the growth in student proficiency through 2014. Data was drawn from more than 4,900 California elementary schools.

The researchers used three different growth models (represented by the blue, grey and green lines) to project average annual growth in proficiency for mathematics (solid lines) and English language arts (dotted lines).

Models are plotted out to 2014 to illustrate that the available data (through 2007) does not indicate the accelerated growth in proficiency required to meet legislated goals. California's benchmarks for adequate yearly progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind are shown in the red lines.

More information on this research appears in the Sept. 26, 2008, edition of Science magazine.

Credit: University of California, Riverside by way of Schools Matter.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Road Trip


U Wisc-Parkside President says Felner Search Flawed

This from Trading Markets.com:

Parkside chancellor search was flawed, Reilly says

The people involved in the failed search for a chancellor at UW-Parkside could have done a better job of sharing information about the top candidate, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly said Friday.

Reilly commissioned a review of the search process used to choose chancellors at all System schools after Robert Felner, who was hired as chancellor of UW-Parkside last spring, resigned amid a federal criminal investigation in Kentucky.

Suggested changes in the report, released Friday, included visiting the home campus of all lead candidates and clearly delineating the roles and responsibilities of the search firm.

It also included simple suggestions like running Google searches on candidates to find articles that could reveal controversies.

...Reilly said "information flow" was lacking in the Parkside search. For instance, some search committee members who chose Felner knew of a no-confidence vote by faculty at the University of Louisville but failed to pass on that information on to others....

50,000 New Books on the way to Kentucky children

First Book provides new books to children in need addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. First Book has distributed more than 60 million free and low cost books in thousands of communities.

To determine where books will be distributed, First Book launched a state-vs-state competition.

“What Book Got You Hooked?” invited readers everywhere to celebrate the power of unforgettable books from childhood by providing new books to the children who need them most. For the last two years, First Book asked visitors to their website to share the memory of the books that made them readers, then help get more kids hooked by voting for the state to receive 50,000 new books from First Book.

The votes are in!

In 2008, more than 250,000 votes were cast for to decide the winning state. After a hotly contested race with West Virginia and Nebraska, Kentucky won, claiming nearly 94,000 votes - 60,000 more than last year.

The books will be distributed in 2009 through the First Book National Book Bank to programs in Kentucky registered with First Book. Eligible programs must serve predominantly low-income children

Top 10 States!

1. Kentucky
2. West Virginia
3. Nebraska
4. Kansas
5. Oklahoma
6. Pennsylvania
7. Iowa
8. Indiana
9. North Carolina
10. Ohio

But what books got the most folks hooked on reading? Here's the list:

  1. The Nancy Drew series
  2. Green Eggs & Ham
  3. Little House on the Prairie series
  4. Charlotte's Web
  5. Cat in the Hat
  6. Little Women
  7. The Boxcar Children
  8. The Bobbsey Twins
  9. Black Beauty
  10. The Dick & Jane series
  11. Go Dog Go!
  12. To Kill a Mockingbird
  13. Goodnight Moon
  14. Gone With the Wind
  15. Heidi
  16. Anne of Green Gables
  17. Curious George
  18. Black Stallion
  19. Harry Potter series
  20. The Secret Garden
  21. The Bible
  22. The Pokey Little Puppy
  23. The Giving Tree
  24. A Wrinkle in Time
  25. The Little Engine That Could
  26. The Hobbit
  27. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  28. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  29. The Hardy Boys series
  30. Hop on Pop
  31. Where the Sidewalk Ends
  32. The Velveteen Rabbit
  33. Are You There God? It's me Margaret.
  34. The Babysitters Club series
  35. Pippi Longstocking
  36. Amelia Bedelia
  37. The Hatchet
  38. Superfudge
  39. Ramona Quimby books
  40. Cinderella
  41. Island of the Blue Dolphins
  42. The Wizard of Oz
  43. The Outsiders
  44. Winnie the Pooh
  45. Treasure Island
  46. Horton Hears a Who
  47. Love You Forever
  48. Old Yeller
  49. Call of the Wild
  50. Twilight

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another U of L Instant Degree For Sale?

Recently Marina Karem complained in the C-J that the "quickie degree" granted Prince Georges County Superintendent John Deasy by former education Dean Robert Felner devalued her own hard work and accomplishments.

I'm sure she's not alone. It must be galling to those honest hard-working Cardinals to see their beloved university drug through the mud.

U of L spokesman John Drees assured the C-J today, "...we have one goal: to prevent instances like these reported at the College of Education from happening again."

But it now appears easy degrees from U of L may be more plentiful than originally thought.

Page One is reporting another sweetheart deal may have been under way with major Ville donor Lewis "Sonny" Bass. It was Bass who defended Felner in the C-J on August 28th suggesting that C-J's investigation and publication of the facts related to Felner's alleged wrongdoings were "perverted, cruel, twisted, malicious and probably anti-Semitic." He said C-J was crucifying the trustworthy Felner.

But according to [high-level] sources at UofL ... Mr. Bass was offered an honorary degree over the summer. But he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted an actual, earned degree. So individuals within the College of Education enrolled him in a fast track program that would give him credit for life experience, which has to be documented in the form of a portfolio.

A student was assigned (and paid) to assemble a portfolio for Bass but eventually grew to be uncomfortable with the arrangement. At one point, after complaining, she was reportedly offered more money to appease her worries but eventually backed out of the process. A new student was then assigned.

According to professors we spoke with at UofL, Bass never showed up to classes he was supposed to attend this summer. He never did any of the work required of him. And professors were uncomfortable giving grades to him– that he didn’t earn– since he was never in their classes.

Go read the emails. In one July message to Bass, Program Coordinator Carolyn Rude-Parkins outlines how she and a graduate research assistant would work on his "interview and written materials...[and] develop a Portfolio that will document [his] expertise..."

Sounds like they do all the work. He gets interviewed, and the degree of course, and apparently - stop me if you've heard this one before - without attending class.

Meanwhile, as President James Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz continue to be under fire for their misjudgment and support of Felner's activities - U of L spokesman Drees told C-J,

Louisville's accreditation and alumni donations have not been affected by federal and internal investigations of its former education dean, a school spokesman said yesterday.

"Based on the facts we have at this point, our accreditation is not threatened," John Drees said during a press briefing.
But six financial, management and governance reviews are still under way, and that does not include the SACS and NCATE reviews to follow or the federal investigation of Felner set to conclude in October.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ramsey's PR Campaign Continues

If you were wondering whether the University of Louisville Trustees would step in to provide oversight where none has existed - there's no apparent sign of it going that way.

In today's C-J, former trustee, David A. Jones, defends U of L President James Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz. His piece focuses on the positive aspects of their tenure - and that's all. He would have us believe Ramsey just had a very bad day.

Ramsey's attempt to treat serious Felner allegations like a PR problem is now being handled in the press...like a PR problem.

Ramsey praised for his leadership at U of L


The University of Louisville and its leaders are going through a rough patch right now.

Allegations of serious and unfaithful conduct by a former dean, if proven true, demonstrate a need for prompt, effective action to strengthen oversight in several vital areas.

Congratulations to the university for calling these alleged wrongful deeds to the attention of the proper authorities, and congratulations to The Courier-Journal for its extensive and enlightening investigative reporting.

There's a wonderful children's book called The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, which notes that such days occur, even in Australia.

Such days end, while the remarkable accomplishments under the inspirational leadership of President Jim Ramsey and his thoughtful, energetic and effective provost, Shirley Willihnganz, continue. Examples of their improvements include:

Retention and graduation rates are up significantly.

Current ACT scores have climbed to an average of 24.4, well above the national average score of 21.2, a positive indication of a better future workforce for our area.

Endowment has grown from $479 million to $796 million and a record $86 million was raised in the 2007-2008 academic year.

President Ramsey and the university are on a roll, and the reason is clear: leadership.

Ramsey is bright, experienced, thoughtful, humble, gutsy, action-oriented and totally focused on improving every aspect of the University of Louisville.

When he arrived, there were studies showing that a majority of faculty members would not send their children to the university. Morale was low. A firm hand and clear vision were required.

He provided that vision and toughness, requiring endless 12-hour and longer days and perhaps on occasion he was a bit too tough.

He will certainly profit from his current experience, and our community will continue to profit from his leadership if the trustees stand firmly behind him, based on all his very good days!

DAVID A. JONES

For Those Who Would Better Understand the ACT

KSN&C, and I suspect a lot of folks, got a note from Prichard Committee honcho Bob Sexton today regarding the ACT test results recently kicked around in the press.

The media coverage, and occasionally comments from school officials, badly confused what the ACT is and is not and how scores should be used and should not be used.

To bring some scholarly understanding to this misinformation about ACT, Ben Oldham, Distinguished Service Professor at Georgetown College, has written the attached statement.

Here's Ben's article:
September 24, 2008


Adding Understanding to the ACT scores


Ben R. Oldham
Distinguished Service Professor
Georgetown College


The recent release of statewide ACT scores has created a lot of discussion about the quality of Kentucky schools. It has been reported that approximately 43,000 Kentucky juniors earned an average of an 18.3 composite score out of 36 on the ACT. Kentucky is one of just five states that requires the ACT for all high school juniors. It should be noted that the American College Test (ACT) is a highly regarded test developed by a cadre of some of the best measurement professionals in the world and is used by a number of colleges as one selection-for-admission measure.

Extensive research has been conducted that suggests that the ACT is a significant predictor of freshman college grades. The ACT is designed to predict college success. My research suggests that high school grade point average is a similar predictor of college success. Since the ACT is administered to all Kentucky juniors, there is a tendency to over-interpret the results as a measure of the success of Kentucky schools. The successes of Kentucky education reform are inevitably brought into question.


Other evidence tells a different story. More students in Kentucky are taking AP exams and more students are earning college credit through the Advanced Placement program than ever before. These are standards-based exams. The purpose of these tests is to determine, by following a tightly structured curriculum, if students earn high enough scores to earn college credit while still in high school. Teachers know precisely what should be taught and through their excellent instruction more high school seniors earned college credit.


The Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) is administered throughout the grades of Kentucky’s public schools. Like AP tests, the KCCT assessments are standards-based exams. Teachers in Kentucky’s schools teach from a core content that defines what Kentucky students should know and be able to do as they progress through school. Like the AP test, the KCCT is designed to precisely measure how well the students have mastered the defined curriculum. The categories of novice, apprentice and distinguished are used to define the achievement of students. Its purpose is to monitor the growth of schools toward a Commonwealth goal of the average student achieving at the proficient level by 2014.


It is desirable for large numbers of students to achieve at the highest levels of achievement on both the AP and KCCT tests. Having small and reducing numbers of students at the lowest levels of achievement is also desirable. Here is where the difference with the ACT and standards-based tests lies. The ACT is a norm-based test. It is not designed to determine what students know and are able to do like the AP test or KCCT test. A norm-based test compares a student’s performance on a bank of test questions with students in a comparison group; in this case a national but not nationally representative comparison group since its purpose is for the college-bound. By design, the ACT spreads student scores to assist colleges and universities in making admission and scholarship decisions. When the ACT was developed, the average score was set at 20 regardless of the academic achievement of those in the norm group. If it were the case that everyone in the national comparison group scored at a high level, the mean score would be 20. If nearly all scored at a low level on the ACT, the mean would be 20. The purpose of the ACT is to assist colleges and
universities in making admission decisions. By design it separates students into a range of scores from the 1st percentile to the 99th percentile regardless of the pure academic achievement.


Because it is administered to students across the country, the ACT is designed to be insensitive to curriculum to not give an advantage to any particular curriculum. This is another major difference. Both the AP and the KCCT are built around a tightly defined curriculum. Because the ACT is insensitive to school curricula many employ the test-taking strategies to artificially inflate test scores. It should not be quick and easy process to improve test scores because it does not reflect true improvement. However, given a defined curriculum, public school teachers have done and will continue to do an exemplary job educating students toward a common goal. Are there improvement strategies that can be employed? Absolutely, but the ACT does not contribute to these strategies because the ACT must, by design, separate students to assist colleges in selection decisions.


Teachers, parents, principals, superintendents, board of education members, and most importantly students must not overlook this purpose. While it is important, schools should not be evaluated using a tool that is insensitive to the core content and is designed to differentiate between the higher-achieving college-bound.


If the purpose of Kentucky public schools is to prepare all elementary and secondary school students for college, then the core content followed by schools needs to be adjusted with significant input from college professors to include things like the thoughtful analysis of data and ideas, explaining and demonstrating math solutions and a solid foundation in the college general education curriculum. Regardless, the evaluation of the achievement of the core content must be measured by a test that determines the success in achieving that curriculum rather than a norm-based instrument, like the ACT, that merely compares a student’s performance with college-bound students nation-wide.

NJ Education chief on hot seat over bogus degrees

This from APP.com:

TRENTON — State Education Commissioner Lucille Davy endured a grilling Monday from the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, who questioned how school administrators were permitted to adorn their credentials with academic degrees from fly-by-night institutions.

During Monday's hearing, Davy said that she believed the schools chiefs collected the questionable degrees because their contracts assured them higher degrees meant higher salaries.

"To use it to gain an increase in pay," Davy said when asked why the school bosses needed to overstate their academics...

Bay Area KIPP "graduation rate" a dismal 60%

Highly acclaimed KIPP Charter Schools sustain student gains...but is it the result of high attrition? SF study raises doubt.

This from Ed Week:

KIPP Study Finds High Student Attrition Amid Big Learning Gains

The final report from a three-year study of a batch of KIPP charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area probes key issues that have sparked debate about the national network of independently run public schools, including student achievement and attrition. The independent analysis, issued Sept. 16, comes amid wide acclaim for the KIPP network, along with charges that the schools “cream” the strongest students from low-income communities.

The study concludes that the middle schools run by KIPP, which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program, have posted “strong achievement gains,” especially in the 5th and 6th grades, and points to signs that the schools are not simply drawing better students. “Bay Area KIPP schools do not appear to have attracted higher-scoring students over time, and the three schools for which we have comparison data have attracted lower-scoring and more minority students relative to the neighborhood population,” the study says.

At the same time, the report, by SRI International, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based research institute, finds high student attrition at the KIPP schools, and notes that lower-performing students leave most often. Of the cohort of entering 5th graders at four Bay Area campuses in 2003-04, a total of 60 percent had left before the end of 8th grade, the report says...
See also:

Report: Federal Sanction Not Effective

A Call to Restructure Restructuring:
Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in Five States

This report synthesizes findings from CEP’s research on how the No Child Left Behind Act’s school restructuring requirements are being implemented in Michigan, California, Maryland, Ohio, and Georgia.

"This report shows that current restructuring policies and practices are flawed," said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. "Many restructuring schools have done everything the law requires but they still haven’t raised achievement enough to exit restructuring. It’s time to revamp the sanctions and supports for these struggling schools."

Document reviews and interviews with state officials were conducted in the five states, and case study research was carried out in 19 districts and 42 schools.

Among the report's findings are that
  • more schools have entered restructuring and many remain in that status for multiple years;
  • the "any other" restructuring option is the most popular option in the states studied; and
  • the five states varied greatly in the supports they offered restructuring schools.

Report: Kentucky Policymakers Unwisely Stop Pre-K Momentum

Despite dismal budgets,
majority of states increase their pre-k budgets,
Kentucky falters

(Washington, DC) – Kentucky, once a national example for successfully making access to quality pre-kindergarten a shared political and budget priority, is now among the minority of states failing to increase pre-k funding, according to "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2009." The state-by-state analysis, released today by Pre-K Now with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, suggests that legislators’ shortsighted decisions to retract tobacco settlement financing and "flat fund" the Kentucky Preschool Program will force programs to either reduce access or cut corners on quality.

"Kentucky is one of this year’s big disappointments because it was so close to becoming a national leader on quality pre-k," said Libby Doggett, executive director of Pre-K Now. "For years, the state’s lawmakers have shown great support for programs for young children, but their most recent decision, to filch the children’s trust fund, is a band-aid measure that risks doing far more harm than good."

The report also sheds new light on the impact of America’s economic downturn and the role of business leaders in legislative support for pre-k funding increases. Motivated by concerns about workforce development and dismal high school-graduation rates, business leaders - along with a growing number of parents, educators and school administrators - are helping Republicans and Democrats join forces to advance pre-k as a prudent, evidence-based economic and education reform strategy. In places as far-flung and politically diverse as Alabama, Michigan, Kansas and Virginia, pre-k support is crossing political aisles.

"Today's report reveals that our state is not keeping pace with the national trend to increase pre-k investments, a poor choice knowing that pre-k's long-term savings from lower dropout rates and crime are much more than this year's short-term budget savings," said Kevin Hable, chair of Business Leaders for Pre-K and a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. "Quality pre-k helps build the 21st century education system and workforce that Kentucky needs to compete, and we only hold our economy back when we take away what young children need to get ready for school."

"Votes Count" also provides – from the perspective of parents – an analysis of the places families would have the best and worst chances of enrolling their children in a high-quality, state-funded pre-k program; 10 states make the notable lists.

Additional findings include:

Net state investments in pre-k will increase by 6.3 percent to $5.2 billion in FY09, providing an estimated 46,000 families with new access to state-funded pre-k;

The District of Columbia and Louisiana join an elite group of seven states already providing or phasing in pre-k for all children: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia;

Nine states anticipate increases for pre-k programs funded through their school funding formulas, the most stable source a state can provide; and

Two of the dozen states in the "Pre-K Wilderness" (those without a state-funded pre-k program) took important first steps toward establishing quality programs: Hawaii and Rhode Island.

To view a copy of the report, please visit: www.preknow.org.

SOURCE: Prichard Committee

Judge Tosses Petrilli's Defamation Claim


Defamation claim against
Fayette schools dismissed

Circuit Judge James Ishmael dismissed former Booker T Washington Principal Peggy Petrilli's defamation claim against the Fayette County Schools ruling that the board did not publish attorney Brenda Allen's report, which accuses Petrilli of improperly holding students back a grade.

Petrilli denies the allegations and is suing the board for alleged racial discrimination.

The Herald-Leader and KSN&C had filed repeated open records requests over months to obtain a copy of the report once it became known that Allen had been assigned by Superintendent Stu Silberman to produce one. Publication is an indespensible element in proving defamation.

Golden previously claimed that the crux of his defamation argument was a now sealed e-mail that Allen sent Petrilli outlining topics she would investigate, and that the report was produced for the sole purpose of defaming Petrilli.

This from the Herald-Leader:

...Petrilli claims the report was a "hit job" intended to discredit her and any litigation she might file against the board. Petrilli is also suing the board for alleged racial discrimination...

...Last week, Golden filed affidavits from two former Booker T. staff members who claimed they were harassed in interviews by Allen.

Assessment coordinator Leigh McCauley claimed she was threatened with suspension if she did not "go along with their agendas." She also claimed that Allen did not understand testing data that she relied on for the report.

McCauley was one of the staff members named in Allen's report. She said that Allen gave her no opportunity to respond to the allegations.
The board tells H-L it stands by the months-long investigation, one Petrilli requested.

Petrilli resigned after parents confronted Superintendant Stu Silberman with a long list of complaints in August 2007. She was principal at Booker T. from March 2005 to August 2007. Petrilli, who is white, claims she was forced to resign because parents wanted a black principal. The board has said Petrilli left on her own, and noted that interim principal Jock Gum is white.
New principal Wendy Brown is black.

Photo from H-L.





Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Deasy has Resume Errors. Ray & Associates was on the Job.

A big honkin' reminder of Barbara Erwin came out of Prince Georges County MD today.

Superintendent John Deasy - already under scrutiny for the troublesome combination of a $375,000 contract with fallen Dean Robert Felner and the fastest doctorate in memory - now has a "jacked up" resume'. His proximity to Felner, who is under federal investigation, can't help.

And the search firm contracted by Prince Georges County schools to vet the candidates? Ray & Associates.

Southern Maryland Online reports,
Prince George's County Schools Superintendent John E. Deasy has two anomalies on his resume, according to a review of the document by Capital News Service...

..Deasy listed a faculty position in the doctoral program of Educational Leadership and Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University, Calif., from 2003 to present. The university's human resources department could not find him listed as a current or former faculty member.

There also was a date discrepancy on the resume he had on file in the Prince George's Schools office of the superintendent.

It is too bad for Prince Georges County that Ray & Associates - having completed whatever research they were obliged to do for the school district - did not discover the resume errors. But they apparently didn't. As we have seen, these things happen.

U of L investigated U of L and determined that U of L didn't violate accreditation rules when the degree was conferred.

Deasy hasn't been commenting on the matter recently. But he used to be conversant on the subject.

When Deasy was chosen to lead the Prince George's school system, he told the Washington Post, he was "free of ethical taint." "I am proud of all of the credits I earned to achieve my doctorate," Deasy said in the news release.

Poll: People prefer Obama over McCain as teacher

This from Education Week:

WASHINGTON (AP) — If this election were about which candidate Americans wanted as their child's schoolteacher, Barack Obama would be moving to the head of the class. They'd also rather watch a football game with him, but only by inches.

People picked the Democrat over Republican John McCain to catch a game with by 50 percent to 47 percent, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll released Friday. Asked which they'd choose to be their child's teacher, Obama was the choice by a more decisive 55 percent to 44 percent, including a markedly stronger performance by the Illinois senator among whites...

Horrific football hazing case shakes NM town

This from Teacher Magazine:

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — It was shocking enough when six high school football players were accused of sodomizing six younger teammates with a broomstick during training camp. But the scandal was raised to a whole new level when the coaches were accused of turning a blind eye to the hazing.

Since then, Robertson High's head football coach and all five assistants have resigned, and prosecutors are considering charges against adults and youngsters alike.

The incident has turned student against student in the town of 14,000, and subjected some of the school's athletes to lewd taunts from spectators...

...The scandal unfolded at a four-day, mid-August preseason training camp in the mountains west of Las Vegas, a predominantly Hispanic, once-booming Old West town 60 miles from Santa Fe, now known for its stately Victorian homes.

According to state police reports, a group of juniors assaulted several younger teammates over two days, holding the victims down while a broomstick was forced into their rectums over their athletic shorts...

NAACP Objects to Ed Department Letter on Race

The Department of Education provides occasional guidance to school districts in the form of "Dear Colleague" letters.

A recent letter, the office for civil rights opined on the issue of race in student assignment under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Meredith v Jefferson County Board of Education (combined with Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District).

The NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund quickly disputed the Bush Administration's legal analysis saying the Department of Education's "interpretation of the decision is inaccurate in a number of respects."

In Parents Involved, a majority of the Supreme Court justices (the four Justices who would have upheld the student assignment plans from Seattle and Louisville at issue in the case, and Justice Kennedy, who found some aspects of those plans unacceptable but approved of their purpose) recognized that school districts have compelling interests in promoting student diversity and avoiding racial isolation in elementary and secondary school settings.

The majority agreed that, in Justice Kennedy's words, a school district can, in its "discretion and expertise", take affirmative steps to avoid racial isolation and to achieve a diverse student population, Parents Involved, 127 S.Ct. at 2797, and that school officials may "consider the racial makeup of schools and adopt general policies to encourage a diverse student body, one aspect of which is its racial composition." Parents Involved, 127 S.Ct. at 2792.

But the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights focused only the court's race-neutral language.

In the two page “Dear colleague” letter dated Aug. 28 the OCR says:
“The Department of Education strongly encourages the use of race-neutral methods for assigning students to elementary and secondary schools.”

“Genuinely race-neutral measures” such as those based on a student’s socioeconomic status would not trigger the highest level of court scrutiny, the office says.
As Mark Walsh over at the School Law Blog points out,
"The letter takes no notice of the key concurring opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the cases from Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky."

Anurima Bhargava, the director of the civil rights group’s education practice, said the letter “is very limited in its reading” of the high court decision. “It’s as if Kennedy hadn’t written,” she said.

The court ruled 5-4 in June of last year that assignment plans in the two districts that and sometimes relied on race-based assignments to achieve diversity in individual schools, violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

But Justice Kennedy wrote that while those districts used race in an unconstitutional manner, it would be permissible for districts to take race into account under certain circumstances, such as when choosing sites for new schools, drawing attendance zones based on neighborhood demographics, or allocating resources for special programs.

Happy ending predicted for EKU Open Records Flap

Frustrated by a change in university policy following the Kappa Alpha Psi hazing incident - a change that caused the university police to begin redacting large portions of police reports given to the Eastern Progress - the student newspaper declared, "We're Not Chicken!" and sought an Attorney General's ruling.

That was last spring.

Over the summer the Attorney General agreed with the paper.

In the first edition of the fall term (Aug 28), new Progress Editor Ben Kleppinger wrote of the victory and declared,
" If the university police are unwilling to allow the public to see the open records they have a right to see in a timely manner, the Progress will continue fighting and holding the university accountable, every week, until things change.
It's been nearly a month now and during that time - not a peep out of the chicken coup. So KSN&C decided to check in with Kleppinger to see how its going.

It's getting very close to being resolved, Kleppnger said. After several meetings involving the university counsel, the police, and others, they have finally "worked out a plan." Based on those meetings, the University Counsel is "putting together some guidelines" that provide police reports to the Progress, but which also will describe certain circumstances where the police may redact information with a process for counsel review.

Kleppinger thinks this will work out well for everyone and the Progress will outline the agreement in the paper when details are finalized.

Meanwhile, the incident that apparently caused the heavy police redactions has gone to trial. WKYT-TV reported, EKU student Brent Whiteside testified in August that "he feared for his life on campus" and was "beaten every day for close to two months...with paddles, canes and fists" - all to join the fraternity.

The beatings started on January 29th, and ended on March 6th when Whiteside said he vomited and urinated blood. He went to the hospital where he was told he was having kidney failure.

21-year-old Thomas Barnes, 22-year-old Gerald McLaren and 32-year-old Alonzo McGill, accused of beating Whiteside, have pleaded not guilty to fourth degree assault charges.

EKU has suspended the fraternity for eight years.

The judge said the case will go to trial in late October.

Anti-Obama T-shirt gets Colorado 5th Grader Suspended

The school opened the door when Aurora Frontier Elementary School students were encouraged to show their patriotism by wearing red, white & blue.

But one fifth grader, Daxx Dalton, was "encouraged" to show his father's politics instead by wearing a homemade T-shirt which read:
Obama is a terriorist's best friend

Despite the fact that the shirt was white with red and blue lettering, the school asked him to remove it.

He refused saying, “They’re taking away my right of freedom of speech...If I have the right to wear this shirt I’m going to use it. And if the only way to use it is get suspended, then I’m going to get suspended.”

Daxx was suspended.

But the school says his suspension was for willful disobedience and defiance - not for wearing the shirt.

The school's case is what civil liberties attorneys typically refer to as "a loser."

This from the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog:

E. Christopher Murray, a partner at New York law firm Reisman, Peirez and Reisman and the president of the New York chapter of the Civil Liberties Union sent the Law Blog the following in an e-mail:

“The wearing of this t-shirt can only be prohibited if it could cause a risk of material disruption at the school,” wrote Murray. “It is hard to see how this t-shirt could be viewed this way. Students have a constitutional right to express their opinions about politics, and this t-shirt was not vulgar or anything other than a political statement. While the courts have recently cut back on student’s rights of expression, this case clearly seems to be an illegal curtailment of this student’s rights. ”

Dann Dalton, Daxx’s father, (a “proud conservative” who has taken part in anti-abortion protests) thought he'd help out. He told MyFOXColorado.com that the school is making a mistake by suspending his son and that he intends to sue the district. “It’s the public school system,” he said. “Let’s be honest, it’s full of liberal loons.”

Daxx's mother, Nann was unavailable for comment.

OK. I made that last part up.

Scholarship for Sale

Pay me lots of money! We can chat about what I'll write. I've already got the book in mind. It's a triumphal tale of how the Kentucky General Assembly reformed education, steadily increased school spending, fought to bring the Ten Commandments back into the classroom where it belongs, and led the charge for better schools in Kentucky.

This from the New York Times:

Conservatives Try New Tack on Campuses

COLORADO SPRINGS — Acknowledging that 20 years and millions of dollars spent loudly and bitterly attacking the liberal leanings of American campuses have failed to make much of a dent in the way undergraduates are educated, some conservatives have decided to try a new strategy.

They are finding like-minded tenured professors and helping them establish academic beachheads for their ideas.

These initiatives, like the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at the University of Texas, Austin, or a project at the University of Colorado here in Colorado Springs, to publish a book of classic texts, are mostly financed by conservative organizations and donors, run by conservative professors. But they have a decidedly nonpartisan and nonideological face.

Their goal is to restore what conservative and other critics see as leading casualties of the campus culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s: the teaching of Western culture and a triumphal interpretation of American history...

Upcoming Events in Texas include:
Lecture:
The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat
Roger Scruton
October 21, 2008
6:00 PM-7:30 PM

Lecture
Book of Exodus
Leon Kass
November 7, 2008
6:00 PM-7:30 PM

Ed Week picks up Felner - Deasy story

An Ed Week recap for its readers - but without much news for those already familiar with the story. Just this:
Mr. Felner’s lawyer, Scott C. Cox, said that the results of the federal probe, which is expected to be completed in October, will vindicate his client.

Does Mr. Cox wanna bet?

Also, there has been no allegation that Felner failed to earn his doctorate, yet Ed Week refers to him as Mr. Felner. If they wanted to downgrade someone, perhaps they should have referenced "Mr. Deasy."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

KDE Confirms Draud Stroke

COMMISSIONER’S CONDITION RE-EVALUATED

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon E. Draud’s health has been re-evaluated after doctors discovered that he suffered a mild stroke.

Earlier, the commissioner’s physicians had diagnosed a virus that affected his central nervous system. After more tests, the doctors have determined that he actually had a mild stroke that affected his ability to
walk.

“The prognosis is good,” said Draud. “I expect to make a full recovery and am currently engaging in physical therapy to strengthen my leg muscles. I plan to return to work as soon as possible.”

After a fall at home, Draud experienced leg pain and difficulty walking. Doctors first diagnosed a rare but treatable viral condition, but later revised the diagnosis.

Although he is recovering at home, Draud maintains contact with staff at his Frankfort-based office. He has designated Deputy Commissioner Elaine Farris to act in his absence if needed during his recuperation.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dramatic Challenge to SAT and ACT

This from Inside Higher Ed:

Calling on colleges to “take back the conversation,” a special panel convened by the National Association for College Admission Counseling will this week encourage colleges to consider dropping the SAT or ACT as admissions requirements.

The panel, in a report to be formally released this week, calls on all colleges to consider more systematically whether they really need testing to admit their students. If there is not clear evidence of the need for testing, the commission urges the colleges to drop the requirement and it expresses the view that there are likely more colleges and universities that could make such a change.

While stressing that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to admissions and testing, and not ruling out that testing may be needed at some institutions, the commission generally takes a very critical look at testing — in a significant shift from past NACAC statements. A 1995 statement from the association, while cautioning against the use of tests for purposes for which they were not intended, said that “when used properly ... tests have the potential of helping admission professionals make sound admissions decisions and of helping students choose where to apply and enroll.”

This year’s NACAC commission — led by William Fitzsimmons, dean of admission and financial aid at Harvard University — uses very different language. It talks about how the discussion of standardized testing has come to be “dominated by the media, commercial interests, and organizations outside of the college admission office.” In addition, the panel cites research suggesting that colleges have been placing more emphasis on testing despite evidence that they should be moving in the opposite direction. Generally, the commission supports the position that high school grades in pre-college courses are the best way to predict college success — and that is the tool most relied upon by colleges that have ended testing requirements...

Weaknesses seen in U of L grant monitoring system

This from C-J:

Officials admit rigor of the system varies

Last year, the University of Louisville received $77 million in federal grants -- just a small chunk of taxpayer awards that flow to universities each year for research in fields ranging from medicine to education.

At most universities, including U of L, a mix of federal regulations, financial accounting and administrative monitoring provides oversight for those grants and is typically sufficient to deter misuse, experts and grant administrators say.

But a federal criminal investigation into the potential misappropriation of a $694,000 federal education grant has raised questions about whether gaps exist at U of L -- at a time when grant funding at the university has risen sharply...

Oversight is spread among many university offices and departments, with lead researchers largely responsible for monitoring their own grants. Some monitoring isn't done until after the money is already spent. And officials acknowledge that the rigor of oversight within schools and colleges varies.

For instance, the university failed to notice that Robert Felner, the former education dean who is the focus of the federal grant investigation, had never filed financial disclosure forms that could have revealed his relationships with subcontractors he hired with grant money.

And because Felner was the dean and lead researcher, his grant spending wasn't subject to oversight from anyone else within his college...

The Felner case

University officials won't say exactly how the Felner case came to light, except that it was reported to the provost and campus police, and that the university alerted federal authorities.

The grant came through an earmark secured by former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, R-3rd District, in the 2005 federal budget.

Felner was to use the grant, from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement, to create a center to help schools meet goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Documents show that most of that money went to two research subcontractors -- centers that Felner was connected to in Illinois and Rhode Island.

But some of that money wound up in a Louisville bank, and it remains unclear what work was done...

Tougher NCLB Standards Challenge Top States

This from the Boston Globe:
Half of schools in Mass. fall short
Federal standards getting tougher

Half of all Massachusetts public schools this year failed to meet achievement standards established by the state under the No Child Left Behind Act.

That includes 100 of 143 public schools in Boston, according to a report released yesterday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The number of underachieving schools rose sharply from last year, when 37 percent failed to meet performance standards under the federal law.

Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester said the schools aren't getting worse - federal guidelines are getting tougher...

Florida Schools on a Shoestring: Future of class size limits in doubt

This from the Orlando Sentinel:
The future of Florida's law that limits class sizes is in doubt as leaders in Tallahassee and throughout the state's school districts scramble to prepare for even darker clouds on the budget horizon next year.Legislators are reviving a money-saving proposal to relax the stringent class-size requirements, but only at the high school level.

The idea to tinker with the constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2002 - and politicians have fought to protect - is sure to rankle many. But amending the popular program is only one of several controversial money-saving proposals quietly being floated now."We've probably cut everywhere we could possibly cut," said Sen. Stephen Wise, R,-Tallahassee, chairman of the Senate's education appropriation committee.

So next year, he said, they'll be looking to defend only the things schools cannot function without - such as textbooks. Or teachers."It's going to be a 'do you want to die by hanging or shooting' kind of thing," Wise said...

Recalculating The 8th-Grade Algebra Rush

This from Jay Mathews at the Washington Post:
Nobody writing about schools has been a bigger supporter of getting more students into eighth-grade algebra than I have been. I wrote a two-part series for the front page six years ago that pointed out how important it is to be able to handle algebra's abstractions and unknown quantities before starting high school. I have argued that we should rate middle schools by the percentage of students who complete Algebra I by eighth grade.

Now, because of a startling study being released today, I am having second thoughts.
Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, has looked at the worst math students, those scoring in the bottom 10th on the National Assessment of Educational Progress eighth-grade test. He discovered that 28.6 percent of them -- let me make that clear: nearly three out of every 10 -- were enrolled in first-year algebra, geometry or second-year algebra.
Almost all were grossly misplaced, probably because of the push to get kids into algebra sooner...

Draud's illness said to be Stroke-related

A source connected to the Kentucky Department of Education told KSN&C this afternoon that the strange viral illness which befell Education Commissioner Jon Draud is related to a stroke.

No details are available at this time, but KDE is expected to comment soon.
The Commissioner is said to be in improved spirits owing to a positive prognosis.

Assessment and Accountability Task Force Wants to Hear from You

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The members of the Task Force on Assessment and Accountability have issued a call for input from teachers, administrators, parents, businesspeople, elected officials, education advocacy groups and others who are interested in the state’s public school testing and accountability system.

The task force is focusing on a number of areas, including:

  • on-demand writing/writing portfolios
  • arts & humanities and practical living/vocational studies
  • minor changes to the assessment system, including national comparisons, alternate assessments and the Kentucky Core Content Tests
  • formative/diagnostic assessments
  • assessments of student learning
  • standards (narrowing of curriculum)
  • longitudinal testing models
  • individual student focus
  • college readiness
  • analysis of Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) technical
    programs
  • balance of student/school accountability
  • timeliness of results
  • end-of-course exams

Written comments on those areas (or others) are requested. Those may be sent to Lisa Gross, director of the Division of Communications, 6th Floor, 500 Mero St., Frankfort KY 40601; e-mail lisa.gross@education.ky.gov; fax (502) 564-3049.

The task force is charged with reviewing the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) and providing a blueprint for the system’s progress in the future to ensure that the system meets the best interests of public school students. Members of the group include policymakers and experts in the field.

Education Commissioner Jon E. Draud asked statewide organizations, partner groups and leaders of the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives to name members to the task force. The group will analyze individual components of CATS and determine the effectiveness of those in meeting the needs of students.


SOURCE: KDE press release

Sunday, September 21, 2008

CATS and KERA

This from C-J:
Ho, hum. Another year, another set of ambiguous results from CATS, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.

CATS is the battery of tests, given starting in the third grade, to gauge student performance in seven subject areas -- reading, math, science, social studies, writing, arts and humanities and practical living/vocation studies. Since schools are the units of accountability in Kentucky, they are judged on the progress they make (or lack of progress) toward reaching proficiency for all their students.

Recent changes necessitated by the lamentable federal No Child Left Behind law have clouded public understanding of the progress made since the state's own accountability system was put in place, with passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990. The short version of the truth is that there's been enormous progress, but not enough. Many schools have been meeting or even surpassing their goals, but not enough.

As we come ever nearer 2014, when all schools are supposed to score at least 100 on CATS tests, it becomes more and more obvious that we won't reach that goal. The question is, what do we do about that? Scrap KERA altogether? Abandon CATS in favor of a narrow, less demanding, nationally normed test?

A review of KERA is in order. Any such reform effort can be improved, based on 15 years of experience.

What is not advisable -- indeed, what would be tragic -- is replacing CATS with testing that effectively narrows the curriculum now being pushed in the classroom and de-emphasizes both (a) the building of critical thinking skills and (b) the development of writing skills.

The original opponents of KERA -- especially those whose unspoken and unadmitted agenda is the undermining of public education, in favor of private schools supported with taxpayer-financed vouchers -- believe their time has come. They will try to turn a sensible 15-year review into proof that they were right all along -- into evidence that they were right to oppose Kentucky's historic, pioneering effort at school uplift and rigorous accountability.

There's no honest way to torture the actual KERA experience into a story of failure. In truth, the reform set Kentucky on the path toward a deeper, broader educational experience for its children.

Now is not the time to move in the other direction.

Ohio Superintendent imposes 1% income tax on himself

This from the Enquirer:

HAMILTON TWP. - While many school superintendents talk the talk about school taxes, Little Miami Schools' Dan Bennett preaches and then reaches - for his own wallet.

Bennett has taken the step of donating 1 percent of his salary to the district in a gesture he hopes will persuade voters in November to approve a 1 percent earned income school tax on the ballot.

School taxes have been a tough sell in this Warren County district, which is overcrowded but building more schools to better handle the influx of 250 new students each year.

In 2005 and 2006, it took four tries to get voters to approve a $62.5 million bond issue for the new schools.

Now, the school district says it needs voters to approve more operating money.

"If I'm going to ask people to give 1 percent of their earnings, then I should do it myself," says Bennett, who doesn't live in the school district and would not have to pay the tax.

Bennett's annual salary is $118,014. His annual donation to the schools will be $1,180.14...