Saturday, August 29, 2009

Water Balloon Fight !

Our youngest insisted that we help the UK Christian Student Fellowship try to set a new Guinness Book record for the world's largest water balloon fight. The event took place last night - at Midnight - a full two hours past my bedtime. For that reason, her mother and I said, "No promises."

But thanks to a big family game of Phase 10, we were up. So Rita, and I strapped on the flip flops, grabbed Grandmommy Blaylock, who can party with the best of them, and wandered over to the Johnson Center to join teeming hordes of undergrads.

I can't remember an event that took me back to my days as an undergrad at UK so effectively.


These from the Kentucky Kernel:

When the signal was given, combatants raced toward the ammo.

Separated by a 20 yard neutral zone, the teams advanced.

Then, whammo.

Delightful.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Public Schools Net Highest Approval in 41-year old PDK/Gallup Poll

It seems the folks who don't like public schools mostly consist of those who know the least about them.

Most Americans give their community’s public schools high marks, particularly if their children attend those schools, the 41st annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools has found. More than 50 percent of Americans gave their local schools either an A or B, which equaled the highest scores in the history of the poll. A record number—75 percent—gave the school attended by their oldest child an A or B.

A majority of American also support charter schools. Too bad they don't know what they are.

Whether the issue is expanding charter schools or implementing merit pay for teachers, Americans appear to agree with President Barack Obama’s plans for education reform, according to the 2009 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

The President’s ambitious agenda includes higher standards and more funding for early learning settings, expanding charter schools, reshaping teacher pay to reward effective teachers, and introducing common standards that could lead to a national test administered by states.

The findings indicate that Americans continue to support annual testing of students in grades three through eight by a two-to-one margin, and they favor using a single national test rather than letting each state use its own. This opinion is held by Democrats and Republicans equally.

Two out of three Americans support charter schools, although many Americans are confused about whether charter schools are public schools and whether they can charge tuition, teach religion, or select their own students. During the last five years, Americans’ approval of charter schools has increased by 15 percent.

The poll, which is conducted annually by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup, asked Americans about using stimulus money to save teachers’ jobs, investing in early childhood education, and other public education issues. Specifically, 46 percent of Americans support the use of stimulus money earmarked for education to retain teachers slated to be laid off, and 81 percent of Americans favor making kindergarten compulsory.

The 2009 poll also reveals that almost three out of four Americans favor merit pay for teachers regardless of political affiliation. Student academic achievement, administrator evaluations, and advanced degrees are the three most favored criteria for awarding merit pay.

“The poll results appear to be a permission slip for the President’s education agenda," said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “It provides a ringing endorsement for many of the Administration’s planned changes that will be taken up in Congress next year as lawmakers debate what to do with the No Child Left behind Act.”

Other Key Findings:

• NCLB Fatigue? Americans are also growing weary of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In fact, support for NCLB, which was passed in 2002, continues to decline as almost half of Americans view it unfavorably and only one in four Americans believe that it has helped schools in their communities.

• Split Views on Teacher Tenure. American views are split on teacher tenure depending on how the question is phrased. They disapprove of teachers having a “lifetime contract” but agree that teachers should have a formal legal review before being terminated.

• Dropout Rate of Top Importance. Almost nine out of 10 Americans believe that the U.S. high school dropout rate is either the most important or one of the most important problems facing high schools today. Offering more interesting classes was the suggestion offered most when asked what could help reduce the dropout rate.

• Support for Required Kindergarten. Americans strongly endorse making either halfday or full-day kindergarten compulsory for all children. Five out of 10 Americans believe preschool programs should be housed in public schools, with parents even more supportive of that idea. This is a significant change from 18 years ago when Americans were evenly divided between public schools, parent’s workplace, and special preschool facilities. Almost six out of 10 Americans would be willing to pay more taxes to fund free preschool programs for children whose parents are unable to pay.

• Americans Well-Informed by Newspapers. Almost 75 percent of Americans say they are either well-informed or fairly well-informed about their schools, citing newspapers as their primary source of information about schools, despite the declines in the newspaper industry, and school employees as their secondary source.


• Support for Higher Teacher Salaries. Overall, Americans demonstrate a deep respect for public school teachers, stating that beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate should earn an average starting salary of approximately $43,000, a substantial increase over the current average starting salary of $35,300. Additionally, seven out of 10 would like a child of theirs to become a public school teacher, the highest favorable rating in three decades.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

School News from Around Kentucky

Hands-on Journalism - Warren Central students publish online newspaper, ‘The Digital Dragon’: Warren Central High School has not printed a newspaper in more than seven years. And a group of students at the school would like to keep that tradition going.That’s because a new class of seniors has started an online newspaper called “The Digital Dragon,” and while it is already unique in its non-paper presentation, its staff size makes it unconventional as well.The paper could have hundreds of “reporters,” as the newly formed staff has decided to take contributions from any student, parent or community member with Warren Central news. (Bowling Green Daily News)

Program touts success with advanced-placement exams: A program to put more Kentucky high school students in advanced-placement classes says its efforts helped students in 12 target schools dramatically increase achievement on national AP exams last school year. Students at the 12 Kentucky schools — all of which participate in the AdvanceKy effort to boost AP class participation — earned 768 passing scores on AP national exams in math, science and English, representing a 76.6 percent increase over the previous year. That increase easily topped the state's overall passing score increase of 17.5 percent, and far exceeded the national increase of 5.7 percent. The scores are from AP tests students took last school year. Advance Placement classes are viewed as keys to preparing students for college success. (Herald-Leader)

Jefferson school board raises tax rates: Property taxes for Jefferson County schools are going up again this year — but the weak economy will mean the district's revenue will increase less than in previous years. The school board raised tax rates Monday night to 64.6 cents per $100 of assessed value for real estate and personal property, up from 62.5 cents last year. That means the owner of a house assessed at $100,000 will pay an additional $21 a year, said Cordelia Hardin, Jefferson County Public Schools' chief financial officer. (C-J)

Group says charter schools would fix failing public schools: A group of black Louisville pastors and a conservative education think tank are calling for Kentucky to adopt charter schools, saying the state hasn't done enough to restructure chronically failing schools. The Bluegrass Institute argued at a news conference Monday outside Jefferson County Public Schools headquarters that the state has been too soft on schools that have failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind goals for five straight years, known as “Tier 5” schools. (C-J)

Prosecutors accused of concealing meeting with expert in Stinson case: Dr. William Smock, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Louisville, initiated a March 18 meeting with Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel to advise that he believes Pleasure Ridge Park High School sophomore Max Gilpin's death was not a homicide, but a “tragic accident,” according to court records. But Stengel's office did not turn over information from that hour-long meeting to defense attorneys for former PRP football coach Jason Stinson, who is scheduled to stand trial Aug. 31 on charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment, the defense claims. In a motion filed Monday, defense attorneys Alex Dathorne and Brian Butler accuse Stengel and his prosecutors of conducting a “secret meeting” and “willfully” failing to disclose pertinent evidence in the case. (Courier-Journal)


School chief continues residency fight: That's according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals, which last month upheld a July 2008 ruling by Campbell County Circuit Court. Brandt, superintendent of Newport Independent Schools, has now appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court. "It's a friendly case," Brandt, 62, said Tuesday. "I'm not trying to be stubborn, I just want to air it all out." (Enquirer)


30 years for ex-school bus driver: A former Ryle High School bus driver and child rapist will stay behind bars for at least three decades. Andrew Grabow, 42, of Florence was sentenced Monday in federal court to 30 years in prison for filming himself having sex with children and trading the images on the Internet. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. (NKY.com)

Sebelius says Closing schools wouldn't ward off virus: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that a massive school closing wouldn't stop the spread of the swine flu virus, saying vaccinations must be the defense against a menace that one report said could infect up to half of the population. "What we know is that we have the virus right now traveling around the United States," Sebelius said in a nationally broadcast interview. "And having children in a learning situation is beneficial ... What we learned last spring is that shutting a school down sort of pre-emptively doesn't stop the virus from spreading." (AP)

Quick Hits

Elementary school applies standards instead of grades: Teachers at a Kentucky elementary school have developed a standards-based assessment of student performance, to be implemented this year. Instead of grades, students will be gauged on their mastery of key skills. "We can really identify where a student is having trouble, why he is having that trouble and work to fix it rather than just assigning a letter to say he either did good or bad," said Miles Elementary Principal Bryant Gillis. (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Aspiring Principals Program produces student results: Elementary- and middle-school students in New York City showed more rapid gains in English-language arts at schools where principals completed the 14-month Aspiring Principals Program, according to research findings. About 15% of the city's school leaders have completed the program, which teaches turnaround strategies and steers graduates to helm low-performing schools. (Education Week)

Following exams, N.C. releases some standardized tests on the Net: In an effort to improve transparency about student testing, North Carolina has posted copies of last year's end-of-course and end-of-year exams on the Internet for public viewing. (The News & Observer)

Academy gives high-school students a head start on college: A new academic program will allow gifted high-school juniors and seniors from the Miami-Dade school district to take classes at Florida International University. The Academy for Advanced Academics will offer a mix of high-school and college curricula; students may graduate with up to two years of college credit. "It's impossible to really experience college unless you are actually there -- and we will be there," said a student. (The Miami Herald)

School district bars teachers from flunking some students: Memphis, Tenn., officials have made it more difficult for teachers to hold back students for poor performance, banning the practice in pre-kindergarten through third grade and allowing students in fourth through eighth grades to be held back only once. Also under the new policy, elementary-school teachers will not use letter grades but instead will create spreadsheets of attendance and performance data for all students to ensure they are at grade level or receiving the help they need. (The Commercial Appeal)

Mississippi schools to roll out civil rights curriculum: Mississippi education officials have announced a plan to test a civil rights curriculum in K-12 instruction and make the instruction mandatory in the future. Four school systems have requested to participate in a pilot program, and the state Department of Education will name the selected schools in September. Mississippi, the setting for many pivotal events of the civil rights movement, may be the first state to offer specific instruction on the topic. (WJZ-TV (Baltimore)

Duncan says Biggest innovation grants will go to proven programs: A track record of success will be needed for states, districts and schools to gain the bulk of the $650 million in federal Investing in Innovation grants, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday. Duncan listed three levels of criteria for funding: Grants of up to $50 million will be used to expand proven programs; grants of up to $30 million will go to programs with potential in pilot form; and grants of up to $5 million will implement new programs. (Education Week)

Parents take issue with homework standards in Florida district: New maximum daily homework guidelines in the Palm Beach, Fla., district call for an hour of work for third-graders and 90 minutes for fourth- and fifth-graders. But parents want that to be eased, arguing that the allotment exceeds the commonly accepted guideline of 10 minutes per grade per day. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Reform takes root for Chicago schools in turnaround program: Two Chicago high schools targeted for turnaround have shown signs of improvement. Although test scores are not yet available and experts say more time is needed for a full assessment, there has been a decrease in violence and anecdotal student experiences are positive. This school year, a third school is being added to the experimental program, which replaces an underperforming school's staff and curriculum and adds money and increased security. (Chicago Tribune)

Debate on social studies curriculum in Texas has larger implications: A debate by Texas educators concerning which U.S. historical figures to include -- and what import to give them -- as the K-12 social studies curriculum is revamped could have broad implications. Changes to Texas and California curricula have a national effect because publishers of textbooks cater to large markets. The Texas State Board of Education will hear public testimony on the curriculum in September. (Education Week)

Rhode Island charter school opens with extended year, hours: A new Rhode Island charter middle school is applying a combination of strategies in the hopes of improving student achievement. Classes began two weeks early, and teachers, who are paid slightly more than starting public-school teachers, are expected to work 11 months of the year. The school days are also longer, with most teachers expected to put in 10 hours. (The Providence Journal)

Experience was overlooked in New Orleans hirings, teachers say: Some New Orleans-area educators contend veteran teachers are not being rehired in favor of Teach for America candidates. "People who are proven are being bumped for people who are cheap," said one laid-off teacher. School officials claim the charge is unfair. They say experienced teachers are preferred and statistics do not show a bias. (The Times-Picayune)

Wisconsin considers linking teacher pay to student performance: Wisconsin lawmakers are mulling plans to financially reward teachers based on student achievement and graduation rates. "There should be incentives for teachers to get together, roll their sleeves up and have some reward for it," said state Sen. Alberta Darling. The president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council said the union is open to modernizing teacher pay, but prefers rewarding teachers for developing advanced skills over tying pay to test results. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Monday, August 24, 2009

More details on Rose at 20

Over at EdJurist, Justin Bathon has confirmed some more details for the upcoming event in conjunction with the Education Law Association in Louisville, Kentucky on October 21 in the evening.

The event is tentatively called "Rose at 20: The Past and Future of School Finance Litigation" and will be held in the Brown Hotel's Gallery Ballroom in Louisville. More details will follow, but I'll leak a little secret on the blog that a very high ranking Kentucky official is planning to be in attendance and speak at the event.

We also have a lot of other dignitaries on board as well as several experts on school finance both in Kentucky and around the nation (Kern Alexander, Craig Wood, William Thro, Bill Koski, to name a few). The Kentucky Law Journal is doing a special issue for the occasion. And, Scott and our new colleague Neal Hutchens (who I hope to have another announcement about coming soon) have been helping out on the event.


Thanks for the shoutout, Justin.

Some Movement on Charters in Kentucky

The Commissioner responded last week to doubts about Kentucky's eligibility for Race to the Top funds saying,
The focus of the turnaround schools requirement is on improving student achievement outcomes. That is something everyone in Kentucky can support. We have had experience in Kentucky working with turnaround efforts that we need to build upon.
In my previous experience as a local superintendent, I have worked very well with charter schools. I think Kentucky should keep an open conversation going about the best possible solutions for raising achievement and closing achievement gaps. I feel certain the conversation will include all of the options espoused by Sec. Duncan....
...I do believe we will be able to respond to these [turnaround] criteria.
The issue of charter schools is listed as a “selection criteria” under the reform area of “Turning Around Struggling Schools.” As such, Kentucky's lack of legislation enabling charter schools will count against the state, but it will not make Kentucky ineligible to apply for the Race to the Top fund. The other selection criteria in the “Turning Around Struggling Schools” reform area relates to intervening in low-performing schools. It is our opinion that our efforts since the Kentucky Education Reform Act with regard to interventions in low-performing schools could give us “bonus” points on our application and thus offset the charter school issue.
Lack of charter schools could cost state stimulus funds

This from the Paducah Sun: (subscription)

Kentucky education officials hope the state will qualify for a share of nearly $5 billion in federal education funds intended to help pay for programs that encourage innovation and accountability....

Criteria for funding is still being developed but Duncan said preference will be given to states that have charter schools. That could cause problems for Kentucky, one of 11 states without them...

However, [Lisa Gross of the Kentucky Department of Education] said the state is reviewing the charter school concept that began in Minnesota in 1991.

“We are looking at charters — the pros and cons, financing, oversight and etceteras,” she said. “We’ve not had a position on those in the past, mainly because they’ve not had a lot of attention in the state.”

State Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, believes that the legislature may begin debate on charter schools at next year’s legislative session. He is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Like Gross, Winters believes Kentucky should qualify for some of the funding because of innovative programs that accomplish the same goals as charter schools.

He specifically mentioned Senate Bill 1, passed recently, that has incentive programs to teach engineering, improve test scores, increase participation in advance placement courses and encourage students to begin their college education early by taking equivalency tests to qualify for college credit.

“There are no laws that specifically prohibit charters, but there would have to be legislation introduced and regulations promulgated that would outline how they’d be set up, who has oversight, how funding is managed and other items,” Gross said.

The only potential problem is that they could not be private schools because of a constitutional prohibition against using public funds for private education.

She said the department of education has no plans to recommend charter school legislation to the General Assembly, but that could change if the state determines it isn’t eligible for “Race to the Top” funds.

Meanwhile, some education officials nationwide feel Duncan is using strong-armed tactics to force the expansion of the charter school concept....


Hat tip to KSBA.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Editorial: ACT results give clearer picture of local academics

This from the Kentucky Standard:

The 2009 ACT results are in and while many hoped for gains, the overall state combined score of 18.2 showed a slight decline from the 18.3 posted in 2008. In only its second year of mandated ACT testing for all Kentucky high school juniors, many say it’s too early to look for trends and determine their meaning. However, one thing the ACT results made clear is that Kentucky high school juniors are not ready for college. Based on the 2009 ACT scores, only 46 percent of Kentucky’s juniors are ready for college-level English classes, 21 percent are ready for college-level algebra, 30 percent are ready for science and only 16 percent are ready for biology college courses.

On a local level, Nelson County and Bardstown high schools did well by posting higher composite scores than the state average of 18.2.

Nelson County’s overall composite score was 18.8 with posted increases over 2008 in English, math, science and reading. Bardstown High School posted an overall composite score of 18.3, but saw declines in all four subject areas compared to last year’s test scores.

On the positive side while the state-wide results may not be where we would like them to be at least this is a starting point for improvements. There is much needed work in aligning our high school curriculum with college entrance expectations to better prepare graduating seniors. As Kentucky pushes to make higher education more attainable for our young adults, using ACT mandatory testing as a benchmark of progress is a good first step.

Hat tip to KSBA.

Decreasing state's high school dropout rate is summit's goal

This from Jim Warren at H-L:

Almost 6,500 students dropped out of Kentucky schools in 2008 — enough to make up a good-size small town — and faced an uncertain employment future without a high school diploma.

Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear said Wednesday that the state can't afford to keep sending so many young people handicapped by an incomplete education into an increasingly competitive job market.

"Together, as a community, we must find ways to keep all of our students engaged and in school," she said in a statement.

Accordingly, Beshear will host a summit in Frankfort on Sept. 11-12 called Graduate Kentucky: A Community Approach. It's aimed at developing a statewide action plan to raise Kentucky graduation rates and help prepare more young people for success in life.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of The Children's Defense Fund, will be the keynote speaker at the summit. Gov. Steve Beshear will join other state and education leaders at the meeting, which will include discussion of best practices and ideas for raising graduation rates.

The Frankfort session will be followed by a series of regional summits, beginning this fall and continuing into next spring. The goal is to have a plan ready by summer to
attack Kentucky's dropout problem....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

20th Anniversary of Rose is Cause for Scholarly Celebration

Save the Date

Symposium on the Twentieth Anniversary
of the landmark school law case

Rose v Council for Better Education

October 21st
6:30-9:00 PM

The symposium titled

Rose at 20:
The Past and Future of School Finance Litigation
will take place at

The Brown Hotel
Louisville, Kentucky

Presented by
The University of Kentucky
College of Law
and
College of Education

in cooperation with

This symposium will explore the
1989 Rose v Council for Better Education case
(790 S.W. 2nd. 186)
one of the most influential and important
school finance decisions in American history.

More...as details become available

MORE PUBLIC SCHOOL GRADUATES TAKE ACT

The number of public high school graduates taking the ACT increased by more than 14,000 from 2008 to 2009, the Kentucky Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education announced today.

This is the first year in which ACT, Inc. has provided Kentucky with separate scores for public school students for the national data release. The number of Kentucky public school students whose scores are presented in this data was 41,099, a significant increase from 2008’s 26,610.

This increase is due in part to the requirement that all public school 11th graders participate in the ACT. To compile information for the release of graduating class data, ACT, Inc. used students’ scores from the last time they took the test, and many public school 11th graders in Kentucky did not take the ACT again as 12th graders.

(NOTE: The scores in this data release should not be compared to the scores released for Kentucky public school juniors on August 10. The groups represented in the two data releases are not comprised of the same students. Scores from this data release also should not be compared to previous years’ data because of the addition of more students and because of the inclusion of non-public students’ scores in earlier data collections.)

The 2009 composite for Kentucky public school students is 19.1, compared to 2008’s composite of 20.6. Nationally, the 2009 composite score was 21.1, the same as that for 2008. The national composite score includes both public and non-public school test-takers.

ACT indicates that a larger pool of test-takers tends to lead to lower overall scores.

“The good news is that we now have identified hundreds of additional students who, in previous years, would not have been identified as having college aspirations,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Our goal is to prepare ALL of our children for career and postsecondary work. While we have work to do, the alignment of Senate Bill 1, Race to the Top and numerous other Kentucky reform efforts are now focused on the right stuff – preparing children for their future, not our future.”

“These test results emphasize the importance of Senate Bill 1,” said Robert King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. “SB1 compels a critical partnership between P-12 and higher education for the purpose of increasing the number of young people who attend college, persist and earn a degree.”

Senate Bill 1, passed in the 2009 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, calls for a complete revision of the state’s assessment and accountability system for public schools. The bill’s provisions include a revision of academic standards to be based on national and international benchmarks with the goal of increasing the rigor and focus of subject-area content.

The overall ACT Assessment consists of tests in four areas: English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. ACT, Inc. recommends that college-bound students take four or more years of English; three or more years of mathematics (including Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and geometry); three or more years of social studies; and three or more years of natural sciences. ACT, Inc. defines specific courses in these areas. Kentucky's graduation requirements define four credits in English; three in mathematics; three in social studies; three in science; one in history and appreciation of visual and performing arts; and one-half each in health and physical education.

ACT, Inc. developed College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, science and reading, with research indicating that students who reach those have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college course. The benchmark scores are:

§ 18 or higher on the ACT English Test
§ 22 or higher on the ACT Mathematics Test
§ 21 or higher on the ACT Reading Test
§ 24 or higher on the ACT Science Test


Percentages/Numbers of Kentucky Public School Students
Meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks


Some of the drops in percentages of Kentucky public school students meeting the benchmarks can be attributed to the larger population of students who took the ACT and to some students’ status as 11th graders who have not yet completed all of the credits necessary for graduation.

Many Kentucky colleges and universities use ACT scores to inform admissions decisions and to place students in appropriate college courses. ACT scores also are used, along with high school grade point averages, to determine the amount of money high school graduates are eligible to receive through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program.

In comparing Kentucky with the nation, the widest gaps in performance among students were in overall English and mathematics scores (2.3 points), and the smallest was in science (1.5 points).

Kentucky’s African-American public school students’ average composite score was 0.6 points lower than the national average for African-American students. At both the national and state levels, the gap between the performance of African-American and white students persisted.

AVERAGE KENTUCKY PUBLIC SCHOOL

ACT COMPOSITE SCORES BY ETHNICITY -- 2005-2009


The composite score gaps between public school males and females of all ethnic groups in Kentucky were minimal in most subjects, with males posting a composite score of 19.0 and females a score of 19.2. On ACT, which offers only multiple-choice questions, males tend to outscore females in mathematics and science, and females tend to outscore males in English and reading.

Kentucky is one of only a few states that has implemented the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) from ACT, Inc. and, through 2006’s Senate Bill 130, administers the ACT to all public school juniors. The state assesses public school 8th graders using the EXPLORE test and assesses public school 10th graders with the PLAN test through EPAS.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bobby McFerrin: Music, our Brains and Emotion

I came across this little ditty, and being a McFerrin fan, couldn't resist.


During the "Notes & Neurons: In Search of a Common Chorus" event from the 2009 World Science Festival, musician Bobby McFerrin treated the audience to several live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate music’s note-worthy interaction with the brain and our emotions.

Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment?


Hat tip to The Apple.

Is Kentucky in for a Rude Awakening on Charters?

For months now, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been warning states without charter school laws that they will be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to sharing in $4 billion + in federal grant funds. But what exactly does that mean?

Charter school advocates seem to think states like Kentucky could be shut out of funding.

But early guidelines from the US Office of Education indicate charter-shunning states will be penalized, but not necessarily shut out.

The single disqualifying factor that Duncan says could bar states from receiving any funds is in the area of using student achievement data to evaluate teachers. With Kentucky poised to redesign its assessment system, it's a fair guess that Kentucky will qualify for something. But another way the feds are likely to penalize charterless states is by reducing the share of the funds for which they would otherwise qualify.

This from ABC News:

Are Charters Schools a Price of Entry to Reform?

States wondering if they'll have to
adopt charter schools
to qualify for federal money

Eleven states have said no to charter schools, one of the education reforms President Barack Obama backs. They may soon be paying a penalty for that choice.

As states compete for more than $4 billion in federal education grants, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has made it clear that those willing to embrace charter schools and other favored innovations will get preference. Those who refuse may end up shut out of the money.

The strong-arm tactics put politicians in a tough spot. Many teachers' union members strongly oppose charter schools, most of which use non-union teachers. And school districts themselves don't like giving up resources to the schools, which get government dollars but operate independently from the local school board.

But boosters, the president and Duncan among them, think they are key to turning around failing schools in part because charter operators have a big motivation for boosting student achievement. If kids don't do well, the schools can be shut down.

Charter schools can also keep kids in school longer, offer more one-on-one attention and try different ways of teaching and learning.

Duncan recently wrote in an opinion piece that states with charter school limits will decrease their odds of getting the grants — dubbed the Race to the Top competition by the administration. He has proposed a rating system to separate the winners from the losers; not every state will get a share of the money.

At the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference this summer, Duncan called the charter movement "one of the most profound changes in American education — bringing new options to underserved communities and introducing competition and innovation into the education system."

Starting at a competitive disadvantage will be 10 states that have never allowed charter schools — Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. An eleventh, Mississippi, which recently let its charter schools law expire, is expected to adopt a new law when its Legislature convenes in 2010.
Similar to Kentucky's Governor Beshear, who has suggested that KERA's school councils are essentially charter-lite,
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire says her state has a shot at some of the education reform money, but not as much as if it had a charter law...

...Gregoire, who recently talked with Duncan about the grants, is hoping to convince the education secretary that her state has other creative programs and is willing to change.

"The secretary was clear, that's what they're looking for — nontraditional schools that allow students to excel," Gregoire said. "I would like to show him some of our alternative schools and get his feedback."

Charter school groups and education experts say creativity may not be enough and Duncan may decide to use states like Washington as an example of what happens when you don't give the president what he wants...
Kentucky educators can wax nostalgic about the country's most sweeping reform effort all we want. But it seems Duncan is looking somewhere else.

Hat tip to KSBA.

Monday, August 17, 2009

District flunked test on evaluating school principals

Disappointed by the silent treatment Fayette County has given the issue of principal evaluations, while they rest on the board attorney's public proclaimation that the district was doing exactly what they should be doing, I whipped together a little piece that ran in the Herald-Leader today. It won't be new to KSN&C readers. ...just reworked, and said a little louder.

PETRILLI TRIAL REVEALED WEAKNESS

By Richard Day in the Herald-Leader:

At issue: Herald-Leader editorial, July 31: “The rest of the story; Petrilli case leaves troubling questions.”

A surprising revelation from Peggy Petrilli’s unsuccessful racial discrimination suit against Fayette County Superintendent Stu Silberman was that principals rarely — if ever — get marked down on their evaluations.

A Herald-Leader editorial was correct to say, “the district must do a better job of evaluating employees. ... employees who aren’t accurately graded can’t really be expected to improve.”

Given his considerable talents, it must have been difficult for the editorial board to pen comments critical of Silberman, although they softened it as much as they could. Their assessment that problems existed with “the district” deflected responsibility. And writing that “employees” weren’t being marked down takes the focus off principals, the real issue.

Silberman testified that he was aware of numerous problems at Booker T. Washington Academy, but incredibly, the Herald-Leader claims he “had no inkling of the irregularities that would later be discovered.”

Silberman told the jury that the district immediately reported allegations that Petrilli was cheating on state tests to the Kentucky Department of Education. In fact, before her resignation, the board attorney advised Silberman to suspend Petrilli, but he refused.

No inkling? C’mon.

Silberman testified, “It was an ongoing litany of problems and we supported Peggy in every single one of them... please understand there was a problem every other day.”

The jury heard that she demoted fourth graders on the first day of testing, monkeyed with test booklets, muffed hiring practices, created tremendous staff turnover, went back on agreements, ignored students’ individual education plans, jeopardized Reading First funding for 11 schools and made unilateral program
changes that damaged relationships.

The district showed, to great effect, that parents had reason to complain on grounds that had nothing to do with race, thus crippling Petrilli’s claim of a discriminatory conspiracy.

But you wouldn’t know any of it from looking at Petrilli’s stellar evaluations.

Silberman says they “supported Peggy.” But what the district really did was enable Petrilli by not using the evaluation system as it was intended: to motivate her to improve in areas where she was weak.

In a May 2008 editorial the Herald-Leader regretted its prior belief in “miracle-working” principals and noted “how eager everyone was to be gulled, to believe that all it takes is the right principal for kids who have almost no advantages to suddenly knock the lid off standardized tests.”

Has the paper really sworn off the idea of a savior, or just switched to superintendents? Having helped build the pedestal from which Petrilli fell, would they erect a new one for Silberman?

We should support our leaders when they are right and depart from them when they are wrong. But if leadership is not challenged through the evaluation system or in the public forum, the motivation to do better disappears.

State regulations already outline an evaluation system that will work, but only if the district uses it as designed.

Richard Day of Lexington is a former principal of Cassidy Elementary School.

Commish Launches Blog

COMMISSIONER TO BLOG ABOUT HIS ACTIVITIES

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday will share insight, information and his thoughts and concerns through regular blog postings.

Doc H’s Blog is hosted through Blogger and postings also will be viewable on the Kentucky Department of Education’s Web site.

Holliday will use the blog as a means of providing two-way communication between him and Kentucky citizens. Visitors to the site may comment on his postings and leave messages.

Holliday plans to travel around Kentucky, visiting school systems and talking with educators, parents, elected officials and citizens. He will post highlights of school visits, summaries of discussions and other items of interest to Kentucky’s P-12 education community.

Holliday also makes regular posts to Twitter (kycommissioner) and has a Facebook page.

SOURCE: KDE press release

The Boo-Hoo Breakfast

To deal with separation anxiety on the first day of school, I used to advise new "kindergarten parents" to smile brightly at the teacher, give their child a kiss and leave quickly. Then they could cry in the parking lot as long as they wanted.

Over at Dixie Elementary (and in Glasgow), they have a better idea.

This from the Herald-Leader, photo by Pablo Alcala:

First day of school off to a good start despite a few tears

There's nothing quite like the separation anxiety, the sheer emotional trauma, that can grip moms and dads when they deliver their children to school for the first time.

It's crushing enough just turning over one child to strangers. But three?

Not surprisingly, Lexington's Terry Moore couldn't hold back a few tears Wednesday morning after she and her husband, David, dropped off their 5-year-old triplets at Dixie Elementary Magnet School. It was the first day of kindergarten for Olivia, Emily and Aaron Moore.

Thousands of other Lexington youngsters also returned to classes Wednesday morning all across Lexington, as Fayette County Public Schools reopened for the 2009-10 school year.

School district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said that other than some "typical opening day" glitches such as a few late buses, the day went smoothly.

The first part of the day also went well for Terry Moore, but the tears began to fall after she left her triplets in their classroom. Fortunately, she was able relax for a few minutes at what the folks at Dixie Elementary call the "Boo-Hoo Breakfast."

Each year on the first day of classes, Dixie staffers hold the breakfast in the school library, serving coffee, doughnuts and plenty of tissues to help kindergarten parents through the emotional moment of saying goodbye to their children. Some parents get teary-eyed every year, school officials say...

H-T 2 KSBA.

Ex-student arrested for threatening South Oldham High principal

This from C-J:
A former South Oldham High School student has been charged with making threatening phone calls to principal Dorenda Neihof over the summer, Oldham County Police said.

Samuel Harper, 19, left four messages at the school between July 11 and July 15 threatening Neihof's life, Detective James Brown said. He said Harper also made threatening phone calls to Neihof in February 2008.

Harper was arrested July 16 and charged with four counts of terroristic threatening in the second degree and four counts of harassing communications, Brown said. He also was charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief for breaking into and damaging a home in the Orchard Grass area, Brown said....

Graduate Kentucky


This from Cindy Heine at Prichard:
I am happy to announce that First Lady Jane Beshear and Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Helen Mountjoy have invited the public to participate in Graduate Kentucky: A Community Approach. This initiative will focus on raising awareness of the dropout problem in Kentucky, instigate a community discussion about the issue and develop an action plan to address the problem.

In Kentucky, more than 6,000 students dropped out in 2008, and nearly 26 percent of adults have less than a high school education.

These numbers have real consequences for the Commonwealth: High school dropouts are four times more likely to be unemployed than college graduates; one in four resorts to public assistance; and crime rates soar among those who have dropped out of school.

The dropout problem is affecting not only individual dropouts, but also our communities and society as a whole. And this is why communities and organizations like ours must be part of the solution.

On September 11-12, Mrs. Beshear will host a statewide summit at the Convention Center in Frankfort to begin this effort. Following the statewide summit, six regional conferences will be held throughout the year.

I encourage you to participate in both the statewide summit and the regional summits. If you are interested in attending the statewide summit or need more information on the broader initiative, please visit www.graduate.ky.gov or contact one of the individuals below.
Cindy Heine: Prichard Committee; cheine@prichardcommittee.org; Office: (859) 233-9849 x222

Colmon Elridge: Governor’s Office; Colmon.Elridge@ky.gov; Office: (502) 564-2611

Kate Wood: Governor’s Office; Kate.Wood@ky.gov; Office: (502) 564-2611

We are all needed to address this critical issue in the Commonwealth. As you are well aware, education is the key to success for an individual, a community and our shared legacy.

SIURCE: Prichard Communication

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Todd Touts his Numbers

UK President Lee Todd is bragging, and why not. After years of criticism over the university's perceived lukewarm commitment to African American students and faculty, Todd established a mission to make a better showing and has been tracking his numbers. He also took some shots over the school's lack of commitment to advancing women. He may not be able to claim that the university has arrived, but the data show a positive trend.

Todd has also been tasked to double the number of college graduates at the research university and that necessitates retaining students in the system until they complete their programs.

This from Lee Todd in Kentucky Alumni Magazine: (Warning: Big .pdf file)
2008 – ‘09: Statistics Tell A Powerful Story

• Record high number of freshman applicants: 11,120
• Record high number of Governor’s Scholars/School for the Arts Students: 389
•Record high retention rate: 81 percent
•Record high number of African-American first-year students: 347
•Record high number of African-American undergraduate students: 1,234
•Record high doctoral student enrollment: 2,391
•Record high first-professional (dentistry, law, medicine, and pharmacy) enrollment: 1,558
•Record high number of full-time faculty: 2,096
•Record high number of African-American faculty: 84, including a record 11 new African-American faculty
•Record high number and percent of women in executive/ administrative/ managerial positions: 234, or 48.4 percent
•Record high research expenditures of $337 million
I often use this space to feature one of our top students, share a story about a faculty or staff member who is leading us in our Top 20 mission, or tout a new outreach initiative.

Even though I am a UK College of Engineering alum, I seldom use this opportunity to simply hype numbers and statistics.

As I often say, it is the efforts of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff that are transforming communities across Kentucky, and I love to tell those success stories.

However, sometimes the raw information is so powerful that it is the story. Such was the case at your alma mater in 2008-09, when UK experienced a “record” year.

As impressive as these statistics are on their own, the depth and breadth of excellence that we are experiencing across the university community is what is so striking to me.

From measures in undergraduate, graduate, and professional education to diversity measures and research totals, UK is taking bold strides forward in a period of budget cuts and financial turmoil...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Medical experts say practice led to player's death

The Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office on Thursday disclosed two expert medical witnesses who will testify that former Pleasure Ridge Park High School football coach Jason Stinson's Aug. 20 practice, in which players were allegedly made to run until someone quit, caused the death of a 15-year-old player who collapsed from heat stroke.

Dr. Doug Casa, director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut and a national leader in heat-stroke prevention, will testify that Stinson created an environment where Max Gilpin believed he could not stop running “even if it was medically necessary to do so,” which caused the massive heat stroke that led to the teen's death, according to court records.

And another witness, Dr. Larry Shoemaker, will testify at Stinson's Aug. 31 trial on reckless homicide and wanton endangerment that Max died of “exertion-induced heat stroke.”

At the same time, on Thursday, Stinson's attorneys filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the wanton endangerment indictment against the former coach, claiming he was denied an opportunity to speak to the grand jury.

On Tuesday, seven months after Stinson was charged with reckless homicide, a Jefferson County grand jury indicted the former coach on a new charge of first-degree wanton endangerment in the death of Max, who collapsed Aug. 20 and died three days later at Kosair Children's Hospital, after his body temperature had reached 107 degrees.

Defense attorneys Alex Dathorne and Brian Butler claim that under Kentucky criminal procedure rules, prosecutors must inform grand jurors when a defendant wants to testify before them, though the jurors don't have to allow the testimony....

Quick Hits

Analysis: Massachusetts charter-school enrollments show imbalance: An analysis by The Boston Globe suggests that Massachusetts charter schools may be under-enrolling special-education students and English-language learners to trim costs and generate better student-achievement results. Charter-school officials counter that districts make it hard for them to develop a diverse population by not sharing mailing lists of students. (The Boston Globe)

Research weighs pros and cons of No Child Left Behind: Researchers presented findings about the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act at a conference hosted by the Urban Institute's National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research in Washington, D.C. Some of their findings showed that schools are not encouraged to focus on the lowest- and highest-performing students, and that revised state measures of teacher qualifications are focusing more on content knowledge, not necessarily on education training. (Education Week)

Idaho charter plans to use Bible in curriculum, may teach creationism: An Idaho charter school set to open next month has announced plans to use the Bible as a curriculum source and may teach creationist theories. "Our approach is to explore truth and we look at different theories. We will teach some of the theories that have been advanced by different perspectives. We will not be exclusive on that," Nampa Classical Academy headmaster Val Bush said. (Idaho Press-Tribune)

Settlement Reached Over Access to Gay Web Sites: Two Tennessee school districts have agreed to stop blocking student and teacher access to Web sites with information about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued on behalf of several students and educators in the Metropolitan Nashville and Knox County school districts. The suit alleged that filtering software used by the districts blocked access to informational Web sites. The ACLU's press release is here. This page provides access to the original suit as well as the settlement agreement and the district court order of dismissal. (School Law Blog)

Missouri school district to expand "mastery learning": "Mastery learning" will be one strategy used to raise the high-school graduation rate and boost academic performance of minority and lower-income students in North Kansas City schools in Missouri. Mastery learning requires students to demonstrate command of at least 80% of curriculum before progressing. Teachers are expected to tailor teaching to individual students and keep tabs on student competency. (Sun Tribune)

Souter: Civics Education Must Be Improved: A poor understanding of civics by many Americans, such as the two-thirds who cannot name the three branches of government, "is something to worry about," retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter told the American Bar Association on Saturday.


"I’ll ask you to consider the danger to judicial independence when people have no conception of how the judiciary fits within the constitutional scheme.” ...Lynne Marek of the National Law Journal has a good account of the speech. (School Law Blog)

Pennsylvania Board of Education is likely to OK high-school exit exams: Pennsylvania's Board of Education is expected to approve graduation exams in 10 subjects for students at public high schools. The exams once faced opposition from 200 school districts, but board Chairman Joseph Torsella says a compromise on Keystone Exam details have made the proposal viable. The plan would still need legislative approval. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

National rankings are a murky reflection of Florida education: Florida's national education rankings present a quagmire of confusing and contradictory measures, say lawmakers and education experts. Depending on the criteria, Florida can rank among the best and the worst in the country when it comes to education quality, teacher pay, achievement and funding. "To have anything capture all of the educational system in Florida is just not possible," says Patrice Iatarola, an education-policy professor at Florida State University. (The Miami Herald)

Stu Takes to the Twitter Machine but no Tweets on Principal Evaluations

In the latest edition of Stu's News, Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman announced that he's joining his Daviess County Superintendent, friend and mentee Tom Shelton in the bird cage. Stu says,

One other new thing this year – I’m on Twitter! I hope you’ll consider following my tweets. The school district also has a Twitter page at ItsAboutKidsFC to keep everyone up to date on new and exciting district happenings.
You can find Stu here: http://twitter.com/stusilbermanfc

By now I was hoping we would have heard something from the district, or the board, on improvements to principal evaluations in Fayette County. The Petrilli trial exposed the need to give the implementation of the current system another look.

Unfortunately, Silberman directed the press to the board attorney for comments related to the trial and he fed us a bunch of lawyer-speak about how great the legal system is without actually addressing the question of why Fayette County principals don't get marked down - even when the directors and the superintendent have serious problems with some parts of their performance.

For Silberman, the problem has an easy fix and I hope something's already happening. Put a sliding scale on the front page of the summative evaluation and ask the directors to kindly use it. Then let the public know that everyone is serious about creating and retaining excellent principals in Fayette County.

But our pleas apparently went nowhere. Perhaps we can find a bigger megaphone.

I did see some other good news for FCPS, however.

Silberman's got a new crop of excellent principals - including two gifted veterans who are helping out for a year. Congratulations to Barbara Albaugh and Jane Gettler on remaining in the trenches and providing expert leadership to a continuing succession of teachers - this year as interim principals.

Albaugh, who retired as principal at Clays Mill Elementary in 2001, started her teaching career at Dixie Elementary School in 1969. I‟m really enjoying it because I've come home to Dixie, she said recently. It's changed, but it's still Dixie the concept we started with the complexes and individualized instruction for students is still here. Since retiring from FCPS, Albaugh has been a principal and teacher at St. Mary School in Paris, worked for the Kentucky Department of Education and served as interim principal at both Rosa Parks and Squires elementary schools while those principals were on maternity leave.

If you're counting, that's forty. We're approaching Edythe Hayes territory here. Barbara remembers when music at Dixie was taught in a forest.

Gettler, who is starting her 32nd year in education, also got her start in Fayette County at Dixie Elementary School. She retired as principal at Lansdowne in Elementary School after 27 years with the district. Since 2004, she has worked as professional staff assistant at Julius Marks Elementary, worked for the state Department of Education as a scholastic auditor and served as interim principal at Northern Elementary two years ago and Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary School last year.

She may not have gotten the ink some other principals did, but Jane generated impressive improvement in student achievement at Lansdowne during her tenure.

PLUS - Silberman scores three outstanding teacher leaders as new principals, at least two of whom I know to be excellent students, as well.

Kim Lippert has taken over at Arlington Elementary.

She taught at James Lane Allen and Clays Mill elementary schools for 14 years. For the past four years, she was the professional staff assistant at Linlee and Sandersville.... A Bardstown native, Lippert earned her B.A. in education from Eastern Kentucky, her master‟s in education at the University of Kentucky and her Rank 1 in administration from UK.
Deep Springs Elementary's new honcho is Adam Kirk.
Adam Kirk is a Lexington native with roots in Fayette County Public Schools. He was the professional staff assistant at Cassidy Elementary for the past three years and taught at Southern Elementary the previous seven...Kirk, 33, earned a B.A. in kinesiology and health promotion and a master‟s in administration supervision at the University of Kentucky.
Kari Kirchner is the new principal at Mary Todd Elementary.
Kirchner, 51, has taught elementary school and gifted and talented students in FCPS off and on since 1986, with stints at Southern, Millcreek, Meadowthorpe, Julia R. Ewan and Veterans Park. She also served four years as PSA at Veterans Park and last year was the district‟s math content specialist for elementaries...A native of Webster City, Iowa, she has lived in Lexington since 1985. She received a B.S. in elementary education from the University of Iowa, her M.S. and Rank 1 from the University of Kentucky and Level I & II leadership certificates from UK. She earned National Board certification in 2005.
Congratulations y'all, and good luck in this challenging and vitally important work.

Road Trip


Friday, August 14, 2009

Arne Joins the Al and Newt Education Equality Project Show

This from Politics K-12:

If you were in Minnesota for the Republican convention last year or in D.C, during the inauguration you may have been lucky enough to catch the Al and Newt education Equality Project Show.

In case you missed it, it basically involves Rev. Al Sharpton and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich high-fiving and fist-bumping and telling everyone about how their similarities on education policy transcend their differences on... just about everything else. They're pro-charter, pro-merit pay, pro-accountability, and they play well with all sorts of audiences.

At the convention, a room full of conservative Republican delegates gave
Sharpton a standing ovation
, while, during the inauguration festivities, a crowd at an inner-city high school in majority black and Democratic D.C. took cell phone pictures of Gingrich (although he kinda got upstaged by another Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona). Well, now U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is hopping on the tour. ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Photo Ops 2. Votes < 2.

Thursday Nite Live with Gatewood, a bassist, a doctor, an accountant, a teacher, a drummer and a Bud.

Fourth of July with Lt. Dan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AASA Features Superintendents Who Blog

AASA has a piece on superintendents getting over techno fears and using Web 2.0 technologies to communicate.

This from AASA:


Superintendent Blogging


..."Terry Holliday, superintendent of the Iredell-Statesville Schools in North Carolina, used a combination of a blog, a website and a district electronic-issues bin to engage parents in a recent redrawing of attendance boundaries.

Holliday began his communication strategy by sending out e-mails to patrons on the school system’s mailing list. He followed by posting information on the website and then began blogging about the redistricting process.

The feedback he received from the public was tremendous, and blogging about it regularly kept the issue in front of the community. Proposals for new boundaries then were developed based on parent and community responses to the blog and the district electronic-issues bin." ...

Hat tip to KSBA.

Ex-coach indicted on second charge in player's death

This from C-J:
The former head football coach of Pleasure Ridge Park High School has been indicted on a second felony charge in the death of a 15-year-old player who collapsed from heat stroke at practice.

Jason Stinson was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury Tuesday on a charge of first-degree wanton endangerment in the death of sophomore lineman Max Gilpin, who collapsed Aug. 20 and died three days later at Kosair Children's Hospital, after his body temperature had reached 107 degrees.

In January, Stinson was indicted on a charge of reckless homicide, which was the first time a criminal charge has been filed in a heat-related death case involving a high school or college coach in the United States, according to sports experts." ...

Quick Hits

Texas high-school students could fill a fourth of schedule with gym: A new Texas law allows high-school students to take more elective classes and earn a diploma. State education officials say the rules make it possible for students to graduate with more than a fourth of their classes in physical education. Lawmakers say the changes were intended to give students options for college-preparatory or career-training programs and that schools retain the power to prevent students from taking advantage of the elective loophole. (The Dallas Morning News)

Report: Pilot program boosted enrollment in AP classes: The National Governors Association has released a report showing its pilot program to boost Advanced Placement in six states successfully increased enrollment by 65% overall and by 106% for minority students. The NGA gave $500,000 grants to participating states and charged them with targeting one rural and one urban district. The goal was to improve AP offerings, appeal to more students with an emphasis on minority students and increase teacher training. (Education Week)

NYC mayor to toughen requirements for promotion from 4th, 6th grades: New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Monday he intends to make it tougher for underperforming fourth- and sixth-grade students to be promoted. His plan calls for holding back students who perform at the lowest level in English and math on state tests and do not learn the material in summer school. The requirements are already in place for the other grades between third and eighth. (The New York Times)

Longer year for Chicago elementary schools slightly bumps test scores: More than 130 Chicago elementary schools are now implementing a year-round calendar. The schools, about one-fourth of the city's total, begin the school year in the first week of August rather than waiting until after Labor Day. Schools CEO Ron Huberman said the calendar is boosting achievement. Students at the year-round schools averaged 3.1% gains in test scores last year, compared with a 2% gain across the district. (Chicago Sun-Times)

After layoffs, teachers must figure out what's next: Despite teaching's reputation as a recession-proof career, as many as 100,000 jobs may be lost this year, according to the National Education Association. The loss of positions would end a streak of annual increases in local education jobs every year since 1983. Teachers who are laid off, awaiting recall or concerned about their jobs are investigating other career options. (The Wall Street Journal)

To Date, Duncan Not Subpoenaed in Chicago Schools Probe: Over at This Week in Education, Alexander Russo wonders whether ex-Chicago Public Schools chief and now Education Secretary Arne Duncan has also been subpoenaed by federal officials in an investigation over allegations that well-connected parents called in favors to get their kids into elite public schools. (The Chicago Board of Education President has disclosed he has received a subpoena, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.) Michelle McNeill at Politics K-12 reports he has "not been contacted."

Michigan kids not ready for kindergarten: A third of the children entering kindergarten in Michigan don't recognize numbers and letters, can't follow directions and lack social skills, according to a survey of kindergarten teachers statewide.(Detroit Free-Press)

Mountjoy on Early Childhood

The Courier-Journal recently had Lunch with Helen Mountjoy, part of a continuing series the paper does. Mountjoy is the Education Cabinet Secretary who is co-chairing the Early Childhood Task Force. Here's a snippet from the interview:
C-J: Why is this important? Why should people who don't have small children care about this?

Mountjoy: It's not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. Kids who participate in high-quality, early-childhood experiences require less remediation, they graduate at higher numbers, they are less likely to be involved in the judicial system, they go to college. All of those things which help us build a well-qualified workforce, start at the preschool level. Ninety percent of a child's brain development takes place before that child ever sets foot in kindergarten. Early experiences are incredibly important – being read to and challenged, developmentally appropriate activities. This is not just wishful thinking, this is not just a group of Moms thinking this would be a great thing for kids, it's all scientifically based, the whole idea that you really can help chart a child's future by the quality of experiences he or she has as a very young child.

C-J: You could also chart a state's future by the investment or focus on that. We spoke about some financial obstacles to that, but are there also cultural obstacles to this in Kentucky that are just as tough to deal with?

Mountjoy: I remember when the KERA legislation was passed, early childhood piece of that was included, the responses we heard from a lot of people: the state's trying to take my children out of their home, this is going to put all the private providers out of business, don't you understand that small business is the backbone of the economy of Kentucky. We've been dealing with those issues for a long time.

The bigger issue, really, is access and being able to know about and then enroll in quality programs, and that's not something that everybody's going to want. How can you set up a program that's going to meet the needs of somebody who works third shift? How are you going to set up a system that meets the needs of somebody that doesn't have adequate transportation? How are you going to set up a system that works well for Aunt Fannie who lives down the street and keeps six kids in her home, safe, nurturing, environment? How can we make sure that we get assistance to those people so they know what readiness for kindergarten looks like?

C-J: Those are really hard issues.

Mountjoy: They are hard issues. It's really interesting. I was unaware, until I came to this position that the Save the Children Foundation actually began in Kentucky and they focused on child care.

C-J: Did they consider Kentucky or Appalachia like a Third World area?

Mountjoy: They started there because the challenges were so great. I've met a couple of times with Mark Shriver – of the Kennedy-Shriver family – who works for that foundation and we talked about what they're doing there. Their model is really interesting. They get names of people who might be deemed at-risk, in line for services that can be offered, and then they try to provide training and opportunities for whoever keeps that child. So they may go in and offer some training in a child-care facility, they may make information available to parents or to people that keep small family-style places, and they've built up over the years a real credibility in the area in which they work. Those are models we need to look at. How can we ensure that every single child, wherever their families choose them to be, can take advantage of what we know about important early childhood education and development issues?

C-J: When you look at the numbers for Kentucky, what are the ones that just break your heart, and which ones show that we've made progress?

Mountjoy: The KidsCount stuff just came out in the last week and Kentucky is 41st in environment for children, and it certainly points out a lot of things we need to work on.

I guess the thing that scares you the most are the increasing numbers of children who live in poverty. It's not that their home environments are inherently worse than anybody else's. It's just that quite frequently the parents have so many obligations in trying to put food on the table that they don't have time for other things. Fully a fifth of our children – and in many of our public schools, a fourth or more – have children whose families fall into that category. That means many times those children start out behind and trying to make sure they have an opportunity not just to catch up but stay caught up is really critical. Just things like number of words in a child's vocabulary, the facility of handling books, the kinds of things that many of us take for granted are not a part of these children's experience. Trying to figure out ways to make them more a part of every child's experience is a real challenge...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Race to the Top Application: Huge Time Thief?

This from Politics K-12:

"Race to the Top Application: Huge Time Thief?
States that want a piece of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund will have to roll up their sleeves and put in some manpower. According to the U.S. Department of Education's criteria, it's going to take states a total of 642 hours to complete the applications.

That means that it would take two staff members, working full-time on just the Race to the Top criteria and nothing else, about two months.

The time requirements, advocates say, might be particularly tough on rural states that just don't have a lot of extra capacity. (Of course, some lucky states—such as Kentucky—seem to be getting a hand from the Gates Foundation with filling out their applications)." ...

"Tweeting, Texting, Googling Banned for Mich. Jurors"

...but no restricting on a tweeting press.

This from the National Law Journal by way of the Indiana Law blog:

"Courts - 'Tweeting, Texting, Googling Banned for Mich. Jurors'

The Michigan Supreme Court has laid the hammer down on gadget-happy jurors in banning all electronic communications by jurors during trial, including tweets on Twitter, text messages and Google searches.

The ruling, which takes effect Sept. 1, will require Michigan judges for the first time to instruct
jurors not to use any hand-held device, such as iPhones or BlackBerrys, while in the jury box or during deliberations.

The state's high court issued the new rule on Tuesday in response to prosecutors' complaints that jurors were getting distracted by their cell phones, smartphones and PDAs, in some cases texting during trial or digging up their own information about a case and potentially tainting the judicial process. * * *"




'Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform

This from Education Week:

'Achievement Gaps:
How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform
in Mathematics and Reading on the NAEP'

Comments Schools have made modest progress in closing the achievement gap between black and white students in math and reading, though that narrowing varies by grade and subject and from state to state, according to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In math, the achievement gap between the two groups has narrowed significantly among 9- and 13-year-olds since 1978 but has remained statistically unchanged since 1999. In reading, the gap was statistically level among 9-year-olds, but it has narrowed at age 13 since 1980. Since 1999, the reading gap has shrunk statistically among students in both age groups." ...

Hazing case closed, principal says

Well done, Anthony.

This from Jim Warren at H-L:
Officials at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School said they have completed their investigation of a hazing incident among some football players last week.

A freshman player was checked over at a Lexington hospital after being hit in the head by a 10-pound medicine ball Aug. 3. He was not seriously hurt.

Principal Anthony Orr said Tuesday that after reviewing the information gathered since last week, he's convinced that the incident was an intentional
case of hazing by upperclassmen against some younger players, not simply horseplay that got out of hand.

'I think there was a plan ... and an intent to run some kids through a process, if you will,' Orr said. 'I don't think it was just some silliness.'

Five players — all juniors — were dismissed from the team after the incident, which occurred in the weight room. Orr indicated Tuesday that the five
won't be reinstated." ...

The Set Up

Maybe social conservatives are different these days, and I'm just behind the times.

Maybe they really-o truly-o love diversity and would like nothing better than to see our tax dollars go toward lifting up the marginalized. Safe housing for the poor; better healthcare; close those gaps! Maybe they think in retrospect that Reganomics was a mistake for its undoing of LBJ's Great Society programs, which were helping close achievement gaps in the 70s. Maybe they are, but I'm just not hearing it.

Perhaps today's creationists have disavowed former claims of Biblical acceptance of slavery, former support for state's rights over constitutional rights and oppressive local decisions that created a social system of haves and have nots based on race. Perhaps today's social conservatives are sorry the achievement gap was deliberately created and perpetuated throughout the Jim Crow era. Perhaps they regret funding schools for blacks at one third those of whites throughout much of the past century. Perhaps they do, but I just missed it.

If that's true, then please accept my apologies, in advance.

Forgive me, I beg you, if by chance I have only heard the fringe few social conservatives who cry out against diversity and urge the disestablishment of the public schools in favor of a system of free-enterprise options. And forgive me if I missed hearing the mass social conservative movement that calls for justice in a divided world.

But if that's not the case, then the Bluegrass Institute's latest stunt is simply shameful. It is a set up.

This from BIPPS:

ACTION ALERT: Ask Kentucky’s new education commissioner to develop a plan to close longstanding achievement gaps in math and reading between white and black
students in Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky’s largest school district
(97,412 students).

SUMMARY: Efforts to improve education, especially for black students, have failed to produce anything close to acceptable results in Jefferson County. It’s time to take action!

ACTION REQUESTED: Please contact the new commissioner, Terry Holliday, and ask him to do what he did as superintendent of the Iredell-Statesville, N.C. school district between 2002 and 2009: focus on, and close, the gap. Please do the following today:

1. Call Commissioner Holliday’s office at (502) 564-3141 or e-mail: terry.holliday@education.ky.gov.
Politely ask him to:

•Do what he did as superintendent of the Iredell-Statesville, N.C. school district in less than seven years: Relentlessly pursue closing gaps in math and reading between Jefferson County’s white and black students.

•Require the districts’ highly paid leaders to develop and publicize their plan to close the gap.

•Convene a task force that will hold public hearings to gather input from all stakeholders in the district: students, parents, teachers, clergy, business and political leaders, teachers, objective researchers and taxpayers.

•Require the district to set a timetable and deadlines for closing the gap.


There is not a thing wrong with citizens expressing their opinions.

But this cynical advocacy favors rallying town hall refugees to pressure school leaders while BIPPS argues against adequate resources. It is disingenuous, at least, but probably worse.

The public schools in Kentucky would exist on greatly reduced funding if the Bluegrass Institute had its way. Vouchers for private religious schools would abound if the Bluegrass Institute had its way. The Kentucky Education Association would not exist if the Bluegrass Institute had its way. If the Bluegrass Institute had its way, I suspect they'd put the system on life support and monitor the the schools using every measure available....if only to know when the patient was dead.

I've got an idea. Call Jim Waters, director of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute, at (270) 782-2140 and tell him we'll believe his new found concern for the achievement gap when he speaks out in favor of adequate funding for each and every Kentucky school child; that he opposes any move to teach any specific religious views, including intelligent design, in the public schools; and that the Bluegrass Institute will support healthcare options for all American citizens .

Prefer to email him? Try this, jwaters@freedomkentucky.com.

SOURCE: BIPPS Action Alert