Thursday, April 30, 2009

Confirmation Troubles

Every day Kentucky School News & Commentary picks up education-related stories from around the country and posts the stories' leads, or quotes, and occassionally adds commentary. In this regard we rely on the reporting of others. Most of the time our sources are news outlets. Many times our sources are blogs. We post the happenings to educate our readers, and move on.

But in the end, our readers must be able to count on us to present a fair and objective assessment of the issues we cover. Otherwise, why read KSN&C? ...or any other blog for that matter?

Yesterday, I strung together a series of blog posts from Page One Kentucky with other material from C-J's Learning Curve and the Courier Journal regarding concerns over whether Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman has - first: conflicts of interest - then: appearence of impropriety - and now: too much travel.

In that post, I also reprinted some fairly strong inuendo regarding two individuals - inuendo that I have been completely unable to confirm today - and which now seems to be pure speculation.

For that reason, I have gone back and removed references to those individuals and will not refer to them by name now. It just doesn't seem fair.

#1: Speculation that one of the individuals may have had connections to VHS, a Massachusetts virtual high school company that recently contracted with JCPS is unconfirmed. KSN&C spoke to VHS CEO Liz Pape who said the individual in question has had absolutely no connection to the company and never gained a penny's worth of consideration from the company.

#2: Another individual was speculated to have "raked in" large sums of money obtaining a grant - a grant she never wrote, worked on, or even knew about as far as I have been able to determine. That information is unconfirmed. This individual's worst crime appears to have been being hired by the dread former UofL Education Dean Robert Felner while also being friends with Berman. The grant in question came right out of JCPS's central office and brings in funding for educational programs for the district. Where I come from, a school administrator who brings in $900 K is a hero. But Berman told KSN&C that he couldn't take credit for producing that grant either. The credit belongs to other educators at JCPS.

Furthermore, the Attorney General's letter makes it clear that Berman proactively sought to avoid the conflict of interest now being speculated, and did so before entering into any agreement with VHS. According to the AG, Berman lacks any pecuniary interest in VHS; he should not directly serve as the procurement officer (which he doesn't) for the grant or participate directly in the contract. In that way, there is no ethical breach and no conflict of interest.

We have relied on Page One Kentucky in the past and found them to be generally reliable in their reporting. I have made no secret of my disdain for some of the flaming rhetoric employed over certain issues, but that has been left out of their education stories. Their fine work on the Robert Felner story was a service to UofL and to the state. But in this case, I must confess that I have been unable to verify the claims. Toni Konz at the Courier Journal can't either. Perhaps more information will come to light that will cause me to change my assessment, but at this point it sure doesn't look like it.

I am left to wonder what this is really all about.

I's On Edjukashun

Textbooks, AmeriCorps & Strip-Search

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
I's On Edjukashun - Textbooks, AmeriCorps & Strip-Search
colbertnation.com
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Fox News exposes liberal textbooks, AmeriCorps increases its mind control, and a girl is strip-searched for ibuprofen. (06:33)

Flash Rave

Ya gotta love campus life. All that study, fun and fear. Young hormones needing someplace to go. Students are pressed so hard during the term that a "dead week" is now needed to allow them to prepare for finals. And how do students "prepare?"

In olden days there were panty raids, swallowing goldfish, and seeing how many frat boys fit into a phone booth - or a VW beetle.

Today's techno kids flash rave.

Just text message everybody on your contact list....where and when. Then see what happens.
There's going to be a flash rave at W.T. tonight 8:55 pm.

Flash Rave: One part mob. One part pep rally. Body surfing and cheers in a place unaccustomed to both. Get in and get out quickly.



This from H-L:
Hundreds of students pack UK library in flashmob

Hundreds of University of Kentucky students gathered at the university's William T. Young Library on Wednesday evening to frolic in an apparent dead-week prank...
...“It was probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done on campus. It was unbelievable,” said Will Stafford, a 20-year-old UK sophomore. “We were really just dancing like crazy for 15 minutes and then the cops came in."

It’s unclear just when authorities were called to the scene, but certainly they arrived in force at the library after someone pulled a fire alarm inside the library. The building was evacuated.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Strengthening America’s Competitiveness through Common Academic Standards

An official chat on national standards took place this morning in the House Education and Labor Committee. The hearing was intended to examine how states can better prepare their students to compete in a global economy by using internationally benchmarked common standards.

Congressman George Miller, Chairman, opened the hearing with the following comment:

Today our Committee will examine the great momentum that is building for improving our schools and our competitiveness though internationally-benchmarked common academic standards.

Our nation faces unprecedented challenges that threaten our competitiveness. We face an achievement gap within our schools but we also face an achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries whose educational outcomes are surging while ours are stagnating.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan recognize that our economy’s fate is directly linked to addressing both achievement gaps.

They know we won’t be able to build the world-class education system our economy needs and our children deserve unless all students are taught to rigorous standards hat prepare them for college and good jobs.

We all know the statistics – we’ve fallen to 21st in math achievement, 25th in science, and 24th in problem solving. We used to be number one in college completion. Now we are 18th...

... Let me be clear: I want this committee, and the Congress, to do whatever we can to support this state-led, bipartisan effort. That’s why we’re here today – to learn more about this work and to hear from you all about how the federal government can best support it.

We forged a good start by making historic investments in education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

We created an unprecedented, $5 billion Race to the Top fund that will allow Secretary Duncan to encourage states to innovate. This includes improving standards and assessments so they are aligned with career and college-readiness.

This fund will lay the foundation for the significant changes we’ll need to make to truly improve our schools, make sure students graduate with the skills they need, and cultivate a workforce that can compete globally...

As NAEP shows us year after year, the unintended consequences of a system that varies vastly from state to state is rather than striving for excellence, states are camouflaging poor performance.

The result is a generation of students without the complex skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the jobs of the future...

This from former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt, Jr:

Let me be clear from the very beginning. We need a set of common state standards that are rigorous and relevant, and we must stop fooling around. Today, the variability in state standards is off the charts. There should not be 50 different versions of algebra I across the nation. It’s just not logical; students in California learn the same as students in North Carolina.

We must be vigilant in our development of common standards that are fewer, clearer, and higher. The process for getting there must be based on evidence of what’s necessary and sufficient for students to succeed in college and in work—not on including everyone’s, or every interest group’s, opinion. It should be a tight common core that teachers can teach and students can understand and master.

This from former drive-by Fayette County Superintendent and current Educatin Commissioner of Arkansas, Ken James.

First and foremost, this is a voluntary, state-led effort to establish a common core of standards across the states. Let me be clear, this is not an effort to establish federal standards. The effort to establish a common core will build directly on the recent work of leading states and initiatives that have focused on college- and career-ready standards. Leading states will be called upon to participate and add their knowledge to the standards setting process, and it is expected that leading states, based on their prior work, will be furthest along toward adoption of the common core. Furthermore, no state will see their standards lowered as a result of this collaboration. Rather, the purpose of the common state standards initiative is to raise the bar for all states by drawing on the best research and evidence from leading states and experts regarding, among other things, college- and work-readiness, rigorous knowledge and skills, and international benchmarking.

KIPP co-founder David Levin testified:

When the KIPP network reaches 100 fully grown schools, it will serve the same number of students as the public school district in Atlanta, Georgia. And yet, as a national network the lack of common standards makes it difficult to gauge how well KIPP is meeting its ultimate goal: preparing all of our students with the character and academic skills for success, self-sufficiency, and happiness in college and in life.

Currently, states set their own standards and determine how hard or easy it will be for students to pass. The result? We have passing hurdles that are very high in some states and close to the ground in others. According to Education Next, which reviews the rigor of state standards each year, only three states—Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Missouri—have established world class standards in reading and math. Some states, like Georgia and Tennessee, have established such mediocre expectations that nearly every student is considered to be on grade level.

With states held accountable for meeting the standards they set, there’s an unfortunate incentive for states to set the bar low...

President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten said
We should start with standards. The AFT supports the development of rigorous common state standards. Our reasons are straightforward. We live in a highly mobile, instantly connected world in which knowledge travels on highways we can’t even see. Our students need to be able to navigate through that world—to study, work and live in states other than the one in which they were educated, if they so chose or if circumstances demand it. Their ability to do that, and to do it well, will be limited if we don’t change our current patchwork of varying state standards.
Politics K-12 conducted a little Live Blogging: The Common Standards Hearing here.

Viewpoint: SB 1 and raising standards

Over at Prichard, Susan offers some observations on Senate Bill 1 and its opposition to Kentucky's lowered standards.
Since 1990, Kentucky testing has had three scoring systems, each easier than the last. By easier, I mean two things.

First, we set new "cut points" when we changed from 1998 KIRIS to 1999 CATS and when we changed from the 1999-2006 version of CATS to the revised 2007 and 2008 CATS. At the moment that we put the new cut points to work, many more
students were counted as proficient.

Second, we asked for less complex kinds of student performance. From KIRIS to CATS, we dropped performance events and added multiple choice. From "CATS I" to "CATS II" we gave multiple choice more weight than it had before.

Senate Bill 1 demands something different. It calls for P-12 standards to be aligned with college expectations...

Berman Responds to Heat Over Potential Conflict of Interest

On April 13th, the Jefferson County Board of Education agreed to fully participate with VHS, Inc., a Massachusetts virtual high school company. JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman still sits on the company’s Board of Directors as a founding member.

For about a week now, Page One Kentucky has been rumbling about a potential conflict of interest.
We hear through the grapevine that Sheldon Berman sits on the Board of Directors of the Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST) in MA.

CAST has a program called Universal Design for Learning that Berman has pushed or implementation– with tons and tons of money, of course– in the school district... Berman, we hear, has refused to resign from the Board despite being advised to do so by the attorney for the Board of Education. From what we can tell, he found some sort of ruling that he thinks exempts him.

KRS 156.480 restricts employees of school districts with decision-making authority from supplying goods or services for which school funds are expended.

No employee of any county or independent school district with decision-making authority over the financial position of the school district shall have any pecuniary interest, either directly or indirectly, in an amount exceeding twenty-five dollars ($25) per year, either at the time of or after his appointment to office, in supplying any goods, services, property, merchandise, or services, except personal services that are in addition to those required by contract for employment, of any nature whatsoever for which school funds are expended.
Penalties for violating the statute include loss of one's position and a fine from $50 to $500.

On Friday April 24th, Berman wrote to his board to alert the members to the Page One allegations. Berman said he accepted no compensation for his work on the board and he sought the advice of the Attorney General before proceeding in the matter.

On Saturday, Toni Konz posted the response from Berman on her Learning Curve blog.

I received a phone call on Wednesday from someone who was concerned about this contract, since Berman serves on the board of directors at VHS. The person who called me was concerned that Berman and the board might be violating KRS 156.480, which states that employees of department or school districts with decision-making authority are prohibited from supplying goods or services for which school funds are
expended.

I did some checking and found out that VHS is a non-profit organization and that Berman does not benefit financially from any contract in his position on the board of directors. I talked to Berman about this on Friday and he told me that the district sought an attorney general's opinion on the matter last fall, just to make sure that a contract with VHS would not be a conflict of interest.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Lang, wrote in that November opinion:

"It is our opinion, based on the relevant statutes, the case law and prior attorney general opinions as well as facts presented in your letter, that the (Jefferson County Board of Education) and the Superintendent would not be in violation of either KRS 156.420(2) or KRS 45A.455(1)(b) if JCBOE entered into the proposed contract."
End of Story?

Yesterday Page One persisted in their concern over the - now recalibrated - appearance of impropriety.

Berman’s ties to various boards and companies could be nice superficially and could turn into great connections for the public school system. But there’s no denying the appearance of impropriety exists. And there’s possibly something in it all for Berman or he wouldn’t be constantly pushing contracts to every friend he’s ever made. When you’re charged with spending taxpayer’s hard-earned money, you don’t get to spread it around to your friends without some serious, serious scrutiny.

In addition Page One changed gears and upped the ante.

We hear through the grapevine that several members of the Board of Education have taken a sudden keen interest in Berman’s incessant travel outside of the school district. Berman allegedly travels quite a bit to attend board and other meetings as a result of his ties to outside organizations. ...With the latest revelation that Berman’s friends and business ties are benefiting directly from his role as Superintendent, this could be a problem.

This morning we filed an open records request in an attempt to gain copies of Berman’s travel records. We hope to determine just how much time he spends traveling to and from these various meetings in an attempt to see if this impacts his job as superintendent. How much time is he in-district? How often is he gone? Based on interviews we have already conducted, Berman is gone so frequently that it surprises many within Jefferson County Public Schools.

Where's all this going? I don't know. But its a good bet that we're going to learn more about the extent of Berman's travels, and any excesses, in the not too distant future.
~
Moderator's Note: This article was edited to remove some unsubstantiated material. Explanation here.

PRP football players allege retaliation

Statements on death said to bring action

This from Toni Konz at C-J:

Jefferson County school officials are investigating allegations of retaliation against some Pleasure Ridge Park High School football players who gave statements to police after the death of their teammate, Max Gilpin.

Superintendent Sheldon Berman said yesterday that he has asked Joe Burks, assistant superintendent of high schools, to look into the allegations.

Berman said he has not received any complaints but was asked about the matter during a deposition last week in a lawsuit filed by Max's parents, Michele Crockett and Jeff Gilpin. "As soon as I got back (to the office), I instructed my staff to investigate," he said.

Berman also said he will meet next week with officials from the office of Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel to discuss issues related to the criminal case against former PRP head football coach Jason Stinson.

Steve Tedder, a spokesman for the office, said yesterday that Stengel was aware of the allegations of retaliation and confirmed that a meeting with Berman was requested...

And this:

Berman e-mail defended coaches
Message sent to board before PRP player died
In his sworn deposition, taken April 14 and filed yesterday in Jefferson Circuit Court, Berman said he wrote at 8:57 p.m. on Aug. 23 that it was not anticipated that the 15-year-old football player would survive. Max died that day.

"This is very depressing news," Berman wrote. "The coach followed all the guidelines for practices in the heat, but it is devastating none the less."

Berman said in his deposition that his e-mail stemmed from preliminary information he had received about the district's inquiry into Max's collapse several days earlier.

"It appeared from the initial conversation that procedures had been followed, that all the guidelines for practices in the heat had been followed," Berman said in his deposition...
During the deposition, Berman testified that he had concerns about how [PRP principal David] Johnson handled the initial investigation in the days immediately following Max's collapse -- before the district launched a separate investigation the following week.

"I was disappointed that he (Johnson) didn't have any notes and didn't take notes, and we've made that pretty clear," Berman said. "On the other hand, we pulled him off of the investigation pretty immediately on Monday (Aug. 25). So he did not have a great deal of time to investigate the situation." ...

And finally:

Gilpin's parents can't get JCPS file
School system says effort may take four more weeks

Jefferson County Public Schools won't have to turn over its investigative file to the parents of a Pleasure Ridge Park football player who died after suffering heat stroke at a practice, a Jefferson circuit judge says.

Circuit Judge Mitch Perry issued the ruling yesterday without comment after reading a copy of the district's investigative file into 15-year-old Max Gilpin's death...

Quick Hits

Swine Flu: The Centers for Disease Control provides interim planning guidance for state, and local communities that focuses on several nonpharmaceutical measures that might be useful during this outbreak of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus aimed at reducing disease transmission and associated morbidity and mortality.

Mild cases of swine flu close several U.S. schools as Obama urges calm: As a handful of schools in New York, Texas, California, Ohio and South Carolina closed to protect students from confirmed cases of swine flu, President Barack Obama urged Americans to be cautious but not panic. More than 25 cases of swine flu have been confirmed at a New York City parochial school; more are expected as officials await test results. Classes in all schools in Mexico have been canceled in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 150 there. (The Washington Post), (The Washington Post), (Houston Chronicle), (San Francisco Chronicle), (The Plain Dealer), (The Columbia State)

Are small high schools worth the expense?: A 300-student Utah high school prides itself on its personal approach, but the school may be closed because some district officials say it's too expensive. While the school does have higher per-pupil costs, its principal says it better serves students at risk of dropping out and its approach should be a model for other schools. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

Report highlights differences among Baltimore charter students: Baltimore students who attend the area's charter schools are less likely to come from low-income families or to be eligible for special-education services, according to a district report. While they are, in general, more racially diverse, some charters were segregated almost completely, the report said. (The Baltimore Sun)

Florida senators press for greater charter-school accountability: More than 360 Florida charter schools may be subject to stricter controls under a measure unanimously approved by the Florida Senate. The bill -- which has yet to be considered in the House -- would limit nepotism, ensure student performance is reported and allow sponsors to terminate contracts if financial problems develop. Most charter-school leaders approve of the measure. (Orlando Sentinel)

Safety rules added for high school athletes following PRP player's death: High school athletes in the Jefferson County Public Schools will have to disclose all medication and supplements they are taking and attend a health seminar with their parents about heat stroke and other topics before participating in sports this fall. The new rules were explained to the school board last night as part of the district's review of its policies and procedures for students playing in heat following the death last summer of 15-year-old football player Max Gilpin. (C-J)

Op Ed - Time to go: Jeff May should step down as Lawrence ... County School District. As long as he remains, the controversy surrounding the superintendent will dominate public education in the county and thwart progress on other, more important issues.Controversy is nothing new for May. It began soon after the former award-winning teacher from Pike County was named to succeed the retiring Eddie Michael as superintendent six years ago. Some were disappointed because an “outsider” from Pike County was chosen over the candidate they wanted to succeed Michael. Almost everything May has done — or tried to do — in the last six years has generated controversy. (Daily Independent)

Study: College affordability may shape children's motivation: Low-income seventh-graders who believe college is out of reach financially are more likely to give up on school immediately, according to a study from two University of Michigan researchers. Children given information about need-based financial aid were more likely to say that they would study for longer that day and expected to do better in school than students who were told about college expenses but not about such aid. (United Press International)

California school's "Teacher of the Year" likely to be laid off: Phil Hohensee accepted his "Teacher of the Year" award on Thursday night. It's an honor, Hohensee said, one that would have been a bit sweeter if he knew he'd be returning next year to his English classes at Cypress High School. Instead, he's almost certain to be laid off. (The Orange County Register)

Report: Achievement gaps hurt economy: The negative economic effects of poor performance by U.S. students -- especially those with economic, racial or geographic disadvantages -- has exceeded those of the recession, according to an independent report. Closing such achievement gaps would increase the nation's gross domestic product by some $3 billion to $5 billion per day, the report says. (The New York Times)

"Heritage rallies" offend some students, parents: Race-based assemblies used in some schools in the Sacramento, Calif., area to encourage better performance on state tests are troubling some students and parents. The principal at one of the schools said the groupings were used to prevent students from feeling singled out, but others felt the rallies sent the wrong message. (The Sacramento Bee)

Writing can transform student learning: Schools must focus on writing if they want to reform education, writes nationally certified English teacher Mary Tedrow, who co-directs the Northern Virginia Writing Project. Teachers who are trained to incorporate writing into classroom learning are not only more likely to stay in the profession, she writes, they are better able to help students process what they learn. (Teacher Magazine)

Older students less successful on math NAEP

This from Ed Week by way of KSBA:
The proportion of 13-year-olds taking algebra has grown steadily for at least two decades, but the increase in the number of students taking harder mathematics classes is not translating into higher average math scores by 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to long-term trend data released today.

Average scores for 9- and 13-year-olds in math on NAEP have risen since 2004, but scores in that subject for 17-year-olds have not budged significantly since then.

In fact, flat scores in math for the older students have persisted since the early 1970s. That’s despite the fact that the proportion of 13-year-olds taking algebra has more than doubled—from 13 percent to 30 percent—from 1986 to 2008.

Meanwhile, reading scores increased for 17-year-olds since 2004.

“If you ask me, what is the single most perplexing problem since I’ve gotten involved in education, that’s it,” Darvin M. Winick, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, said in a telephone interview. “The data is not only flat, but it is flat while the kids are taking more math.” ...

The story is slightly different for reading.

Reading scores increased 3 points, to 286, for 17-year-olds from 2004 to 2008, which is considered statistically significant. That differs from the math trend for 17-year-olds, in which the change in scores during that period is not considered significant. But, as is true with math, the reading scores for 17-year-olds in 2008 were not considered significantly higher than those in the early 1970s.

In both reading and math, average scores climbed a significant amount (by at least 2 points) for 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds. They increased 4 points, to 220, for 9-year-olds in reading and 4 points, to 243, in math. For 13-year-olds, scores increased 3 points, to 260, in reading and 3 points, to 281, in math...

SB 1 Taketh Away. Ed Groups Put Back.

The largest concern voiced by educators over Senate Bill 1 was the removal of accountability during the three year interim while the new accountability system is being constructed. Today the Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils, and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence are trying to put it back...sorta.
The truncated “transition index” is an effort to construct a snapshot of school data that might inform the public and keep accountability on the minds of educators until 2012.

SCHOOL, STATE EDUCATION PROGRESS WILL BE TRACKED
BY EDUCATION GROUPS DURING TESTING TRANSITION

DANVILLE, Ky. - School progress on state tests will be tracked by a partnership of education advocacy organizations during the next three years, while the state is suspending its accountability reports and developing a new testing system. The Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils, and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence will issue a report each fall on school, district, and state progress on students’ academic performance.

Kentucky is scheduled to start a new test in 2012, as required by this year’s Senate Bill 1. During the 2009 to 2011 transition period, the state Department of Education will release student scores but will not provide an “accountability index” combining all results in a single snapshot of progress being made.

To fill the gap, the three organizations plan to use test results and other information to calculate a “transition index” that closely resembles the academic data published by the state in past years.

“Our transition version will leave out the writing portfolio, arts, and practical living, because they’ve been dropped from statewide testing. But otherwise it will be similar to scoring the state department has used for years,” said Bob Sexton, the Prichard Committee’s executive director. “We think we can provide a valuable annual snapshot each year.”

Speaking for the school councils’ group, executive director Ronda Harmon, points out that “An index provides the big picture on whether schools’ strategies are working with kids. We see this transition project as a way to help schools measure their progress until the new 2012 assessment begins.”

Statewide results will also be reported. “We need steady data on whether progress in our statewide school system is strong enough, and whether we’re moving quickly enough toward proficiency for all students,” said Daviess County Superintendent Tom Shelton, president of the Council for Better Education.

The Council for Better Education represents 168 of Kentucky’s 174 school districts in efforts to ensure an efficient system of public schools. The Kentucky Association of School Councils is a membership organization supporting school councils, which are responsible for key school decisions about how to improve student achievement. The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, non-profit, citizens' advocacy organization working to improve education for all Kentuckians.

SOURCE: KASC press release

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kids Create Bookmarks For Derby

First Lady Jane Beshear has been a stalwart advocate for literacy in Kentucky since, at least, the mid 80's when she chaired the Kentucky Literacy Commission. I had the privilege to work under her direction (along with JCPS's Marty Bell) on the Commission, and have known Jane (and Steve) to be terrific parents at Cassidy School. They were always kind and considerate folks who never put on airs.

I'm glad to see her passion for literacy has not waned.

This from NKY.com:
FRANKFORT, Ky. – In classrooms throughout Kentucky, students are decorating bookmarks that support literacy while celebrating the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

The bookmarks will be distributed to guests attending the Derby Celebration, to be held 8 a.m. to noon, on May 2, on the Capitol grounds in Frankfort.

Each bookmark has the outline of a jockey and the quote, “Readers are Winners!,” from First Lady Jane Beshear. In all, about 7,500 bookmarks have been sent to classrooms for children age preschool through high school to color, paint and decorate. Approximately 60 school districts are participating.

“I love that this project allows children to be creative while also encouraging them to read,” Mrs. Beshear said, “combining fun and learning is the best way to ensure that children become lifelong readers.” ...

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Catholic-School Veteran Tells All

What kids really learn when teachers resort to violence.

This from David Noonan in Newsweek:

Every once in a while I run into someone who, like me, attended Catholic school in the '50s and '60s. These encounters usually follow a pattern. We establish terms of service—I put in 13 years, including kindergarten—test our memories of the Baltimore Catechism and the Latin mass, and recall things like meatless Fridays, the scourge of "impure thoughts" and Limbo, the nice but God-free place where babies who died before baptism spent eternity (and which the church essentially did away with in 2007). There is an odd charm to much of this, a quaint and funny weirdness that only another Catholic from that era can truly appreciate.

But the conversations inevitably turn to a decidedly less charming subject—getting smacked by nuns. I have no idea whether slapping kids across the face was officially sanctioned by the church in those days. I only know it happened, to me and plenty of other kids. The nuns who smacked me and my friends at our small elementary school in New Jersey were Sisters of Charity, a cheap bit of irony that always draws a chuckle when I talk about being on the receiving end of those holy rights and lefts.

And let me say right here that not every nun I encountered in the early '60s resorted to physical violence. Most didn't, in fact, but the ones who did established a pervasive atmosphere of low-grade dread that still taints my memories of those years.

The offenses that brought down the wrath of the sisters included "talking back"—which was my specialty—swearing, fighting, fooling around in church, throwing snowballs at girls and so on. In other words, kid stuff. And because each nun had her own mysterious criteria, not to mention her own unfathomable (to us, anyway) moods, there was a nerve-racking randomness to the way punishment was meted out. A wisecrack might bring a dirty look one day and a slap the next.

Certain kids came in for more than their fair share of abuse. Some of these "troublemakers" simply could not contain their outrage at the treatment they received. They overreacted when hit—crying, yelling, stomping out of the classroom—thus establishing themselves as easy targets for future smacks. The rest of us learned early on to take our punishment without flinching. ...

Technical Difficulties

KSN&C has run into some technical difficulties in the past two weeks that prevents readers from being able to post comments. I tried and I can't post them either. I don't really know what's wrong but I suspect a virus somewhere somehow.

I first noticed two weeks ago that KSN&C lost its BNN ranking -after a very productive week. I figured we'd be top 5 that week. Instead - zip.

Then I got a note from Dick Innes alerting me to the comment posting problem and wondering if he was getting screened out. He wasn't...at least not by me.


I have disinfected every computer I use but apparently the blog is still affected.

I'm trying to get some assistance to resolve the issue as soon as possible. In the meantime, I appreciate your patience.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

High Noon at the Data Corral

KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross sent out a little guidance this morning for data munchers everywhere.

The KDE Web site has a lot of data on a variety of items related to P-12 education, and it's often difficult to maneuver around the site to find those data sets.

A new page on the site serves as a corral of sorts for the various spreadsheets and other data collections this agency provides. It's called the Data Center, and it can be accessed from the homepage (http://www.education.ky.gov/). The link is on the left side of the main page.

The Data Center provides links to information about enrollment, personnel, test scores, finance and more. It’s a way to quickly find commonly requested items without having to click through multiple layers or take your chances with a search.

Another page on the KDE site recently has been updated and may be helpful. It's the proof of Progress page, where you can find information about Kentucky's achievements in P-12 education. Proof of Progress also can be accessed from the main homepage by clicking on the link on the left side.

And, don't forget to check out the Kentucky Education Facts page for lots of information about the state's P-12 education system.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

UofL upholds challenged doctoral degree

John Deasy, a former Malibu California school superintendent who had given a research center run by former UofL Education Dean Robert Felner a $375,000 contract in 2002, subsequently got a doctoral degree after studying there only one semester. Sweet.

This from Nancy Rodriguez at C-J:

...The agency that accredits schools in Kentucky and 10 other Southern states requires candidates for graduate degrees to earn the majority of their credits at the university awarding the degree.

And a university rule requires doctoral candidates to spend at least two years studying at U of L, including at least one in full-time residency.

Campus residency requirements are considered important because a university is vouching for a student when it issues a degree. For that reason, universities have typically insisted that a substantial part of the work must be performed on campus.

Deasy's degree was called into question last fall after The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV reported that Deasy got the degree after studying at U of L for a single semester...

This from the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
...Before his short stint at Louisville, Mr. Deasy had earned at least 50 credits toward a doctorate at three other institutions, including the University of Rhode Island, where Mr. Felner taught until 2003.

In September the University of Louisville appointed a committee to investigate whether the degree had been awarded improperly. In a statement quoted by The Courier-Journal today, the university said that the panel had concluded that Mr. Deasy successfully defended his dissertation before a faculty committee. “The degree stands; no further action will be taken,” the statement said.

The university said the review had confirmed the “integrity of our degree-granting process. We do not give away degrees.” It also noted several changes it was making to put more checks on the process for granting exemptions from graduate-degree requirements.

A federal indictment issued in October accuses Mr. Felner and an associate of diverting more than $2-million into their personal bank accounts from a federal research grant and from contracts with municipal school districts, including the district in Santa Monica, Calif., where Mr. Deasy served as superintendent from 2001 until 2006.

Mr. Deasy is now deputy director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The federal indictment of Mr. Felner does not suggest that Mr. Deasy knew about or benefited from the embezzlement that Mr. Felner is accused of. Mr. Felner has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

Ramsey Absolves UofL in Deasy Degree Scandal

UofL investigates UofL and Finds Integrity

“Based upon the totality of the circumstances
and information available,
it is evident that waivers were granted by the then-graduate dean
which permitted the student to register
and defend his dissertation in one semester.

The dissertation defense before a committee of
University of Louisville CEHD faculty
was successful, and the degree was subsequently awarded.

“The degree stands; no further action will be taken.

--UofL President James Ramsey and
Exec VP and Provost Shirley Willihnganz

Interpretation: This decision concludes our review and confirms the integrity of our degree granting process. We do not give away degrees.

Alternative Interpretation: We were so totally screwed by former Dean of Education Robert Felner that it took a lot of people months and to dig through all of the bad acts he perpetrated and we still found the record sketchy. What we do know is that Felner influenced a former graduate dean to bend the academic rules for one of Felner's buddies, John Deasy. We have high standards at UofL but sometimes we waive them. Deasy was permitted to register and defend his dissertation in one semester which effectively proves that the work was not done at the University of Louisville. But what are we going to do? Having given Felner the authority to screw us, he screwed us. Since the error was clearly UofL's, we're not in a position to take it back now. Maybe we'll get a big grant from the Gates Foundation some day.

In a letter from President Ramsey and Provost Willihnganz to the university community the issues surrounding John Deasey's easy degree was laid to rest.
  • A blue-ribbon panel reviewed the awarding of Deasy's 2004 degree and found...
  • In very rare instances, almost always when student well-being was at issue (though no such claim is made here), the graduate dean acted within his authority to grant waivers.
  • The Blue Ribbon Panel reinforced the need to reconstitute the graduate school to increase oversight and accountability.
  • The panel noted several needed changes that were made in graduate education at UofL since the Deasy degree was granted.
  • The authority of the graduate dean was changed so that he or she could no longer allow certain types of exemptions and variances in graduate student programs.

That's a lot of fixin' for something that supposedly wasn't broken.

Hat tip to PageOne Kentucky.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Guidance Counselor Sues Fayette schools

alleges gender discrimination

Jill L. Cowan, a Jessie Clark Middle School guidance counselor, has filed a lawsuit in the Fayette Circuit Court alleging she was denied an opportunity for promotion to assistant principal because of her gender.

This from the Herald-Leader:

Fayette Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said the district has turned the suit over to its attorneys for review. "We fully intend to contest these unfounded allegations in court," Deffendall said. "There have also been some discussions about the possibilities of a countersuit."

According to Cowan's complaint, she called Goodin in early July 2007, asking to be included among individuals being interviewed for associate principal. The suit says, however, that Goodin denied the request. Goodin allegedly told Cowan that she intended to hire a man and advised that she was interviewing men only.
Clearly, Goodin had no obligation to grant an interview to any particular candidate. If Cowan didn't get an interview because Goodin perceived her work to be substandard, then Goodin did her job. But if Cowan has corroboration on the alleged remarks attributed to Goodin it could prove problematic for the district.

Cowan says in her suit that the job ultimately went to a male and that when she complained to Michael Ernst, the district's middle school manager, he did nothing.

The suit says Cowan contacted the school district's civil rights compliance officer on April 11, 2008, only to be suspended from her job the same day...

Quick Hits

Dividing college stimulus funds tricky: Struggling to balance their books, Kentucky's colleges and universities eagerly await their share of a massive pot of federal stimulus money. But like almost everything associated with that $780 billion spending bill Congress approved this spring, it won't be a simple process. (Herald-Leader)

School Strip-Search Case Argued at Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in a high-profile case involving the strip-search of a 13-year-old girl at an Arizona public school that could have far-reaching implications for how schools may proceed when they wish to search students. (Ed Week)

S.C. Student Sues State Over Rejection Of Stimulus Money: A South Carolina high school student asked the state’s highest court to quickly clear the way for millions of federal stimulus dollars to flow to schools by ending Gov. Mark Sanford’s ability to decline the money. (Ed Week)

Tennessee school defends decision on 'God' posters: School officials accused of censoring religious speech on event posters at a Wilson County elementary school say they didn't order that words like "In God We Trust" be covered up before they were hung in the lobby. (The Tennessean)

Eastern Kentucky University freezes pay: Eastern Kentucky University has frozen salaries for next academic year according to an e-mail from President Doug Whitlock to members of EKU's faculty and staff. (H-L)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Supreme Court gets Baptist university case

[T]here is no question that the appropriation of $10 million ...
to the university to construct a pharmacy building
is a direct payment to a non-public religious school for educational purpose.
This type of direct expenditure is not permitted
by the Constitution of Kentucky,"
-- Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden

This from the Herald-Leader:

The Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether a Baptist university can use $11 million awarded by state lawmakers three years ago to open a pharmacy school.

Lawyers are working under a June deadline to file written arguments. Justices could decide the case by the end of the year.

The case, which involves the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, is being watched closely by advocates for other church-affiliated schools that have largely been excluded in the past from state funding for construction projects.

A trial judge ruled last year that the appropriation to the Baptist university violates the state constitution. The university's attorneys appealed directly to the Supreme Court, skipping the Court of Appeals, in hopes of expediting a decision.

Lawmakers had appropriated $10 million in 2006 to build a pharmacy school on the southeastern Kentucky campus and an additional $1 million for scholarships for pharmacy students...
The lawmakers in question included Senate President David Williams and Senators Vernie McGaha, Russell Springs; Gary Tapp, Waddy; Jack Westwood, Crescent Springs; Carroll Gibson, Leitchfield; Damon Thayer, Georgetown; Ernie Harris, Crestwood; and Dick Roeding, Lakeside Park; and Reps. Danny Ford, Mount Vernon; Joe Fischer, Fort Thomas; Mike Harmon, Junction City; Tom Kerr, Taylor Mill; Marie Rader, McKee; and Addia Wuchner, Burlington.

Never a Center Without a Spread

By Skip Kifer

When I ask my classes “who runs faster boys or girls,” someone would, after having decided it is not a trick question, say “boys.” If one is talking about averages or centers of distributions that is the correct answer. If one is talking about how fast people can run, it misses the mark substantially. How many men in the world can run faster than Marion Jones?

Education talk is filled with centers when it should be filled with spreads and, on the best of days, centers, shapes and spreads. Let me give you a couple of examples:

Which of the following two pictures, based on the same data, describe an achievement gap?



An answer is, of course, they both do. But what do they portray and which is the better description? And, are there better descriptions?

The recent entries concerning equity in educational funding in the Commonwealth portray kinds of centers. Here is another picture that contains the data and spreads as well.

I do not see the equity in funding. In fact, spreads, a measure of inequity, may have increased.

Anytime I see reported only averages or only percentages I am immediately suspicious. There are simply better ways to portray data and to make it possible for persons to understand better what the data may be saying.


(Editor's Note: Correction made in text April 21.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Facebook effort tries to oust Notre Dame leader

This from MSNBC:
Abortion opponents riled by invitation
for Obama to give speech

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A group has launched an online social networking effort seeking to oust the University of Notre Dame's president over the school's decision to invite President Barack Obama to give its commencement speech next month.

A posting on the Web site http://www.replacejenkins.com/ says the Obama invitation and other decisions by the Rev. John Jenkins call his judgment into question. The Web site launched Thursday asks Notre Dame alumni and financial supporters to join a Facebook group and sign a petition...
Other Facebook Groups
Group: We Will Be Honored to Have President Obama at Notre Dame
Size: 7,530 members
Type:Common Interest - Current Events
New: 85 More Members, 1 Board Topic, 11 Wall Posts

Group: Tell Notre Dame to Un-Invite President Obama
Size:1,904 members
Type: Organizations - Advocacy Organizations
New: 76 More Members, 1 Board Topic, 9 Wall Posts

Twice blessed

This from The Economist:

Bilingual babies are precocious decision-makers
WHETHER to teach young children a second language is disputed among teachers, researchers and pushy parents. On the one hand, acquiring a new tongue is said to be far easier when young. On the other, teachers complain that children whose parents speak a language at home that is different from the one used in the classroom sometimes struggle in their lessons and are slower to reach linguistic milestones. Would 15-month-old Tarquin, they wonder, not be better off going to music classes?

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may help resolve this question by getting to the nub of what is going on in a bilingual child’s brain, how a second language affects the way he thinks, and thus in what circumstances being bilingual may be helpful. Agnes Kovacs and Jacques Mehler at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste say that some aspects of the cognitive development of infants raised in a bilingual household must be undergoing acceleration in order to manage which of the two languages they are dealing with...

Former Florida substitute teacher pleads guilty in sex case

This from TampaBay.com:

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Lisa Marinelli, a former Pasco County substitute teacher accused last year of having a sexual relationship with a student, pleaded guilty in court this morning.

She faced up to 15 years in prison but avoided any time behind bars. Instead, prosecutors and her defense attorney agreed to a stringent probationary sentence that includes a year of house arrest and no contact with children under 18 without supervision.

The married mother of two will have to register as a sex offender,
undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases and complete sex offender treatment.

Marinelli, now 41, fell under suspicion in February 2008 when the victim's father reported to the Sheriff's Office that he saw his son get out of Marinelli's car pulling his pants up. They were in the back seat...

Governor Beshear Announces Federal Stimulus Funding for Clean School Bus Emissions

ARRA Dollars to help lower diesel emissions

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division for Air Quality (DAQ) announced that DAQ will be administering at least $1.73 million in funding for Clean School Bus programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.


“This is an example of how President Obama’s three pillars of education, economy and environment can come together in one initiative,” Gov. Beshear said. “The Clean School Bus programs will create more than 30 jobs, benefit air quality, and reduce student absenteeism due to allergies and asthma. I encourage all of our school districts to apply for this funding.”


While school buses are the safest way to get students to and from school, the DAQ is working to ensure that school buses are also the cleanest way to transport students. In Kentucky, 9,883 school buses carry 447,000 students to and from school each day, driving 102 million miles and burning 13 million gallons of diesel fuel. The Clean School Bus program, when implemented by each district, will reduce school bus pollution through a combination of idle reduction policies and bus retrofits.


Ultimately, student absenteeism rates are reduced due to the reduction of asthma and allergy triggers produced by diesel fumes.


Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters said the funding will play an integral part in helping school districts protect children’s health and the environment. “The links to diesel fumes and children’s health can no longer be ignored. Diesel fumes are linked to increased rates of asthma and allergies, especially in children. I encourage all school districts to take an active role in improving children’s health across the commonwealth.”


Interested school districts can view the grant application online at http://www.air.ky.gov/ beginning April 21. The deadline for applying for the funding is May 29, 2009.



SOURCE: The Gov

Blue-White


Former Principal Goes to the Derby

Owner-trainer Thomas McCarthy is a retired Louisville school teacher and high school principal, a prostate cancer survivor, and a fifty-year veteran of Thoroughbred racing.

General Quarters is the only horse McCarthy owns and trains, and the pair are headed to the Kentucky Derby as McCarthy's first ever entry in America's favorite race.

This from Indian Charlie:

This from C-J:

Smaller stables rooting for him big time in Derby
General Quarters' upset victory in Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes -- the performance that launched retired Louisville principal Tom McCarthy and his one-horse stable into the national limelight -- might have surprised a lot of people...






Playboy Names Top 10 Party Schools

This from MSNBC:
Playboy magazine on Friday named the University of Miami as the top party school in the United States based on five criteria that included a nod to brainpower.

The adult magazine, which has only occasionally published the party college list in the past but will now turn it into an annual feature, ranked the schools on campus life, sports, sex and academics, or "brains," as Playboy put it.

As a last criterion, Playboy included "bikini," which combined weather, guy-to-girl ratio and cheerleaders.

The top 10 party schools are below in order of rank:
1) University of Miami
2) University of Texas (Austin)
3) San Diego State University
4) University of Florida
5) University of Arizona
6) University of Wisconsin (Madison)
7) University of Georgia
8) Louisiana State University
9) University of Iowa
10) West Virginia University
The full list is in the magazine's May issue and here.

Snapshots of Fiscal Equity

KERA has led to a significant decline in differences in educational spending across the Commonwealth.

According to a recent UK study the gap in current expenditures per student between metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts fell from $600 in 1987 to $10 in 2006. Equitable funding is KERA's clearest success. Adequacy remains.

But what does equity look like in a funding system that mixes state and local resources? For that we turn to the Prichard blog where Susan Weston has posted some figures.
...the twelve districts with the most taxable property per student put in more local money and receive less state money than state average, yet all have total base funding within $400 of the average.

...the twelve districts with the least taxable property put in less local money and receive more state funds, yet all end up with base resources within $615 of the average.

Washington set to take on more of cost of education

This from the Seattle Times:

The state Senate voted Thursday to expand the state's responsibility to its 1 million schoolchildren, adding to the list of programs it must pay for under the state constitution.

The state Senate voted Thursday to expand the state's responsibility to its 1 million schoolchildren, adding to the list of programs it must pay for under the state constitution.

Supporters consider the bill a historic piece of legislation, one that updates a 30-year-old definition of basic education they've long considered inadequate.

To be phased in as money becomes available over the next nine years, the bill also would simplify education-funding formulas, and usher in a number of other changes.
"It is not all right to be 47th in the nation in class size. It's not all right to have
a dropout rate between 20 and 30 percent. And it's not all right to pay our teachers 21st in the nation," ... said state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, who chairs the Senate's early-learning and K-12 education committee....

Use of Seclusion, Restraints on Students at Issue

This from Ed Week:

Watchdog agency preparing report on practices
In 2006, a 7-year-old Wisconsin girl with attention deficit disorder and an emotional disturbance died after being pinned to the ground face down at a state-licensed day treatment facility.

In 2004, a 13-year-old Georgia boy diagnosed with depression and ADHD hanged himself in a seclusion room at his school for children with emotional disorders.

Those children’s cases, and stories about other children who died or were injured after being restrained or secluded in school, often prompt a burst of local attention. But no federal agency requires that records be kept on seclusion and restraints, and state laws vary widely in how such techniques can be used...

Governor Behear on Early Childhood Education

As Savings Head South, More America Students Head North

This from NBC Nightly News:

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Indiana schools fail to meet federal standards

"No Child Left Behind is exactly the right thing to do,
and it's done exactly the wrong way,"
--- Superintendent Jim Mervilde

This from the Indianapolis Star:

As standards get tougher, many fail to meet goals

Parents and educators across Central Indiana faced conflicting emotions Wednesday as new ratings showed more and more schools failed to meet federal education standards.Every traditional public high school in Marion County and several prominent suburban schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind results released this week.

That raises questions of whether otherwise good schools are held to unreasonable standards or whether those standards will push schools to achieve more than they thought they could.

Under the federal law, schools will have to meet an increasingly higher target of students passing state standardized tests until 2014, when schools will be listed as failing unless 100 percent of students pass the tests....

Quick Hits

Oregon dropout rates improve with efforts to aid at-risk teens: Just 3.7% of Oregon high-school students dropped out during the 2007-08 school year, the lowest rate in at least 20 years, state officials say. Schools have been aggressive in their efforts to persuade dropouts to return to alternative schools while also working to personalize high school for all students, educators say. (The Oregonian)

Individualized plans aim to personalize education for all: A New Jersey pilot program will allow some sixth- and ninth-graders to develop individualized education plans even though they are not enrolled in special education. The plan is part of the state's efforts to revise its middle and high schools and eventually may spread to all the state's districts. (The Gloucester County Times)

$600 million deficit could result in more than 5,000 layoffs in L.A.: More than 5,000 Los Angeles educators and other school staff may be laid off to balance a $596 million budget deficit for the 2009-10 school year, the district's school board decided on a 4-3 vote Tuesday. "Anger is appropriate and outrage is appropriate," said board President Monica Garcia, who voted for the layoffs. "Nobody wants to do these layoffs." (Los Angeles Times)

Tally of pink slips at Ariz. school districts passes 4,000: The number of Arizona teachers and other school personnel being told they may not have a job next school year because of the state’s budget crisis now exceeds 4,000, according to a preliminary tally of districts’ notifications to workers. (Arizona Daily Star)

Alaska legislators dismiss Palin's plan for education stimulus funds: Educators and prominent Alaskan legislators oppose Gov. Sarah Palin's plan to use $93 million in economic-stimulus funds, instead of state funds, for education. "Supplanting is not a good idea," said state Senate President Gary Stevens. "We have an opportunity to really do some good things for our districts. I think we should take advantage of it." (KTUU-TV Anchorage)

Study says hazing isn't going away at high-school level: Nearly half of college students say they were hazed while in high school, according to a study that also says such hazing may be getting more severe. "We're still having hazing incidents in this country in high schools. They're getting more brutal. They're getting more sexual. And they're being pushed down into middle schools," said education expert Elliot Hopkins. (MSNBC)

Hard Times Prompts Superintendent to Hang it Up

This from the Advocate Messenger:

Garrard schools losing Woolsey

LANCASTER - Garrard County school Superintendent Ray Woolsey will retire at the end of the school year.

Woolsey, who announced his retirement last year before reconsidering, said he is sure about the decision this time.

"It's just time," he said. "I have had 40 years in education, and I
feel like I have accomplished what I can here."

Woolsey also cited the strain from mounting financial concerns.

"I'm tired of having to tell people they don't have a job. It has been a very tough year."

Summer Camps for Future Kentucky Teachers

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Kentucky high school students interested in teaching as a career choice may participate in regional Future Educators Association (FEA) Summer Camps in June and July.

These week-long residential camps held at universities are free to students in attendance. Capacity is limited, and each camp will take the first 30 applications on a first-come, first-served basis.

Application information is available from the contacts listed below:

The Future Educators Association® assists middle and high school students in exploring careers in education. The association is unique in its ability to offer students unparalleled, age-appropriate professional development opportunities, including an annual conference and access to a state-of-the-art FEA social networking Web site. Through hands-on career exploration opportunities, FEA allows members to assume leadership roles and develop professional skill sets that will serve them throughout their careers. The association also connects students with chances to earn scholarship grants through its sponsoring organization, PDK International.

In 2002, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 188, which requested that the Kentucky Department of Education set aside teacher recruitment funds to assist school districts in organizing FEA Clubs.

Kentucky now holds the distinction of having the most chartered FEA chapters in the nation, with nearly 200 chapters statewide.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bluegrass Institute Shifting from Tea Parties to School Choice?

Having gathered a few central Kentucly crowds at recent "Tea Parties," it was surprising to learn today that David Adams of the Bluegrass Institute wants to change the Tea Party name (due to the press' use of an objectional homoerotic slang term involving tea bags) and shift to a new issue.

So Soon?

I've been watching the Tea Parties with a bemused mixture of interest and skepticism:
  • Bemused - because of the strange juxtaposition of establishment types, more than a few of whom would have favored police clearing the streets of all protesters in bygone days, now carrying placards;
  • Interest - because it is prudent for all Americans to worry about deficits now approaching 70% of GDP; and
  • Skepticism - because if Tea Parties were a principled effort they should have started during the Bush administration rather than waiting for Obama.
As it is, Tea Parties smack of partisan free-marketers looking for a new angle that might validate - after the fact - an approach toward unregulated free enterprise that nearly crippled us - and clearly has cost America many years of full productivity.

Curiously, Adams suggests a new strategy and a new issue as early as May.

One wonders if Tea Party organizers sense that the sustainability of such protests is just not there and organizers don't want them to be remembered as an idea that simply fizzled. Otherwise, if it is indeed a strong growing movement - why deflate it now?

Most folks don't know what to believe about toxic assets, credit default swaps and other arcane financial instruments that should have been illegal, but weren't. But Americans did see both Presidents Bush and Obama stand up and tell us that the problem was so bad, that if we didn't stimulate the economy, the whole system could collapse.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I saw America flinch.

BIPPS selection of school choice as the new focus for grassroots activism is interesting. I wonder if BIPPS will be able to generate the same amount of passion for school choice from the smaller segment of the population directly impacted by K-12 education. On the other hand, the Obama administration has certainly given them a platform, and perhaps a level, to go after charter schools in Kentucky - and as far as I can tell nobody in the education establishment wants to talk about it.

Finally, Adams recently complained that the Courier-Journal should not stoop to homoerotic slang in describing the Tea Party protests. He's right.

Perhaps, if the Bluegrass Institute did less name-calling and had a better track record of correcting it's own errors it would stand on higher moral ground when expressing its outrage toward others.

SEEK Base Basics

Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) is Kentucky's school funding program. It reduces financial gaps between districts with the most and least property per pupil and defines the amount of money Kentucky public school districts receive. At the Prichard Blog Susan Weston provides an overview of how the SEEK formula will provide basic funding in 2009-10, using state forecast numbers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Principal Charged With Assault Due In Court

This from WKYT:

A principal accused of assaulting a student is due back in court Wednesday.

Nicholas County High School Principal Joe Orazen is accused of throwing a student to the ground, after an argument over a cell phone.

The altercation with 15-year old Dusty Green was caught on school surveillance cameras.

Orazen has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is on paid suspension from the school system.

Please Raise Your Hand and Repeat After Me

Over at Prichard, Susan posted "The Learning Pledge" penned by the Kentucky Association of Assessment Coordinators. The pledge is intended to address "concerns about the testing transition and its instructional implications."

Teachers are asked to "proclaim and steadfastly adhere to" the pledge of learning.

Regardless of test measures, instruments, or accountability features I will provide each individual child with the highest level educational opportunity possible.
And will
  • Teach all core subjects whether they are tested or not.
  • Provide authentic writing instruction while compiling student work.
  • Be held accountable whether there is an accountability system or not.

Massive Demonstration Ends Peacefully. ; )

Quick Hits

Education Standards Likely to See Toughening: The Obama administration will likely toughen rules on areas like teacher quality and academic standards. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration was “laying the foundation for where we want to go” with the No Child Left Behind reauthorization. (N Y Times)

Study: 1 in 10 Texas kids has an undocumented parent: A growing share of the children of illegal immigrants are U.S.-born citizens, illustrating a sensitive, demographic shift in the makeup of America’s undocumented migrant population. (Houston Chronicle)

5,400 L.A. teacher jobs in jeopardy: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Board of Education has voted to lay off as many as 5,400 teachers and support personnel for the upcoming school year. (USA Today)

Parents to be hit with penalties if children misbehave at school: Parents will be hit by severe penalties if children misbehave under a back-to-basics crackdown on indiscipline in schools, it is announced today. (London Daily Telegraph)

Education board in Texas faces curbs: Texas state legislators are considering reining in the Board of Education amid frustration with the board's politically charged debate over how to teach evolution. (Wall Street Journal)

School's noise irks neighbor; cops issue ticket to principal: They say good fences make good neighbors, but at Olympia Elementary School, a fence was not nearly enough. Late last month, police issued Principal Terri LeBleu a citation for violation of the Universal City noise ordinance after a neighbor who has long complained about commotion at the school called again during its Family Fitness Day. “They’ve built a 7-foot fence at the back of the school,” LeBleu said. “They’ve put special backing on the basketball hoops because he doesn’t like hearing the basketball hit, and they’ve even taken out the loudspeakers that allowed me to make announcements to the kids who are outside, so now I’m not able not do that.” During the March 20 fitness event, parents were invited to walk the track with their children. “We had some music playing, and that’s probably what started some of his concerns,” said LeBleu, who also said she’s had no complaints about noise except Armstrong’s. (San Antonio Express-News)
'Spirituality for Kids' class draws fire: The program, created by a leader of the L.A.-based Kabbalah Centre International, is promoted as a way to teach children how to make wise choices. Critics say it brings religion into public schools. (L A Times)
Vermont Lawmakers Look To Legalize Teen 'Sexting': Text messaging graphic pictures of yourself could soon be legal for teens in Vermont. Lawmakers there are considering a bill that would make it legal for teenagers 18 and under to exchange explicit photos and videos of themselves – an act that's come to be known by teens as "sexting." Under the current law, teenagers could be prosecuted as sex offenders if they get caught sending graphic sexual images of themselves, even if it was consensual. (CBS)
School Strip-Search Case Heads to Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court next week will hear a case on the strip-search of a 13-year-old girl at a public school, wading into the legal balancing act between protecting students’ privacy rights and allowing school officials to take steps to ensure a safe campus environment. The case, which has attracted national media attention—as well as friend-of-the-court briefs from national education groups, civil-liberties advocates, and the Obama administration—could have major implications for how schools proceed when they wish to search students. At issue in Safford Unified School District v. Redding (Case No. 08-479) is the search of 8th grade honor student Savana Redding amid suspicion she possessed prescription-strength ibuprofen tablets. (Ed Week)