Saturday, January 31, 2009

UofL Committee Raises Questions about Shared Governance

A faculty committee report submitted to President James Ramsey by, and with the full concurrance of Provost Shirley Willihnganz, calls into question the university's adherence to, and consistency in, enforcing its own policies.
"while the central administration typically abides by the principles of collegial governance by consulting in a timely fashion with the leadership of the faculty, staff, and student senates on policies that affect those groups across units of the university, the events in the CEHD have raised some concerns about how consistently the rules of shared governance are followed within units."
Citing insufficient orientation, training and evaluation of unit administrators, the committee states,

"In particular, it appears that accountability for adherence to established principles of collegial governance may be weaker at the level of unit administration than any other level of administration."

The balance of the report contains a set of recommendations that the university follow its own polcies and the establish a new University Ombudsperson to mediate problems.

The committee did not set out to uncover infractions at the university, and it didn't. Rather, it offered a set of recommendations for "looking forward."

Find a copy of the report at PageOne Kentucky.

Poor Little Think Tank

When he's not muscling the government bureaucracy for being bad for us, or extolling the virtues of a free-market idealism that made the American economy what it is today, it turns out that the Bluegrass Institute’s David Adams has a softer side.

Writing at Kentucky Progress, Adams seemed to be sad about a lone anonymous commenter on the new PrichBlog. "Anonymous" hoped that the new Prichard Committee blog would be “a welcome alternative to the Bluegrass Institute.”

Obviously hurt by this, Adams took the single comment and exprapolated a conspiracy theory claiming,
protectors of the status quo have, instead of making a case for the efficacy of their programs, made a habit of taking potshots at The Bluegrass Institute and anyone else who dares to threaten their base of power.
Poor Bluegrass institute. I had no idea it was so tough being in a think tank.

Adams apparently thought he would open a meaningful conversation with the Prichard folks. As is his wont and right, he started with a little name-calling,
The Bluegrass Institute has tried for years to engage KDE sychophants like Prichard Committee in a meaningful debate.
Sychophants?! Adams followed by describing the Prichard Committee as
“the chief protector of failed bureaucratic education policies that have held Kentucky back for decades.”
One wonders how the conversation with the Prichard Committee is working out.

Adams defends his name-calling with this:

I consider calling someone who uses my own money against me a name or two well within my rights as a taxpayer.
The problem is the Prichard Committee is not a government agency. They don't spend anybody's tax dollars. ...for or against anyone. And if the taxpayer bill of rights includes a name-calling provision, I missed it.

So I fear Adams may have hampered his own effort to engage the Prichard Committee in meaningful debate by choosing an opening gambit that was both disrespectful and off-the-mark; regrettably, an increasingly disappointing Bluegrass Institute trait.

I remain confounded by the Bluegrass Institute's apparent lack of concern over its own credibility. But as David puts it,

I'm not too concerned about my credibility with those who refuse to hear well-documented complaints about the KDE.

In fact, some of BIPPS's complaints are better documented than others. And some of BIPPS's arguments are known to be exaggerations, but remain unacknowledged by BIPPS - further undermining its cerdibility.

Adams's persistent loyalty to BIPPS's principles is unflinching no matter the documentation, or lack thereof. He serves the BIPPS leadership, apparently takes his cues from other BIPPS analysts and, promotes them and their ideas; and has, by that means, advanced personally. I don’t believe I’d be calling anyone a sycophant if I were him.

But the blogosphere would be less fun without Adams's occasionally prescient insights. Take this one for example:

No one in Kentucky is going to freeze to death living indoors this winter. We are going to have to get past the point of these feel-good appropriations should times really get
hard in America.
Oh wait. That wasn't prescient at all, was it?

But it was surely a public service when Adams offered advice to the non-rich on how to be poor while facing problems of college affordability.

And he does produce funny headlines from time to time.

By contrast, BIPPS education analyst Richard Innes reached out the left hand of welcome to Prichard by pimping one of his own blog posts, and inferring that Prichard had arrived late to the party.

Then on January 21, 2009 4:14 PM he wrote the funniest thing of all.

“Note that I linked back to the Prichard Blog, as we really do want to engage in productive conversation.”

What some think of as following copyright law, Innes offers as an olive branch.

I predict that the Prichard Committee will tire of the BIPPS good-cop/bad-cop routine fairly quickly.

Icy News

Holy shmoly ! We're at least three days behind. All this absence of power is tough on us techno-junkies.

So, this blog post is brought to you by Husky Generators, the finest in temporary power since... somewhere around 7 last night.

School districts want make-up days waived: Hit with nine missed days of school from this week's ice storm and last fall's high winds, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman is asking Gov. Steve Beshear for a waiver... (Courier-Journal)

Legislators ponder how to teach math: One of the smallest measures moving through the Kentucky General Assembly could have the biggest effects for the state's young people. (Herald-Leader)

Budget shortfall rises to $459M: State budget officials yesterday issued a revised estimate of the budget shortfall for the year that is slightly higher than the $456 million officials predicted last fall. (C-J)

Higher education leader walks tightrope with lawmakers: As Robert L. King, the new president of the state Council on Postsecondary Education, made his first rounds through the Capitol last week, the crush of his sometimes conflicting job duties became clear. King is charged with advocating for public university funding at a time when the legislature and governor are faced with cutting the budget because of the tumultuous economy. He also must work with lawmakers who have become skeptical of the universities in light of rising tuition rates and the prospect of another round of increases next academic year. (H-L)

U of L gets state's largest individual gift: The University of Louisville will receive $20 million to explore renewable energy.The gift from U of L graduate Henry Conn and his wife, Rebecca, will be used to support what will be called the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship.Theirs is the largest individual gift to a public university in the state, officials said. (H-L)

Colleges try to minimize remedial work: Faced with a mounting number of students who need costly remedial courses, one state university is trying to get its prospective students better prepared in math and reading before they even apply to a college. (H-L)

Bill aims to lower cost of college texts: A key lawmaker is drafting legislation aimed at lowering college students' textbook bills, which would be the first step in a series of recommendations to make a Kentucky college education more affordable. Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, the newly named House Education Committee chairman, is writing a bill that would require textbook dealers at public universities to break up bundled products, such as textbooks that come with CDs, so that students could buy only what they need. (H-L)

Teachers rally against education budget cuts: Thousands gather at Pershing Square in downtown L.A., speaking out against Schwarzenegger and the L.A. Unified superintendent. Thousands of teachers and other union members rallied Thursday at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to oppose state and local cuts to education that are widely expected to result in larger classes for students as well as layoffs and more expensive healthcare. (Los Angeles Times)

Duncan Announces ED Assistant Secretaries: Secretary Duncan praised President Obama's intent to nominate Carmel Martin as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development and Peter Cunningham as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach. (United States Department of Education)

Case shows difficulty of firing incompetent teachers: Pinellas district officials say John Hopkins Middle School teacher Curtis Brown didn't prepare adequate lesson plans. Didn't teach the assigned subject matter. Didn't use the required teaching software. And didn't improve despite repeated attempts by administrators to help him. (St. Petersburg Times)
Survey shows most students tried alcohol, drugs: Three out of four high school juniors have tried alcohol and drugs - legal or otherwise - even though their teachers told them not to, according to the California attorney general's latest survey of student drug and alcohol use. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Seattle shutters schools: Amid angry parents, hecklers and much increased security, Seattle School Board members Thursday evening approved a slate of school closures and program relocations that will dramatically reshape the district next fall. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Pittsburg schools set two-hour 'Super Bowl' delay Monday: Regardless of which team prevails in the Super Bowl, students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools might consider themselves winners. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Students soar in poor Atlanta neighborhood: The seventh-grade students are playing a round-robin trivia game, excitedly naming the countries on a blank map showing on their classroom's overhead projector. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Parents Cut Out of Charter School Governance. Panel says, Parent involvement goes too far: Parents should be involved in their children's educations, but the state shouldn't require charter schools to include elected parents on their boards, a legislative committee decided Friday. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Harvard study - For teens MySpace might be safer than you think: Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook may put youngsters' private lives in a fishbowl, but there's no concrete evidence that the increased visibility makes them more prone to sexual predators, according to a recent study. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Classmates using Facebook to check on Ky. storm: Alison Drowota gets updates on old friends back in western Kentucky on the social networking Web site But she never thought the popular site would be handy in a family crisis. Her hometown of Paducah, Ky., has been devastated by an ice storm that left more than a half million people in the state without power and Drowota's parents without a working phone. Drowota, 37, and a handful of her former high school classmates from around the country are giving and getting updates through Facebook, which has about 150 million active users. (Rockford Register)

Cheerleading is a contact sport, Wis. court rules: High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. (H-L)

Teaching Kids With Autism The Art Of Conversation: Math and numbers are easy for 10-year-old Alex Lee. But chitchat can leave him stumped. Now, a new program for children with mild autism at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute is giving his social skills a boost. (National Public Radio)
Children aged FIVE expelled for sex offences, girls molested by classmates - School bullying takes shocking twist: A group of boys force a 15-year-old girl to perform a sex act in an empty classroom. And this case is just one example of a shocking new trend in sexual bullying among children. (London Daily Mail)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quick Hits

Bill addresses SEEK problems: SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky), a formula-driven, state-funded money allocation program, doles out money to schools based on a county's wealth. State Rep. Addia Wuchner R-Florence, submitted House Bill 108 to address the inequities of the formula. If passed, school districts would be allowed a third recalculation of SEEK if enrollment grows during the school year. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

KDE Seeks Input on Budget Cuts: State agencies have been asked to prepare worst-case-scenario budgets for the current fiscal year in order to close a projected $456 million General Fund shortfall. (Herald-Leader)

Archdiocese of Louisville Freezes Wages to Ward Off Tuition Hikes: About 3,000 employees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., will have their wages frozen in an effort to save money and minimize tuition increases at its schools, church officials said last week. (Education Week - subscription)

KHSAA medical advisory committee to discuss new safety recommendations following Jefferson Co. football player's death: The heat exhaustion death last year of a Louisville high school football player, whose coach was indicted Friday, is prompting a group of doctors to consider new protections for the state's high school athletes. (H-L)

'Tebow bill' would let home school students play on public school teams - Prospects for passage difficult: Tim Tebow, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and twice the quarterback of NCAA football championship teams at the University of Florida, never attended public schools. He was home-schooled but he played on high school football teams.Now Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Crescent Springs, wants kids in Kentucky to have the same opportunity. He’s introduced a bill in the state Senate which would allow home-school students in Kentucky to participate in inter-scholastic sports at their local public schools. (News and Tribute)

A Coach Indicted: Football is a contact sport, and sometimes players are hurt. The pads and helmets they wear are protection against the literal breaks of the game. That roughness, that risk, is understood. But less understandable is a player collapsing from heat stroke during football practice, as 15-year-old Max Gilpin did last August after working out in 94-degree heat at Pleasure Ridge Park High School. His body heat spiked to 107 degrees, and he died of organ failure after three days on life support. Questions swirled: Why did this happen? How could it be? What about the rules governing water and heat and practice? (Courier-Journal)

Lawsuit Says Minn. Charter School Illegally Promotes Muslim Religion: A Minnesota charter school that caters to Muslim students is using taxpayer money to illegally promote religion in violation of the First Amendment, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota alleged in a lawsuit filed last week. (Education Week - subscription)

Will some Maryland seniors fail to meet state graduation requirements?: Thousands of Maryland high school seniors are believed to be at risk of failing to meet state requirements for graduation. This spring, high school seniors are required to pass a four-subject test, and although students can complete projects instead, or earn waivers from the requirement, it is unclear how many are doing so statewide. (The Baltimore Sun)

Economy batters Vanderbilt University's assets: With 'protective bubble' burst, school plans cuts. (The Tennessean)

Los Angeles district tests may spark teacher boycott: The Los Angeles teachers union is speaking out against periodic assessments of students that they say are costly and impinge on classroom instruction time. Union leaders say jobs could be spared be eliminating the tests, while a Los Angeles Times analysis asserts student scores on state assessments have risen since the district tests began. (Los Angeles Times)

Stimulus plan could reshape U.S. education policy: The federal investment in education would more than double under a proposed stimulus package pending in Congress -- which includes $150 billion in new education spending -- changing the federal government's role in education. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the money will prevent hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs nationwide, and money also will go to support early childhood education, repair aging school buildings and improve special-education programs. (International Herald Tribune)

Students in Louisiana charter set own time line for graduation: A Louisiana charter school lets high school students work their way through the computer programs that teach the state's curriculum at their own speed. Educators say the model, which offers a 244-day school year instead of 180, gives them more time to tailor extra lessons to students' needs. (The Times-Picayune)

Court says private school can expel lesbians: A private religious high school can expel students it believes are lesbians because the school isn't... As with the Boy Scouts, she said, the primary function of the school is to instill its values in young people, who are told of its policies when they enroll. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Cheerleader can't sue school or spotter, court rules: A cheerleader injured while practicing a stunt cannot sue her high school or the spotter who was supposed to break her fall, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said in a decision released Tuesday. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Chairman Miller Asks GAO to Investigate Cases of Abuse and Neglect of Schoolchildren: U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, today asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to further investigate recent reports of seclusion and restraint of children in public and private schools across the country. Miller’s committee plans to hold a hearing on these practices in the coming months. (US House of Representives)

Legal fees from losing Title IX suit prove costly: The Ramona school district has been scrambling to find a way to pay almost $325,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to Ramona High softball parents who sued in 2007 because boys had a better baseball facility. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

News You Can Endow: There is an option that might not only save newspapers but also make them stronger: Turn them into nonprofit, endowed institutions — like colleges and universities...Today, we are dangerously close to having a government without newspapers. American newspapers shoulder the burden of considerable indebtedness with little cash on hand, as their profit margins have diminished or disappeared. Readers turn increasingly to the Internet for information — even though the Internet has the potential to be, in the words of the chief executive of Google, Eric Schmidt, “a cesspool” of false information. If Jefferson was right that a well-informed citizenry is the foundation of our democracy, then newspapers must be saved. (New York Times)

Technology Companies Team Up on Testing: Three of the world's largest technology companies (Microsoft, Intel & Cisco Systems) are working together to create assessments that measure critical thinking, technical aptitude, and other 21st century skills—a project that could guide new versions of international comparison tests. (Ed Week - subscription)

2 more kids claim strip-searches: CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS Students at two more Chicago public schools are suing over what they say were illegal strip-searches by school security staffers during hunts for contraband that was never found. (Chicago Sun Times)

'Scientifically Based' Giving Way to 'Development,' 'Innovation': The watchwords for the field of education research in the post-Bush era seem headed toward "development" and "innovation." (Ed Week - subscription)

School Officials 'Threatened Kids:' Administrators at a Bronx elementary school interrogated a class of 7-year-olds individually about their teacher - and then threatened to suspend those who told their folks, several fuming parents told The Post. Education officials confirmed yesterday that they were investigating claims that as many as 20 second-graders at PS 70 in Mount Eden were pressured by Principal Kerry Castellano and other administrators to compose written statements about teacher Jonathan Alejandro's disciplinary methods. Parents said they hit the roof when they heard about it. Students were promised McDonald's and other goodies for keeping mum, parents said. "It's appalling! I'm raising my daughter not to hide things from me, and they're telling her to lie," said Rosa Caceres, who described her daughter, Loreal Luna, as an "emotional wreck" ever since last month's incident. (New York Post)

State agencies asked to plan for deeper budget cuts

We saw this one coming; from Bluegrass Politics:

FRANKFORT — State agencies have been asked to prepare worst-case-scenario budgets for the current fiscal year in order to close a projected $456 million General Fund shortfall.

Gov. Steve Beshear has asked lawmakers to solve the shortfall with a combination of cuts, furloughs and a 70-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase, but lawmakers remain reticent to raise taxes.

House and Senate leaders now want to know how state agencies would absorb the entire $456 million shortfall if the state had no new revenue, Beshear said Monday.

By law, the state has to balance its budget. When the state’s revenues do not meet projections, the legislature must either cut funding or find additional money through taxes or fees.

“We are working with the legislature on looking at different scenarios to solve this budget crisis,” Beshear said.

Education Department spokeswoman Lisa Gross said Monday afternoon that the new reductions could translate to a 6.7 percent cut in her agency....

More ice ! The View from My Place

We lost power by 11:15, but the other side of the street had it.

With the dawn came the tree branches, falling like so many mortar shells. CRACK. Rustle. SMASH.

Following the major pruning our trees got in 2003; this time has not been quite as bad. It would seem that most of the weaker limbs came down the last time.

We may have been the last on our route to get mail Wednesday. I warned the mailman to watch out for falling limbs. Two minutes later he scampered out of the neighborhood after a big one pounded his truck.

Carolyn's place. Pretty as a picture. Hey, wait. It is a picture.

A late snow turned everything white.

But we still don't have power. Fortunately the UK library is open; but EKU's website is apparently down.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice !

Shirley, over in food service, told me EKU has had delays before but she couldn't remember the last time Eastern canceled classes. Well, we did today. Here's why.

A little road block on the way to the library.

Ice on the magnolia.

Always vigilant.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Good Reason to Check Your Child's Homework

Unconfirmed, but nonetheless hilarious !

Imagine your child's teacher received this paper from your daughter.

The next day, the teacher got a note from Mom saying,

I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.

I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to be me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot.

From now on I will remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns it in.

Thanks to my Graduate Assistant, Tara House for finding this.

Cuts will Impact SEEK

A KSN&C higher education source indicated Saturday that SEEK funds may also be impacted by the mid-year budget cuts we previously mentioned here.

One day later, it came to pass.

In an email from Interim Education Commissioner Elaine Farris state superintendents were given the heads-up.

"I wanted to inform you that we, and all other state agencies, have received a request from the state budget office to prepare a plan for additional budget reductions, deeper than those already proposed byGovernor Beshear.

The only items exempted are the appropriation for health insurance and the portions of SEEK that relate to facility debt service. We have beenasked to complete this task by the close of business on Monday, January 26th.

We won't be able to solicit specific input from you for this process dueto the quick turnaround time requested; however, we can use some of theinformation we collected from you last month to address the impact ofthis potential reduction.

Farris indicated her intent to apply KDE cuts across-the-board, impacting every department, in order to give local districts the discretion to make some choices locally.

Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum called the cuts "discouraging news."

KSN&C is still hearing 6.7%

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One of the World's Greenest Schools

Wanna Guess?

It's a $21 million middle school. Get a load of this from the Weather Channel.

The Bad Old Days

State historian James Klotter described Kentucky schools in the 1940s as being "in shambles."

Today, Tom Eblen provided a reminder of what that meant, courtesy of a 1944 report from the Committee for Kentucky. The committee's members were non-partisan public citizens - amazingly - none of whom were ever candidates for public office. They pointed out problems in a series of reports and encouraged the state to address them.

Kentucky was a mess.

One in four native Kentuckians had left the state in the early 1940s for jobs elsewhere. One in three Kentucky children received no education; seven of eight never graduated from high school. Kentucky had the nation's second-highest rate of illiteracy. Poverty and ill health were rampant...

... Kentucky in the early 1900s hadn't invested in education or in developing a modern economy and infrastructure. Like most other Southern states except North Carolina, Kentucky had looked backward rather than forward. There was a "clannish family society" and a lack of diversity in the work force.

Harry Schacter, the president of the now-defunct Louisville department store Kaufman-Straus wrote that,

Some powerful business interests didn't support the committee's work. "Those who were the beneficiaries of the status quo were not at all interested in any change," he wrote. "Those who were victims of the status quo were too apathetic to be much concerned about change."
Tom asks if any of this sounds familiar.

High School Blogger Loses Case

Back in June, Avery Doninger - stripped of her class office and forbidden from speaking at graduation - shook hands with her principal Karissa Niehoff, and walked off the stage a Lewis Mills High School graduate.

Everyone smiled. Doninger's head was held high.

This from the Hartford Curant; Photo by Bob MacDonell:

Internet Free Speech Ruling
Favors Burlington School Administrators

In a key ruling on Internet free speech, a federal judge has found that school officials were within their rights when they disciplined a Burlington high school student over an insulting blog post she wrote off school grounds.

Avery Doninger's case has drawn national attention and raised questions about how far schools' power to regulate student speech extends in the Internet age.
Connecticut legal blog, Crime and Federalism, reprinted a Connecticut Law Tribune report from Burlington. Reportedly, the Burlington students organized an annual music festival called the Battle of the Bands.
"They wanted to use the brand-spanking new high school auditorium, but to do so required a technician approved by the school board. The technician was unavailable the day the festival was to be held, thus throwing the date of the event into question."
Avery Doninger, a junior student council member and class secretary, tried to meet with the school administrators to salvage the date for the festival.
It was reported elsewhere that,

The administrators never told her that the show was canceled. She was aware prior to blogging that they were considering postponing it again, but that it would go ahead at some point. She acknowledged that during the school day and she was asked not to get students riled up, because they were working on a solution. She agreed.

Despite that, she chose to represent their position as having canceled the show, which is a strike in my book, and not only called them douchebags, but also asked more students to write to the administrators to "piss them off".

She sent an e-mail to parents and others urging them to contact the school to demand that the festival take place as scheduled.
The principal, Karissa Niehoff, and superintendent, Paula Schwartz, were reportedly not amused. Doninger then went to a private web site and from a home computer wrote a blog entry calling the folks in the school's central office douchebags, and urging more folks to call or write to "piss [the school superintendent] off even more."

This came to the school's attention and as a consequence, she was forbidden to run for reelection to class office. Her fellow students voted for her as a write-in candidate anyway, and she won by a plurality. School officials refused to seat her in office.
The Courant reported,
But in a ruling on several motions for summary judgment Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz rejected Doninger's claims that administrators at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her rights to free speech and equal protection and intentionally inflicted emotional distress when they barred her from serving as class secretary because of an Internet post she wrote at home.

Kravitz's ruling relied in part on the ambiguity over whether schools can regulate students' expression on the Internet. He noted that times have changed significantly since 1979, when a landmark student speech case set boundaries for schools regulating off-campus speech.

KSN&C Backstory.

Texas Board of Education votes against teaching evolution weaknesses

This from the Dallas Morning News:

AUSTIN – In a major defeat for social conservatives, a sharply divided State Board of Education voted Thursday to abandon a longtime state requirement that high school science teachers cover what some critics consider to be "weaknesses" in the theory of evolution.

Under the science curriculum standards recommended by a panel of science educators and tentatively adopted by the board, biology teachers and biology textbooks would no longer have to cover the "strengths and weaknesses" of Charles Darwin's theory that man evolved from lower forms of life...

Did I say 4% ?

Last week I indicated that EKU was looking at a 4% mid-year budget cut.

Word out of CPE indicates that the cuts to higher education in Kentucky will probably be more substantial. A source within CPE tells KSN&C, they're talking 6.7%.

Study Sees an Obama Effect as Lifting Black Test-Takers

Small sample; 20 question test - so don't get too excited.

However hopeful, this is a long way from fact. This is just another example of a study that should have been kept on the shelf until the peer-review was completed. Hyping an unconfirmed study doesn't really help.

Now I have no doubt that the election of President Obama will bring a new sense of possibilities to countless African American students. But it won't happen simply because Obama was inagurated. It will happen over time, after lots of hard work, with an increasing number of black students confirming that proficiency is possible for all but the most severely disabled students.

This from the New York Times:

Educators and policy makers, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said in recent days that they hope President Obama’s example as a model student could inspire millions of American students, especially blacks, to higher academic performance.

Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results.

“Obama is obviously inspirational, but we wondered whether he would contribute to an improvement in something as important as black test-taking,” said Ray Friedman, a management professor at Vanderbilt University, one of the study’s three authors. “We were skeptical that we would find any effect, but our results surprised us.”

The study has not yet undergone peer review, and two academics who read it on Thursday said they would be interested to see if other researchers would be able to replicate its results.

Dr. Friedman and his fellow researchers, David M. Marx, a professor of social psychology at San Diego State University, and Sei Jin Ko, a visiting professor in management and organizations at Northwestern, have submitted their study for review to The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Friedman said....


Friday, January 23, 2009

Kentucky leads nation in smoking deaths

This from MSNBC:

Nearly one-and-a-half times the national median

ATLANTA - Kentucky and West Virginia — where people traditionally smoke the most — have the highest death rates from smoking, a new federal study has found. Rounding out the 10 states with the highest average annual smoking death rates were Nevada, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana and Missouri.

The lowest death rates were in Utah and Hawaii, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

The smoking death rate in Kentucky was about 371 deaths out of every 100,000 adults age 35 and older. In West Virginia, the smoking death rate was about 344 deaths out of every 100,000 adults...

Is UofL Stonewalling?

Some in Louisvile are getting antsy.

In November officials with the University of Louisville provided updates on steps the school had taken in the wake of former College of Education and Human Development Dean Robert Felner’s federal indictment on charges of money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. U of L president James Ramsey appointed a campus-wide task force to review the findings and recommend action steps. The public was assured that university would get in front of the issues that have plagued it since the toxic dean's deeds came to light - and would report. Since then, it's been all quiet on the Belknap front.

Was there a conflict of interest with Cotton & Allen, the firm UofL hired to conduct an external audit of the university’s grants management and contracts practices? (Page One Kentucky reports: "Nolan Allen is, as is well-known in the community, highly involved with the University. He is a financial supporter and is the father-in-law of the Dean of the School of Medicine... it wasn’t even put out for bid." ) No word.

Was John Deasy's instant doctorate legit? No word.

Was it appropriate to allow staff to assist UofL donor Sonny Bass in getting a degree by working on his interview and written materials and developing a portfolio to document his expertise? No word.

What restructuring of the CEHD has occurred? No word.

Since Ramsey's admission of problems within the university - and after having conducted a PR campaign of damage control in the wake of the Felner scandal - some in the public were hoping they would have heard a more substantive report of the affirmative actions taken by the university by now.

No word.

Prosecutor denies Felner detained, denied counsel

This from Nancy Rodriguez in C-J:

Former U of L dean asks court
to disregard June '08 interview

Former University of Louisville education dean Robert Felner was not held against his will, nor did he ask for an attorney during a seven-hour interview with federal authorities in June, according to a motion filed by federal prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Calhoun filed the motion after Felner's attorney asked a judge last month to suppress statements Felner made to a U of L detective and a U.S. postal inspector during a June 20, 2008 interview at the College of Education and Human Development...

US Attorney David Huber, who had been handling the Felner case, announced his resignation earlier this month, as is customary for US Attorneys who serve at the pleasure of the president.

...Defense attorney Scott Cox argued in his suppression motion that Felner believed he was in custody and was not free to leave...

...Cox asked in a related motion filed in December that Felner's books and papers, seized during a search at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside where Felner was going to start work, be suppressed on the grounds that the search was unconstitutional...

Calhoun responnded that while Felner asked investigators if he "should" obtain an attorney, he never stated that he wanted one.

"Felner did not ask for an attorney until the conclusion of the interview, at which point investigators assisted him in locating a phone book to contact an attorney," Calhoun stated.

Felner was indicted in October and now faces 10 counts of mail fraud, money-laundering, conspiracy and income-tax evasion.

Indicted co-conspirator Thomas Schroeder of Fort Byron, Ill., also is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

Teacher to face trial on sex charge

Time was when fooling around with a minor who was age 16 or older was only a misdemeanor. But a new law that took effect in July in Kentucky raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 when the adult is in a position of authority, such as a teacher.

According to police, Nicole Elizabeth Howell telephoned a 16-year-old boy after a high school football game and invited him to her house.

Now, she wants to apologize for her "bad judgment." She says nothing happened, but police wonder why it is the boy could describe a tattoo she sports on her backside.

This from On the Beat in the Bluegrass, photo from

COVINGTON — A felony sex charge against a Northern Kentucky teacher can go forward, a judge has ruled.

Prosecutors argued at a hearing in Covington on Tuesday that Dayton High School teacher Nicole Elizabeth Howell should be charged with first-degree sex abuse for allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old student.

Defense attorney Pat Moeves asked that the charge against his 25-year-old client be thrown out because the student wasn’t in any of her classes, The Kentucky Enquirer reported. “Our client didn’t exercise any undue influence or control over the alleged victim,” he said.

Kenton County prosecutor Brian Richmond countered that simply being a teacher put Howell in a position of authority...
Attorney, Brian Halloran, tried to have the charge thrown out by arguing Howell never had the alleged victim in one of her classes. The law applies to adults who have a position of “control and influence” over their victims, he said. Howell wasn’t in a position to even influence the alleged victim’s grades, much less a supervisory role.

Kenton District Judge Ken Easterling disagreed. If convicted Howell, 25, of Covington faces up to five years in prison.

To add to her troubles, yesterday the superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools Gary Rye fired Howell citing "conduct unbecoming of a teacher." Howell was a first-year English teacher at Dayton High School.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quick Hits

Web site helps educators spot high-tech cheating: Technology may make it easier for students to cheat and harder for educators to catch them, as students share tips on YouTube, such as advising others how to hide cheat sheets on soda-bottle labels and other high-tech methods. A Web site created by a community-college leader,, is compiling such methods in an effort to educate teachers and help change attitudes that promote cheating. (, image by Hugh D'Andrade)

Texas evolution debate could shape textbooks across country: The Texas State Board of Education's upcoming vote on whether to include "strengths and weakness" of evolutionary theory in state science standards could reverberate around the country as any changes may force publishers to revise science textbooks. (The New York Times)

Federal judge rejects Illinois moment-of-silence law: A law that mandated Illinois schools offer a moment of silence for prayer or reflection violates the U.S. Constitution, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman ruled Wednesday. "The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion," he said. (The Associated Press)

House panel likely to OK gambling bill, Could Bring $235 million: A bill to allow electronic slot machines at Kentucky racetracks will probably get an overhaul in coming days, but still could come up for a committee vote by mid-February, said Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder...The bill would allow video lottery terminals under the auspices of the state lottery laws rather than an amendment to the state's constitution. Stumbo said the state could earn $235 million in tax revenue the first full year of operation. (Herald-Leader)

Laurel County Officials say CATS test is important tool for accountability: While state Sen. David Williams, R-Burkesville, has again suggested tossing out the CATS test as a cost-savings measure, Laurel County School District administrators are again standing by the annual examination.The bottom line is, while the test could be tweaked in some areas, the district is having success with it. Scores are climbing and 10 of the district’s 15 schools are at 90 percent proficiency or higher.Kentucky is also faring better nationwide. (Sentinel-Echo)

Debate may improve literacy skills, college-enrollment rate: High school debate is experiencing a resurgence in America's classrooms thanks to an effort by several organizations to recruit students and praise the benefits of having solid, well-spoken opinions. A national debate organization says that student debaters show an average increase of 25% in literacy skills, graduate at higher rates than their peers and have a high college enrollment rate. (Los Angeles Times)

Principals offer to forgo possible raises to retain staff: At least 16 principals and other administrators in Florida's Hernando County schools want to forgo planned raises and instead apply the proposed funds to prevent the layoffs of teachers and other school staff. "It was a nice gesture," said superintendent Wayne Alexander. (St. Petersburg Times)

Google project lets students get up close to art masterpieces: A new Google Earth project allows users to view art masterpieces online and zoom in to levels invisible to the naked eye. So far, the project is limited to Spain's Prado Museum. (The Seattle Times)

Standards Help Minnesota Vie With Top Nations

This from Ed Week:

Thirteen years ago, Minnesota was a state with no academic standards in mathematics and science and what some observers said was a mixed record in grounding students in crucial academic content, such as number skills and algebra.

Since then, the state has set clear guidelines for schools in both subjects, and it also appears to have tuned up what gets taught in math classes. To state officials, the benefits are clear. As one of only two U.S. states to participate in a prominent international measurement of academic skill, Minnesota is scoring at or near the level of many of the highest-performing countries on that exam, and its scores in some categories have jumped significantly since it first took part in 1995.

The state's participation in the 1995 and 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study has given researchers information to dissect the factors that yielded the state's impressive gains in some areas, particularly early-grades math...

See also: ("Pressure for International Benchmarks Builds," Jan. 7, 2009.)
(Minnesota's SciMath frameworks)

Needs of low-income students being met

This from the Messenger-Inquirer by way of KSBA:
Kentucky’s system of elementary and secondary education faces many challenges. Two of them were highlighted in articles that appeared in this newspaper in recent days. One is the challenge of educating students who come from lower socio-economic circumstances while the other is the difficulty school districts face trying to make sure high school students are prepared for the rigors of post-secondary education.

There’s good news on the first issue. A study from the Center for Educational Research in Appalachia, housed at Eastern Kentucky University, found that a good number of schools in the Owensboro area are exceeding expectations. The Owensboro school district and Hancock County, McLean County, Muhlenberg County and Ohio County school districts are among the 35 districts the study identified as outperforming expectations. In other words, the districts are doing well even though their numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are high.

Students from lower income families very often face barriers in school that other students do not. Schools and school districts must exert a lot of energy to leveling the playing field for their students and making sure that all students have the opportunity and the assistance to perform at high levels. We have seen this demonstrated in strong CATS results throughout this region and are happy to see it verified by an independent study that focuses on performance by districts with significant populations of economically challenged students. Our congratulations go out to them.

News out of northern Kentucky underlines a problem that isn’t new to this state. For a long time, the number of Kentucky high school graduates needing remedial courses when they reach college has been too high and continues to rise. Northern Kentucky University is taking an approach that involves direct intervention before students reach its campus.

In Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, NKU is working with school superintendents to develop an assessment of high school juniors’ basic skills in math and reading. Students who don’t measure up can take remedial classes before they enter college. That has obvious potential to really help them, and will be good for cash-strapped colleges if they can commit fewer resources to remedial instruction.

While the NKU approach is good, it shouldn’t be necessary. By the time a Kentucky high school student reaches the 11th grade, he or she should have long-since mastered basic reading and math skills. If they haven’t, their chances at succeeding in college, even with remedial help, is probably in jeopardy. This is a tough problem for Kentucky school districts and the higher education community. If left unresolved, the mandate that calls for significantly raising the number of Kentucky residents who hold college degrees may be impossible to achieve. We welcome the NKU approach but look forward to the day when it won’t be needed anywhere in Kentucky.

PRP coach indicted in player's death

This from C-J, Photo by Mike Hayman:
"reckless homicide occurs when a person fails to perceive a risk that a reasonable person in that situation would have seen and that person’s actions cause a death.”

Parents say they will monitor prosecution

David Jason Stinson, the Pleasure Ridge Park High School head
football coach, was indicted today on one count of reckless homicide in the death of one of his players, Max Gilpin.
Gilpin, a sophomore lineman died Aug. 23 at Kosair Children’s Hospital, just three days after he collapsed at a team practice. Max’s temperature reached 107 degrees at the hospital after the collapse.
Stinson is facing up to five years in prison if found guilty of the charge.
The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office did not seek charges against five other coaches on the team. All the coaches, however, have been named in a lawsuit filed by Max’s mother and father in Jefferson Circuit Court in September, accusing the coaches of negligence and “reckless disregard.”
The parents released a statement through their attorneys this afternoon, saying they intend to monitor the prosecution and “expect anyone responsible for Max’s death to be held accountable.” ...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yonts bill seeks protections for high school newspapers

This from AP by way of KSBA:

Student journalists working for public high school newspapers would be entitled to free speech and freedom of the press protections similar to their professional counterparts under a proposal before the Kentucky House.

Students would be allowed to publish stories without interference from school administrators under Rep. Brent Yonts’ proposal. If the measure passes, Kentucky would join at least seven other states that have enacted some form of protections for high school journalists.

“It’s important for the future of journalism, that students are taught about the responsibilities of journalism,” said Josh Moore, a sophomore journalism student at Western Kentucky University, who’s pushing the legislation.

So far, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts and Oregon have passed laws giving various levels of protection to student journalists who operate school newspapers.

The Illinois law does not include protections for high school journalists, said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va.

The bill is aimed at offsetting a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier, which ruled administrators in a St. Louis, Mo., school district could censor school newspaper articles, said Yonts, a Democrat from Greenville.

Protections under the bill would extend to young journalists regardless of whether their publications were school-funded or produced as part of a class. Local school boards would be required to adopt written freedom of expression policies for students....
Predictably, the bill is not being warmly embraced by the Kentucky School Boards Association whose members may lose some authority under the bill, but it does have its supporters. They are not surprising either. The Bowling Green Daily News opines,

...This bill has a lot of merit and sends a strong message that the First Amendment should not be tampered with in any way.

It sends a bad message to young Americans who are writing for their school papers to have their work censored by school principals. That message is that our constitutional freedoms are not that important.

David Greer, administrator of the Kentucky High School Journalism Association, said allowing school officials’ final say in what gets published could deter serious investigative journalism that is sometimes controversial.

We agree.

Young students who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism should have the freedom to publish the facts, regardless of whether it makes a school look good or bad.

The knowledge they gain while working for a high school paper will help prepare them about the journalism profession and all that it entails...

EKU Set to Announce 4% permanent Budget Cut

Eastern Kentucky University appears set to announce a 4% mid-year budget cut in response to the state's projected shortfall, now said to be upwards of $456 million.

It is also possible that yet another budget cut could occur for the upcoming 2009-2010 academic year.

Faculty were told to expect hiring freezes - even for previously approved positions - and the disappearance of certain funds designed to support innovative scholarship activities.

An official announcement is expected soon.

Duncan Confirmed as Secretary of Education

Yesterday the Senate confirmed former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education.

The confirmation had been signaled by the warm reception Duncan received from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

In the meantime, the House Appropriations Committee is considering a $825 billion stimulus package, which could provide more than $120 billion for education programs.

Two Petrilli Defendants Dismissed

Two more parts of former Booker T Washington Academy Principal Peggy Petrilli's case against the Fayette County Schools went by the wayside yesterday when Judge James Ishmael dismissed former Fayette County school board attorney Brenda Allen and Elementary Director Carmen Coleman from the racial discrimination suit.

This follows a September order from Ishmael dismissing Petrilli's defamation claim; a damaging broadside to the plaintiff's case.

What remains is Petrilli's claim that her dismissal was the result of racial discrimination and that even took a shot from Ishmael who told the Herald-Leader,
"I think it is real questionable that any adverse employment action was taken by any of the defendants."
That's not the kind of thing a plaintiff wants to hear from the judge.

Prior to August 23rd 2007, Superintendent Stu Silberman had heaped praise on Petrilli and held her up as the very model of a modern progressive school principal. But what was once a model is now seen as a liability. Silberman said in his deposition that,

"Peggy just really had some pretty serious relationship problems with other people" and that he was constantly addressing problems created by Petrilli; that she jeopardized district funding for a reading initiative by allowing students to take a version of a test in advance; illegally demoted janitors, forcing the district to later re-promote them with back pay; presided over extraordinarily high employee turnover; and failed to tell parents that a pre-school program their children were participating in was not free.
From 2000 to 2004 Petrilli had received acclaim as principal of Northern Elementary. She showed a flair for innovation, emphasized the arts and found more instructional time by starting Saturday programs. She created a more inviting atmosphere in the school, and with a little help from that CATS test's "confidence interval" her students made significant progress in academics.

It was well-understood that Petrilli used some unusual techniques to accomplish her gains, but these were largely defended, at the time, as necessary to "get results." "Whatever it takes," was the mantra of the day. Plus, Petrilli discounted the need for increased funding as an important factor in school success.

This caught the attention of Republican Governor-elect Ernie Fletcher and Virginia Fox, his Education Secretary, who chose Northern as thes venue to announce the governor's initiative to assure that all students could read by the third grade.

A few months later, while Fayette County was in the midst of a superintendent's search, the Herald-Leader's Cheryl Truman commented on what she thought Fayette County should look for in a superintendent:

"Actually, it's rather simple: We need a superintendent who nurtures principals like Peggy Petrilli...

...Fayette's school system needs more people like Petrilli. It needs more people who yield results and fewer who run around playing at damage control, compiling reports and yammering about hardships.

The notion of principal-as-savior, while not unique to Fayette County, was born locally. Over time the Herald-Leader would see that idea segue to superintendent-as-savior.

With the full support of the editorial board, Silberman promoted aggressive action as part of what's necessary to turn around failing schools. In 2005, the Fayette County Board of Education gave Silberman $18,000 of additional performance-based pay based in part on the creation of Booker T. Washington Academy. Citing the necessity of motivating the staff, Silberman chose Petrilli to head the school. She was permitted to bring key staff with her from Northern and started the year with 20 first-year teachers, many of whom didn't last very long.

Despite grumblings from some parents and teachers along with more than a few mid-level administrators who thought Petrilli was given preferrential treatment, things progressed - that is, until Petrilli reported a child for being out-of-district without approval. BTWA parent Buddy Clark reportedly threatened that Petrilli's "problems were just beginning" and he apparently made good on his threat.

On August 22, 2007, Clark and others presented Silberman with a laundry list of complaints and threatened to "speak out to the media and picket the school."

Silberman's action to remove Petrilli, and her response, form the centerpiece of the remaining suit.
Attorney Dale Golden, who represents Petrilli, has said that parents at the predominantly African-American school were unhappy with her from the start because they did not have input on her selection and wanted a black principal...."It was clear to Peggy that she had no future" working for Silberman, Golden said. "It was pure politics."

Whether or not Golden is correct - the implications of Petrilli v Silberman are significant.

When superintendents push principals do "whatever it takes" to raise student achievement, will they be there to support the principal if things go awry?

Principals across the state are looking for an answer to that question. It is increasingly unlikely that the court will produce one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Four big ideas for Kentucky testing

The Prichard Committee blog has launched. The main author will be Susan Weston with contributions from Executive Director Bob Sexton and Associate Executive Director Cindy Heine.

So, let's get this party started with Bob Sexton's views on CATS.

Sexton doesn't specify how, but says he isn't opposed to altering CATS. However, he is "concerned that we make changes at a responsible pace, one that involves educators, allows good design and permits teachers to implement classroom adjustments well, and one that does not jeopardize our federal funding.

In Four Big Ideas for Kentucky Testing, Sexton states,

I believe that the CATS assessment is better for children than an off-the-shelf
norm-referenced test, but I do not think it is the best it can be. Four concepts
seem to me to hold special promise for creating a stronger test and promoting
higher student achievement.
His ideas include:
  • aim for balanced assessment
  • international benchmarking can help
  • end-of-course testing may be the right way to go
  • set program standards and monitor implementation
Welcome to the Blogosphere!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Change is Coming to KSN&C, Prichard to Launch Blog

Since February 2007, I have made 2,700 posts - all from my perspective. News stories, occasional commentary and a few personal items populate the archives. This has been good for me - to develop my voice on Kentucky school issues - but KSN&C may not serve the overall effort to continually improve Kentucky schools as well as it might.

So, I'm opening the doors - a crack - and inviting a few selected individuals in. My New Year's resolution was to add more "voices" to Kentucky School News and Commentary. The process has started. I have dropped the moniker "The Principal" and my use of "we" will be less literary.

In the not-too-distant future, KSN&C readers will notice a group of new contributors. So far, I have two "takers" who have committed to writing commentary at least monthly, and hopefully more frequently, if they choose.

I hope these contributors will reflect a range of opinion on the issues facing our schools and that KSN&C will provide a forum for them to work out their ideas.

The general tone of KSN&C will remain the same: respectful, fact-driven and well-written. While I will continue to try to show both sides of issues by providing a cross-section of news stories, the opinions expressed on the blog will be those of the individual contributors who will write under their own names. And, I am inviting a diverse set of individuals who do not already have a commentary website or blog.

I am also thinking about two categories of new bloggers: Seasoned professionals who have worked to improve Kentucky schools throughout their careers; and some of my students (current educators) who want to develop their leadership skills by writing commentary and contributing to policy-development.

Also adding to the conversation will be Susan Perkins Weston the main author of the new Prichard Blog which is set to launch...later this week....if all goes well.

So stay tuned. The conversation is about to expand.

Guthrie lands top GOP post on higher ed panel

This from Bluegrass Politics:

Freshman U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, landed the Republicans’ top position on the House Education and Labor Committee’s panel on higher education.

Guthrie, who replaces retired Republican Rep. Ron Lewis in Kentucky’s 2nd District, will start his congressional career as ranking member of the subcommittee on higher education, lifelong learning and competitiveness.

It’s rare for an incoming lawmaker to be appointed to a committee or subcommittee leadership post.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Quick Hits

Schools Would Get Big Boost in Stimulus Plan: Cash-strapped school districts could see an unprecedented $100 billion infusion of federal aid under a massive economic-stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats this week. The overall measure, put forth Jan. 15 by the House Appropriations Committee, is aimed at providing a $825 billion jolt to the stumbling U.S. economy, and to help avert what could be draconian cuts in state and local programs, including education. (KSBA)
Superintendent offended by Senator Wiliam’s remarks: Kentucky lawmakers have some big ideas to help the state save money — including eliminating the controversial CATS testing system, which would result in a shorter school year. Senate President David Williams has said that “there’s no instruction for 10 or 15 days after the (CATS) test (is administered),” and Sen. Joe Pendleton has estimated that as much as 30 days out of the school year is wasted on activities such as “pizza parties.”Local superintendents had varying responses to Williams’ comment and suggestions from other lawmakers that there really isn’t a “magic number” for how many school days should be in a school year. Science Hill Independent Superintendent Rick Walker was taken aback by Williams’ remark. (Commonwealth Journal)

School leaders: Don’t scrap CATS: While Kentucky lawmakers search for ways to cut education costs in a struggling economy, local school superintendents expressed their views to the Commonwealth Journal concerning one of senate leaders’ latest notions — eliminating the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System. Because the CATS test includes both multiple choice and open response questions, “we can look at the information and see ... is the student missing (answers) because he doesn’t know the content or because he can’t apply what he’s learned?” Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Dr. Teresa Wallace said. (Commonwealth Journal)

Kentucky teachers among elite. Everyone 'highly qualified' in many districts: While some states struggle with getting a "highly qualified" teacher in every class, Kentucky ranks among the best.The latest statistics from the Kentucky Department of Education show that in the 2007-08 school year, 174,642 of Kentucky's 177,284 public school classes - or 98.5 percent - were taught by highly qualified teachers. (

CATS test seen as controversial: A centerpiece of the landmark 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act was its requirement for accountability testing.But the test is controversial and lawmakers are hearing from parents and teachers who don’t like CATS, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System. (Commonwealth Journal)

Some lawmakers want to reduce number of school days: There is growing momentum in the Kentucky legislature to replace the current school accountability test but less noticed are hints from some lawmakers that eliminating the controversial CATS test might also allow a shorter school calendar...Sharon Oxendine, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said KEA members and representatives have heard the idea from some Senators.“But I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt out members would be in the streets again like they were in 2004 with the health insurance,” Oxendine said. She referred to a massive demonstration on the capitol steps that year by educators from across the state when Gov. Ernie Fletcher proposed higher premiums and out of pocket expenses for teachers’ and state workers’ health insurance. (Daily-Independent)

Senate hearing Tuesday spotlights school reform: Barack Obama's choice for education secretary, Arne Duncan, said Tuesday that the No Child Left Behind law should stop punishing schools where only a handful of kids are struggling. (AP)

Student takes the stand in trial of former teacher: The trial of a former teacher got under way Monday in Pike County District Court, and featured emotional testimony from a teen-age girl, who took the stand for the second time. Lincoln Shane Bentley faces two counts of first-degree official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. Bentley was a former teacher and football coach at East Ridge High School. The charges allege that while a teacher at the school, Bentley asked a minor student to show him her breasts in exchange for a better grade. (Appalachian News-Express)

Teens bare all on phones. More 'sexting' nude pictures: In the Cincinnati area, where legend holds that trends come 10 years late, "sexting" arrived well ahead of time. Teens here are taking nude photos of themselves or others, sending them on their cell phones or posting them online. Some teens do it as a joke. For others, it's the new bold pickup line to get a date. (

Rollins' priority: Preserving education funding: Rep. Carl Rollins, newly appointed chairman of the House education committee, says his priorities will be finding ways to control tuition increases and preserving funding for K-12 and post secondary education. (State-Journal)

Education chief won't repay cost of state car: Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud now says he will not reimburse taxpayers for a car with $13,000 in add-ons that the state purchased at his request last year....Brothers said board members agreed to let him out of that commitment, as long as he agreed to waive the 90-day separation requirement stipulated in his contract. If the board had paid Draud for the remainder of the 90 days, it would have cost the state about $40,000. (C-J)

Ex-principal admits theft of $69,000 from school. Plea deal requires restitution, testimony: A former principal of Dixie Elementary School has pleaded guilty to four felony charges, including theft, in connection with his handling of school funds. Adrian Sanford agreed last month to a five-year prison sentence and to testify against his co-defendant, Toneke Bullitt, the school's former bookkeeper, who had a court hearing Wednesday. (C-J)

Schools’ goals reset for CATS testing: The use of concordance tables by the Kentucky Department of Education changed many schools’ 2008 Kentucky Core Content scores statewide, but the change has no effect on schools’ accountability judgments. The change will instead affect the 2009-10 testing cycle and beyond, according to KDE officials. (Glasgow Daily Times)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maggie's Plea to Arne

Dear Arne,

You're so wonderful. Please go easy on NCLB, and let us keep vouchers in DC. You know you're going to need supporters.

Your friend,


This from the Houston Chronicle:

Groups Want Superintendent Evaluations to be Private

This from the Spencer Magnet:

KDE joins local fight

The state’s top educational organizations – including the Kentucky Department of Education – have placed their support behind the Spencer County School Board’s decision to conduct the superintendent’s evaluation in closed session and are asking the judge to reverse an opinion by the Office of the Attorney General.

“The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has misinterpreted the Open Meetings Act and reached erroneous legal conclusions which will adversely impact all local boards of education in Kentucky,” said Attorney Michael Owsley in a court document filed last week.

Owsley filed the amicus curiae, or “friend of the court”, brief on behalf of KDE, the Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky School Boards Association, and several educational cooperatives which represent many of Kentucky’s school districts.

And, in A Matter of Opinion: What are they afraid of?

The Kentucky Department of Education and a whole host of other taxpayer-funded education organizations are trying to influence a local court into allowing the Spencer County Board of Education to continue evaluating the superintendent’s performance in secret.

Our superintendent who:
• administers a yearly school budget of $20.7 million (comprised of local, state and federal tax monies);
• is responsible for the education of 2,676 Spencer County children; and
• supervises over 400 instructional, facilities and support staff employees (the
county’s largest employer).

All this, while earning a base salary of $121,000 with a few fringe benefits. Doesn’t that sound like someone who taxpayers would want to know whether he was doing a good job?

The question that begs to be answered is: what are they all afraid of?

What is going on in these superintendent reviews that they do not want the general public to hear?

The argument that superintendent evaluations should be in closed session because they might lead to the discipline or dismissal of the district’s highest administrator is ridiculous. If school board members plan to dismiss the superintendent, the public needs to know – and they need to know why.

Another excuse that has been tossed around is that school districts could be subject to slander lawsuits if one of the board members got carried away and said something inappropriate. Slander only applies to statements that are untrue. As long as school board members speak with facts and figures, this should not be a problem.

What does become a problem is if an individual questions how superintendent evaluations are conducted. In this case, the message being sent by the Spencer County School Board is that if you rub the system the wrong way – if you don’t accept that this is the way things have always been done – then look out, retaliation may be coming in the form of a lawsuit.

Perhaps what they are most afraid of is that the public will see the diverse views of board members. They have different opinions about finances, instruction – and the superintendent’s perfomance in these areas. Every vote can not possibly be a consensus if board members are honestly representing the wishes of their constituents. Yet, board members are often encouraged to vote together for appearance sake.

As the highest school official in the county, Superintendent Chuck Adams should have no expectation of privacy. He is a public figure – and so are the 173 other superintendents in Kentucky. He answers to five bosses. The five people that voters in this county elect to ensure he does his job correctly. Voters should be allowed to hear what kind of evaluation their elected representatives are providing.

Safe Schools, Information Systems Testing: Targets of Senator's Questions

This morning, Interim Education Commissioner Elaine Farris fielded questions from members of the Senate A & R committee for a couple of hours. She will do the same thing this afternoon in the House.

Senators queried Farris on a range of budgetary issues including the Kentucky Instructional Data System (KIDS).

The timing and nature of this questioning was interesting, given yesterday's report from state Auditor Crit Luallen. Luallen accurately expressed problems with the current state of data-collection at KDE and related agencies like CPE and EPSB. But it is not clear that senators see fixing these long standing problems as a priority. One referred to a data repository as a suppository.

The auditor's report underscores a persistent need to shore up data collection so that policy-makers have better data sets from which to make informed decisions. And there's a lot of different types of data. Some legislators seem to be looking for cuts and are much less open to making needed improvements.

KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross told KSN&C that KIDS is designed to:
  • add longitudinal student tracking with both enrollment and assessment data
  • enable interoperability of data systems across district and state databases
  • create a data warehouse that combines demographic, assessment and financial data
  • create a foundation that will allow other sources of data to be added and searched/queried, such as data from CPE and EPSB
  • be the foundation for a more robust Knowledge Management Portal that will serve up a wealth of targeted instructional resources, including standards-based units of study, lesson plans, curriculum maps, assessments and other educational resources; the portal will offer a collaborative workspace that teachers can use to share best practices, develop test items and expand their professional skills
"KIDS will corral a lot of data from a school or district into one place and enable authorized users to view special reports. For instance, school administrators could generate reports that show student test scores, poverty level, attendance and more. Teachers could use KIDS to "personalize" their lesson plans for individual students,"
Gross said. And the KIDS system would be open to the general pulbic as well.

"It's really a data warehouse. The average person could use KIDS to generate spreadsheets showing school/district financial information (state, local, federal funding), enrollment, test scores, etc. And, it promises longitudinal data from test scores, which is a big plus."
The development of KIDS was funded through a federal grant from the NCES Institute for Education Science. Kentucky was one of 14 states to receive this funding. But in today's presentation Farris is telling legislators that among the current service reductions at KDE, KIDS is not being funded. $1.5 million per year is needed to operate the system annually.

Infinite Campus is in the final stages of implementation following a 2006 outlay of $10 million and another $4 million in 2008. Infinite Campus, like STI before it, collects the student attendance data that calculates average daily attendance for the SEEK formula. KDE really needs about $7 million to properly train districts to use the software. However required reductions have caused KDE to reduce the funding request to the bare minimum - $5.5 million in contract costs only. Given the headaches experienced by local school already trying to implement the system, look for an especially rocky implementation as new school districts are added in March.

One legislator hinted at sticking with STI for now to save money, but that would require KDE to renegotiate a new service agreement with STI. I wonder how those negotiations might have gone. KDE's Greg Rush said he didn't think that would save the state money.