Friday, October 31, 2008

Sexy Teacher strips for students

This from British tabloid, the Sun, (video):

FURIOUS parents have called for a saucy teacher to be sacked after she put on a saucy strip show for her 15-year-old pupils.
The German minx was supposed to be supervising a start of term party. But things got out of hand as the pretty teacher put on her own s-extracurricular activities for the teen pupils. She seductively stripped down to her underwear – to the joy of her howling students.

And she only stopped her X-rated High School musical when another teacher forced her to cover up. But one goggle-eyed pupil filmed the show on his mobile phone.

The teacher is seen peeling off her top to reveal her bra and then starts to undo the zip of her trousers before another lecturer covers her in a tablecloth.

"It is disgusting. What kind of teacher acts that way in front of her pupils. She should be in a lap dancing bar, not a school," said one angry parent.

"The children were playing truth or dare and making bigger and bigger dares for each other and she decided to join in.

"When they dared her to do some pole dancing she just started taking off her clothes. She's a pretty woman in her 20s and the children couldn't believe their luck.

The worst thing is that teachers weren't even supposed to be taking part in the party - they were supposed to be supervising it," they added.

But the school's headmaster in Zalaegerszeg, western Hungary, has refused to sack the unnamed mistress despite pressure from parents and other teachers.

"I was forced to give the German teacher a warning, but I will not dismiss her because she is a valuable teacher for our institution," said head Sandor Rozman.

He claimed she had shown no more flesh "than you would see on a beach."

Advocates say more cuts would be 'devastating'

This from C-J:

Advocates for human services, education and other state programs reacted with disbelief to news that the state is facing another large budget shortfall that could force more spending cuts...

...Gov. Steve Beshear said the state is facing a shortfall of nearly $300 million in the fiscal year that could force more cuts at agencies that have already experienced reductions as he sought to balance the current budget, which took effect July 1.

Beshear said yesterday that he will develop a plan to deal with the shortfall, including ways to increase revenue and cuts that could affect any agency funded by the state...

...[E]ducation officials worry about the effect of further cuts on their already-lean budgets.

University of Kentucky President Lee Todd said more cuts would be "challenging, especially when they come mid-year."

"We spent half the money and we can't change our budget a lot," he said. "We'll continue to operate as best we can."Richard A. Crofts, interim president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said higher education officials believe they offer a long-term solution to the state's economic woes by producing a more educated workforce.

"We realize there are serious problems. But we also believe we are part of a positive solution," Crofts said.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud said it would be "incredibly difficult" to cut any more money from the state's kindergarten-12th grade education budget.

"These are tough times and I understand that," he said. "But this would be more than devastating to our school districts and it would really impact our children."

The Kentucky Department of Education already had to cut $43 million for professional development programs and after-school services, as well as money for textbooks. In addition, more than 1,100 jobs were cut by the state's public schools this year, according to a recent survey released by the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Cordelia Hardin, chief financial officer for Jefferson County Public Schools, said the district's revenue outlook already is poor.

"We are already committed to teaching staff, we can't make staffing cuts in the middle of the year," she said...

Hoped we were better than this

ByMarc Murphy in the Courier-Journal.

Districts See Rising Numbers of Homeless Students

This from Ed Week:

Foreclosures caused by mortgage crisis
said to be fueling increases.
School districts across the country are enrolling growing numbers of homeless children, as parents lose their jobs, leases, and mortgages in what many observers are calling the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Many districts were already seeing a spike in homeless enrollments last spring, when the subprime-mortgage crisis began unfolding. But this fall’s numbers are rising at an even faster clip as more families feel the fallout of a stumbling economy, said Barbara Duffield, the policy director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, in Washington.

School district liaisons who coordinate services for homeless families are scrambling to sign up students for class, get them backpacks and other supplies, and arrange transportation for them, as well as help their parents find clothes, food, and shelter...

Political Experts see Obama Landslide

Now call me crazy, but it is my studied opinion that children reflect their parent's attitudes very well. And the younger they are, the more accurately they reflect those attitudes. Pretty obvious really.

Therefore, when asked to vote in mock elections, their votes tend to run along the lines of their parents. They may not know why, but they almost always know who.

Students are very accurate with local elections, and prettty accurate with state elections, but one should remember - many voters do not have children in school.

This from the Hartford Courant:

As Kids See It, A Landslide Win For Obama

WASHINGTON — - The nation's children seem to be pulling for Sen. Barack Obama.

The Weekly Reader survey of U.S. students has correctly predicted the outcome in 12 of the last 13 presidential elections, and this time more than 125,000 participants — from kindergarten age to high school seniors — gave it to Obama with 54.7 percent of the vote. Sen. John McCain received 42.9 percent, and the "other" category pulled in 2.5 percent.

More significantly, Obama won 33 states and Washington, D.C. — a massive Electoral College victory."The kids have spoken," said Clara Colbert, a senior managing editor at Weekly Reader....
Obama won every grade level except high school Juniors, where McCain eeked out a narrow margin.

The survey has been conducted since 1956, with the only faulty prediction coming in 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated the first President Bush. (The ballot that year didn't include popular third candidate Ross Perot, who pulled votes from Bush in the general election.)

"Who says today's kids aren't smart?" said Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of the communications college at Boston University. "Probably the 54 [percent] is going to be pretty accurate. These kids must be living on the blogs," he said, laughing. "Art Linkletter's thing was: 'Kids say the darndest things.'

In this case: Kids might be the darndest pundits."

For the Democratic Party, the kids' electoral college map has some surprises that are too good to be true - really. I mean, they're not likely to be true.

I doubt McCain will lose Mississippi, Texas, Arizona or Georgia, althought Georgia (and Arizona for that matter) seems close. Arkansas and Oklahoma? No way.

On the other hand, the students say Obama will lose Minnesota and New Hampshire. Sorry kids.

They say Virginia will go for Obama and North Carolina will go to McCain - and they're right.

If my math and my crystal ball are correct - I see it closer to 352 for Obama and 186 for McCain.

Wealth

Walt Handelsman at Newsday.

Gunman nabbed after holding 11 Elementary students hostage

This from MSNBC, photo from WMTW-TV:

Suspect taken into custody without any harm to the children, police say

STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine - A gunman took 11 fifth-graders hostage at [Stockton Springs Elementary School] in Maine on Friday and was tackled by a state trooper shortly after releasing them.

Chief Deputy Robert Keating of the Waldo County Sheriff's Department said the students were safely removed from the school.

The gunman was identified as 55-year-old Randall Hofland, a man from nearby Searsport who fled police last week after pointing a gun at an officer when stopped for a seatbelt check...

Gov. John Baldacci plans to hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. in Augusta to discuss this morning's arrest of a man who held 11 elementary school children hostage in Stockton Springs.

Police had been looking for Hofland since Oct. 23, when he pointed a gun at a Searsport police officer, police said.

Hubble Telescope overcomes Glitch, snaps perfect picture

Just a couple of days after the Hubble Space Telescope was brought back online, the orbiting observatory aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, at a pair of galaxies called Arp 147.

From MSNBC.

Biden interviewed by a Fifth Grader



Senator Biden is now Damon Weaver's homeboy. And Damon is from FLORIDA!

Hat tip to Russo.

Happy Halloween

SOFT: US Kids Fight Less Than Belgians

This from Alexander Russo:

Can't a country catch a break? Apparently not.

A new study from the World Health Organization finds that -- no surprise -- boys fight more than girls, and that -- real surprise -- American kids fight much less than their counterparts in other countries.

The US ranks 17th out of 18 countries when it comes to elementary-school fisticuffs, trailing far behind French-speaking Belgians. (Via Kempt)...
Graphic from the Economist.

Jury Award Upheld for Students in Gay-Harassment Case

This from the School Law blog:

...[A state appeals court in California] upheld [jury awards of $175,000 and $125,000 and] findings that the principal and assistant principal at Poway High School violated one student-plaintiff's federal constitutional right to equal protection under the law, and that the principal violated the other student-plaintiff's equal-protection rights.

The Oct. 10 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District California Court of Appeal in Donovan v. Poway Unified School District was unanimous.

The lawsuit by the two students alleged that they kept logs of anti-gay incidents and harassment by other students over the course of two school years. They repeatedly informed school officials of the incidents, their suit said, but the administrators did not take effective action to stop it. The appeals court agreed with the trial jury that the school system's response was inadequate.

"This is not a case where the harassment was limited to a few isolated incidents of name-calling or is otherwise attributable to mere banter, teasing, shoving, pushing, and gender-specific conduct that is upsetting to students subjected to it," the court said.

The court went on to hold that the "actual notice" liability standard developed in cases under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 should apply to the state anti-discrimination statute when it came to school district liability for peer sexual harassment.

The court also upheld an award of $421,000 in attorneys' fees to the plaintiffs' lawyers.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay-rights organization, represented the students and has this press release about the decision.


From Lambda:

Briefs
Donovan and Ramelli v. Poway Unified School District Supplemental Brief 04/15/08
Donovan and Ramelli v. Poway Unified School District Combined Respondents Cross Apellants Brief 11/21/06

Decisions
Donovan and Ramelli v. Poway Unified School District Decision 10/10/08

School’s Success Story Gives Way to Doubt

This from the Charleston Post and Courier:
Former Sanders-Clyde Elementary School Principal MiShawna Moore can't sleep or eat, and she can't escape bad dreams or anxiety attacks.

Since she learned last month that the State Law Enforcement Division had opened an investigation into the authenticity of her former school's test scores, Moore's life has been put on hold. She compared it to a death sentence.

"All I do is wake up and think about this and think about how this has impacted my life," Moore said. "I mean, it's like a bad nightmare, and I'm just waiting on waking up from it."

This from the New York Times:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — MiShawna Moore has been a hero in the worn neighborhoods behind this city’s venerable mansions, a school principal who fed her underprivileged students, clothed them, found presents for them at Christmas and sometimes roused neglectful parents out of bed in the nearby housing projects.

As test scores rocketed at her school, Sanders-Clyde Elementary, the city held her up as a model. The United Way and the Rotary Club honored her, The Charleston Post and Courier called her a “miracle worker,” and the state singled out her school to compete for a national award. In Washington, the Department of Education gave the school $25,000 for its achievements.

Somehow, Ms. Moore had transformed one of Charleston’s worst schools into one of its best, a rare breakthrough in a city where the state has deemed more than half the schools unsatisfactory. It seemed almost too good to be true.

It may have been. The state has recently started a criminal investigation into test scores at Ms. Moore’s school, seeking to determine whether a high number of erasure marks on the tests indicates fraud.

Ms. Moore, who has denied any wrongdoing, has taken a job out of state, leaving behind hurt feelings and wounded pride in a city of race and class divisions as old as the time-mellowed neighborhoods in this Old South shrine.

The public schools here are 98 percent African-American, and nearly 20 percent of the city’s population was below the poverty level in the 2000 census...

...Even as parents, students and some teachers rally around her, the school district that once championed Ms. Moore says it is waiting on the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Sanders-Clyde Elementary under Ms. Moore “became a symbol of what can be achieved with the proper attention,” said the schools superintendent, Nancy J. McGinley. “That’s why this situation is so distressing. It really, I think, has been hurtful to the entire community.” ...

...But whispers began when the test scores rose, and some wondered if the success was really possible. Sanders-Clyde students struggled when they went to other schools. Ms. Kusmider was dumbfounded to find her son’s friend, a student at the school, having great difficulty reading. “I said, ‘What’s going on?

You’re under MiShawna Moore,’ ” she said. “I was very angry.”

Another parent, Tanika Bausley, recalled, “It was hard for me to believe the scores that my daughter had, knowing the struggles she was having,” adding that her child had a “borderline learning disability.”

After testing in 2007, the state noticed an unusually high number of erasure marks — as many as seven per child — with the erasures becoming correct answers. “That became a concern, because the likelihood of that happening is very small,” said Ms. Rose, the district official, noting that the average was around one such mark.

This year, after the tests were closely monitored, the scores plummeted. Suddenly, 44.4 percent of third graders taking the state science test met the state standard, compared with 84.6 percent in 2007. Many teachers said afterward that the presence of the auditors themselves — “cold and very distant,” as one put it — negatively influenced the scores.

The school district is not so sure.

“All the evidence is pointing in the direction of something happening,” Ms. Rose said. “The fact that she left doesn’t make it look any better. People sort of fill in the blanks.”

Ms. Moore, speaking to the television interviewer, said, “I had nothing to do with the allegations that are being made in the newspaper against me and Sanders-Clyde.” ...

3 percent Budget Shortfall

This from H-L:
Beshear: Spending cuts needed

FRANKFORT — Kentucky faces a budget shortfall of nearly $300 million that will require spending cuts and possibly new revenue measures, Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday, calling the state's future "ominous."

At a Capitol news conference, Beshear, who unsuccessfully proposed raising the state's 30-cents-a-pack cigarette tax to $1 earlier this year, said he would develop a plan over the next several weeks to address the shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

"All options are on the table," said the Democratic governor.

He has told members of his Cabinet to prepare for inevitable spending cuts, he said.
If there is a need for lawmakers to act on any part of his plan, Beshear said, it is likely that he would call a special legislative session in January. The General Assembly has a three-week recess between a brief organizational session early in the month and the lawmaking session later...

...The $294 million shortfall is 3.3 percent of expected General Fund revenues...

Two arrested in connection with Obama effigy

This from the Herald-Leader:

University of Kentucky police announced the arrest of a UK student and his friend Thursday in connection with the hanging of an effigy of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama from a tree on campus Wednesday.

Interim UK police chief Joe Monroe said police received a series of tips throughout the day Wednesday that eventually led them to the two men. The men told police that the act was a stunt in response to news reports that an effigy of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was hung at a West Hollywood, Calif., home.

Joe Fischer, 22, a UK senior and a former football team walk-on, and a friend, Hunter Bush, 21, of Lexington were charged Thursday with burglary in the second degree, a felony; and theft by unlawful taking and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. The disorderly conduct charge was made for the hanging of the effigy...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scholars Discuss 'Disruptive Innovation' in K-12

Citing examples of industry-wise business failures the author of a new book explain how leading companies lost their primacy. It was because they obeyed two hallowed principles of business:
1) Listen to your best customers and give them what they want, and
2) invest where the profit margin is most attractive.

"No," says the Harvard business professor. Instead businesses (and schools) need to act in ways that may be opposed to their short-term interests, that lower their costs, and simplify services, thus expanding the number of potential customers.

This from Ed Week:
A latecomer to a panel discussion this week on “disruptive innovation” in K-12 education and health care may have suspected that he or she had entered the wrong room.

The main speaker, Clayton M. Christensen, was talking about the steel industry, not education or health. Then he discussed the automobile, radio, microchip, and software industries.

To Mr. Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School, those industries offer profound lessons for K-12 schooling. In every case, the introduction of a new technology led to the upending of the established leaders by upstart entrants, he explained at an Oct. 27 panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute.

Mr. Christensen, the lead author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, said similar changes will soon happen to public school districts, as providers of virtual schooling gradually claim more and more students, starting with those who are poorly served by their current schools.

The book, published last spring and co-authored by Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson, predicts that those changes will accelerate until, by 2019, roughly half of all high school courses will be taken online....

ED Announces Final Regulations to Strengthen NCLB

This from the Principal's Policy Blog:

On October 28, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced final regulations to strengthen and clarifyNo Child Left Behind (NCLB), focusing on improved accountability and transparency, uniform and disaggregated graduation rates and improved parental notification for Supplemental Education Services and public school choice. The Secretary made the announcement while speaking to educators, state and local policymakers and business leaders at South Carolina Educational Television in Columbia, S.C.

“NCLB has shined a spotlight on schools,” said Secretary Spellings. “It is compelling grown ups to do the right thing by kids. And it’s working. According to the Nation’s Report Card, since 2000, more kids are learning reading and math. Since this law was passed, nearly one million more students have learned basic math skills. Children once left behind are making some of the greatest gains, but more work needs to be done. That’s why I’ve taken a responsive, common sense approach to implementing the law with today’s announcement.”

The Secretary noted that these new regulations reflect lessons learned over the past six years since NCLB was enacted and builds on work that states have made with their assessment and accountability systems. One area that there is broad public consensus around is the need for a uniform graduation rate.

Recognizing that the nation can no longer tolerate - much less prosper - with its abysmal graduation rate, particularly among minority students, the final regulations establish a uniform graduation rate that shows how many incoming freshman in a given high school graduate within four years.

“As far back as 2005, governors from all 50 states agreed to adopt a uniform, more accurate graduation rate. But so far, only 16 states have done so,” said Secretary Spellings. “Parents know that a high school diploma is the least their children need to succeed in today’s economy.”

Under the new regulations, all states will use the same formula to calculate how many students graduate from high school on time and how many drop out. The final regulations define the “four year adjusted cohort graduation rate” as the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, adjusted for transfers, students who emigrate and deceased students. The data will be made public so that educators and parents can compare how students of every race, background and income level are performing....

UK students, leaders decry effigy of Obama

This from H-L:

Hundreds of students and several Democratic officials expressed outrage and embarrassment Wednesday after an effigy of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was found hanging from a tree early Wednesday on the University of Kentucky campus.

The racist act was emphatically rejected by hundreds of students and community leaders attending a quickly-called campus forum to discuss racial issues Wednesday evening.

"Our time at this university is too short to sit idly by and allow these things to continue," said Tyler Montell, president of UK's student government association. "This is not a concern of any single race. Today, every student is a victim. Every member of our student body must now become part of a greater change."

Meanwhile, UK police and the Secret Service are asking for the public's help in finding who hung the effigy — which wore an Obama mask and had a noose around its neck — in a tree near the Rose Street parking garage...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Search for higher-ed chief proceeds

This from C-J:

State council meets candidates

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education presidential search committee is interviewing about a dozen candidates interested in leading the state agency.

Between 10 and 12 candidates were scheduled to be interviewed in closed sessions at the Cincinnati Marriott Airport in Hebron, Ky., yesterday and today, said John Hall, chairman of the search committee.

"We're doing our best to come up with some good people," he said. "I feel good about the people we have. I think we have a very strong pool." ...

New tests may pressure schools to restore more science instruction

This from the Washington Post:

Science Evolves in Classrooms

'No Child' Test May Reestablish Emphasis
on an Often-Neglected Subject

In the past six years, science has slipped as a priority in public schools while reading and mathematics have grown dominant.

But in coming years, experts say, the same federal law that elevated reading and math could spark a resurgence of science in the classroom.

The 2002 No Child Left Behind law required states to test students in science starting in the 2007-08 year, on top of reading and math assessments mandated from the start. Virginia has given science tests since 1998, but the exams are new for Maryland and the District.

(Separately, Maryland tests high school students in biology as a graduation requirement.) Unlike the reading and math test results, science scores won't be used to grade schools for accountability. But education leaders predict that the scores will matter when disseminated to the public....

Hat tip to ASCD.

Officials Weigh Civic Duty, Convenience, Student Safety

This from Ed Week by way of KSBA:

When voters line up at school-based polling places Nov. 4, some students will have a front-row seat, and others will watch what is widely predicted to be a historic turnout from home. It all depends on where they live.

Nationwide, states and school districts follow a patchwork of policies on whether public schools are open or closed on Election Day. Legislators and officials consider factors that include concerns about student safety and security threats and a simple desire to avoid operational headaches.

According to a soon-to-be-published survey conducted by Educational Research Service, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va., only five states—Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island, and West Virginia—mandate school closure on the day of a general election. All others leave calendar decisions up to the local districts.

There are few discernible trends on where schools are open or closed, as even some of the largest states take different tacks.

For example, in California, local school boards have the authority to close schools, said Pam Slater, a public-information officer for the California Department of Education, but they almost never do so for Election Day. In New York state, on the other hand, many districts are closed, including those in New York City, which has 1.1 million-students.

“It does seem very random,” said Kathy Christie, the chief of staff at the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.

Policymaking, however scattered, is anything but arbitrary for states and districts themselves.

In Randolph, Mass., after an 8-year-old girl was struck and critically injured by an 86-year-old driver on his way to vote in the Feb. 5 presidential primary, school officials re-examined their election procedures. Randolph and several other Massachusetts districts that historically have remained open on Election Day will be closed on Tuesday of next week.

Disagreement remains, however, on the wisdom of closing schools on Election Day, with some observers arguing that seeing the election process provides a true-to-life lesson for students.

“The citizenship piece is huge,” Ms. Christie said. “It’s important for kids to see that people come out to vote, not just their parents. They don’t always get to see that.”

But Kenneth S. Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm, disagrees. His concerns include the possibility of dangerous intruders in schools and increased traffic, none of which he thinks is outweighed by the appeal to civic education.

“It’s a hollow argument,” he said. “Students aren’t observing and participating; they’re not in the booth when the ballots are being cast. They are just trying to get to class without tripping over a voter. They don’t need to see dozens and dozens of bodies to understand the concept that voting is important.” ...

Does Halloween Excuse Symbolic Hate Speech?

This from PolWatchers:

Obama effigy found on UK's campus

University of Kentucky police are investigating who hung an effigy of Democrat Sen. Barack Obama from a tree on the Lexington campus Wednesday morning.

UK President Lee Todd said that UK police have notified federal authorities of the incident. Todd said a professor saw the effigy on the tree near the Rose Street parking garage across from the Mining and Mineral Resources building this morning and called police. The professor then sent Todd an email notifying him of the incident.
UK police took down the effigy and have it as evidence, Todd said. He called the act "deplorable" and says that type of behavior is not tolerated on UK's campus.

The effigy apparently had a mask of Obama on it and there was reportedly a noose around the effigy's neck, Todd said...

Governor Steve Beshear said,

“I strongly agree with President Todd’s statement this morning about this embarrassing and unfortunate incident. This was not political speech. It was simply hate. It was profoundly wrong and deeply offensive. This incident does not reflect who we are as a flagship institution of higher learning or a Commonwealth. I appreciate the university’s resolve to investigate this matter and ensure that such actions will not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile in Hollywood...

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An effigy of U.S. Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin hanging by a noose as part of a Halloween display drew complaints on Monday, but local officials said the homeowner was covered by free speech rights.

A mannequin dressed to resemble the Alaska governor, with her trademark beehive
hairdo and glasses, was hung by the neck from the eaves of the home in famously liberal West Hollywood.

On the roof, a mannequin of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, protruded from the chimney surrounded in flames, holding his head as he was apparently burned alive....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Charters Gaining "Big Mo"

This from This Week in Education:

Here's an image from an ad that the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools is running in 5 states including Ohio:

More and more education outfits are getting into the the political game, it seems -- not just EDIN08 and DFER and the unions. That's good thing, I'd argue, for people who want education taken seriously.

As KSN&C readers may know, I'm conflicted about Charter Schools. As a principal, and looking out for the interests of one school only, I tried to get permission to turn my elementary school nto the state's first charter - and failed. But looking at the state as a whole, it's hard for me to see how charters won't be disequalizing, and thus, unconstitutional.

But alas, nationally charters do seem to be gaining some momentum. And, Kentucky can't resist federal dollars.


Lack of IRB Approval for Felner: Another Brick on UofL's Load?

Page One Kentucky is reporting that former UofL Education Dean Robert Felner "did not request IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval for any research project that would have allowed data collection from anyone in Kentucky." Yet Felner reportedly spoke broadly about his empirical prowess, while belittling others.
Felner only had IRB approval for one project. One. In five years. So were all
of his other research projects involving people breaking the rules at UofL?

Yet Felner was awarded "Distinguished University Scholar" status. That's kinda like John Deasy being named an "Allumni Fellow" for merely enrolling at UofL - only worse. Added to the list of recent Felner-spawned questions about UofL's scholastic integrity this doesn't help.

The IRB process was instituted following World War II to assure better protection of human subjects. It was a direct reaction to the human experimentation conducted by the Nazis, and other research abuses as well. The National REsearch Act was passed in 1974 and revised in 1981. IRB assures basic ethical principles underlie the conduct of biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Assessment and Accountability Task Force Meets Wednesday

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Task Force on Assessment and Accountability will meet Wednesday, October 29, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

The group will continue its discussion of arts & humanities assessments and other topics. The meeting will be webcast, and information about how to access that will be available on the Kentucky Department of Education’s homepage on the day of the meeting.

The task force will review the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) and provide 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 task force is seeking input from teachers, administrators, parents, businesspeople, elected officials, education advocacy groups and others. The group will analyze individual components of CATS and determine the effectiveness of those in meeting the needs of students.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Rumors and Speculation

Don't hold me to this, but...

It looks like Kentucky universities may have gotten the word - and begun initial planning for a 3 percent mid-year budget cut.

Focus on Education in Tight Times

If money didn't matter in education the rich wouldn't spend so much on it.

Smaller classes in private schools; tutoring elite students for elite schools; educational summer camps; test prep; special needs therapy and recreation....

Educational companies are "benefiting from economic downturn through increased demand from parents."

This from Forbes:

No Child Left Behind

Don't tell Lisa Jacobson there's a recession underway. Her biggest problem these days is finding a way for her employees to take a breather.

As the chief executive of Inspirica, a 25-year-old, multimillion-dollar tutoring and test prep company, she's raking in more money than ever. Business was up 60% in September as her 100 or so tutors flew all over the country preparing thousands of children and young adults for elite high schools, colleges and grad schools--at rates up to $525 an hour plus expenses. Layoffs? Not at Inspirica, where the past month was the company's best in 25 years.

"We're hiring; we just can't find enough qualified people," says Jacobson, who is looking to beef up both the tutoring roster and management team of her 150-person company.

A tight economy may mean less spending, but it's also helping parents focus on priorities. So despite the crushed 401(k) statements and credit card debt, parents are still spending to improve the lives of their kids...

Kentucky universities, colleges share grant

This from H-L:

KDE gets $2.1 for AP Expansion

LEXINGTON, Ky. --The National Science Foundation has awarded a $12.5 million technology research grant to several public universities and private colleges in Kentucky.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced the grant during an appearance in Lexington on Monday. The money will fund research into biotechnology, nanotechnology and cyber technologies.

Beshear said the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville will be the major recipients. Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Northern Kentucky universities will share in the grant, as will Berea and Centre colleges.

Beshear also announced a $2.1 million federal grant to the Kentucky Department of Education to help expand the number of Kentucky high schools offering advanced placement classes in math, science and English.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Plan to Cut the High School Dropout Rate

This from the New York Times:

High school graduation rates are universally seen as a barometer of success, or failure, in education. Parents, college admissions officers, even savvy real estate agents rely on that particular statistic to tell them if a school is any good.

But just as it takes a village to raise a child, graduation rates in New Jersey and elsewhere have also become a measure of the larger community outside the school and whether its politicians, civic leaders, business executives and even police officers are all doing their job as well.

Last week, Gov. Jon S. Corzine and state officials announced a yearlong, multiagency initiative to boost the state’s graduation rates. Called the New Jersey High School Graduation Campaign, it will be led not by the state’s Department of Education but by the state attorney general’s office, with funds from businesses like Verizon and Prudential, among others.

The idea is to keep young people in school not just for their own good, but also as a pre-emptive strike against violence and gang activity...

Felner case may bring U of L new scrutiny on grants

This morning Chris Kenning followed up on the future of grant attainment at UofL. Good article, but I think it's too soon to tell how the Ville might be affected.

This from the Courier-Journal:

School officials don't anticipate problems
...National experts say that's generally true, but caution that U of L could face more scrutiny on future grants, and more skepticism with its applications.

"Universities with a good reputation for managing money have a tendency to get more," said Edward Waters, former president of the Washington-based National Grants Management Association. "Federal dollars are getting tight, and most grants are competitive. This kind of situation is definitely not a plus." ...
...Granting agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health, say a pattern of fraud or a seriously flawed system of oversight would have to emerge before a school would risk a cutoff of funding.

"Generally, one case will not unduly prejudice an institution's chances of getting future grants," said Don Ralbovsky, a spokesman for the National Institutes of Health. "It typically doesn't have a chilling effect unless there is a pattern." ...
So, UofL officials are whistling a happy tune.
...they are confident that the university won't see its momentum derailed. "In light of the fact that the university brought this issue to the attention of the feds, I think just the opposite," said Judy Bristow, head of the university's grants-management office. She said she doesn't believe the Felner scandal will prompt more scrutiny from granting agencies...
...But that wasn't the case at Florida A&M University which also had a professor in the federal doghouse.

In June ... professor Patricia Walker McGill pleaded guilty to stealing money from federal literacy grants, in part by requiring "kickbacks" from pass-through grant recipients, according to the U.S. Education Department's inspector general.

That prompted granting agencies to require more assurances that the money going to McGill's Institute on Urban Policy and Commerce would be safeguarded, and it prompted the university to require more oversight.
Of course Florida A&M had another recent embarrassment that may have undermined grantor's confidence in that university's integrity.
Kentuckians may recall federal prosecutors jailed attorney Shirley Cunningham who funded a $1 million scholarship at F A & M with some of the $46 million he and two other lawyers allegedly obtained fraudulently from his clients in Kentucky's fen-phen case. Then he bought an 80% stake in champion Thoroughbred, Curlin. Last I heard, Cunningham was still "a guest of the state."
If problems continue, universities or nonprofit organizations can be deemed "high-risk," which can limit grants to reimbursement, or even be barred from receiving funds, said Waters, who has practiced grants law for two decades in Washington, D.C.
So apparently, any pattern that undermined confidence in a university's integrity might contribute to a harsher review before grants were awarded.
So confidence in UofL ought to be fairly high. Unless you count this.....and this.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

EKU hazing trial rescheduled

This from H-L:

RICHMOND, Ky. --The trial for three men charged in an alleged hazing incident at an Eastern Kentucky University fraternity has been delayed.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the trial was rescheduled until Jan. 5 for 21-year-old Thomas Barnes, 22-year-old Gabriel M. McLaren and 32-year-old Alonzo C. McGill....

Are you a Procrastinator? Find out....NOW!

Procrastination Test from Psychology Today:

Do you put things off? Find yourself making excuses to get out of bothersome little duties? In short, are you guilty of that nasty habit of procrastination? We're all guilty of it from time to time, but when putting things off interferes with your life, there's cause for concern. Procrastination can cause problems at work or school, in your relationships, and with your health, among other things. Find out why you procrastinate and how potentially damaging it could be by taking the Procrastination Test...

10 questions, 05 min

German Libraries Hold Thousands of Looted Volumes

This from Der Spiegel (Germany):

Hundreds of thousands of book stolen by the Nazis are still in German libraries. A few librarians are acting like detectives, searching for the books and hoping to return them to the former owners or their families. However, many libraries have shown little interest in the troubling legacy tucked away on their shelves.

Book, books, nothing but books. Detlef Bockenkamm is walking along a long shelf in the storage room at Berlin's Central and Regional Library. Suddenly he stops and says: "This is where we have the Accession J collection." The letter J refers to Jews.

The curator has collected more than 1,000 books here, enough to stretch almost 40 meters (130 feet) if they were lined up next to each other. Bockenkamm and a colleague combed through old documents, checked files and studied records documenting the receipt of books. They eventually discovered that these volumes were stored at the City Pawn Office in Berlin in the spring of 1943.

The records indicate that the city library purchased "more than 40,000 volumes from the private libraries of evacuated Jews" through this office. And, this being Germany, the librarians maintained meticulous record books to keep track of their purchases -- even though parts of the German capital were already in ruins. As always, preserving order was paramount. The librarians signed each volume and gave it an accession number, beginning with the letter J...

A belt or a noose?

This from C-J:
Because the General Assembly refused to come up with new money, the Kentucky Department of Education had to whack $43 million worth of spending for professional development programs, after-school services and textbooks. That forced 174 public school districts to make up the difference.

Senate President David Williams airily dismissed this as a little belt-tightening. In fact, it meant the loss of personnel in 135 school districts. A Kentucky School Boards Association survey finds that 594 people in certified positions (teachers, counselors, administrators) lost their jobs, along with 575 classified workers (teachers' aides, bus drivers, cafeteria helpers, office clerks and custodians).

That's 1,169 folks not around to help Kentucky students get to school, enjoy a hot meal and learn something. A little belt-tightening?

When asked about raising revenue, the Senate president sniffs that he finds no enthusiasm among his GOP colleagues for tax increases. Are they tickled about whacking Kentucky's schools?

Palin Promises Choice for Disabled Students

This from the New York Times, photo by Kate Zernike:

ST. LOUIS — In her first policy speech of the presidential campaign, Gov. Sarah Palin vowed Friday that a McCain administration would allow all special-needs students the choice of attending private schools at public expense, a controversial and potentially costly proposal likely to be welcomed by many parents and bitterly opposed by many school districts.

Ms. Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, also promised that she and Senator John McCain would finally provide public schools the federal money that was promised when the law covering students with special needs was passed in 1975. Her pledge was intended to address the top concern of many school districts, and is one that has been made by many other politicians but never fulfilled...

Study Will Size Up Doctoral Programs for Education Researchers

This from Ed Week:

Two national education groups are launching a first-time effort to assess—and possibly even rank—the hundreds of doctoral programs that prepare education researchers.

The field of education produces an estimated 1,800 doctorates a year, according to the American Educational Research Association, which is overseeing the three-year study with the National Academy of Education, known as NEAD. Such programs, however, have come under scrutiny in recent years, with scholars and policymakers complaining that they suffer from uneven quality and “mission muddle.” ...

Felner Stink Sticks to Deasy

Deasy's $375,000 Ends Up in
Felner's Bank Account

On this week's Comment on Kentucky, WHAS reporter Adam Walser recaped the story of Robert Felner and his wide-ranging toxic effect on the University of Rhode Island, UofL, several of the country's school districts and many tainted individuals.

But who were the victims, and who were the co-conspirators?

One of the affected school districts was the Santa Monica-Malibu (CA)public schools during the time that John Deasy was the superintendent. Deasy recently resigned his position as Superintendent in Prince Georges County (MD) schools to join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - which hired him with some knowledge of the controversy.

Walser told host Ferrell Wellman,

...what we found in this federal indictment was that the entire $375,000 that came from the Santa Monica-Malibu public school system (John Deasy had given that contract to Robert Felner) the entire amount went to this shell corporation and went into Robert Felner's bank account ultimately.
Deasy, you will recall, was the Felner colleague (from URI) who - after awarding Felner the $375,000 grant - was gifted a suspiciously quick doctorate under the guidance of Felner. Deasy's dissertation is dated seven months before he even enrolled at UofL. Felner supervised no other doctoral students during his five years at the university.

This sweetheart deal appeared to have the full support of UofL President James Ramsey since he recommended that the Board of Trustees approve John Deasy as an Alumni Fellow Award winner in 2007.

The Fall 2007 issue of UofL Magazine says, “The Alumni Fellows are awarded to graduates who are exemplary ambassadors for their UofL schools or colleges through their contributions to their professional fields and their communities.” On his application for the award, Deasy did not list any contributions.

Bloggers and other media questioned how Deasy was able to receive a doctorate of philosophy in education in 2004 after taking only nine credits at the school.

Deasy immediately claimed that,

If the university finds that it did not follow its own policies and procedures when conferring my doctorate, that is of course its right to make any decision thereafter.
That must have seemed like a great deal if it meant Deasy would not be pulled into the rest of the allegations surrounding Felner, and another URI colleague and indicted co-conspirator, Thomas Schroeder.

The university quickly declared the doctorate to be proper.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Schroeder pleads not guilty, released on bond

This from The Courier-Journal:
Thomas Schroeder, the Illinois man indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring with former University of Louisville dean Robert Felner to commit money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS, was arraigned this morning in federal court.

Schroeder, 58, of Fort Byron, Ill., turned himself into federal authorities at about 9 this morning. David Mejia, Schroeder’s Louisville attorney, entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client during the arraignment. Following the hearing, Mejia said Schroeder and his legal team “look forward to the day when his case will be presented to the jury.”

In addition to Mejia, Schroeder is represented by Illinois attorney Herbert Schultz, who in the past has said Schroeder denies any wrongdoing.

Judge Dave Whalin released Schroeder on a $100,000 unsecured bond — the same amount set for Felner at his arraignment yesterday. The federal indictment alleges Schroeder and Felner fraudulently obtained nearly $2.3 million in grant and contract money from University of Louisville and University of Rhode Island.

A Dec. 22 trial date has been set for both men.

Jake on Francene on Felner on Schroeder ...OMG!

I can't (but will have to ) wait to listen to this.

Starve the Schools. Blame the Schools. Bleed the Schools?

The not-too-subtle warrant behind a new study by Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute, "How Whites and Blacks Perform In Jefferson County Public Schools," is that after 18-years of KERA, educational problems in Kentucky should now be largely solved - and if they are not, the problem lies with KERA.

Some thoughts on the achievement gap:

The achievement gap was deliberately created and sustained by whites over centuries in America. Slavery, Jim Crow and recalcitrant racism remain America's great historical shame.

So the Bluegrass Institute is to be commended for taking a serious look at the performance of African American students in Jefferson County and the dismal graduation rates that describe their performance. The data remind us of how far we have left to go.

But there is an unchallenged premise in the very first paragraph of the study that bears some comment.

One of the most important tenets of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 is that all children can learn, regardless of race or economic status. However, during the 18 years since KERA’s enactment, serious questions have arisen regarding the performance of Kentucky’s public schools in meeting that goal for all children, especially black students.

This is all true. But a couple of things leap to mind.

First, BGI is quite correct to suggest that viewing students as capable (able to learn) is an historic first that came to Kentucky schools with KERA in 1990 - and it would be wrong on many levels to retreat from that goal. Prior to KERA (actually more like 1995), it was fully acceptable for a third of Kentucky's students to fail - and in many places, more than a third did just that.

Second, the 18 year period since KERA has not seen that problem solved. But seriously, was that expectation realistic? I have no doubt that KERA's goals can be largely achieved in time, but Kentucky sure did spend a whole lot longer digging the hole it's students are in than has spent climbing out of it. Patience and nutruring are indicated.

Let's review the history briefly.

The best thing that can be said about efforts to educate African Americans in antebellum Kentucky, is that it was not illegal to teach a black person to read.

Following the civil war the legislature's first effort provided that only taxes collected from blacks could be used to educate black children; later amended to add...after taking care of paupers. That "progress" accounted for 74 years of Kentucky's history.

In 1874, eight years later, a school system for blacks began - and where schools existed, they were funded at about 1/3rd the rate given to the pitiful schools whites attended.

During the progressive era at the turn of the century, more schools were built and conditions improved, but under Jim Crow laws blacks were legally separated, and socially "kept down."

Testing was employed to measure human potential. The results were interpreted to suggest that blacks were genetically less capable and therefore, not worthy of equal investment. Still, local schools for blacks developed, and for a time, African American teachers were better educated than white teachers - since the brightest and best were precluded from pursuing many other employment options.

Conditions changed - legally, but only in small measure - with the Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954. It was another 14 to 18 years before a substantial percentage of blacks attended school with whites - then only after the federal government withheld funds from (or troops were called in to) schools that refused to desegregate.

Photo: Louisville, 1955, Black students segregated within a desegregated school

There was nothing in KERA that should not have already been achieved under Brown. But that didn't happen, and by that time Kentucky was in it's 162nd year of the achievement gap.

Conditions improved over time but relative to other states, not so much. By 1984, investment inequities reached a disproportionate 8:1 ratio between the rich schools and poor schools in the state. If parents wanted a good education for their child, where they lived mattered.

It was only since Senate Bill 168, in 1998, that Kentucky schools began any real effort to ensure substantially equitable student achievement outcomes. Student data was disaggregated and schools were held responsible, not only for maintaining high average performance, but for the improvement of each subgroup of students. Prior to that time if a third of a school's students failed to perform up to expectations, it was considered the parents' or students' fault. This marked the beginning of a philosophical shift, away from "equality of educational opportunity" toward "equity of student achievement outcomes" - a philosophy also inherent in NCLB.

In the face of 200 years of a deliberately created achievement gap - ten years of substantial progress in an under-funded system seems somewhat understandable. It might even be crazy to expect that the intractable problems of poverty might be solved, through legislation, by the schools alone.

Now, I know it is heresy to not swallow the "KERA Kool-aid" that all it takes to produce better schools is strong leadership, a whip and a chair. But I believe we need a broader more comprehensive approach.

Without having read the indivdual school reports referred to in the BGI study, I have no reason to dispute the findings of Richard Innes' report. His analysis shows:

  • Blacks remain well behind academically in the key subjects of reading and mathematics.
  • In a significant number of Jefferson County schools – 47 out of the 120 schools with usable data on reading and 44 out of 120 for math – the gap between white and black students is widening.
  • Graduation rates remain extremely low for significant numbers of blacks – especially black males – in the majority of Louisville’s public high schools. Using a graduation-rate estimation formula created by Johns Hopkins University, black males in only three of the 19 high schools in the study had graduation rates equal to or greater than the statewide graduation rate for all students. The graduation rate also is low for black females and even for white students in these 19 schools. Two of these schools reported abysmal graduation rates of less than 60 percent, qualifying them as “dropout factories” using the Johns Hopkins formula. In both of these Jefferson County schools, the graduation-rate estimates using the Johns Hopkins formula fell well below 50 percent for whites and blacks of both sexes.
I'm sure he's correct. I particularly commend Innes for this:

Black students do not benefit if achievement gaps in their schools close only because whites also perform poorly.
Those who would close gaps by lowering standards perform a disservice to all students.

But I do take issue with his conclusion that:

...the CATS assessment process holds no consequences for poor performance with student subgroups and really does nothing to deal with gaps."

This ignores the part of the process where the superintendent chews some principals' butts off, demotes them to a third grade classroom, and replaces them with the next victims. I promise, that part of the process counts for something.

Innes reviews the graduation rates for Jefferson County high schools noting that,

...Kentucky’s existing NCLB high school graduation-rate reports fail to provide accurate data overall and do not contain information on how races perform.

This well-documented problem exists nationally, and is being addressed nationally. Using a measure from Johns Hopkins, Innes finds that the graduation rates for far too many schools, well, ... suck.

In his closing, Innes takes two more shots at his point:

Jefferson County Schools face a considerable amount of work to raise academic performance and high school graduation rates to acceptable levels. After nearly two decades of KERA, real improvement – especially for the district’s black students – remains a long way off.

Kentucky cannot afford schools with low and declining graduation rates, and with low academic achievement. Clearly, as KERA approaches 19 years in force, the trends outlined in this report raise questions about whether the public school system in Kentucky is capable of meaningful reform for all students.

There it was. That last phrase. And, Innes could have written that conclusion as early as 1994 by which time he was publicly (Kentucky Post) acknowledged as a KERA "foe."

Would Innes have us believe that Kentucky schools (parents, teachers, kids...) are not capable? Would he cure these bad schools with a healthy dose of leeches, called school vouchers?

None of that speculation should mask what Innes gets right.

In too many cases student achievement gains are lacking and reported graduation rates remain a fantasy. If Kentucky is serious about reaching its goals, the state needs to get serious about its investment. It is going to take a comprehensive approach to meet KERA's lofty goals.

Sifting the Ashes at UofL

C-J stops just short of calling upon the UofL trustees to hold Ramsey personally accountable for his early protectionism and inaction inthe Robert Felner mess. In the face of substantial evidence that faculty were being abused - and that abuse supported Felner's ability to (allegedly) lie, cheat and steal from the university and Kentucky's children - surely there must be accountability. Where should the buck stop? With Felner? With Willihnganz? With Ramsey? Or, with the Trustees themselves?

This from C-J:

The indictments returned against former University of Louisville Education Dean Robert Felner and one of his associates reveal a scandal of substantial depth and magnitude. This is big money we're talking about -- $2.3 million in grant and contract funds, allegedly siphoned off for personal benefit...

Several reviews are under way..{and] must be pushed very hard, to determine not just how the financial scams could have gone undetected as long as they did, but also whether faculty complaints about Mr. Felner were taken seriously enough and soon enough.

It may be that top U of L officials simply didn't have enough concrete evidence until late in the game, and that personnel rules prevented them from revealing, in a timely way, their intention to give Mr. Felner the boot.

U of L President James Ramsey says, "To me this (Education) college is absolutely critical to the success of the university," especially in its connections with the Jefferson County Public Schools. He's right that the unique challenges facing JCPS are not well understood in Frankfort, where the system gets short shrift.

But if the education college is all that important, one would think the financial and personnel oversight it enjoyed from top U of L administrators would have been especially keen. If it wasn't, one of the many reviews now under way should tell the public why.

Schroeder Surrenders in Louisville


This from C-J:
An Illinois man indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Louisville on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS turned himself into federal authorities this morning.

At about 9 a.m., Thomas Schroeder of Fort Byron, Ill., walked down Sixth Street and into the Mazzoli federal building. He was accompanied by two other people. He is tentatively due to be arraigned in federal court at 11 a.m...

First, Kill All the School Boards

Why is local control such a failure when applied to our schools?
  • We’re two decades into the standards movement in this country, and standards are still different by classroom, by school, by district, and by state.
  • If you thought President Bush’s 2001 No Child Left Behind legislation was fixing these problems, think again.
  • The lack of uniform evaluation creates a “tremendous risk of delusion about how well children are actually doing.
  • Local control has kept education from attracting the research and development that drives progress, because benefits of scale are absent.
  • While teachers’ unions have become more sophisticated and have smarter people who are better-equipped and -prepared at the table, the quality of school-board members, particularly in urban areas, has decreased.
  • The dirty little secret of local control is the enormous tax advantage it confers on better-off Americans: communities with high property wealth can tax themselves at low rates and still generate far more dollars per pupil than poor communities taxing themselves heavily.
  • What of school boards? In an ideal world, we would scrap them—especially in big cities, where most poor children live.
  • We need to give schools one set of national expectations, free educators and parents to collaborate locally in whatever ways work, and get everything else out of the way.

This is the causal chain argued by Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the author of The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love (2003). Miller is also the host of KCRW's weekly political chat show, and one of my regular podcasts, "Left, Right and Center." Miller holds down the middle (shown far right - with Tony Blankley, Robert Shearer and Ariana Huffington).

A modest proposal to fix the schools by Matt Miller in the Atlantic Monthly:

Our system is, more than anything, an artifact of our Colonial past. For the religious dissenters who came to the New World, literacy was essential to religious freedom, enabling them to teach their own beliefs. Religion and schooling moved in tandem across the Colonies. Many people who didn’t like what the local minister was preaching would move on and found their own church, and generally their own school.

This preference for local control of education dovetailed with the broader ethos of the American Revolution and the Founders’ distrust of distant, centralized authority. Education was left out of the Constitution; in the 10th Amendment, it is one of the unnamed powers reserved for the states, which in turn passed it on to local communities. Eventually the United States would have 130,000 school districts, most of them served by a one-room school. These little red schoolhouses, funded primarily through local property taxes, became the iconic symbols of democratic American learning.

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nothing really challenged this basic structure. Eventually many rural districts were consolidated, and the states assumed a greater role in school funding; since the 1960s, the federal government has offered modest financial aid to poorer districts as well. But neither these steps, nor the standards-based reform movement inspired by A Nation at Risk, brought significant change.

Many reformers across the political spectrum agree that local control has become a disaster for our schools. But the case against it is almost never articulated. Public officials are loath to take on powerful school-board associations and teachers’ unions; foundations and advocacy groups, who must work with the boards and unions, also pull their punches. For these reasons, as well as our natural preference for having things done nearby, support for local control still lingers, largely unexamined, among the public...

Is Desperation the Mother of Invention?

This from Claudio Sanchez at NPR:

Pay-To-Behave Program Debuts In D.C. Schools

Listen Now [6 min 13 sec]

At Shaw-Garnet-Patterson Middle School in Washington, D.C., students like the idea of getting paid for good grades or for just showing up. They have a harder time agreeing on how much they should get.

"A lot. A thousand dollars," one young girl says. "Two hundred," a boy chimes in, " 'cause I got two A's. When asked how much he should be paid for coming to school on time, the student says it's worth $50.

School systems across America are desperate for good ideas to motivate students, and Washington, D.C., is no different. This year, schools in the nation's capital will pay kids if they work hard, behave and get good grades.

The idea is the brainchild of Harvard economist Roland Fryer. He has persuaded several school districts around the country that disruptive, unmotivated students will change their ways if money is used as a carrot.

Fryer's theory, to pay kids to do better in school, comes from many years of research and his own sense of desperation.

"The theory here is to try innovative things that will help children achieve," Fryer says. "In our urban centers, we're spending $12,000, $15,000 a kid, and we're not getting any results. So we must do something." ...

Missouri School Board says Teachers must Hide Tattoos

This from the Joplin Globe:

School district to require employees to
cover tattoos
Joplin R-8 Board of Education members Tuesday night gave administrators the OK to change wording in the district’s employment policy to not allow any part of a tattoo to show.The policy previously instructed teachers to wear clothing that “minimizes” tattoos, but it did not prohibit part or all of the tattoo from showing.

The board also wants to make that policy apply to all district employees, not just teachers. Superintendent C.J. Huff said he brought the issue to the board because someone had raised concerns about teachers with tattoos. The board members appeared to be in unanimous agreement about tattoos not being appropriate in a professional and, specifically, a classroom setting.

“Until business and industry says that we want to hire people with tattoos, I don’t think it’s anything out of order,” Huff said of changing the policy. “It’s how we need to do business.” ...

Hat tip to the Detention slip.

Ed Trust calls for Better Support for Schools to Improve Graduation rates

I've got an idea. Let's cut even more funding to public education and see if we can't improve graduation rates.

Hey wait! On second thought, let's follow the Education Trust's advice and better support the schools so that they might accomplish the important goals that have been set for them.

This from The Education Trust:

An Agenda for State Leadership

THE UNITED STATES IS THE ONLY INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRY in the world in which today’s young people are less likely than their parents to have completed high school. This is a startling turn for our nation, which prides itself on extending educational opportunity to everyone. To sustain the promise of the American education system as a ladder to economic, social, and civic success, high school graduation rates must improve for all young people—especially for the growing numbers of students of color.

By 2020, the nation’s African-American population is expected to increase by 10 percent, the Latino population by a full third. Yet today, more than one in every three students from these fast-growing groups do not graduate from high school on time ...

Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), Class of 2006
Overall 73%
African American 59%
Asian 90%
Latino 61%
Native American 62%
White 81%

In 2005, the nation’s governors took an important step toward improving graduation rates by acknowledging that the inconsistent and often inaccurate ways states calculated graduation rates obscured the reality that far too few students were completing high school. Now, thanks to leadership of the National Governors Association (NGA), honest information about who is graduating and who is not is becoming more widely available as states begin to report their graduation rates according to a new, consistent, and more accurate calculation...

Ed Trust advises Governor Beshear to:

  • Make raising graduation rates a high priority.
  • Ensure the state budget protects current dropout-prevention programs and, if possible, adds funds to improve data quality, support for schools and students, and research and dissemination of successful strategies.

And to Joe Brothers and the State Board:

  • Set rigorous and gap-closing graduation-rate goals and improvement targets.
  • Establish policies that define and clarify student exit codes.

To Commissioner Draud:

  • Provide professional development for district and school staff to ensure they understand coding policies.
  • Establish quality-control mechanisms and audit protocols for graduation-rate data.
  • Identify schools that have improved their graduation rates, celebrate and disseminate their successes, and commission research on their best practices.

To Berman, Silberman, Marcum and the rest of the state's superintendents:

  • Perform school-level graduation-rate audits.
  • Use graduation-rate data to deploy resources to the schools and students who most need support.
...The stakes could hardly be higher when it comes to raising the academic achievement of America’s young people. But far too often, state policies and actions can betray indifference to the issue and a lack of confidence in students and educators alike. To avoid this, states can do at least three things:

(1) support school and district efforts to accurately account for all students,

(2) hold schools and districts accountable for real improvement, and

(3) generate a statewide focus on improving graduation rates. Otherwise, states will continue to undercut their needs for a skilled and knowledgeable workforce and hinder young people in their desire to lead successful, productive lives.

Of course, such efforts alone will not improve graduation rates.

Educators and students need to work harder, and policymakers must provide greater support to the schools and students who need it most. One thing is certain: State leaders must be more assertive in setting the conditions and expectations for higher graduation rates. With progress on all fronts, all students can enjoy independence and success, both of which begin with a high school diploma.

The map is from AP by way of H-L using Department of Education data.

Flurry of Felner Coverage at C-J

This from Nancy Rodriguez at C-J:

Ex-U of L dean Felner arraigned on fraud, tax charges
Ex-U of L education dean pleads not guilty
His hands firmly clasped in front of him, former University of Louisville Education Dean Robert Felner offered only a quiet "Yes, sir" and "Yes, madam" during his arraignment yesterday on fraud and tax evasion charges.
His attorney, Scott C. Cox, entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Felner. A federal grand jury in Louisville indicted him Wednesday on 10 counts of mail fraud, money-laundering conspiracy and income-tax evasion...
...[Thomas] Schroeder is expected to turn himself in to federal authorities in Louisville and be arraigned this morning, according to a spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's office. His Louisville attorney, David S. Mejia, attended Felner's arraignment yesterday, and said he expected his client to arrive in Louisville overnight...
Amount of money shocks officials

University of Rhode Island officials said yesterday they were not surprised that
former University of Louisville education dean Robert Felner, who once headed their education school, was indicted on charges of misappropriating federal grant and other money.

But they were shocked to learn how much money Felner is accused of taking from an education center he created and directed at the university until 2006 -- $1.7 million. "We had not understood it to be that large," said Robert Weygand, the school's vice president for administration...
Students, faculty express concerns

He was a brash university dean who brought in millions in grants, racked up faculty grievances and eventually generated headlines in a criminal investigation.
[Wednesday's] indictment of former University of Louisville Education Dean Robert Felner provoked campus reaction ranging from head-shaking dismay to worries about the university's standing.

"It's a disgrace," said senior Mike Giurgevich, 22, who stood outside the College of Education and Human Development that Felner once headed. "I want to be a teacher, and you can't be misusing education funds."

Education professor William Bush said he was shocked by the scope of the charges that extended to Felner's time at the University of Rhode Island...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reaction to Schroeder indictment in Illinois


Riverdale School Board head faces
fraud, conspiracy charges

Thomas Schroeder, the president of the Riverdale School Board and the executive director of the Rock Island County Council on Addictions, was indicted Wednesday in Louisville, Ky., on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud.

The federal indictment alleges that Mr. Schroeder, of Rapids City, and Robert Felner, formerly a dean at the University of Louisville, used federal grant money intended to pay for student assessments at various school systems for their own purposes.

The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges that the pair received fraudulent payments totaling more than $2 million.

The government seeks the forfeiture of property and other assets derived from the alleged scheme.

Herb Schultz, Mr. Schroeder's attorney, said his client is innocent.

“We will fight this vigorously. We maintain our innocence,” he said. He said his client would not be made available for comment...

U.S. Attorney David Huber in Louisville said the University of Rhode Island, where Mr. Felner was director of the School of Education from 1996 to 2003, was the biggest victim in the scheme.

"People who are in a trusted position, who have credibility, are able to get away with things to a point," Mr. Huber said. "Eventually, things come crashing down."

University of Rhode Island spokesman Dave Lavallee declined immediate comment.

In a previous interview, Mr. Schroeder said he formed the National Center on Education and Prevention Inc. (NCEP), a non-profit corporation, in 2001 at Mr. Felner's request. It was to that organization, the indictment says, payments intended for the Rhode Island center were instead sent.

Some of the funds came from federal grants, including a $450,000 federal earmark awarded to the University of Louisville.

Other funds came from consulting work done for school districts in Atlanta; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Santa Monica, Calif., Mr. Huber said. Mr. Huber said the men appear to have done the work requested by the school districts, but diverted the money to their own accounts. The money was supposed to be paid to the education center in Rhode Island.

"There is no dissatisfaction as far as we know," Mr. Huber said of the school districts. "They are not the victims of the fraud."

And this:

Although Thomas Schroeder wouldn't speak to the media after he was indicted Wednesday ... he was willing to speak in July.

According to the indictment, Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Felner created a corporation called the National Center on Public Education and Prevention to obtain funds fraudulently for work performed by the Rhode Island-based National Center on Public Education.

This allowed Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Felner to appear as if they were operating as the Rhode Island center, causing other entities to believe they were dealing with the National Center on Public Education, according to the indictment.

After it was reported this summer that he had been interviewed by federal agents, Mr. Schroeder, of Rapids City, discussed the investigation and his role with the organization with The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.

During that interview, he said he was cooperating with investigators, and that he was upset and felt betrayed by his longtime friend, Mr. Felner.

"It is real strange," he said. "We were close friends and professional colleagues, then this happens."

In that interview he denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.

He said he formed the non-profit corporation in 2001 at Mr. Felner's request, and it was to serve as the fiscal agent for educational assessment projects directed by Mr. Felner. Mr. Felner served, at different times during their association, in posts at the
University of Rhode Island and the University of Louisville.

His organization, he said, handled payments for two projects -- one in Atlanta
public schools and another for the Santa Monica, Calif., school district. He placed the value of those contracts at $525,000.

The indictment, however, alleges the work for those projects was conducted by the Rhode Island organization, and that Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Felner diverted payments of $1,005,972 from the Atlanta project, and $375,000 from the Santa Monica project to the accounts of Mr. Schroeder's non-profit for their own use.

The indictment also alleges they concealed payments of $326,000 from a project in
Buffalo, N.Y. Mr. Schroeder made no mention of that project in the interview.

Mr. Schroeder said in 2007 his organization received a contract from the University of Louisville to provide and administer education surveys, funded by a federal grant, in connection with No Child Left Behind.

Mr. Schroeder said he received two payments for work that was to be done as part of that project, one for $200,000 and another for $50,000. Both checks were returned, uncashed, to Mr. Felner at his direction, Mr. Schroeder had said.

The indictment, however, alleges the university received invoices totalling several
hundred thousand dollars for work not performed.

At the time, Mr. Schroeder said, he was receiving $3,000 a month for his work with the organization and was being paid $2,400 a month by the University of Louisville
to serve as Mr. Felner's research assistant.