Friday, October 16, 2009

Catching up with the Blogs

A quick tour around the Ky blogs this morning:

Over at Prichard, Susan has been following up on the latest release of school test data.
  • Achievement gaps continue to impair Kentucky’s overall education progress
  • only gifted students have reached proficiency at all three level - go figure
  • On the 0-140 scale used in the analysis, gaps of 15 points or more separate African-American students and students with limited English proficiency from their classmates at every level.
She takes a specific peek at Jefferson County, where Superintendent Sheldon Berman cautions patience while keeping long time poor performers in his administration. But Prichard is not listening so much as they are looking at the data - as is appropriate.
  • The high school results are relatively strong. Before high school, though, the elementary and middle school results ought to startle any community.
  • Jefferson County's high school results for low-income students are in the bottom half of the state in every subject except writing, and Jefferson County's elementary and middle results are in the bottom one-fifth of the state in every subject except fifth-grade writing.
  • If Jefferson group results are low, are they at least improving? The shortest answer is: mostly no.
Susan ponders a couple of questions from Kentucky Board of Education Chair, Joe Brothers: ""What you just said to me is no different than what I heard in 1987. So why should I be hopeful? ... What are we going to do to change the culture to educate our kids?"

Brothers’ comments from the Kentucky Board of Education Webcast at KDE: Set the slider to 1:36:44 for the beginning of his statement.

Weston makes some suggestions that ought to get the attention of a couple of our top dogs;
  1. Principals must observe and evaluate teachers based on instructional quality.
  2. Professional development must become a steady cycle of finding and studying fresh evidence of student learning and collaborating to push that learning higher.
  3. Superintendents must evaluate principals based on the quality of staff evaluations, steps to ensure effective professional development, and overall leadership to improve instruction.
  4. School boards must understand whether local student performance is improving at an acceptable place. When they understand that, they will support the superintendents who are doing the job and get those who are not doing it to change or retire.
Much of this view is echoed by Dick Innes at the Bluegrass Institute here and here. This kind of thing only occurs when education groups offer a critical assessment, but agreement is agreement.

BIPPS is, first and foremost, a political group that likes a crafted message, so one frequently has to cut through the fog to find unadulterated fact. Even when they're wrong - they redefine the question until they're right.

But give the devil his due - Innes shows up, does his homework, and highlights good questions from time to time. This from the most recent state board of education meeting:
The board pressed [Jefferson County] personnel on the inexperienced teacher[s for disadvantaged kids] issue. Finally upset at not getting straight answers, board chair Joe Brothers finally demanded, “Quit talking around the problem.”

In reply, Ms. Graham admitted, “It’s a contractual issue.”

In other words, union rules are standing in the way of the kids in this school getting the quality of teachers they need.

More fuel was added to the fire when Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, asked Dr. Shelly Berman, the Jefferson County superintendent, if the teachers’ union contract prevented the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. When Berman replied that the contract did include that restriction, Dr. Holliday pointed out that if Kentucky gets any of the second tier stimulus money from the US Department of Education, that contractual restriction means none of the money can go to Jefferson County.

Left unmentioned was the fact that the US Department of Education has very firmly stated that states which prohibit using test scores to evaluate teachers will automatically be disqualified from getting any stimulus funds. Since Kentucky’s largest school district has such a restriction, it could put the entire state’s attempt to get stimulus money at risk.
This last bit is a typical leap to a conclusion Innes may wish to be true - but that doesn't mean it should be taken for granted. I hope KDE staff are checking it out.

At EdJurist, Justin,

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