Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Still on Vacation

Apologies for the absence of posts this week. It's still the holidays at my place, but also, I'm using this time between semesters to write a couple of academic articles....lest I perish. Igot one out the door yesterday and would love to get one more done.

Here's hoping that your time with family has been as satisfying as mine has been. Best wishes for a safe and prosperous new year. Let's get this new (and improved?) decade started...with a new state tax code, perhaps.

Be back soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review Backs New Tool for Principal Evaluation

This from Ed Week:

An examination of how to size up the performance of principals has found that one evaluation method is best suited for judging the effectiveness of school leaders: the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education.

Created in 2006 and just now widely available for districts to purchase, the assessment, called VAL-ED , is the newest of the principal instruments in the review conducted by Matthew Clifford and Christopher Condon, researchers with Learning Point Associates, a nonprofit educational consulting firm based in suburban Chicago. ("Assessment to Rate Principal Leadership to Be Field-Tested," Jan. 16, 2008.)

Mr. Clifford said the impetus for the review was the growing recognition that principals, second only to classroom teachers, affect student learning. Districts need as much information as possible to make high-stakes decisions about whom they hire as principals, how or whether they should invest in their improvement...

The VAL-ED is a multi-rater approach to measuring the effectiveness of school leadership behaviors known to influence teacher performance and student learning. The VAL-ED measures core components and key processes. Core components refer to characteristics of schools that support the learning of students and enhance the ability of teachers to teach.

Key processes refer to how leaders create those core components.

•High Standards for Student Learning—There are individual, team, and school goals for rigorous student academic and social learning.

•Rigorous Curriculum (content)—There is ambitious academic content provided to all students in core academic subjects.

•Quality Instruction (pedagogy)—There are effective instructional practices that maximize student academic and social learning.

•Culture of Learning & Professional Behavior—There are integrated communities of professional practice in the service of student academic and social learning. There is a healthy school environment in which student learning is the central focus.

•Connections to External Communities—There are linkages to family and/or other people and institutions in the community that advance academic and social learning.

•Performance Accountability—Leadership holds itself and others responsible for realizing high standards of performance for student academic and social learning. There is individual and collective responsibility among the professional staff and students.

Key Processes Refer to How Leaders Create Those Core Components

•Planning—Articulate shared direction and coherent policies, practices, and procedures for realizing high standards of student performance.

•Implementing—Engage people, ideas, and resources to put into practice the activities necessary to realize high standards for student performance.

•Supporting—Create enabling conditions; secure and use the financial, political, technological, and human resources necessary to promote academic and social learning.

•Advocating—Promotes the diverse needs of students within and beyond the school.

•Communicating—Develop, utilize, and maintain systems of exchange among members of the school and with its external communities.

•Monitoring—Systematically collect and analyze data to make judgments that guide decisions and actions for continuous improvement.

Harvard Backs Off Media Policy

This from N Y Times:

Harvard Medical School is backing off a new student policy that would have restricted interaction with the news media after students complained it would chill their ability to talk about current issues in medicine, school officials said Tuesday.

“We need to be very careful,” said Dr. Nancy E. Oriol, the dean of students, who helped develop the policy. Promising it would be revised, she said the policy was intended to help students, rather than limit speech or control what they say on controversial topics.

But several students said the policy was an attempt to keep them quiet about issues like medical conflicts of interest...

The statement added Feb. 2, which the administration now says it will revise:

Student Interactions with the Media.
All interactions between students and the media should be coordinated with the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Public Affairs. This applies to situations in which students are contacted by the media as well as instances in which students may be seeking publicity about a student-related project or program.

City Schools’ New Criteria for Diversity Raise Fears

This from the New York Times:

The Chicago public schools’ response to a recent court desegregation ruling — a plan to use students’ social and economic profiles instead of race to achieve classroom diversity — is raising fears that it will undermine the district’s slow and incremental progress on racial diversity.

Chicago schools, like the city itself, are hardly a model of racial integration. But a Chicago News Cooperative analysis of school data shows the district has made modest gains in the magnet, gifted, classical and selective-enrollment schools, where,
for nearly 30 years, race has been used as an admission criterion. Those advances may be imperiled in the wake of court rulings that have prompted Chicago Public Schools to look for factors other than race when assigning students to such schools.

Nationwide, court rulings have prompted school districts to seek creative ways to diversify classrooms without using a student’s race as a factor. In Chicago, school officials last week moved ahead with their own experiment.

Instead of race as an admissions factor, they now will use socioeconomic data from the student’s neighborhood — income, education levels, single-parent households, owner-occupied homes and the use of language other than English as the primary tongue — in placing children in selective-enrollment schools...

Teachers Defying Gravity to Gain Students’ Interest

This from the New York Times, Photo by Damon Winter:

Before showing a video to the 11th and 12th graders in his physics class, Glenn Coutoure, a teacher at Norwalk High School, warned them that his mouth would be hanging open, in childlike wonderment, almost the whole time.

Mr. Coutoure then started the DVD, showing him and other science teachers floating in an airplane during a flight in September. By flying up and down like a giant roller coaster along parabolic paths, the plane simulated the reduced gravity of the Moon and Mars and then weightlessness in 30-second chunks.

The teachers performed a series of experiments and playful stunts, like doing push-ups with others sitting on their backs and catching in their mouths M & M’s that flew in straight lines, that they hoped would help them better explain to their students the laws of motion that Sir Isaac Newton deduced centuries ago.

“You see the ball just hangs there,” Mr. Coutoure said.

“That’s hot,” a student interjected.

The Northrop Grumman Foundation has sent science teachers on these flights of
weightlessness in the last four years to excite teachers and students about science and mathematics...

Conway appeals to U.S. Supreme Court on sex offenders

This from H-L:

Attorney General Jack Conway on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Kentucky Supreme Court on a ruling that would allow some registered
sex offenders to live where they choose, without restrictions.

"Allowing convicted sex offenders to live near schools or daycares is a serious public safety concern," Conway said in a statement. "As a father and as Kentucky's attorney general, I will do everything I can to ensure the safety of children and families across the Commonwealth."

In 2006, the General Assembly prohibited sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool, public playground or licensed daycare.

Op Ed: High School’s Last Test

This from the New York Times:

THE federal government is about to make a huge investment in high school. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress has appropriated more than $100 billion to public schools, including a competitive “Race to the Top” fund that encourages innovation.

But the real revolution, tucked away in the Race to the Top guidelines released by the Department of Education last month, is that high school has a new mission. No longer is it enough just to graduate students, or even prepare them for college. Schools must now show how they increase both college enrollment and the number of students who complete at least a year of college. In other words, high schools must now focus on grade 13.

To be sure, this shift is long overdue. It has been a generation since a high school diploma was a ticket to success. Today, the difference in earning power between a high school graduate and someone who’s finished eighth grade has shrunk to nil. And students themselves know, better even than their parents or teachers, according to a recent poll conducted by Deloitte, that the main mission of high school is preparation for college.

Still, this shift will be seismic for our nation’s high schools, because it will require gathering a great deal of information, and using it....

26,500 schools failed to get mandatory number of kitchen inspections last year

This from the Rural Blog:
The Child Nutrition Act requires school kitchens be inspected at least twice a year, but USA Today reports 18,000 schools only had one inspection last year and 8,500 more didn't have any. The latest report is part of the newspaper's ongoing series on school lunch safety. Data from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the norovirus, whose transmission is linked to improperly handled food, accounted for one-third of the 23,000 food-borne illnesses reported in schools from 1998-2007, Peter Eisler and Blake Morrison report.The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the school lunch program, acknowledges that the two-inspection rule is almost impossible to enforce, USA Today reports. Federal data show that more than half the schools in eight states failed to meet the required two inspections last year.

The Explosion of Charter Schools in America

This from US News and World Report:

Charter schools not part of Ky.'s Race to Top

"Our application will not have any provision for charter schools

in it because we don't think there will be adequate time or support

in the legislature by the deadline we're facing,"

--Terry Holliday

This from Jim Warren at H-L:

Advocates for charter schools had hoped the lure of federal funding might force Kentucky lawmakers to allow the alternative schools in coming months, but state education leaders say they have no plans to push the idea.

Kentucky law doesn't allow charter schools — publicly funded schools that operate outside traditional state regulations — but advocates were banking on Washington's $4.35 billion Race to the Top program to change lawmakers' minds.

President Barack Obama's program offers federal grants to states that can demonstrate efforts to boost student achievement. States with charter schools, which backers contend can boost achievement because they often embrace innovative teaching methods, will have a leg up in the competition for money, Obama has said.

The chance of cashing in has prompted some states to consider allowing charter
schools and others to raise caps on the number of such schools, but Kentucky is not likely to follow suit.

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said last week that Kentucky's application for Race to the Top funds will be filed next month without any provision for charter schools.

That omission could make Kentucky's application less attractive to federal officials. But Holliday says there is simply not enough time to get charter-school approval from the legislature by Jan. 19, the date when Kentucky's application must be filed.
Holliday added that he's not sure there is widespread support for charter schools....

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Am What I Learn

The U.S. Department of Education announced the winners of its “I Am What I Learn” video contest this week: Rene Harris, Alex Hughes and Jordan Lederman.

Harris, 17, is a 12th grader at Oxford Area High School in Oxford, Pa. In her entry, Harris shares her story about overcoming personal setbacks at home. “A lot of young people have negative stuff going on in their lives. I figured by telling my story, I may inspire others to get serious about learning so they can get to where they want to be,” Harris said.

Hughes, 16, is an 11th grader at Southeast Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C. In his entry, Hughes discusses the importance of education in achieving his dream to become a movie director. He explains, “Education is important to me because it will decide how I live my life. I know that if I work hard enough on my education, I will reach my ultimate goal.”

Lederman, 13, is an eighth grader at Pine Lake Middle School in Sammamish, Wash. In her entry, Lederman explains the intersection of education and the thing she loves most -- chickens. Hoping to one day have her own farm of pet chickens, Lederman plans to use her award in three ways: she will save some money for college; she will donate some money to an international organization that purchases hens for poor families; and she will use the rest to take care of her own chickens.

“These students have demonstrated creativity and passion in sharing their personal stories,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “I congratulate each of them for winning this contest, and I wish them the best in continuing to pursue their dreams.”

And these from slightly better known students: Shane Battier...

and Myron Rolle:

Are You a Good Parent?

This from Stephen Colbert:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
How Far Good Parents Will Go
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Big Effort - Not Enough

From Kentucky experience, we accept that
an inadequate system takes time to rebuild,
but the process ought to be expected
to raise measurable student outcomes
to the needed level within a single generation.
--Weston & Sexton

A new paper on Rose and political mobilization in Kentucky from Susan Weston and Bob Sexton just came out.

At first read, it appears the authors argue a Kentucky judiciary that was "both bold and restrained" and that "the system could not be made constitutional without lasting legislative monitoring."

Justice Robert Stephens thought of himself as a judicial activist but he did demonstrate restraint by not exceeding the court's authority according to the separation of powers - a decision that would have later benefitted the plaintiffs in Young v Williams. Stephens struck down Judge Ray Corns' idea of a committee to monitor the legislature for the same reason, but made it clear that it was the General Assembly's responsibility to monitor the continued constitutionality of the system - something the legislature has almost never done very well.

This from Prich:

"Substantial and Yet Not Sufficient" provides an analytic overview of the origins, impact and implications of Kentucky's landmark educational adequacy litigation, Rose v. Council for Better Education. It provides important new material and insights regarding the political mobilization for school reform, legislative action, statewide implementation, and recent fiscal difficulties that have occurred over the past 20 years since the case was decided. The authors make their case that Kentucky's 1989 court ruling and 1990 legislation unquestionably led to substantive improvement for all students in the state. Based on their experience, they also share a set of thoughts about what counts as successful work to build school systems that serve all students well.

Our experience illustrates that a restrained judicial ruling, at least in the context of lasting political mobilization, can yield quite major legislative steps forward.

Money won't come from Santa

...that's the conclusion of Commissioner Terry Holliday after hearing a presentation from Kentucky Chamber President David Adkisson.

This from Dr H's blog:
Corrections Spending in Kentucky
· Spending has seen 44 percent increase since 2000, as compared to 33 percent increase in General Fund.
· It costs $19,000 per year to incarcerate a prisoner and only $9,200 a year to educate a child in P-12.
· Could we not save money on corrections by reducing our dropout rates and investing in early childhood education?

Medicaid Spending in Kentucky
· Medicaid budget is growing twice as fast as the General Fund budget.
· Medicaid enrollment increase is three times the predicted and budgeted amount.
· There will be a significant decrease in federal funding support for Medicaid in FY11.
· Medicaid moved from 6.5 percent of the state budget to the current 13.7 percent.
· Is there not a correlation that better-educated citizenry has better health?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

School News from Around Kentucky

Bus driver’s note to parents sparks concern: A bus driver at Betsy Layne Elementary handed out a letter to students Tuesday during her daily route asking that parents not send her Christmas gifts or cards that has some people in the community scratching their heads.The bus driver, Deanna “DeeDee” Boyd, addressed the letter to the children’s parents.“I appreciate all of your kind thoughts this year but I am making a request that you do not send me Christmas cards or gifts,” Boyd’s letter begins. “I do not celebrate Christmas because I have research (sic) the beginnings of the holiday & it has false teachings & lies associated with it.”Boyd goes on in the letter to specifically outline what she says are “just a few reasons” she doesn’t celebrate Christmas.“I definitely believe in Jesus but He never said to celebrate his birthday nor did he ever celebrate it,” Boyd writes, adding that only two birthdays were celebrated in the Bible. “Someone on each of those birthdays lost their head, one being the very important John the Baptizer. Do you think God was trying to tell us something here?” (Floyd County Times)

Legislators’ foresee drastic measures on budget: Pike County’s legislative team ... spoke of one mind on the state’s budget woes Thursday; that some drastic measures are forthcoming. State representative... Leslie Combs ... opened the session with a strong message on what’s coming. “Everything is on the table, everything; every program, every issue is on the table financially right now,” Combs said. “And we’re going to have to address them all.” At the same time, the legislators also said some things will have to be protected as much as possible. Jones spoke on the importance of education to the future of the area. “Kids in Eastern Kentucky are behind areas in Lexington and Louisville, where they have more progressive schools, really have more money invested in education, where they have better facilities,” he said. “The children in Eastern Kentucky can compete if they’re given an opportunity. We can’t give them that opportunity unless we invest in public education.” Jones said there are only three options left for dealing with the budget: • Substantial, “massive” across-the-board cuts to government agencies, which could even result in layoffs of court personneland teachers; • Expanded gaming, which Jones said he does not support; or • Reform of the state’s “antiquated” tax system, which could include expansion of the sales tax to services currently exempt from the state’s six-percent tax. But government cannot shoulder the burden alone, Jones said, and businesses and individuals will also have to feel the effects of the budget shortfall. (Appalachian News-Express by way of KSBA)

Ex-Logan County HS teacher takes plea: A former Logan County High School teacher pled guilty Tuesday in circuit court to two charges involving improper contact with a student.Don Ricardo Rodgers, of Bowling Green, who taught social studies for nine years at LCHS, pled guilty to use of a minor under 18 in a sexual performance and distribution of obscene material to a minor.In court, Rodgers replied to the charges by saying, “I take responsibility for enticing a minor to send a nude picture of herself to me” and “I sent via computer a nude picture of myself to the victim.” (News Democrat & Leader)

College classes to be offered at Estill County High next semester: Estill High has had students involved in Eastern Kentucky University’s “Jump Start” program for several years. This year that program became “EKU Now” and 39 Estill students are currently participating. “We made phone calls and sent e-mails until we got them to agree to hold classes here,” Principal Blain Click explained. The first class to be offered will be English 102 to students who have completed English 101.There are 14 Estill High students who took English 101 in the fall. It isn’t just for high school students in the “EKU Now” program. People in the community will also be able to attend. (Citizen Voice & Times)

JCPS hiring policy is found to discriminate: Jefferson County Public Schools has been discriminating against potential employees and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring applicants to take a medical exam before making job offers, the state Commission on Human Rights ruled Thursday. But the school system can still require medical exams before someone starts work, as long as they’re done after a job offer is made, according to a release from the commission. The ruling stems from a complaint filed by William Labruyere, who applied to be a bus driver and was not hired because he is a diabetic who is insulin dependent, according to a release from the commission. (C-J)

Corbin schools drafting new, stricter dress code for staff: The Corbin Board of Education is likely to vote sometime early next year on a stricter dress code and appearance policy for teachers and classified staff members - a move to bolster and tighten changes made to school system policies regarding the issue that were approved in September...A new policy would, out of necessity, be more detailed and strict. Assistant Superintendent Darrell Tremaine, who is coordinating the effort, said it would address things like visible cleavage, inappropriate logos, body piercings other than in the ear, bare midriffs, hats, short skirts or attire that is inappropriate for the situation like a math teacher lecturing in gym shorts. "I think what is coming out of this is going to be more of a list of what you can't wear, not what you can," Tremaine said. (News Journal)

Author to appear at rally sparked by editing of school reading list: Washington State author Chris Crutcher, whose book is among several novels involved in a book protest at Montgomery County High School, will appear at a rally in Mount Sterling on Friday night. Crutcher says he will talk about "reading and censorship" at 6:30 p.m. at the Gateway Regional Center for the Arts. The rally is being organized by Montgomery County High students who want Crutcher's book, Deadline, and several other contemporary young adult novels restored to the reading list for literature circles in college prep English classes at the school. Montgomery schools Superintendent Daniel Freeman recently pulled the books from the reading list after some parents complained that they contain objectionable language and themes. (H-L)

Jefferson school board won't appeal adverse ruling on Sheldon Berman evaluation: The Jefferson County school board decided Monday night not to appeal a judge’s ruling that it violated Kentucky’s open-meeting law by conducting Superintendent Sheldon Berman’s evaluation in private. In a 10-page decision, released earlier in the day, Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze wrote that “while it may have been more convenient for the Board and Superintendent to have this discussion held in private,” the reasons provided by the board “do not justify closing the meeting to the general public.” Debbie Wesslund, the chairwoman of the school board, said the board believes it’s time to “move on.” “It’s not that we don’t stand by our decision to conduct the superintendent’s evaluation in private,” she said shortly after the board returned from a 30-minute executive session in which they discussed the matter. “We just feel that it’s time to move on. We will comply with the court’s decision.” (C-J)

Added incentive — Superintendents would be held more accountable under bill: Superintendents and school board members in districts with low-achieving schools could face removal under a proposal approved Thursday by the Kentucky Board of Education as part of the board’s legislative agenda for the 2010 General Assembly. We agree that superintendents should be held more accountable for the performance of schools in their district. Although superintendents typically play only a minor role in the day-to-day operation of individual schools within a district, accountability should begin at the top. Just knowing they could be removed if students in schools in the district are consistently doing poorly on achievement tests could cause superintendents to take a more proactive role in solving academic problems within schools... (Daily Independent)

Cheating the future - Budget cuts coming to Kentucky public schools: Budget-wise, the rubber is about to meet the road and the tire tracks are going to show up on kids and the classroom. Last week, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told the state’s school superintendents to brace themselves for more than $20 million in cuts that have to be made by June 30. The education cuts will make up part of Gov. Steve Beshear’s 6 percent reduction in some state agencies to close a $161 million budget shortfall. The school funding formula and employee health insurance were left off the chopping block in this round. What remains on the list of potential, line-item targets illustrates the range of students and programs that could be impacted: tutoring in Appalachia … dropout prevention … rural literacy … gifted and talented services … technology grants … early reading intervention programs … family resource and service centers … preschool. Each of those areas matters, deeply, to students and parents and schools, as well as to the common good in the commonwealth. Good education floats all boats. (C-J)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jury finds ex-principal not guilty of assault

This from the Herald-Leader:


A former Central Kentucky principal was found not guilty Friday afternoon of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in February. A Nicholas County jury of four men and two women returned the verdict, finding Joseph F. Orazen not guilty of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after about 20 minutes of deliberations.

Orazen had been accused of slamming Dusty Green to the ground outside Nicholas County High School on Feb. 10. The boy had approached Orazen, asking to go inside the school to get his jacket, and was cursing and yelling at the principal, defense attorneys said.

Orazen was terminated from his position at the school, but his lawyers say they are appealing that decision.

Following the verdict, Orazen said he will probably not return to Nicholas County High School, but he would like to continue his career in education.

Orazen said he was relieved to finally be able to tell his story on the stand and to reporters following the verdict. He said he never considered doing anything other than seeing the case played out in court, even if it meant spending a year in jail, which is the maximum time for a misdemeanor. "Because I knew where my heart was," he said....

From the Nation's Cartoonists

This from Slate:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kentucky Races at the Front of the Pack

This from Politics K-12:
With the Race to the Top deadline just around the corner, education policy wonks are already sizing up the competition to figure out who's already in the lead, and who isn't...

...In the lead are the Gates foundation's
original Chosen 15, which were hand-picked for $250,000 each in technical assistance: Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee,
and Texas.

And the losers?
Vegas odds probably aren't favoring these 14 states, which didn't meet the Gates Foundation's litmus test for qualifying for RttT technical assistance: Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Vermont.

After hearing grumbles from state officials, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation opened up its technical assistance planning grants to all states. Twenty-four applied, and 10 won these Gates-funded grants of up to $250,000 each, which were technically awarded by the New Venture Fund, a grant-making middleman of sorts....

Arguments heard in former Nicholas principal's assault trial

Did former Nicholas County Principal Joe Orazen use his knee to break the fall of Dusty Green, thus protecting him? Or did he deliver a threatened bodyslam just out of view of students in the school's lobby (but within view of the school's security camera)?

Was Dusty Green a knife or gun toting terrorist deserving of comparison to Dylan Kliebold? Or was he just a mouthy kid with behavior problems?

Is Joe Orazen a hero or a bully? ...threatened or threatening? ...a hot head or a good guy who lost his cool?

Here's the KSN&C Backstory.

This from the Herald-Leader:

A Central Kentucky high school principal accused of assaulting a student in February restrained the student because he felt threatened, and the principal did not know whether the boy had a knife or gun, his attorneys said Thursday.

Defense attorneys told the jury that Dusty Green, then 15, cursed at Nicholas County High School principal Joseph F. Orazen and refused to leave school property.

Orazen's attorney, David Franklin, said the principal didn't want to let Green back inside the school because he feared there could have been a violent outbreak like at Heath High School in Paducah or Columbine High School in Colorado. Those two schools had tragic shootings in the late 1990s in which students were killed and injured.

Franklin said Orazen was justified in his actions.

If Orazen truly had reason to believe that Green was a potential terrorist, as Orazen's attorney now argues, why was he allowed to sit in in-school suspension all day? Did Orazen sit with him? Was a SWAT team present?
A 17-year-old female student testified that the video was not an accurate portrayal of what happened because it's difficult to see the individuals in the footage. She said Green was "moving a lot" and Orazen was trying to restrain him.

Robert Hopkins, the high school's football coach, said he watched as Orazen took Green to in-school suspension that day. He testified that Green was "very disrespectful" and "mouthy, but not violent."

Orazen's trial continues today. He's still got some 'splainin' to do.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let the sun shine

This from C-J:
...Circuit Judge Irv Maze found the [Jefferson County] board's action to be a “willful” violation of the state's open meetings law. He said the board ignored previous rulings, including a recent finding by the state attorney general that such evaluations must be in the sunshine, except when they might lead to discipline or dismissal.

The judge also said the board came up with its reasons for closing the meeting after making the decision to close it, and ordered them to pay attorney's fees to this newspaper, which filed a complaint with Attorney General Jack Conway after the board's June 29 action. The board took the case to court when Mr. Conway sided with the newspaper. Judge Maze concurred with Mr. Conway.

This is not a case about recovering attorney's fees.

It is a case about doing the people's business, with the people's money, within eyeshot and earshot of the public.

If the newspaper was acting as an agent of the people in its puruit of openness, the board went against its charge as representatives of the people when they took this business behind closed doors.

Closed doors suggest there is something to hide.

Closed doors are antithetical to democracy.

There should be no move by the legislature to try to close these doors even a little, or to add limiting asterisks to the law, no matter how “convenient,” in the word of Judge Maze, that might seem to be to government officials....

Mother of stabbing victim sues principal, teacher

This from the Richmond Register:
The mother of a Madison Central High School student who was stabbed in the chest earlier this year has filed a lawsuit against the school’s principal, a teacher and an aide.

Jaime Caldwell filed the suit Dec. 10 on behalf of her son, Stevie Christopher Caldwell, 17, who was hospitalized at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington following the Oct. 8 incident. Caldwell was stabbed in the chest with a knife in the school’s culinary arts laboratory during an altercation, police and school officials said after the incident. His assailant, also a 17-year-old student at the school, is identified in the suit by the initials J.H. and not by name.

The lawsuit names Central principal Gina Lakes, teacher Patti Etherington and teacher’s aide Rose Mansfield as defendants. All three are being sued as individuals and in their official capacities as school employees.

The suit alleges that the defendants were deficient in their responsibility to enforce school policies regarding students having knives and that they were negligent in upervising the students when the stabbing took place....

Quick Hits

Is cursive writing still a valuable skill for students?: With an increased emphasis on digital writing and more of today's schoolwork done on computers, educators in a number of Michigan districts say they are debating the value of teaching cursive writing, especially more complex lettering. It has prompted some to switch to a simplified version that students practice as they complete assignments for other subjects. "I do not believe we will abandon the teaching of handwriting, but I don't believe it will go back to the place it had in the curriculum ... when we were in school," one school official said. (Detroit Free Press)

Arizona struggles to retain quality educators: Arizona education leaders say that increased pressure on teachers and larger class sizes are among the reasons they struggle to retain quality teachers, particularly those who are new to the profession. "I saw how many people were losing their jobs, how many cuts were being made, and it was not a climate I wanted to return to," said one teacher who left the profession. A National Council on Teacher Quality report gave Arizona a grade of D+ for its efforts to retain effective teachers. (The Arizona Republic)

Teacher uses bridge to help students improve reasoning skills: A teacher at a Kansas City, Mo., school is using the card game bridge to enhance knowledge and teamwork among gifted fourth-graders. Teacher Rosemary Brown said the game -- in which two pairs of players compete, each pair working as a team to deduce which cards the other team is holding -- helps students develop math and deductive-reasoning skills. Youth bridge groups say the game has been growing in popularity among students, with high-profile billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates sponsoring a school-based bridge league. (The Kansas City Star)

Groups file suit against N.Y. governor over withheld funds: A group of teachers, administrators and advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday against New York Gov. David Paterson, questioning his authority to hold back 10% of pending state aid to New York schools. Paterson has said the decision was necessary because the state is facing a statewide budget deficit of $3.2 billion. (WNBC-TV)

Dropout-prevention program is gaining traction in schools: A new dropout-prevention program is encouraging students to complete their education in a growing number of schools across the country. Diplomas Now has an early-warning system that tracks attendance, behavior and grades to identify students at risk for dropping out, and it combines that with social-service supports such as homework help and counseling to keep students in school. Diplomas Now schools are restructured to help students receive more attention from adults and teachers, who also receive professional development under the program. (Education Week)

Reward teachers based on student improvement, Duncan says: Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview that he supports rewarding teachers who improve student achievement from one year to the next, and that schools and teachers should learn from those who have improved student progress. Duncan also offered tips for improving high-school student achievement, saying the material should be rigorous, students should have adult mentors and they must understand the importance of what they are learning. (U.S. News & World Report)

New York launches financial-management video game for students: A free video game to help students develop money-management skills has been released by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "Financial Football" is played in groups, with teams of students advancing down the field with correct answers to questions about balancing checkbooks and investing in retirement accounts. The game is meant to promote students' interest "in personal finances and give them a financial playbook they can use for the rest of their lives," DiNapoli said. (Google)

Arizona considers new method for measuring school performance: Education officials in Arizona are considering a plan to change the way they measure the success of a school, switching from a system that looks at the year-to-year test-score gains of a whole school. Instead, the year-to-year improvement of individuals' scores would be measured -- a "value-added" tactic that some say better measures academic growth. The new system -- which could also be used to determine teacher pay and retention -- will be tested in 2010 alongside the existing system. (The Arizona Republic)

Struggling Miami school to debut college-style curriculum: Officials hope a new curriculum with a college feel will draw goal-oriented students to a Miami high school that has long been plagued with low test scores and discipline problems. Under the leadership of the school's provost, new faculty have been recruited to offer students at Miami Edison Senior High School their choice of four college-style academies, specializing in public affairs, international studies, the arts or an honors program. (The Miami Herald)

Debate students use persuasive speaking to save speech classes: Students at an Arizona high school used their persuasive-speaking skills to convince school board members to not cut their speech-and-debate classes from the curriculum. After more than two hours of presentations by students, teachers and parents, board members agreed to keep the classes, asking educators to promote the course to more students. The classes were among 22 on the chopping block because of low enrollment. (East Valley Tribune)

Experts predict top trends in 2010 school technology: Technology that tracks student progress and helps teachers develop more individualized curricula will be among the top five trends in school technology for 2010, experts predict. Other trends to watch are the use of personal devices like iPods and smart phones -- often banned from the classroom -- by a growing number of teachers to enhance lessons. Digital eBooks also make the list, with experts predicting a growth in their use in K-12 classrooms. (T.H.E. Journal)

After-school instruction boosts achievement at L.A.-area school: Educators at a California elementary school are crediting after-school programming and added instructional time with impressive student achievement. The school's teachers volunteer their time after the regular school day to lead about half the school's students in instruction and supervise homework. "Until 6 o'clock at night, you would think we're still in session," the school's principal said. "Seeing the campus so alive like that, and seeing the parents and students so excited, just makes me and all the teachers want to work harder." (Los Angeles Times)

Digital divide can make completing assignments complicated for students: While the digital divide has narrowed among students nationwide, the use of technology in learning is still difficult for students who do not have access to the Internet at home. Students without home computers work to complete assignments during limited hours at school computer labs or travel to public libraries, where they struggle to complete their work during timed sessions. At one Virginia school, administrators have instituted a special study period during the school day to provide computer time for students who cannot come in early or stay late. (The Washington Post)

Stumbo says he’s open to tax reform

On the heel sof his recent stinko idea...Greg Stumbo has now found a good idea to latch onto.

This from Bluegrass Politics:
A key lawmaker told members of the state House Tuesday that spending on schools, prisons and Medicaid likely will get chopped in the upcoming two-year state budget.

Those bedrock functions of government, which account for about two thirds of state General Fund spending, have been largely off-limits during five previous rounds of budget cuts since Gov. Steve Beshear took office in 2007.

After the pronouncement by House budget committee chairman Rick Rand, which came during a three-hour informational meeting for House members, House
Speaker Greg Stumbo said he is “not afraid” to consider tax reform to keep the state from making crippling cuts in education and human services.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he believes the public and state lawmakers might embrace an overhaul of the state’s tax system to avoid huge cuts in education and human services.

Told by a reporter that Beshear and many legislators don’t seem to have an appetite for tax increases, Stumbo responded: “I don’t have an appetite to turn my back on the needs of our state.”...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ex-coach says he's not at fault in PRP athlete's death

This from Toni Konz at C-J, photo by Pam Spaulding:
In his first sworn testimony about the Aug. 20, 2008, football practice in which 15-year-old Pleasure Ridge Park High School player Max Gilpin collapsed, former Coach Jason Stinson said he did nothing wrong and would not have done anything differently that day.

In a sworn deposition taken last month in a lawsuit that Max’s parents filed against him, Stinson also testified that he did not see Max collapse and did not realize anything was wrong with the player until the end of practice, after another coach had called 911.

“As we cleared the field … and we locked the shed and locked the gate, I saw folks” on a motorized cart, Stinson said. “I didn’t know it was Max up until the point I walked up. And at that point I went directly to him and stood behind Coach (Craig) Webb and observed what was going on. Coach (Steve) Deacon was on the phone and I had asked him if he had called 911 and he had said yes.” ...

Unlike the criminal trial, in which prosecutors had to prove Stinson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, lawyers for Max's parents only have to show that it is more likely than not that Stinson and his co-defendants — other coaches and PRP officials — were negligent, thus causing Max's death....

School News from Around Kentucky

State revenue up for 1st time in 11 months: Bucking an 11-month trend, state revenue was up in November from the previous year, but Kentucky's top budget official warned Thursday that the state is not out of its fiscal free-fall. General Fund receipts were up 2.4 percent in November compared to the previous November. Revenue was $722.3 million compared to $705.2 million for November 2008. This is the first time in 11 months that the state's revenue grew from the previous year. However, State Budget Director Mary Lassiter warned that November's uptick in receipts might be an anomaly and not necessarily a signal that the state's cash crunch is over. (Herald-Leader)

Buses collide on Chancey Elementary field trip: Two school buses collided Thursday afternoon outside the Kentucky Center, causing minor injuries to about a dozen Chancey Elementary third-graders. The children were boarding a bus outside the center on Main Street about 1:45 when it was rear-ended by another bus, according to Dr. Neal Richmond, CEO of Louisville Metro EMS. (Courier-Journal)

State begins work on new education assessment plan: The state board of education voted Wednesday to move forward with the assessments, which would be given to students after they complete courses in math, language arts, science and social studies. (C-J)

Ineligible player costs Dunbar wins: Paul Laurence Dunbar's boys' basketball team forfeited its 13 wins for the 2008-09 season after a Fayette County Public Schools investigation found earlier this year that the school violated policy by playing an eighth-grader who did not live in Dunbar's district. (H-L)

Is Education News Falling Off Front Pages?: Billions in federal economic-stimulus dollars are slated to be spent to help improve public education, but Americans relying on traditional news outlets are likely to find out little, if anything, about what that effort might mean for the schools in their communities, a new report suggests. That’s because education coverage of any type barely registered in newspapers and on news Web sites, on television news broadcasts, or on the radio airwaves in the first nine months of this year, according to the report, released here this week by the Brookings Institution. (Ed Week by way of KSBA)

2010 General Assembly - tough to find money but other opportunities may exist: Kentucky superintendents again heard Wednesday that the outlook for state funding for schools is grim for the 2010 legislative session. But those attending the closing session of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents’ winter conference in Louisville also were told that the lack of budget options may open doors on other education legislation...Wayne Young, who doubles as lobbyist and executive director for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, added, “I think this session is going to be the greatest opportunity to affect school leadership issues, perhaps since 1990,” referring to passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act and its related selection of principals by school councils composed of teachers and parents rather than by superintendents. (KSBA)

Supts Decry No Ed Cut Lie: “Everywhere I go, I keep hearing, ‘Well, we’re not going to be able to spare education anymore. We’re going to have to take a cut,’” said Shelton, superintendent of Daviess County Schools. “I don’t know about you, but we haven’t been spared yet; in my district, we’ve been being cut for years. “It began with a trailing off of the percentage of the state budget for education. Then transportation funding was cut from 100 percent down to now averaging 67 percent,” he said. “We have got to get people to acknowledge that we have been cut. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have been cut. But we can’t keep saying that (school funding) hasn’t been cut. (KSBA)

Budget cuts could halt Ky. preschool programs: Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday announced last week that the department of education would be cutting an additional $20 million from its budget for this fiscal year, but final decisions about what those cuts will affect won’t be made until January...The speculation about the cuts primarily centered on preschool. Jessamine Superintendent Lu Young said Holliday had told her that Kentucky preschools and family resource centers would be “on the chopping block for the first time.” But Young said people have been “coming out of the woodwork” against cutting preschool and that research has shown the economic benefit of preschool education. (Jessamine Journal)

Kentucky 6th in serving breakfast in schools: About 6 percent more students in Christian County Public Schools are taking advantage of its breakfast program this year, helping Kentucky become one of the best in the nation at providing children with an early morning meal.
A report released Monday by the Food Research and Action Center found Kentucky served breakfast to nearly 57 percent of students involved in the free and reduced lunch program for the 2008-09 school year, ranking it sixth in the nation. Participation slipped half a percent from the year before. (Kentucky New Era by way of KSBA)

Kenton County’s Tim Hanner chosen Kentucky 2010 Superintendent of the Year: A leader also known “as a learner and a passionate visionary” is Kentucky’s 2010 Superintendent of the Year. Kenton County Schools Superintendent Tim Hanner’s selection was announced Tuesday morning in Louisville at the winter conference of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents. (KSBA)

Final Installment of Rose at 20

Justin has posted the final video from Rose at 20 over at EdJurist.

It features chats from Craig Wood of the University of Florida, William Thro of Christopher Newport University, and William Koski of Stanford University Law School and the moderator of the symposium Kern Alexander, a consultant to the Council for Better Education and a major player in the case.

Rose at 20: Kentucky Law Journal Symposium from UK College of Education on Vimeo.

Thanks again to Justin Bathon and the Education Law Association along with the folks at UK Education and Law for a great program on an important toppic.

Almost One Hell of an Idea

But Rollin's Bill Needs Tweaking

Word has been rattling down the pipeline about Rollins' bill for a while now. I hear that this measure has lots of support from legislators who apparently want to spank the research 1 institutions (UK & UofL) for their reluctance to grant credit to incoming students from Kentucky schools with associates degrees.

The general idea of transferability is not the problem, given the fact that most schools work very closely with incoming students to assure that proper course credit is given. The bill calls for CPE and KCTCS to specify the general education student learning outcomes, program specific prerequisite credit hours, and comparable course titles which shall be accepted for transfer and fully credited within bachelors degree programs. However, there are a couple of sections in the bill that are potentially problematic: Section 2, sub (h) and (i).

2 (h) requires that universities "Guarantee that upon admission to a public university, graduates of an associate of arts or an associate of science degree program approved by the council shall be deemed to have met all general education and program specific course prerequisites and be granted admission to related upper division degree programs of a public university on the same criteria as those students earning lower division credits at the university to which the student transferred.;

For future teachers, this suggests that a student could get an associate’s degree at a KCTCS school without taking any education courses; transfer to a university; and be automatically admitted to the teacher education program, without
  • Introductory Educational Foundations coursework and the attendant 20 hours of field work;
  • meeting ACT requirements for program admission
  • meeting GPA requirements
  • meeting requirements for a criminal background check, ethics declaration, judicial review
  • meeting the requirement for a establishment of a portfolio
  • and receiving feedback from a portfolio review
  • recommendations/disposition review
  • and possibly, Math, Writing and Computer prerequisites.

2 (i) further stipulates that such students “shall not be required to repeat or to take any additional lower-level courses to fulfill bachelors degree requirements in the same major;”

Limited to general studies, the proposed transferability policy change is probably a good idea. It should cause universities to better coordinate and KCTCS to assure proper course rigor. But waiving prerequisites and admission requirements is an act against rigor and quality.

This bill needs to be fixed.

This from the Herald-Leader:
Plan to aid community college transfers

Goal is to eliminate
lost credits at universities

Often, Kentucky community college students who move to four-year universities are frustrated to learn that upon transferring, some core degree requirements they had completed have changed.

The result: wasted credit hours and money, which negates the community college strategy of knocking out basic classes at a lower tuition rate before taking advanced classes at a larger university.

Lawmakers have long chastised college and university leaders for not working together to make it easier for students to transfer seamlessly. Now, a united front of higher-education leaders and lawmakers will push legislation to smooth out many of those bumps in the 2010 General Assembly, which begins Jan. 5.

"It requires that there be a clearly defined path from the community college through the four-year public universities so you don't lose credits," said Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, who plans to file a first draft of that bill in advance of the session.

The proposal guarantees that students who pick a major soon after starting community college can finish an associate's degree that fulfills the required general-education classes at Kentucky's eight public universities, Rollins said...

Here's the preliminary text of the bill, which had not yet been prefiled when I looked last week:


Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:


(1) Beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year for first time students, no bachelor degree program requirement shall exceed one hundred and twenty (120) credit hours and no associate of arts or associate of science degree program shall exceed sixty (60) credit hours. The Council on Postsecondary Education may approve exceptions to the requirements of this subsection for specialized programs that must comply with specific program standards established by external accreditation bodies.

(2) The Council on Postsecondary Education in collaboration with KCTCS and the public universities shall:

(a) Facilitate the development and implementation of a statewide agreement for alignment of KCTCS lower division coursework that shall be accepted and fully credited to related bachelors degree programs by all public universities. The agreement shall specify the general education student learning outcomes, program specific prerequisite credit hours, and comparable course titles which shall be accepted for transfer and fully credited within bachelors degree programs. The agreement shall direct that courses specified within the agreement shall be accepted for transfer and degree credit whether earned as individual courses, or within block programs, or associate degree programs;

(b) Develop, implement, and maintain a KCTCS statewide course numbering system for lower-division general education and program specific prerequisite courses that include the same student learning outcomes;

(c) Develop, implement, and maintain a statewide common classification system based upon common general education learning outcome areas for the 30 credit hour general education core for KCTCS and the public universities so that the transfer and articulation of equivalent courses or specified learning modules or units completed by students are not inhibited by inconsistent
judgment about the application of transfer credits. Coursework completed within such a system at one public postsecondary institution and transferred to another public postsecondary institution shall be applied to the student’s degree requirements in the same manner as equivalent coursework completed at the receiving institution;

(d) Establish procedures under a statewide common classification system to monitor the transfer and crediting of lower-division coursework, including a system of ongoing assessment of that coursework in terms of level, content, quality, comparability, and degree program relevance;

(e) Standardize credit-by-exam equivalencies and common passing scores for general education credit-by-exam courses and program specific prerequisites credit-by-exam courses;

(f) Develop policies to align statewide articulation and transfer procedures across educational institutions, including admissions criteria, student declaration of major, and student guidance and counseling policies designed to ensure that students pursuing an associate of arts or associate of sciences degree program provide timely notification of their intention to transfer to a public university;

(g) Develop uniform data collection and reporting methods to facilitate and ensure statewide and institutional compliance with course transfer and credit requirements;

(h) Guarantee that upon admission to a public university, graduates of an associate of arts or an associate of science degree program approved by the council shall be deemed to have met all general education and program specific course prerequisites and be granted admission to related upper division degree programs of a public university on the same criteria as those students earning lower division credits at the university to which the student transferred.;

(i) Provide that graduates of approved associate of arts and associate of sciences degree programs who transfer to a bachelors degree program shall not be required to repeat or to take any additional lower-level courses to fulfill bachelors degree requirements in the same major;

(j) Provide that graduates of approved associate of arts or associate of science degree programs shall receive priority for admission to a public university over out-of-state students if they met the same admission criteria;

(k) Establish a common college transcript to be used in KCTCS and all public universities;

(l) Encourage private colleges and universities to collaborate with public educational institutions in developing programs and agreement to expedite the transfer of students and credits between institutions; and (m) Establish an appeals process to resolve disagreements between transferring students and receiving educational institutions regarding the transfer and acceptance of credits earned at another institution.

(3) The Council on Postsecondary Education shall ensure that all articulation and transfer policies are compliant with the rules and regulations established by all appropriate institutional accrediting agencies as recognized by the United States Department of Education.

(4) [Awaiting CAO feedback]. When a public university changes the learning outcomes within any course or program identified as a transfer equivalent, the state public university must communicate the change to KCTCS within a reasonable amount of time and either identify other KCTCS course equivalencies that will satisfy the new learning outcomes or collaborate with KCTCS to develop curriculum that ensures equivalent learning outcomes and thus transferability. Transferability must be resolved before the change is implemented. If disputes arise between public postsecondary institutions due to course and program revisions, the Council is empowered to appoint a committee, chaired by the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the Council, and comprised of distinguished faculty, with equal representation from KCTCS and the public universities, to resolve the dispute through evidence-based alignment of learning outcomes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Changing the Story in Jefferson County

Doncha hate it when circumstances force you to choose who to believe? ...when new information causes you to reassess what you thought? Such is the case in Jefferson County.

In November, I fired a volley at Jefferson County Board of Education Chairwoman Debbie Wesslund for her "lame excuse." Wesslund had said she believed the school district did nothing wrong in closing Berman's evaluation to the public because disciplinary action was at least possible during the session. The Attorney Genearl disagreed. My position was that such possibilities - absent specific actions -ought not qualify as exceptions to the Open Meetings law.

It now appears that her concerns might not have been based so much on "possibility" as "probability." One of the members, Larry Hujo, says he was upset about Berman's handling of a threatening situation at Wilt Elementary and had to be talked down. And if that is the case, and Wesslund suspected it, should have said so, and then gone into closed session. The public had a right to know.

Then there's Berman's assertion that his evaluation was all jonquils and daisies.

This from the Courier-Journal:
Affidavit shows school board member
sought to punish Berman

At least one Jefferson County school board member broached the subject of reprimanding or terminating Superintendent Sheldon Berman during his closed-door evaluation last summer, but Larry Hujo said he was later talked out of pursuing any action by other board members.

In an affidavit filed in the board’s appeal of a state Attorney General’s opinion that it violated Kentucky’s open-meetings law by conducting Berman’s evaluation behind closed doors, Hujo said he “had serious concerns about Dr. Berman’s performance” and “made inquiries about procedures for implementing certain disciplinary actions against Dr. Berman, including issuing a reprimand and/or terminating his contract.”

Hujo was the only one of the seven board members to call for such drastic action, according to six affidavits filed in the case. In fact, Hujo said in a telephone interview Thursday, other board members and Berman later expressed in the closed-door meeting that they thought Hujo’s sentiments were too strong.

“I asked what it would take to terminate his contract. I was upset,” Hujo said. “I was the only board member that had an issue.…”

Following that meeting Berman proclaimed how positive the experience was. He told C-J he felt his evaluation was “a positive review” and Wesslund said that the board “did not discipline (Berman) on any specific issues,” but rather “pointed out areas of improvement.” Hujo told C-J he wanted his concerns included in Berman’s evaluation, but other board members did not agree.

In a hearing before Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Irv Maze Thursday, lawyers for the Jefferson County Teachers Association and several other local school boards and state education organizations spoke in support of the Jefferson County school board’s appeal. They argued, in part, that "requiring superintendent evaluations be done in public would have a chilling effect on openness and accountability" because school boards would be reluctant to express criticisms of their superintendents.

With their handing of the situation at Wilt Elementary, the investigation of the principal's handling of the Pleasure Ridge Park High School situation and Berman's obfuscation of the facts surrounding his travels, it's hard to see the openness Jefferson County is worried the Attorney General's ruling might chill.

Commish Declares a New Direction

Following this week's meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education, Commissioner Terry Holliday declared a new direction for education in Kentucky on his blog. He touches on Senate Bill 1, common standards, and a new interim calculation of Kentucky's graduation rate.

This from Dr H's Blog:

A New Direction for the

Kentucky Board of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education meeting this week signaled a new direction for the board’s meetings. The agenda items at the meeting were a comprehensive set of strategies that will eventually lead to regulatory and possibly statutory changes to implement Senate Bill 1.

The board acted on major recommendations from a recent Office of Education Accountability study of mathematics programs in schools in the Commonwealth. A key requirement will be common course codes for core subjects. This is related to Senate Bill 1, since the Common Core Standards (an initiative of the Council of
Chief State School Officer
s and the National Governors Association) will drive the need to have common course codes at the high school level...

Another key strategy is changing the definition for measuring high school graduation rates. The board approved regulatory changes that will allow use of a more standard graduation rate, which allows districts to disaggregate rates by ethnicity and gender. Kentucky will not be able to implement the national graduation rate, called a cohort graduation rate, which follows individual students from the 9th grade to graduation, until 2013-14; however, until that time, we must focus on preparing ALL children to graduate with the skills needed for college and career...

State education board to seek authority to remove school officials in low-performing districts

This from Jim Warren at the Herald-Leader:
The Kentucky Department of Education plans to seek several measures in the upcoming legislative session to boost low-achieving schools, including possibly removing superintendents or school board members in those school districts.

Kentucky law already allows the state education commissioner to seek the removal of local school officials for such things as misconduct, incompetency or wilful neglect of duty. Now, the education department proposes to add chronic low student academic performance to the list of causes for removal.

The idea was neither new nor unanimous. In fact, the same conversation took place last year, almost to the day.

At issue is whether the commissioner should be allowed to dismiss a school superintendent whose district test scores do not measure up.

Superintendents generally oppose the measure, arguing that it is unfair to hold superintendents responsible for student achievement in the schools because they do not directly control enough of the variables for that to be fair - specifically, even though they recommend a pool of candidates, they are not empowered under KERA to hire their principals.

At present, if a principal fails to perform (as measured by student achievement data or for any other reason) the superintendent has the authority to demote him or her immediately - without any guarantee that the principal would be given, say, three years to raise scores, which some consider typical. Principals have argued privately, to no avail, that it is unfair to demote them since they do not control enough of the variables.

Teachers lose their jobs with even greater frequency than principals or superintendents - while arguing that family background factors frequently trump their ability to get all of their students to perform at high levels.

It's not a fair system, but so far, only superintendents seem to be exempt from personal responsibility.

According to EPSB records, 288 disciplinary cases were initiated in calendar year 2008, and 257 character and fitness cases were opened for the EPSB’s review. As of June 30, 2009, 131 disciplinary cases, and 131 character and fitness cases have been opened for the current calendar year. When a case is initiated against an educator, the educator is given 30 days to submit a rebuttal, and then the case is prepared for review by the Board.

The EPSB reviewed 288 disciplinary cases during 2008. The EPSB dismissed 51 cases (18%), voted to hear 116 cases (40%), and deferred 44 cases (15%) for training or more information. The EPSB chose to admonish 77 educators (27%).

237 applications were presented to the EPSB in 2008 for character and fitness review. The EPSB approved 220 of those applications, denied 7 applications, and deferred 10.

In 2008, the EPSB revoked 16 certificates and suspended 30 certificates. 105 cases were resolved by agreed orders, and the EPSB issued 2 final orders: 1 order revoking a certificate for 5 years and 1 order admonishing an educator.

Individuals whose certificates are revoked or suspended continue to submit their certificates to the EPSB. Any certificate subsequently issued to anyone whose certificate was previously revoked or suspended now includes “Revoked” or “Suspended” and the relevant timeframe on the face of the certificate. This assists district authorities in making well-informed hiring decisions.

Dorie Combs, a state board member from Richmond, said she supported the idea of providing accountability, but argued that the removal proposal would not help to accomplish that. Combs then moved to have the removal language dropped from the board's legislative agenda.

Other board members objected, however, with board chairman Joe Brothers arguing that accountability is part of being a leader and that the future of Kentucky schools is the state board's responsibility.

Combs' motion died on a voice vote.

Since last year, the Obama Administration has ramped up pressure on states to turn around chronically low-performing schools and school districts. At the same time, it is pushing for a (still imperfect, but more fair) value-added longitudinal assessment system that would attempt to account for much of the student variability by establishing baseline data on every individual student, then, tracking that data throughout the student's career. The target date for such a system is 2011-2012, but the board's legislative proposal will go forward this spring, absent the new system.

The board's recommendation would change the language of KRS 156.132 to give the education commissioner authority to remove a school superintendent or school board member. Last year the language of the board's action called for removal after six years of repeated poor academic performance. This year's proposal does not state a time frame.

It's not really fair. But it is equally unfair.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quick Hits

"Value-added" systems used to measure student progress: More educators are talking about "value-added" teacher-evaluation systems that measure individual student progress on standardized tests from year to year instead of comparing raw test results from other students and schools. The system -- praised by the Obama administration -- also has been used as a gauge of effective teaching. However, teachers unions have resisted such evaluation systems, saying that student progress and teacher effectiveness cannot be measured by standardized tests. (Los Angeles Times)

Research shows brain connections improve with reading practice: Students who practice reading can strengthen their brains -- especially the white-matter connections essential to learning, according to research by scientists at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Researchers scanned students' brains, then enrolled struggling readers in an intensive reading program. Researchers again scanned students' brains, this time after 100 hours of reading practice, and found the training improved "not just their reading ability, but the tissues in their brain." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Quality exams strike right balance, ensure quality: The No Child Left Behind act has led to an increased focus on standardized testing, making it important to ensure the quality of tests and a balance of the types of tests used, according to Stephen Chappuis, Jan Chappuis and Rick Stiggins, who work with the ETS Assessment Training Institute in Oregon. They write that quality assessments have a purpose, understandable learning targets, good design, clear results and allow for student involvement. Assessment balance, they assert, is achieved by assessing learning with a range of testing methods. (Educational Leadership)

Officials consider future testing under common standards: The Department of Education recently sought input from testing experts and members of the public as it decides what state testing will look like under common standards and how tests might best include English-language learners and students in special education. Officials traveled to Boston, Atlanta and Denver to gather advice as they design guidelines for the Obama administration's next competition for education stimulus funds, which will help pay for developing the tests. (Education Week)

Research: Schools perform better with experienced principals: New research shows that principals have the most impact on students in economically disadvantaged schools, and the most effective principals are skilled at recognizing and retaining the strongest teachers. According to a series of papers on the role that principals play in the success of schools, a principal's experience is a contributing factor to a school's success. "Our clearest finding is that schools perform better when they are led by experienced principals," one research paper states.(Education Week)

The best testing method is one that measures instruction: Researcher and writer Gerald Bracey has examined and compared three national and international testing programs to determine how they should be used by educators, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is used to measure progress under No Child Left Behind. Bracey argues that the NAEP is a poor accountability tool and that a better student assessment is a model used in Nebraska called the School-based Teacher-led Assessment and Reporting System -- measuring instruction rather than forcing instruction to meet the measurement. (Educational Leadership)

Study - More states require exit exams for graduation: High-school exit exams are carrying more weight, with 26 states requiring students to pass the tests to graduate, and 24 using them as a measure of achievement under No Child Left Behind. A study by the Center on Education Policy found increases in the number of states making the exams a graduation requirement and in the number of students passing the exams. (Education Week)

Duncan - State tests "setting the bar too low" for students: The Department of Education says some states have lowered testing standards, leading to suspicions about whether benchmarks have been lowered to meet No Child Left Behind and whether states have made as much progress as they have claimed. Education Secretary Arne Duncan accused states of "setting the bar too low," and he called for testing to accurately measure college readiness and academic performance. (The Wall Street Journal)

Schools struggle to sustain one-year gains in test scores: Studies show that many low-performing schools that make significant one-year gains in test scores struggle to build on their successes. Seven schools in Washington, D.C., posted academic gains in reading and math of 20 percentage points or more in 2008, but just one improved achievement in 2009. While changes in school leadership and policy can make it difficult for schools to sustain progress, smaller schools with smaller sample sizes may be subject to substantial swings in scores. (The Washington Post)

Detroit teachers are being asked to loan money to the district: Detroit education officials have proposed a plan to borrow $10,000 from each district teacher over the next two years to save the school system $25.4 million and help prevent the district from going bankrupt. The district faces a $219 million budget gap. Under the proposed wage-deferment plan, teachers would be paid back -- without interest -- upon their departure from the district. Teachers are expected to vote in the next two weeks on the plan, which is part of a new three-year contract. (Detroit Free Press)