Saturday, February 28, 2009

Heat Stroke Prevention Expert Calls HB 383 "well-intentioned" but...

This from Douglas J. Casa in the Herald-Leader:

Bill on athlete training falls short of goals

...Sen. Joni Jenkins' [HB 383] would require defibrillators at every athletic event, practice or game and coaches trained in how to use them. It also requires teams to have an ice pool on site when temperatures rise to 94 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

This proposal is a well-intentioned response to the tragic heat stroke death of 15-year-old Louisville high school football player Max Gilpin last August. ...

Immersing a severely overheated athlete in ice water is a proven and valid response to such an emergency medical situation. However, what Jenkins' bill fails to recognize is that highly-skilled athletic trainers or physicians need to be present to make the initial assessment that the reason for an athlete's illness or collapse is heat-related.

Those critical, if not life-saving, decisions should not be made by coaches with a few hours of additional training...

Douglas J. Casa,director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut, is a national expert on heat stroke prevention. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and of the National Athletic Trainers Association.

Quick Hits

Parents want threatening teacher transferred: About 100 people filled the cafeteria last night at Wilt Elementary School where parents voiced concerns about a fourth-grade teacher who had been allowed to return to the classroom after threatening the school's principal during a counseling session. (C-J)

Koenig’s bill is unfair to good parents: We believe it’s extremely important that parents take an active role in their children’s school years, but it would be excessive to fine them for missing parent-teacher conferences.State Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, has introduced a bill that proposes parents who don’t make it to at least one conference would be fined $50 for their first absence, with fines increasing up to $200 for each subsequent absence.We believe that Koenig’s intentions are in the right place and that he is sincere when he says he is trying to stress the importance of parental involvement, but this isn’t the right approach. (Daily News)

Time to revise school discipline: ...Though I’m no expert on education, I couldn’t help being intrigued to read about the high school principal in Kentucky who was suspended for allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old student.... from the viewpoint of being a former 15-year-old class clown and all around wisenheimer, school discipline, yes paddling, should be brought back to schools, but with conditions — such as witnesses to the paddling and parental notification. (Casey County News)

Memphis schools to teach nonviolence to staff, students: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s ideals of nonviolence are being used in an effort to reduce violence at Memphis, Tenn., schools. Some 50,000 students and staff will receive training in the principles over the next year. (The Commercial Appeal)

Bill would oust members of failing school boards: Georgia's governor would able , under a bill approved Wednesday in the state Senate. Gov. Sonny Perdue is pushing the measure that would allow him to oust school board officials in failing districts, in the wake of the crisis in Clayton County, which had its accreditation yanked in September by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The district has been beset by infighting and ethics troubles. Just this week, police escorted a Clayton County school board member from board meeting after the school system's ethics commission decided he shouldn't serve on the panel. (

Educators: Stand-up desks may improve attention, reduce obesity: Student desks that allow pupils to stand, sit or fidget to their hearts' content seem to improve student concentration and reduce obesity, say educators who use them. Now two studies are examining whether the desks really do improve students' academics or fitness. "I think we're so used to the traditional classroom it's taken a while for people to start thinking outside the box," said University of Minnesota kinesiologist Beth A. Lewis. "I think it's just a matter of breaking the mold." (The New York Times)

ACLU: Too many disadvantaged Miss. teens sent to alternative schools: Over the past four years, the number of Mississippi students -- including disproportionately high numbers of black students and students with special needs -- sent to alternative schools has risen about 23%, according to a new American Civil Liberties Union report. The report claims schools are too punitive and do too little to improve the students' behavior or academics. (The Jackson, Miss, Clarion-Ledger .)

Technology opens doors for collaborative learning: Blogs and wikis can help teachers work collaboratively even with those outside of their own school or district, writes sixth-grade teacher Bill Ferriter, who writes a blog and is a senior fellow in the Teacher Leaders Network. He offers tips to help educators get started and make the most of this professional-learning opportunity. (Educational Leadership)

Study: Teachers, curricula help public schools outscore private peers: Certified math teachers with ongoing professional development and more modern curricula help public-school students do better than their private-school counterparts in math, according to a new study. "Schools that hired more certified teachers and had a curriculum that de-emphasized learning by rote tended to do better on standardized math tests," said University of Illinois education professor Sarah Lubienski, a study co-author. "And public schools had more of both." (ScienceDaily)

Facebook may promote communication between teens, parents: Facebook's membership of adults ages 35 to 54 has almost quadrupled since June 2008, according to iStrategyLabs, a digital marketing agency. Counting their parents and grandparents among their Facebook friends may be prompting teens to be more cautious about what they post online and may be improving intergenerational communication, some say. (The Sacramento Bee)

Sex-Bias Remedies Upheld

...The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last month that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is not the exclusive means for suing districts over sex bias.

The justices ruled that the 1972 statute called Title IX does not bar victims of sex discrimination in schools from pursuing claims under the federal statute known as Section 1983 - a Reconstruction-era law that allows plaintiffs to sue any individual who violates their civil rights. Analysts believe the statute may offer wider protections than Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in federally financed schools and colleges.

"We conclude that Title IX was not meant to be an exclusive mechanism for addressing gender discrimination in schools, or as a substitute for Section 1983 suits as a means of enforcing constitutional rights," Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the court on Jan. 21 in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee (Case No. 07-1125).
During the 2000–2001 school year, the daughter of petitioners Lisa and Robert Fitzgerald was a kindergarten student in the Barnstable, Massachusetts, school system, and rode the bus to school each morning. One day she told her parents that, whenever she wore a dress, a third-grade boy on the school bus would bully her into lifting her skirt.

Lisa Fitzgerald immediately called the school principal, Frederick Scully, who arranged a meeting later that day with the Fitzgeralds, their daughter, and another school official, Lynda Day. Scully and Day then questioned the alleged bully, who denied the allegations. Day also interviewed the bus driver and several students who rode the bus. She concluded that she could not corroborate the girl’s version of the events.

The Fitzgeralds’ daughter then provided new details ofthe alleged abuse to her parents, who relayed them toScully. Specifically, she told her parents that in additionto bullying her into raising her skirt, the boy coerced herinto pulling down her underpants and spreading her legs. Scully scheduled a second meeting with the Fitzgeralds to discuss the additional details and again questioned theboy and other students.

Meanwhile, the local police department conducted anindependent investigation and concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the boy. Based partly on the police investigation and partly on the school’s own investigation, Scully similarly concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant discipline.

Scully did propose remedial measures to the Fitzgeralds. He suggested transferring their daughter to a different bus or leaving rows of empty seats between the kindergarteners and older students on the original bus. The Fitzgeralds felt that these proposals punished their daughter instead of the boy and countered with alternative proposals. They suggested transferring the boy to a different bus or placing a monitor on the original bus. The Barnstable school system’s superintendent, Russell Dever,did not act on these proposals.

The Fitzgeralds began driving their daughter to schoolto avoid further bullying on the bus, but she continued to report unsettling incidents at school. The Fitzgeralds reported each incident to Scully. The Fitzgeralds’ daughter had an unusual number of absences during the remainder of the school year.

Obama Invests in College Affordablity

This from Ed Week:

President Obama on Thursday proposed a huge expansion of the government's role in making college more affordable and putting it within reach of more students... The president was following through on a campaign promise to give every child the chance to go to college or pursue some form of higher education.

In his budget plan, Obama seeks to link growth of the Pell Grant program to inflation for the first time since the program began. It would grow by more than 75 percent over the next decade.

Obama seeks to save money and protect students from the current turmoil in financial markets by boosting direct lending by the government and discontinuing government-subsidized loans made by private lenders.

During the Bush administration, a massive student loan scandal exposed student lending companies that were improperly collecting hundreds of millions in federal subsidies. At the time, Education Secretaries Rod Paige and his successor, Margaret Spellings, argued repeatedly that under existing law they were powerless to stop the payments and that it was Congress that needed to act.

Obama apparently disagrees.

Legislative leaders like CPE's tuition caps

This from the Herald-Leader:

FRANKFORT — The state's top two legislative leaders said Friday they are pleased with a tuition proposal from higher education's coordinating board and probably won't pursue a cap on tuition through legislation.

Earlier this week, the Council on Postsecondary Education proposed a tiered system for capping tuition increases in the coming school year. If approved, no state school could increase tuition by more than 5 percent.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said ..."If they make a good-faith effort to continue to do that, I think the General Assembly won't address that issue in this session." House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he agreed...

Under the council's proposal, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville could charge up to 5 percent more in the 2009-10 academic year.

The six regional universities — including Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Kentucky State — could increase tuition up to 4 percent, while the Kentucky Community and Technical College System could hike its rate 3 percent.

Council members will be asked to approve the recommended caps at their March 6 meeting....

Friday, February 27, 2009

House plan to reform CATS unveiled

This from the Herald-Leader:
FRANKFORT — A House bill to revamp Kentucky's controversial CATS student testing system got its first public airing late Thursday before the House Education Committee.

House Bill 508's many provisions include: replacing the CATS system, but not until after the 2010-2011 school year; revising all state academic standards in a phased process starting next year; and aligning core content at all levels, as well as aligning high school academic core content with college requirements.

While the current testing program would continue through 2011, writing portfolios would be removed from accountability this year. Portfolios would be retained, however, as instructional tools from primary through 12th grade.

The measure is the House's response to Senate Bill 1, which would rework CATS by eliminating open-response questions and taking out portfolios. The Senate has already passed SB 1.

Most of the Education Committee session was devoted to a detailed explanation of HB 508 by its lead sponsor, state Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond.

Moberly said he would have preferred to leave CATS unchanged through 2014, when all Kentucky students are supposed to achieve proficiency status. But he said there had been "such a hue and cry" over CATS that he thought change was necessary...

Over at the Prichard blog, Susan has a workup of the bill and opines that HB 508 is a strong step forward. Notice Ben Oldham's argument for a blended assessment in the comments section.

I maintain an almost complete lack of faith in program reviews as an effective solution to the Writing Portfolio + Arts & Humanities problem. I seriously doubt the muscularity of the approach and predict that, if adopted, within five years program reviews will be abandoned as useless.

I hope the House will find some middle ground during negotiations.

New Study Shows Selective Use of Data and Political Bias in International Test

This from the Brookings Institute:

A new report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution finds serious flaws in a prominent international test and concludes that the test should not be used as a benchmark for state assessments.

The report zeroes in on an international testing program known as PISA, short for the Programme for International Student Assessment, which is administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Although the United States participates in PISA, Tom Loveless, senior fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy and author of the new study, said it has generally "flown below the radar" in this country. That may soon change, however, as the National Governor’s Association, backed by other powerful groups in Washington, pushes for states to use PISA as an international benchmark of student performance. Loveless concludes that without major reform, serious deficiencies in PISA’s approach to student assessment make it "inappropriate for benchmarking against U.S. tests." ...

The report aso finds encouraging progress in big city districts, despite continued achievement gaps

Never Stop Learning

College recruiter Education Dynamics has a nice little video...

The 15 Strangest College Courses In America

I remember as an undergrad at UK, going back to the frat house for lunch and finding Owen Dorsey and some of the guys camped out in front of the TV watching "All My Children." The mood was semi-serious joviality; the air punctuated with the occasional "Erica, you bitch!" as a pretzel would explode against the TV screen.

It probably never occurred to the guys that they might actually be able to get course credit for the time they spent languishing in melodrama-land.

But today's students at the University of Wisconsin can get credit in a course titled, "Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles," one of several courses making the list of The 15 Strangest College Courses In America over at Online Colleges Blog.

Imagine, if you will:

"Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Shows" (University of California, Berkeley)

"Zombies in Popular Media" (Columbia College, Chicago);
"Cyberporn and Society" (State University of New York at Buffalo)

Or the mythic, yet real, favorite fluff course of all time, "Underwater Basket Weaving" (University of California, San Diego).

Also making the list, "The Art of Walking" (Centre College)
This might sound like the epitome of college fluff, but it’s actually a class dealing with Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Judgment”. The course offers a mixture of lectures and walks around the Danville, Kentucky area including strolls through “nature preserves, battlefields, cemeteries, the nearby Shaker Village, campuses and farms”. Students are also given freelance walking assignments in addition to more traditional college work like reading and term papers.

Quick Hits

Florida State students plan to raise $100K for faculty salaries: A volunteer group of Florida State University students has launched a fundraising campaign called "Protect Our Professors" to save faculty who are in danger of being laid off. (Tallahassee Democrat)

St. Louis preschool offers therapy, healing to abused children: Before he got kicked out of school twice, William had been addicted to cocaine, abused, neglected and abandoned — but this was no teenager. Just a scant over 3 feet tall, he had yet to turn 4. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Lawmaker wants ban on seclusion rooms for children with disabilities: School seclusion rooms for children with disabilities would be banned under a bill introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Scott Rupp. He said he wanted to eliminate the rooms "until the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can prove they serve a worthwhile purpose." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Creative Leaders' Will to Succeed Is Key to KIPP: Jaime Escalante, the man who taught me the power of great teaching, had a Spanish word he used often in his East Los Angeles math classes: ganas. It meant the will to succeed, the urge to make an extra effort. (Washington Post)

5 Myths About Education Reform: To borrow from the old quip on giving up smoking: Fixing public schools is easy -- we've done it hundreds of times. Even with the billions of dollars in economic stimulus aid, public schools stand no chance of getting better until we dispel some empty theories about how to help them. 1. We know how to fix public schools; we just lack the political will to finish the job. 2. Teachers know best how to teach kids; policymakers should leave them alone. 3. The federal government meddles too much in the affairs of local schools. 4. Teacher unions are the enemy. 5. There's no place in education for politics. (Washington Post)

School officials apologize to student over shirt saga: Staff at Big Bear High School violated a student's Constitutional right to free speech when they ousted her from class and ordered her to remove her T-shirt sporting the message "Prop. 8 Equals Hate," officials said.(San Bernardino County Sun)

$50,000 claim filed over girl's time-out in school: A $50,000 legal claim alleges that Greenfield Middle School teachers falsely imprisoned a student when they put her in a time-out room, and that the experience caused the girl to hyperventilate and feel nauseous. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Tennessee State University sued for racial bias against white student: In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Angela Cela accuses TSU and three faculty members of violating her civil rights. The complaint says TSU refused to give Cela, a Pacific Islander, a financial grant available to graduate students in speech pathology and audiology because she isn't black. (The Tennessean)

GI Bill produces a shock in Texas: The Veterans Affairs Department released a preliminary list of the maximum tuition and fees it will cover under the new GI Bill, and the numbers are startling to say the least. (San Antonio Express-News)

Economy Hits Hard on Black Campuses: Historically black institutions have disadvantages when it comes to weathering hard times: smaller endowments and a higher proportion of students who are facing a credit crunch. (New York Times)

Schools try to mend racial sting: "Marshmallow," "Buckwheat" and "Shrimp boat" became "I'm sorry" Tuesday and turned a racial flare-up into a teaching moment, two high school principals said. (Rocky Mountain News)

Wisconsin girl, 14, arrested for classroom texting...: A 14-year-old Wisconsin girl who refused to stop texting during a high school math class was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, according to police. The teenager was busted last Wednesday at Wauwatosa East High School after she ignored a teacher's demand that she cease texting. (Smoking Gun)

Charter schools struggle to secure suitable campuses: L.A. Unified is required to provide space for charter schools, but many have been operating out of hotels and sharing campuses with traditional schools for years as unused campuses remain closed. More than five years ago, Ivy Academia's campus was a Hilton hotel. (Los Angeles Times)

Held Back: St. Louis Public Schools' 100-year deed restriction bans charter schools from setting up shop in the city's abandoned classrooms: Rhonda Broussard went out shopping in late 2007 for a building to house the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, a set of French- and Spanish-speaking public charter schools she plans to open this fall. Broussard pulled up in front of the old Hodgen Elementary School hopped out of the car and said to herself, "I want that school." There was only one problem. The St. Louis Public Schools was set on selling the building for $1 million -- but not to charter-school operators. (Riverfront Times)

NJ principal spots fire at teacher's house: She's not just a school principal - she's a rescuer. Principal Jill MacIntosh noticed flames shooting out of a garbage can as she drove to work Tuesday at Washington Street Elementary School in Toms River. It turned out that the fire was on the property of Wendy Yorke, a third-grade teacher at her school who is home on maternity-leave with her 4-month-old son. (H-L)

Illinois Student Newspaper Gets Censored: The Administration of Chicago State University, in a case eerily reminiscent of The Governor's State case of a few years ago, has prevented an issue of the student newspaper from being published. (Student Press Law Center)

Big Changes on the Way in Lending to Students: The Obama administration outlined a vast overhaul of financial aid programs for college students, one that would end years of federal support to banks and other lenders. (NY Times)

In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth: One idea that elite universities like Yale, sprawling public systems like Wisconsin and smaller private colleges like Lewis and Clark have shared for generations is that a traditional liberal arts education is, by definition, not intended to prepare students for a specific vocation. Rather, the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: They are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice. But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency. (NY Times)

Scholastic Accused of Misusing Book Clubs: A consumer watchdog group accuses the children’s publisher of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits and toy cars. (NY Times)

U.S. Court Finds No Vaccine-Autism Link: A special federal court ruled [recently] that there is no persuasive evidence for a link between childhood vaccines and autism. The conclusions came in three test cases heard by special masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a special court in Washington with jurisdiction over certain suits against the federal government. (The School Law Blog)

District's Ban on Confederate Symbols Upheld: A Missouri school district did not violate the First Amendment when it prohibited students from displaying Confederate flags, a federal appeals court has ruled. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled unanimously in favor of the Farmington school district on Jan. 30. "The record in this case contains evidence of likely racially motivated violence, racial tension, and other altercations directly related to adverse race relations in the community and the school," the court said in B.W.A. v. Farmington R-7 School District. (The School Law Blog)

School sued for refusing gay-straight club: Two Florida high school students on Tuesday sued their school board because they were not allowed to form a club that promotes the tolerance of gays. (MSNBC)

Discipline divides teachers, group: Dwight Anderson says a female student slapped him across the face in front of his entire music class in November, knocking off his glasses. The next day, he said, the girl was sent back to his class as if nothing had happened. (The Advocate)

TECH: Google Publishes Millions Of LIFE Pics: Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google. LIFE photo archive hosted by Google.

Is Arne Duncan Really Margaret Spellings in Drag?: I have been watching and listening to our new secretary of education, trying to understand his views on the most important issues facing our schools and the nation's children. I wanted to believe candidate Barack Obama when he said that he would introduce real change and restore hope. Surely, I thought, he understood that the deadening influence of No Child Left Behind has produced an era of number-crunching that has very little to do with improving education or raising academic standards....the media today defines an education reformer as someone who endorses Republican principles of choice and accountability. (Bridging Differences)

Confusing Test Scores With 'Being Well-Educated': Yes, alas: Duncan’s office is not yet offering a change either of us can believe in. To stimulate the economy, Obama’s education plan includes more focus on charters, and for teachers, schools, and districts that implement so-called “merit pay” based on student test scores. Aside from misdirecting the goals of education, it misdirects the path to a good education. By confusing test scores with “being well-educated,” and the motivation to do a good job as synonymous with financial reward, we undermine values essential to democracy. (Bridging Differences)

Students Reconcile Darwin's Theories With Faith: The state of Kansas has been publicly wrestling with how or whether to teach Darwin's theory of evolution in the public schools. At the University of Kansas, some students are studying biological sciences despite devout Christian faith and a strong belief in the biblical story of creation. They face internal struggles similar to the ones Darwin himself must have felt as he wrestled with his scientific theories about evolution. (NPR)

Louisiana Law Protects Evolution Skeptics In Class: Louisiana passed a law last year that protects teachers who want to raise doubts — what they call "critical thinking" — about controversial science, including evolution. Some are taking advantage of the law, while others are worried about it. (NPR)

After 25 Years of Reform: Teachers See Better Schools, Achievement, Careers

After 25 years of reform...

… teachers are more satisfied in their careers.
… academic standards and curriculum are stronger.
… teachers are better prepared.
… teachers are addressing diversity better and giving more personal attention to students.
… teachers are more prepared to deal with school violence.
… students are better prepared, more ambitious, and more trusting of teachers.
… many students may not be improving sufficiently, however, as they move to higher grade levels.
… teachers place less value on standardized tests.
… parental support and school relationships have improved.
… progress is less for urban schools.

Today’s teachers …
… continue to be passionate about teaching.
… feel well supported.
… put a high premium on experience.
… often agree with principals, but differ substantially on some major issues.

Looking to the future, public school educators …
… do not see teacher supply or teacher retention as serious problems for their school.
… see teachers as better prepared.
… are likely to recommend teaching as a career to young people, at a time fewer students express an interest in teaching.
… support the concept of teamwork more than they may practice it.
… feel schools are not doing a good job educating for global awareness.
… value technology and use the Internet and digital communication in varying degrees.
… but have not explored the range of digital communication available for professional development and interaction.
… and do not receive high marks from students on ability to teach about computers or the Internet.

Such are the findings of ...

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Past, Present and Future (2008) is the 25th anniversary edition of a survey series begun in 1984, and there is good news to report.

Many of the findings are substantially more positive than they have been in the past.

One striking finding is the improvement in teachers’ assessment of the state of their profession. Teachers today are more satisfied in their careers than teachers were in earlier years. While their love of teaching has been a constant over the last 25 years, today more teachers feel respected in society, recognized for their work and better compensated than they have in the past.

They rate the quality of their schools higher, as well as their school’s academic standards and curricula.

Overall, principals agree with teachers on the improvements of career satisfaction and school quality and are generally even more positive than teachers in their assessments.

The trends on student achievement are also positive.

Teachers view students today as better prepared for grade level work and they see improvements in student knowledge on specific subjects and skills. Most principals and teachers believe their schools do well in preparing students for college, and a higher percentage of students aspire to attend college today than 20 years ago (and girls aspire to go at higher rates than boys). Teachers and students generally feel encouraged by their school culture to build strong relationships with one another.

Students generally rate teachers highly in preparing them academically, and students today are more trusting of their teachers than they were in past decades. Students often mention interpersonal skills when asked about what makes a good teacher....

...However, there are serious causes for concern which pose challenges to educators and policymakers.

Educators in urban schools are significantly less positive in their assessment of many factors than their colleagues in suburban and rural schools. Teachers and principals tend to rate urban schools significantly lower on school quality, and teachers and principals in schools with a high proportion of minority students give significantly lower ratings on academic standards, curriculum, and student preparation. Urban educators also show greater concern about factors including the supply of qualified 22 teachers, teacher turnover, student dropout rates, quality of college preparation, school disciplinary policy, parental support, poverty and poor nutrition...

Much has changed in education over the past 25 years, and the education environment will continue to change. Education reform since 1984 has shifted from a focus on teaching to a focus on student achievement, with teachers as leaders in a responsibility more broadly shared among teachers, administrators, parents, the community and the students themselves. Teachers today have access to a wider range of resources for instruction, professional development, and professional communication than teachers did in 1984. ...

Fewer teachers today value standardized testing as a resource for improving teaching than in the past...
The Numbers After 25 years of reform …

… teachers are more satisfied in their careers.

  • A majority of teachers (62%) are very satisfied with their careers, compared to 40% in 1984.
  • More teachers (66%) feel respected in society today, compared to 47% in 1984.
  • Nearly twice as many teachers in 2008 agree that their job allows them the opportunity to earn a decent salary (66%), compared to 1984 (37%).
  • More teachers report that they are usually recognized for good performance (48%), compared to 1984 (33%).
  • Far more teachers today (75%) report that they would advise a young person to pursue a career in teaching, compared to 1984 (45%).
  • Highly experienced teachers with more than 20 years of experience (67%) and new teachers with five years or less experience (66%) are more likely than mid-career teachers with 6 to 20 years of experience (58%) to be very satisfied with their careers.

… academic standards and curriculum are stronger.

  • The number of teachers who rate the academic standards in their school as excellent has doubled from 26% in 1984 to 53% today.
  • Nine in ten teachers (89%) rate their school curriculum as excellent or good in 2008, compared to eight in ten teachers (81%) who rated it as excellent or good in 1984.
  • Today, twice as many teachers rate availability of materials and supplies as excellent compared to 1984 (44% vs. 22%).

… teachers are better prepared.

  • Two thirds (67%) of teachers agree that the training and preparation teachers receive today does a good job of preparing them for the classroom, compared to 46% of teachers in 1984.
  • More principals (51%) report that the quality of new teachers entering the profession is stronger currently than it was in 1986 (44%), and those principals reporting that teacher quality was better in the past has declined (7% vs. 15%).

… teachers are addressing diversity better and giving more personal attention to students.

  • More teachers in 2008 than in 1992 report being well prepared to address important challenges to student learning (in schools where at least a quarter of the students face the challenge): poverty (80% vs. 56%); problems speaking or understanding the English language (79% vs. 66%); lack of parental support (79% vs. 63%); and poor health (60% vs. 51%).
  • Most teachers (88%) rate their school policy about serving students with special needs as
    excellent or good, compared to 72% who rated their school policy on children with disabilities excellent or good in the 1984 MetLife Survey.
  • More students today compared to 1988 feel they get personal attention from their teacher most or all of the time (42% vs. 25%), and fewer students today than in 1988 report hardly ever receiving attention (7% vs. 20%).
  • Fewer students (18%) agree that teachers cannot relate to them because of differences in
    backgrounds, compared to 1988 (25%).

… teachers are more prepared to deal with school violence.

  • Far more teachers in 2008 (63%) feel prepared to address school violence than in 1992 (36%).

...students are better prepared, more ambitious, and more trusting of teachers.

  • A majority of teachers (54%) report that at least three-fourths of their students arrive at school prepared to learn at grade level, compared to 44% in 1992.
  • In 1988, eight in ten students (79%) said they were likely to go to college, compared to 90% today. The ranks of the “very likely” attendees increased even more dramatically over the past 20 years: from 58% to 73% between 1988 and 2008.
  • Girls report that they are very likely to go to college at significantly higher rates than boys (95% vs. 86%).
  • Teachers (77%) and principals (78%) report that their schools do an excellent or good job of preparing students for college.
  • The number of secondary school students who trust their teachers only a little, or not at all decreased to 28% in 2008 from 39% in 2000.

… many students may not be improving sufficiently, however, as they move to higher grade levels.

  • Teacher ratings of student skills as "excellent or good" are substantially lower for secondary schools than elementary schools in subjects including reading (67% vs. 83%), writing (53% vs. 68%) and math (53% vs. 79%).

… teachers place less value on standardized tests.

  • In 1984, three in five teachers (61%) were in favor of standardized tests to measure student achievement of all the students in their school. Today half (48%) of teachers agree that standardized tests are effective in helping them to track student performance.

… parental support and school relationships have improved.

  • More teachers today (67%) than in 1984 (54%) rate parental and community support for their school as good or excellent.
  • A larger proportion of principals (70%) and teachers (63%) agree that relations between parents and schools have improved in recent years.
  • Half of teachers (50%) report that lack of parental support or help is a serious hindrance to learning for at least a quarter of their students, down from 65% in 1992.

… progress is less for urban schools.

  • Teachers in urban schools are less likely than those in rural schools or suburban schools to rate academic standards in their school as excellent (45% vs. 52% vs. 60%).
  • Teachers in urban schools are less likely than those in suburban schools to rate the availability of teaching materials as excellent (33% vs. 54%).
  • Three in five (61%) teachers in urban schools rate their disciplinary policy as excellent or good, compared to three quarters of rural (75%) and suburban (74%) teachers.
  • Teachers in urban schools are twice as likely as teachers in suburban schools to say that getting a sufficient number of qualified teachers is a serious problem (40% vs. 19%).
  • Urban principals are more likely than rural or suburban principals to report that more than a quarter of their students arrive not fully prepared to learn at their grade level (67% vs. 31% vs. 23%).
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of teachers in urban schools report that lack of parental support is a problem with at least a quarter of their students, compared to half of rural teachers (49%) and 41% of suburban teachers.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of principals in urban schools see lack of parental support as a problem with at least a quarter of their students, compared to 40% of rural and 30% of suburban principals.
  • Fewer teachers in urban schools than those in rural or suburban schools think that parent relations have improved recently (51% vs. 66% vs. 70%).
  • Teachers in urban schools are more likely than their suburban counterparts to say that dropout rates are a problem in their district (63% vs. 32%).
  • Lower numbers of urban than suburban teachers rate their students’ skills as "excellent or good" in major subject and skill areas, including reading (61% v. 81%), writing (55% vs. 68%), math (53% v. 76%), science (47% vs. 62%) and humanities (37% vs. 60%).

… some big challenges grow larger.

  • Nearly twice the proportion of teachers today as in 1992 say that a lack of facility in English hinders learning for at least a quarter of their students (22% vs. 11%), and 30% of urban school teachers report that lack of facility in English is a problem for at least a quarter of their students.
  • Today, half (49%) of teachers say that poverty hinders learning for at least a quarter of their students, compared to 41% in 1992.
  • More teachers (43%) agree that their classes have become so mixed in terms of students’ learning abilities that they can’t teach them effectively, compared to 1988 (39%).

Today’s teachers …

… continue to be passionate about teaching.

  • Eight in ten teachers (82%) agree strongly that they love to teach, a level similar to 1984.

… feel well supported.

  • Most teachers (83%) agree that they have the guidance and support they need to be an effective teacher, including 45% of teachers who strongly agree.
  • Eight in ten teachers (78%) and nine in ten principals (91%) report that professional development for teachers is excellent or good.
  • Three-fourths (74%) of teachers report that their administration’s support for teachers is excellent or good, including more than a third (37%) who rate the support as excellent.

… put a high premium on experience.

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of teachers meet with a more experienced teacher to discuss teaching at least once a month.
  • Teachers who have less experience meet with another teacher to discuss teaching at a higher frequency. Six in ten new teachers (59%) meet with another teacher on teaching at least once a week, compared to 42% of teachers with 6 to 20 years of experience, and 30% of teachers with years or more experience.
  • Most principals are experienced teachers: 89% of those surveyed have served in the classroom for more than 5 years, and the average teaching experience among the principals is 14 years.

… often agree with principals, but differ substantially on some major issues.

  • Eight in ten principals (81%) report that teachers in their school spend at least three-quarters of their classroom time with students on teaching, compared to 53% of teachers who report that level of time spent on teaching (as opposed to disciplining or administrative work).
  • Most principals (96%) rate their school’s discipline policy as excellent or good, whereas 71% of teachers rate the discipline policy as excellent or good. This is the largest gap in perception between teachers and principals for this MetLife Survey.
  • Many teachers (43%) agree that their classes have become so mixed in terms of students’ learning abilities that they can’t teach them effectively, compared to 24% of principals who agree. In the 2008 MetLife Survey, more secondary teachers (49%) agree with this statement than elementary teachers (40%).
  • Principals’ estimate of the number of students in their school who come prepared to learn at their grade level is more positive than teachers’ reports. Six in ten principals (61%) report that less than a quarter or none of their students are not prepared, compared to 54% of teachers.
  • Far more principals (79%) agree that standardized tests help teachers in their school to better track students’ performance than teachers agree (48%).
  • More urban principals (83%) than urban teachers (65%) report that poverty is a problem hindering learning for at least a quarter of their students...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

'Flat Stanley' Survives Miracle On The Hudson

This from WLWT by way of First Coast News:

CINCINNATI -- Flat Stanley goes on a lot of adventures. Kids all over the world send the cut-out cartoon character on voyages with friends or strangers and then look forward to hearing about Stanley's travels.

Gina Kemp, a third grader at St. Henry Elementary in Erlanger, Ky, joined the fun in December and sent her Flat Stanley on a trip with a family friend to New York City.

She finally heard back from her Stanley -- and he had quite the story to tell. Turns out Stanley was aboard Flight 1549, which ditched into the Hudson River minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport.
Kemp gave her Flat Stanley to a close friend of her family, Eric Stevenson, last December. Stevenson used to live in Cincinnati but now calls Paris home.

When Stevenson made a trip to New York City, he decided to take some pictures of Flat Stanley in Times Square and send them to Gina when he returned to Paris. But
Times Square wasn't the most exciting thing that happened to Stevenson, or Flat Stanley, that trip.

Stevenson was one of the 153 people who survived the US Airways emergency landing into the Hudson River.

While many people left their belongings on the plane, Stevenson was able to grab his briefcase with Flat Stanley inside. Both made it out in one piece.

Stevenson returned to Paris safely, with Flat Stanley in tow, and wrote an e-mail to Gina with the tale of his harrowing experience, as always, from Flat Stanley's perspective.

Hello Gina,

It's taken me a long time to write … sorry I've been out of touch for so long.

I've been really busy travelling. After several days in Paris, I went to New York!

Here are a couple photos when I visited Times Square. It's ull of lights and big billboards.

Then I saw the Empire State Building. Amazing!

After that, I was on a plane that landed in the river near New York. At the time I was in Eric's briefcase. Luckily he carried me off the plane! Here's a photo he took after we were safely on a rescue boat.

What an adventure! I'm safe and dry now … and no need for you to worry.

What have you been up to lately?

I'm back in Paris and hoping it will get warm soon. Spring is on its way.

All the best from Paris,

your friend,

Flat Stanley

Stevenson said he had planned to return Flat Stanley to Gina soon so he could have adventures with someone else.

He also wrote a story about his experience.
Read Eric Stevenson's first-hand account of the day he survived the "Miracle On the Hudson".

No Dog Left Behind

The Fallacy of 'Tough Love' Reform

This from Marion Brady at Fireside Learning here, and in Ed Week here:
Driving the rural roads of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, I've occasionally been fortunate enough to be blocked by sheep being moved from one pasture to another.

I say "fortunate" because I've gotten to watch an impressive performance by a dog—a border collie.

And what a performance! A single, midsize dog herding two or three hundred sheep, keeping them moving in the right direction, rounding up strays, knowing how to intimidate but not cause panic, funneling them all through a gate, and obviously enjoying the challenge.

Why a border collie? Why not an Airedale or Zuchon, or another of about 400 breeds listed on the Internet?

Because, among those for whom herding sheep is serious business, there's general agreement that border collies are better than any other dog at doing what needs to be done. They have "the knack." That knack is so important, those who care most about border collies even oppose their being entered in dog shows. They're certain that would lead to border collies being bred to look good, and looking good isn't the point. What counts is talent, interest, innate ability, performance.

Other breeds are no less impressive in other ways. If you're lost in a snowstorm in the Alps, you don't need a border collie. You need a big, strong dog with a good nose, lots of fur, wide feet, and a great sense of direction for returning with help. You need a Saint Bernard.

If varmints are sneaking into your henhouse, killing your chickens, and escaping down a little hole in a nearby field, you don't need a border collie or a Saint Bernard. You need a fox terrier.

Want to sniff luggage for bombs? Chase felons? Stand guard duty? Retrieve downed game birds? Guide the blind? Detect certain diseases? Locate earthquake survivors? Entertain audiences? Play nice with little kids? Go for help if Little Nell falls down a well? With training, dogs can do those jobs well.

So, let's set performance standards and train all dogs to meet them. All 400 breeds. Leave no dog behind. Two-hundred-pound mastiffs may have a little trouble with the chase-the-fox-into-the-little-hole standard, and Chihuahuas will probably have difficulty with the tackle-the-felon-and-pin-him-to-the-ground standard. But, hey, standards are standards! No excuses! No giving in to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Hold dogs accountable.

Here's a question: Why are one-size-fits-all performance standards inappropriate to the point of silliness when applied to dogs, but accepted without question when applied to kids? ...

Tuition caps would hold UK to 5% rise

This from Ryan Alessi at H-L:

The University of Kentucky would have to limit any tuition increase next year to 5 percent under a recommendation before the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

The agency is proposing a tiered system for capping tuition increases, in which UK and the University of Louisville could charge up to 5 percent more in the 2009-10 academic year.

The six regional universities — including Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University and Kentucky State University — could increase tuition up to 4 percent. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System could boost its rate 3 percent, according to the draft recommendation from the council's staff.

"Most of the response we've gotten has been a sense of relief that the numbers are in the range that they're in and that this has been a collaborative process," said Council President Robert King, who has been talking with university officials, Gov. Steve Beshear and key lawmakers about the plan....

Road Trip

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No Wisecrack Is Left Behind

Over at Eduwonk, a gozillion educators, wonks and assorted rabble-rousers are working to rename the No Child Left Behind Act.

Some suggestions are serious:
Quality Education for All Children Act

But most are like these:
All American Children Are Above Average Act
Mental Asset Recovery Plan
Act to Help Children Read Gooder
Double Back Around to Pick Up the Children We Left Behind Act
Rearranging the Deck Chairs Act
Teach to the Test Act
Could We Start Again Please Act
The Act of Contrition
Mega-sized Multiple Choice Exam Act
Weapons of Mass Education Act
Achieving America’s Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic Goals (AARRRG!)
No Child Left Untested
National Testing Services Subsidy Act
No Excuse Left Behind
Every Opportunity to Learn Act
Another Administration, Another Education Act Act
Federal Education Takeover Act
No Teacher Left Unjaded
The Hail Mary With Two Seconds Left on the Clock Act
Ignoring the Impact of Parents and Putting the Blame on Teachers Act

Then there's this golden oldie...
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Hat tip to the NY Times

Readin’, ‘Ritin’, ‘Rithmetic, and Responsibility

The first book in the 97th volume of the Kentucky Law Journal is now available for purchase.

In this edition Sarah Sloan Wilson has written -
"Readin’, ‘Ritin’, ‘Rithmetic, and Responsibility: Advocating for the Development of Controlled-Choice Student-Assignment Plans after Parents Involved."

As one public-school board member has remarked, “student assignment is not pleasant.” After the Supreme Court’s decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, in which the court struck down Seattle Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools’ use of individual racial classifications, student assignment has become an even more unpleasant task for board members, especially those faced with evidence of rising racial isolation in their districts.

In "Readin’, ‘Ritin’, ‘Rithmetic, and Responsibility: Advocating for the Development of Controlled-Choice Student-Assignment Plans after Parents Involved," Wilson, a former middle and high school English teacher, proposes a controlled-choice student-assignment plan that will comply with Parents Involved while, at the same time, work toward a district’s goal of providing an equal and excellent education for all students, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or residential location.

Since 1913, the Kentucky Law Journal has published scholarly works of general interest to the legal community and is the 10th oldest law school journal in the country. It is produced by students of the University of Kentucky College of Law under the direction of an 11-person editorial board and with the advice of a faculty member. The Kentucky Law Journal is published quarterly by the College of Law.

Hat Tip to Kentucky Law Review.

Obama on Education

This from the Congressional Quarterly by way of the NY Times, photo by Doug Mills:

President Obama’s Address to Congress

...In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity. It is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma, and yet just over half of our citizens have that level of education.

We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish. This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.

That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education, from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have to make to the children of America.


Already, we've made a historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We've dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life.

We've made college affordable for nearly 7 million more students, 7 million...


... and we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children's progress.

But we know that our schools don't just need more resources; they need more reform. And that is why...


That is why this budget creates new teachers -- new incentives for teacher performance, pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We'll invest -- we'll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools. It is...


It is our responsibility as lawmakers and as educators to make this system work, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.

So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.

This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.

And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself; it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American.


That's why -- that's why we will support -- we will provide the support necessary for all young Americans to complete college and meet a new goal:

By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

That is a goal we can meet...

Reducing Dropout Rates

So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself; it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American.

--President Barack Obama

This from Ed Week:

“Grad Nation: A Guidebook to
Help Communities Tackle the Dropout Crisis”

One of the first steps for anyone wanting to reduce the dropout rate in a community may be to convince others that a dropout problem exists, according to a guide released this month.

The publication, “Grad Nation," lists some statistics that may help demonstrate the seriousness of the problem. It notes, for example, that nearly a third of public high school students don’t graduate with their class, and that in 2,000 high schools, 40 percent of freshmen typically drop out by their senior year...

Schroeder Blames Felner, Wants Separate Trial

Citing "the gross disparity of proof against the two Defendants, [and] the presence of antagonistic and mutually exclusive defenses," indicted co-conpirator Thomas Schroeder has asked the US District Court in Louisville for a separate trial.

Schroeder, through his attorney, David S. Mejia, is concerned that a possible "spillover" effect may occur if the two defendants are tried together.

According to the motion, "the potential that evidence against the principle (sic) Defendant [former UofL Education Dean Robert Felner] may inspire transference of guilt from Felner to Schroeder... will deprive Thomas Schroeder of a fair trial if he is not granted a separate trial.

Read Schroeder's Motion to Sever-Misjoinder.

The Defendants were indicted on October 22, 2008, of multiple-counts alleging an 8-year mail fraud conspiracy covering the time period of July 2001 to July 2008. Robert Felner was indicted in his capacity as a Director of School Education and Professor at the University of Rhode Island and thereafter in his capacity as Dean of the College of Education at the University of Louisville. Thomas Schroeder is indicted in his capacity as the incorporator of the National Center on Public Education and Prevention, a non-profit corporation in Illinois.

Felner had obtained contracts to survey and conduct assessments for several school districts: Atlanta (2001-2004); Buffalo and the New York Middle School Association (2002-2007); Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District (2002-2004). In 2007 the University of Louisville received a No Child Left Behind Act grant, which was administered by Robert Felner as Dean of the College of Education.

Former Superintendent, John Deasy, had given that Malibu contract to Felner. The entire $375,000 amount went to Felner's shell corporation and ultimately ended up in Felner's bank account. Deasy was a Felner colleague from the University of Rhode Island who - after awarding Felner the grant - was gifted a suspiciously quick doctorate under the guidance of Felner. Deasy's dissertation is dated seven months before he even enrolled at UofL. Felner supervised no other doctoral students during his five years at the university. Ray & Associates found nothing troublesome about the doctorate when they presented Deasy as a superintendent candidate to Prince Georges County (Md) schools. UofL quickly declared the doctorate to be proper.
The government's case alleges that from 2001 through 2008 Robert Felner defrauded the numerous educational entities of $2,534,577.00 Of that amount, "Thomas Schroeder received nearly one-tenth" which he says was legitimate income upon which he paid taxes.
"The fact that Thomas Schroeder is alleged to have received approximately 296,000 over eight years in connection with his work at his Illinois non-profit corporation (which he properly reported on his tax returns), while Robert Felner gained nearly two and a half million in fraudulent proceeds, is so great a disparity as to warrant separate trials of these two individuals."
"The indictment alleges Robert Felner – alone – committed repeated acts of tax evasion in the years 2002 through 2007, by his individual failure to report income (fraud proceeds he alone received) totaling $1,478,759.00." ...
Schroeder says he will prove that "the sole person who initiated the negotiations, entered into agreements, fulfilled or failed to fulfill the promises, and who committed the acts of concealment, misrepresentation and fraud was – Robert Felner."

Schroeder claims that Felner screwed him over just like everyone else.

Hat Tip top PageOne Kentucky.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The New Commonwealth Assessment

By Skip Kifer

Lord Mansfield is reputed to have said “Decide promptly, but never give any reasons. Your decisions may be right, but your reasons are sure to be wrong.” I hope his admonition is correct because I get a sinking feeling each time I see another list of what form the Commonwealth’s new assessment should take.

The reasons for the sinking feeling are many. Here I will deal with just three.

The first has to do with the technical aspects of whatever form the new assessment takes. I believe the substantive ideas behind the assessment, not its technical requirements, should drive it. Yet, good technical advice early can save time, money and embarrassment. In the past the Commonwealth has been blessed with unusually good technical advice from panels that were composed of assessment persons who were in the mainstream of the assessment world. They gave dispassionate advice that vendors or persons not in the mainstream could not be expected to give. There should be technical assistance early and often as plans for a new system develop.

There are a number of proposals that make me wonder about the basis for them. To take just one: that formative assessment instruments could or should be provided by vendors. I have taught test and measurement classes for over 30 years and I know that I can teach teachers to make better tests than are presently being used (apart from CATS) in the Commonwealth.

Some very important things go on when one constructs a test. One needs to think seriously about standards, instructional materials, and the learner as the items are written and tests developed. Having gotten the results one has to think seriously about whether students have not learned because they have not been taught well or because the items are no good. Each of these activities is related to effective instruction. None of them come with already made assessments.

I would like to hear the discussion of whether difficulties with the writing portfolio are unique to that form of assessment or whether having assessments in any accountability context corrupts them regardless of their form. Are some kinds of assessments less corruptible than others? Are there practices that are less likely to be gamed by those who seek higher scores at the expense of better learning? Are there ways to gather and report learning outcomes that depend less on massive formal testing procedures? I believe the answer to each of these questions is “yes.” And I think one could give good reasons for answering these questions in the affirmative.

And so, I will enter the fray. Below I am presumptuous enough to come up with a set of principles that should guide the design of the new Commonwealth assessment. I made the mistake of including things we have learned as my reasons for the recommendations. I wonder if there is a Lord Mansfield redux.

New Assessment Principles

After almost two decades of high-stakes assessment in the Commonwealth it is time to step back and decide how what we learned can help us think about the new directions we should take.

1) We learned that assessments can be very time consuming and very costly. We learned that they may not be as cost effective as we hoped.

A new statewide assessment should be:
a. Clear about each of its purposes
b. Less time consuming
c. Less costly

2) We learned that teachers believe they spend far too much time testing and preparing for testing.

A new statewide assessment should
a. Carefully delineate what should be assessed statewide and what should be assessed locally and be controlled by teachers
b. Be restricted to a small but crucial part of the curriculum

3) We learned that parents wish to know how their children’s scores compare with other children’s scores nationwide. We know that off-the-shelf tests have user norms not nationally representative ones. We know that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only national test with a nationally representative sample.

A new statewide assessment should
a. Use wisely the NAEP state assessments
b. Link Kentucky assessments to NAEP
c. Provide students with scores that can be compared to national ones

4) We learned that measuring so many content areas at so many grades in all schools is an inefficient way to assess Kentucky’s educational progress.

A new statewide assessment should:
a. Sample schools to track progress over time
b. Accept NAEP scores in mathematics, reading and science as progress indicators

5) We learned that testing requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have a profound effect on what and how a state assesses.

A new statewide assessment should be
a. Cognizant of new requirements of NCLB
b. Prepared to seek exemptions from some requirements of NCLB

6) We learned that others admired Kentucky’s assessment when it was bold and pioneering

A new statewide assessment should

a. Lead other states and nations in producing useable information about students and schools
b. Emphasize formative and instructionally embedded assessments over summative ones
c. Place students and teachers in the center of schools and assessment

Darwin and Lincoln

Sometimes all the focus on the general theory of evolution distracts from what I find to be the most important aspects of Charles Darwin's contributions to mankind.

This from Scientific American:
February 12th [wa]s the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. But they’re linked by something else, too.

Before Darwin, natural philosophers held to a point of view called typology, or essentialism. Members of a particular class were all the same. For example, all triangles have the same fundamental characteristic: three sides.

This way of thinking, however, extended to the biological world, including humans.

As the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr wrote in an essay in the July, 2000, issue of Scientific American, “For the typologist, Caucasians, Africans, Asians or Inuits are types that conspicuously differ from other human ethnic groups. This mode of thinking leads to racism.”

But Darwin replaced typology with the new concept of populations.

Groupings of organisms are populations of unique individuals—who vary. Typology offered a philosophical justification for a slave being worth three fifths of a white person in the Constitution. But now science insisted that all people, regardless of race, were fully human. A viewpoint that finally began to be put in practice in the U.S. by Lincoln.

Down Syndrome tests prompt new concerns

This from MSNBC:

Safer, more definitive exams raise
a host of moral, medical, political fears

A handful of biotech companies are racing to market a new generation of tests for Down syndrome, a development that promises a safer way to spot the most common genetic cause of mental retardation early in pregnancy even as it weaves a thicket of moral, medical, political and regulatory concerns.

Doctors recommend that all pregnant women be offered screening for Down syndrome, and about half of women undergo the tests. But the current tests often produce confusing, ambiguous results, unnecessarily alarming couples or falsely reassuring them. The new tests are designed to offer more definitive results early in the pregnancy.

But with the first new approach due to become available this spring, the tests are renewing questions about why regulators do not require such innovations to be proved reliable before being offered to the public....

Teacher Salary under the Stimulus Program

This from Politics K-12:

How will teacher salary be linked to student academic performance under the stimulus package?

There's no explicit language in the stimulus package linking salary to student performance. However, the stimulus does provide an additional $200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund under the U.S. Department of Education. This now-larger pot of money will be used, as it was before, to fund pay-for-performance programs in school districts. Read more about the program here.

... one of the "assurances" that governors have to make to receive their chunk of the state stabilization money is to take steps to address equitable distribution of “highly qualified,” experienced, and in-field teachers across all schools, including in very poor schools. This has been a provision under the No Child Left Behind Act that hasn't been very well enforced, so it will be interesting to see what education secretary Arne Duncan does about this. I did ask Duncan specifically about the equitable teacher distribution provision during C-SPAN's Newsmakers show, and he seemed more inclined toward incentives than enforcement...

Whadaya Call 5000 Lawyers at the Bottom of the Ocean?

Are there too many laws in education?

...too many lawyers?
Those questions are under consideration over at EdJurist:

Megan McArdle at The Atlantic reminded me of a topic I have been wanting to come back to ... the amount of law in education. At ELA this year, we had Philip K. Howard give a general session on his book Life Without Lawyers, the general premise of which is that there is too much law (and relatedly too many lawyers) in society and that we would all be better off if we generally reduced the amount of rules...

Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before

Kentucky Board of Education Sets Interviews

This from the Herald-Leader:

The state has sent out requests for proposals from national search firms, and a number have responded.

Here we go again.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said the state education board plans to interview up to four of those firms at the March 5 meeting.

A couple of meetings ago, in one of several unguarded moments, Doug Hubbard alluded to a certain company that would not get his vote. Since Hubbard failed to mention any names, we are left to guess who he meant.

If things go well, the board probably will name one of the companies later that day to lead the search, she said.

And if things don't go well, the board will rehire Ray & Associates who will advise the board to keep the public uninformed while they sift through potential commissioner candidates from Kentucky and across the country, all the while assuring the board that a paired down list of finalists were fully vetted and the board should feel free to believe anything they have to say. Then, the board will congratulate itself.

But I'm confident that won't happen this time around.

The bigger question is - Who's interested? The biggest question is - Who's interested that can move Kentucky forward?

The board will be operating as a committee of the whole. That's going to slow the process down somewhat - but that's OK if the public is kept informed and the process results in the selection of a high quality candidate.

Just like making changes to the CATS assessment: Take you time. Get it right. Then, try not to change again for a long while.

Orazen's Temperament

WLEX 18 has learned more about the Nicholas County principal who was captured on surveillance video in a physical confrontation with a students.

Joe Orazen was arrested last Wednesday and charged with assaulting student Dusty Green, but this is not the first time Orazen has been accused of getting violent.

WLEX Video Here.

Orazen was suspended without pay for four days after the security camera video made national news,

LEX 18 has learned Orazen was also suspended without pay for four days in 2007, after Superintendent Greg Reid said on three occasions Orazen refused to meet with him.

Since 2006, at least seven formal public grievances have been filed against Orazen citing other angry confrontations...

Bipartisan Bull

This from Mark Hebert:

Stumbo, Williams Want CIA-type Unit In Legislature

The two leaders of the Kentucky House and Senate want to set up an investigative agency within the legislature which could thumb its nose at court orders and open records requests...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Judge Wants to see JCPS Investigation of Max Gilpin's Death

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mitch Perry today ordered the Jefferson County Public Schools to turn over to the court their internal report on the death of a high school football player. Perry said the court would review the school system's actions after Gilpin's collapse and death.

This was in response to attorneys Todd Thompson and Mike Cooper for Gilpin's mother and father respectively, who argued that public policy requires the district to produce the investigative file. Since the district is not named in the lawsuit, they argued, the documents must be released. The file was not prepared in anticipation of litigation.

JCPS attorneys objected to the request, saying the report is incomplete and isn't public because it's the product of work by the system's attorneys. Sheldon Berman told C-J last week that the investigation was conducted by Stan Mullen, the district's director of security.

But Perry stood firm saying, “I want to see it under seal, in camera, my eyes only.”

This from Toni at C-J:

3 defendants added to Gilpin suit

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mitch Perry ruled today that he will allow Max Gilpin’s parents to add three defendants to their lawsuit against six coaches.

Through their attorneys, Michele Crockett and Jeffrey Dean Gilpin filed an amended complaint last week, asking Perry to add Pleasure Ridge Park High School Principal David Johnson, athletic director Craig Webb and assistant coach Josh Ligthle as defendants in the suit against head coach Jason Stinson and five assistant coaches.

Crockett and Gilpin contend that Johnson, Webb and Ligthle were just as negligent in the death of their son, Max Gilpin, as the coaches previously named as defendants...

...Todd Thompson, the attorney representing Max’s mother, said today that Webb and Ligthle were present at the practice during which Max collapsed, and that as principal Johnson failed to provide “appropriate supervision of the coaching staff.”...

Failing Max Gilpin: Berman Responds

I need to do some catching up on the Max Gilpin story from late last week. C-J's Toni Konz has been plugging away with some solid reporting on on this troublesome case.

Superintendent Shelly Berman added some light to the murky events surrounding the death of Max Gilpin. He provides some missing particulars that go some distance toward disputing claims that the district was unmoved by the tragic events at PRP.


More PRP staff may be added to lawsuit

The parents of a 15-year-old Pleasure Ridge Park football player who collapsed at a practice and later died are trying to add the high school's principal, athletic director and an assistant coach to their lawsuit against six other coaches.

Through their attorneys, Glenna Michele Crockett and Jeffrey Dean Gilpin filed an amended complaint yesterday in Jefferson Circuit Court, asking Judge Mitch Perry to add principal David Johnson, athletic director Craig Webb and assistant coach Josh Ligthle as defendants in their lawsuit against head coach Jason Stinson and five other assistant coaches.

Crockett and Gilpin contend that Johnson, Webb and Ligthle were just as negligent in the death of their son, Max Gilpin, as the coaches they previously named in the lawsuit...
In an interview with C-J, JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman confessed some concern over PRP Principal David Johnson's deletion of several emails which provided eye-witnesses to the football practice in question. But he also said,

the district has found nothing so far in its investigation that would warrant taking any action now against Johnson or any of the coaches. But he said the investigation is continuing and it was too soon to say whether anyone would be disciplined in Max's death.

In an hour-long interview with Toni Konz, Berman defended JCPS officials saying they began investigating immediately.

I really want to believe this, mostly because I can't imagine that JCPS would NOT have conducted an intense investigation.

But it remains troublesome to ponder how the district could have been investigating while the principal had no sense of it whatsoever. Indeed, Berman seems to consider Johnson's chat with head coach Stinson the centerpiece of the investigation. He describes it as a three-hour conversation. But Johnson testified that his only conversation with head football coach Jason Stinson about the practice was a brief conversation where he "entrusted that [Stinson] told me the truth."

Berman: JCPS began Gilpin investigation quickly

Superintendent Sheldon Berman said Pleasure Ridge Park and Jefferson County public school officials began investigating the Max Gilpin case less than two days after the 15-year-old football player collapsed at practice from heat stroke last August.

“We have been on top of this from the very beginning... We took this very seriously.”

Berman also said that witness accounts accusing PRP’s head coach, Jason Stinson, and his assistants of denying players water and running them excessively on a day when the heat index reached 94 were contradicted by interviews that a district investigator conducted with students and coaches who were at the field that day...
Berman complained about media reports,
that “have given the impression that we have not been thorough in our investigation,” which he said “could not be further from the truth.”
“We see this as a very serious investigation, and we are not treating this lightly,” Berman said. “We want to ensure that well into the future we do everything possible to prevent anything like this from happening again.”

That's the right answer.

It does not help that PRP Johnson can't seem to get his story straight. I'm wondering how JCPS could conduct a thorough investigation, and the principal not be aware of it. Johnson's own statement shows that he was unaware of any investigation going on when he said that "he expected an investigation would occur."

Johnson should have been able to tell C-J, 'Yes, there's an on-going investigation being headed up by so-n-so....and I can't comment until the facts are in.' But he did nothing to inspire confidence, and even undermined his superintendent's effort to help him out.
...Todd Thompson, the lawyer for Max’s mother, Michele Crockett, said depositions from PRP and district officials show their initial investigation was slipshod, and they shouldn’t have declared just two days after the practice that there were no policy violations.

“What they should have done, on Friday, rather than tell the public that everything was done to protocol, they should have said they didn’t know what happened,” Thompson said.
A Jefferson County grand jury found enough information to indict Stinson on a criminal charge of reckless homicide in Max's death. Stinson has pleaded not guilty.

The Timeline

Toni lists the following from the coach's account:

  • During the Aug. 20, practice, senior Antonio Calloway was overcome by the heat and collapsed.
  • 15 minutes later, Max collapsed between 6:10 and 6:15 p.m.
  • An EMS report shows the ambulance was called at 6:18 p.m. and arrived at 6:27, then went to Kosair Children's Hospital.
  • Webb, PRP's athletic director, who was at the practice, didn't notify Johnson until around noon Thursday, Aug. 21.
  • Johnson chastised Webb for failing to notify him sooner, then began an initial assessment of what took place, Berman said.
  • Johnson notified Joe Burks, the assistant superintendent of high schools, who told Berman about the incident that afternoon.
  • Berman said Burks instructed Jerry Wyman, the district's director of athletics, to go to PRP and "assess the situation to see if the (Kentucky High School Athletic Association) rules and procedures were followed."
  • Wyman went to the school to collect documentation on heat-index readings taken at the practice site and the medical paperwork that allowed Max to participate in sports.
  • Berman said Johnson had a three-hour discussion with Stinson at the hospital on the morning of Friday, Aug. 22, where the two went over details of the practice, including water breaks.
  • "(Johnson) tells Stinson to write down the order of things that happened at practice," Berman said. "Stinson writes it down, and that gets faxed to us from the hospital." Berman said Johnson also talked with Webb.
  • At that point, Berman said, Max was still alive and officials were hopeful he would recover.
  • And by Friday's end, the district's initial assessment was that "nothing suspicious had happened." "Keep in mind, we had not heard any complaints, at least none that we knew about," Berman said.
  • At 6:28 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, Max was pronounced dead.
  • Aug. 25 - Berman said, Burks briefed his administrative cabinet about Max and the “situation at PRP.” "That puts us in a very different situation," Berman said. "We decided we needed to do a full investigation of this..."
  • Aug 25 - Berman dispatches Burks to PRP and he met with Stinson, Webb and Brian Shumate, the district's high school liaison.
  • Aug 25 -Berman decides to delay a full investigation until after Max's funeral. The investigation is headed by Stan Mullen, the district's director of security. Johnson was told the investigation would now be handled by the district.
  • Aug 27 - C-J published witness accounts of practice accusing coaches of denying players water and running them until someone quits.
  • Aug 27 (morning) - Mullen calls Louisville Metro Police and is told they have not planned to do a death investigation.
  • Aug 27 - (afternoon) Police inform JCPS they will be investigating. JCPS discloses the police investigation.
  • The police allow JCPS officials to shadow police investigators in a joint investigation and began interviewing players Friday, Aug. 29.
  • Sept. 4 - police discontinue JCPS involvement in joint investigation.
  • Sept. 11 - There is some negotiation that goes back and forth, and eventually JCPS receives permission to interview witnesses after LMPD has done their interviews.
  • Sept. 12 to 24, JCPS interviewed 91 football players.
  • On Sept. 24-25, JCPS interviewed other coaches, Webb and other witnesses.
  • Oct 9 - JCPS sends an open records request to police for a copy of their complete investigative file. That request was denied on Oct. 22.
  • Oct. 17 - JCPS interview with Stinson canceled by his defense attorney.
  • Nov. 5 - JCPS interviews scheduled with Max's parents, were canceled by their attorneys."

Attorney Todd Thompson disputes the coach's timeline, saying,

"I find it unconvincing that the principal did not even speak to the assistant coaches. And, if he did in fact have a three-hour conversation with Stinson, he did not tell us that under oath"..."I also find it troubling that the principal did not take any notes during this interview, or if he did take notes, he didn't keep them."

Me too, right up until the moment the investigation started being handled by district personnel, after which, it makes much more sense. But any way you cut it - Johnson's obtuse testimony failed his district, his superintendent, and the school he loves by his dismissive mishandling of such a tragic event. He failed Max Gilpin.

C-J opines,

...this week Superintendent Sheldon Berman responded to Courier-Journal news coverage and editorial criticism by saying JCPS had been on top of the investigation "from the very beginning" and that "I wouldn't change a thing" about how the district has handled the inquiry.

We suggest the superintendent revisit the recent, sworn deposition of PRP principal David Johnson, which contradicts Mr. Berman's rosier description and is replete with, among other disturbing testimony, don't-recalls, don't-remembers and admissions of deleted e-mails from critical sources.


House Bill 383, sponsored by Shively Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins, deserves passage.

It would impose a statewide standard of requiring ice pools at every athletic activity when the outside temperature is 94 degrees or more. The bill also would require that coaches be trained on automated external defibrillators, which treat cardiac arrest, and that the devices be present at practices and games.

Experts say studies of hundreds of heat stroke victims show all survive if they are immediately treated with cold water, lowering the body's temperature to 104 degrees in about 20 minutes. Gilpin's temperature reached 107 degrees.

Pass the bill.