Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School News from Around Kentucky

Districts face textbook funding cuts - State decreases lead to more than 80 percent cut for city, county: Major funding cuts have state education officials hitting the books - or at least the funds that supply them.Local school districts are facing a new chapter in massive state textbook funding cuts, which rose from an anticipated 4 percent cut in June to more than 80 percent just recently announced...Flexible Focus Funds [have] already been cut about three times in the last three fiscal years. (BG Daily News)

Changes proposed in Jeff Co student assignment plan: Superintendent Sheldon Berman wants the Jefferson County school board to postpone part of the district's new student-assignment plan for middle and high school students — hoping to avoid the busing problems that have frustrated parents of elementary pupils. Under Berman's recommendation, the district would go ahead next fall with its plan to implement career themes and magnet programs at 16 high schools. But it would delay implementing most boundary changes for middle and high schools until the 2011-12 school year. (C-J)

Ankle bracelets cause stir at Barbourville school: Two Barbourville High School students, who have been required by the court to wear home incarceration devices after an alleged violent crime, have created concerns among students’ family and at least one school board member.School board member Eddie Smith’s own concerns, as well as concerns expressed by parents of BHS students about the young men’s presence among the student body, prompted Smith to seek a school board meeting to discuss the situation. (Times Tribune)

Kentucky college enrollment at new high: Kentucky colleges and universities hit a historic high for enrollment this fall, with more more than 256,000 students, according to estimates by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. That estimate represents a 5.4 percent increase from fall 2008 and a 40 percent jump from 10 years ago, according to the CPE. Undergraduate enrollment grew by 6 percent from last year, while the ranks of graduate students swelled by 3 percent to more than 30,400. (H-L)

Opinion - A testing result: There's no way to paint a pretty face on the big picture of the faltering performance of Jefferson County Public Schools in the latest round of statewide student testing. Only 37 of the district's 133 schools (28 percent) met all their reading and math goals required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. That's down from 44 percent last year and compares poorly with a 60 percent rate statewide, even though the state figure has declined three straight years. (C-J)

Attorney alleges former Danville board member initiated complaint: The lawyer representing the two Danville school board members accused of violating election law has accused one of the men defeated in the 2008 election of filing the complaint that got them charged. Ephraim Helton said former school board member Steve Becker filed the complaint against Julie Erwin and Lonnie Harp, alleging they broke election law during their 2008 school board campaigns. (Advocate Messenger)

Opinion - Schools fall behind: Almost 20 years after passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, it’s still hard to get a satisfactory answer to the question of how we’re doing. The state legislature decided earlier this year to ditch the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System and come up with a new assessment plan by 2014. Some critics felt CATS was too ambiguous in its methods and put too little emphasis on individual student performance. Last week the Kentucky Department of Education released results of the Kentucky Core Content Test (covering some of the subjects tested by CATS) and the federal No Child Left Behind program. The numbers show just 60 percent of Kentucky’s public schools met their goals last year, compared to 73 percent the previous year. The message is muddled because No Child Left Behind raises its sights each year, meaning schools must improve their scores just to stay even. Fewer are making what the bureaucrats call “adequate yearly progress.” (State Journal by way of KSBA)

Fayette bus monitor is hurt in scuffle among students: A Fayette County school bus monitor was taken to a hospital Wednesday after she tumbled out of the bus during a scuffle among several student riders, Fayette County schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. The bus was taking 12 to 15 children home from Martin Luther King Academy when verbal sparring among some students led the bus driver to pull over on Seventh Street to separate them, Deffendall said. The situation escalated, becoming physical, and the children, who were scuffling near the front door of the bus, as well as the monitor, fell out of the vehicle, she said. (H-L)

Juror in Stinson case says medical experts swayed her: Less than a week after a jury found former PRP football coach Jason Stinson not guilty of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the death of Max Gilpin, a juror is speaking out about what happened during the 90-minute deliberation. It took three weeks to complete the trial, but one woman, who we are identifying only as "Juror Number 3," says the verdict boiled down to testimony from expert witnesses." (WAVE)

Quick Hits

Kentucky schools struggle to keep up with rising NCLB standards: Test scores released by the Kentucky Department of Education show 60% of the state's 1,158 public schools met No Child Left Behind accountability standards this year, marking the third straight year of declining scores in the state. In Jefferson County, where only 28% of schools met their goals, one administrator said, "Each year, the bar is being set higher, and this year, many of our schools could not make that jump." Schools with low scores for two or more years running may be subject to sanctions, including reorganization or state takeover. (Courier-Journal)

Charter transition is being tested as a model for school turnaround: Four schools in New Orleans are attempting a gradual transition from public to charter, and it's an effort supporters hope will improve performance without disrupting students and families as well as become a model for transformation nationwide. The campus of Carver Elementary School also houses Benjamin Mays Prep, a charter that teaches students in pre-kindergarten through second grade and will add a grade each year until Carver is eliminated. Critics worry about possible inattention to older students and the wastefulness of employing two sets of staffers for one building. (The Times-Picayune)

Earning an "A" to become tougher for Florida high schools: A more stringent grading system could mean a reduction in the number of Florida public high schools that receive an "A" grade, state education officials warn. The criteria for school gradings is being broadened beyond Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores to factor in graduation rates, student participation in Advanced Placement courses, college-entrance test scores and the performance of struggling students. Officials say they hope the changes will steer schools to better prepare students. (Florida Today)

Popular students are healthier as adults, study shows: A 50-year Swedish study that tracked the health of 14,000 children born in 1953 found popular and powerful students were healthier as adults. Data showed children who were marginalized at school were nine times more likely to develop heart disease and had twice the risk for mental illness. (Yahoo!)

School invests more effort in instructing students how to write: A Rhode Island high school has responded to poor student performance on a state science test by requiring writing assignments throughout students' coursework. Sophomores at Mount Hope High School now take writing tests in several subjects; educators have learned to assess the writing to ensure students know how to express concepts learned in classes. The program is credited with improving student performance on the science tests -- which include writing -- by 8 percentage points this year. (The Providence Journal)

Swine flu forces schools to put less emphasis on perfect attendance: With the possibility of H1N1 flu outbreaks at schools, some districts are rethinking requirements for attendance awards. One district is considering awards for "outstanding" rather than "perfect" attendance. "We have a lot of ambitious students who strive to receive perfect attendance, and we want to encourage those kids to stay home when sick," said a superintendent in a Kansas school district. "Our goal is to keep everyone -- students and teachers -- healthy at school this year." (The Kansas City Star)

Obama administration wants longer school day, year: President Barack Obama and top education officials say the school calendar in use is outdated, and they would like to see longer school days and years in an effort to boost student achievement. Students in countries such as Japan and Hong Kong, who outperform U.S. students in math and science, have longer school years but fewer instructional hours. Experts say that models with longer school days, such as charter schools, have had some success, and disadvantaged students might benefit from shorter summer breaks. (The New York Times)

Some Nevada teachers shift schools because of fewer students: Schools in Nevada's Clark County have reassigned 168 teachers -- a month into the school year -- in response to enrollment decreases in a number of the district's schools. The teachers were shifted by seniority into openings at other schools in the district. Sixty-four of the teachers were experienced educators who volunteered to transfer in place of a colleague from their school. (Las Vegas Sun)

Volunteers visit dropouts, urge them to re-enroll in school: An Iowa school district's program is attempting to bring dropouts back to high school. Des Moines Public Schools and United Way of Central Iowa have collaborated on a "Reach Out to Dropouts" campaign that organizers say has brought commitments from close to 20% of dropouts to return to school. Modeled on a successful Texas program, the outreach has volunteers visit the homes of dropouts. "It helped a lot to hear it from someone else," said one student who dropped out. "I want to do at least something to get on the right track ... to be able to get a career I like." (The Des Moines Register)

My Back Pages: A Brief History of Differentiated Instruction (1953): Educators have been working to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms even before the education term "differentiated instruction" was coined. An ASCD blog post looks back at the December 1953 issue of Educational Leadership that was devoted to the theme "The Challenge of Individual Difference." In the lead article "Adjusting the Program to the Child," author Carleton Washburne takes the reader through a short history of reform efforts aimed at making education more individualized. (Inservice)

Virtual schools look for ways to provide students with social activities: While virtual schools are growing in popularity, some students are reporting a sense of loneliness that comes with their more isolated learning. To combat that feeling and give students a chance to develop social skills, some educators are launching online clubs that also meet in person. "We need to find ways to have kids spend time together. They are hot-wired to learn from each other," one educator said. (The Wall Street Journal)

Rally urges Michigan to make changes to qualify for Race to the Top: About 2,500 people converged Thursday upon the Michigan state capitol in Lansing, asking that the state allow education reforms that would pave the way for qualifying for competitive federal funds through the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program. Advocates at the rally said Michigan needs to allow people without four-year teaching degrees to go through an alternative teacher-certification program and that the state needs to remove its cap on charter schools to meet funding criteria. (Detroit Free Press)

Attention Steve and Leland: Another politician is after your kids and this one wants them to read !

Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky and WLAP 630-AM's conservative pundit Leland Conway recently warned Kentucky parents of the dangers of allowing school children to listen to the president of the United States.

Robertson said Obama's desire to speak directly to America's schoolchildren is "very concerning and kind of creepy." Robertson said the speech was an effort on behalf of the president "to circumvent parents" and "gain direct access to our children."

Naturally, I thought they were both full of it.

But maybe not.

Now comes yet another politician sending subtle socialist messages to our students. He wants them all to read.
...for our collective good, one supposes.

Where President Obama urged responsible behavior on the part of students, this junior congressman is showing up in state libraries and he apparently wants to issue commands to our sweet little children: Read.
And what would he have them read? Why it's a biography of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. Another closet commie, no doubt ! Tune in tomorrow to hear what Leland has to say about this.
Where will it end?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick Hits

Kentucky teachers file lawsuit over right to leave unions: Four Kentucky public-school teachers have filed suit in federal court against three teachers unions, alleging that the groups refused to let members resign. The educators, from the Jefferson County school district, asked a judge to grant their suit class-action status. A spokesman from the National Right to Work Foundation, which is backing the case, said that although the case would only apply to Jefferson County teachers, it could have repercussions for public employees in unions across the country. (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

NCLB needs to be changed in 2010, Duncan urges: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is calling on educators and others to help rewrite the No Child Left Behind law by early next year. Duncan says the administration supports the testing and accountability portions of NCLB but hopes the law can go further in respecting the "honored, noble status of educators." Duncan will deliver a speech on the topic today, where he is expected to ask for a "greater sense of urgency" in reforming education. (USA TODAY)

Teacher: Literacy education must adapt to a changing world: Critical thinking can and should be taught through analyzing online media, and accurate assessments of literacy should start considering the multiple information platforms today's students use, argues Paul Barnwell, a middle-school language arts teacher in Kentucky. A continued reliance on nothing but traditional texts will not prepare students to understand or influence the media of their future, Barnwell writes in this column. (Education Week)

Research on New York City charter schools points to achievement gains: Students enrolled in New York City's charter schools outperformed their public-school peers on standardized tests, according to a study. A Stanford University economist compared the state test results of students who were randomly selected to attend charter schools with students who were not chosen through the city's charter-school lottery. A gap in achievement widened as students spent more time in charter schools. (The New York Times)

Opinion: Education reform is progressing, but Obama must take on NCLB: President Barack Obama is planning bold education reforms driven in part by federal stimulus funding, but he has yet to take on what Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus contends is his biggest challenge: No Child Left Behind. The pivotal test of his education policy will be whether Obama can keep the law's focus on accountability while giving schools more flexibility, Marcus writes. (The Washington Post)

Florida city looks at possibility of seceding from school district: City officials in Boca Raton, Fla., are considering the possibility of turning their city's 10 public schools -- part of the Palm Beach County School District -- into charter schools run by the city. Although the public schools in Boca Raton are performing well, city leaders are concerned about recent moves by the school district -- including a change from a one-teacher plan and new elementary-school homework rules. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Panel releases draft of national education standards: A group of experts and educators has released a draft of its proposed national education standards for students in English and math. The broad curriculum guidelines are expected to get more specific in 2010, when grade-by-grade standards will be outlined. For now, the proposal includes an expectation that students will be able to solve systems of equations and real-world problems using math and develop writing skills based on tone and topic. (The Washington Post), (Education Week)

A Shout out to Cassidy and Meadowthorpe

Well, the new test scores are out and I'm not sure I know what they mean. But whatever they mean, a couple of "my old schools" came out near the top. And that doesn't mean nothing; not to me at least.

Congratulations to the faculties of
Top Ten
Cassidy School
and
Meadowthorpe Elementary!!!

My other "old school" is Ryland Heights Elementary in Kenton County, sitting at a pretty cool 91.5.

Actually, the Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, created an index score, to bridge the three year period while SB 1 is being enacted. The group shared that formula with the Herald-Leader, and H-L used it to create the rankings.

This from the Herald-Leader:

Test results mixed in Fayette County
Fayette has 4 of top 5 elementary scores
Results from statewide student tests released Wednesday offer the Fayette County Public Schools both some things to cheer about and some things to mull over.

Among the county system's bright spots: it had four of Kentucky's top five scoring elementary schools; five elementary schools and one middle school in the top 10; 25 schools exceeded the benchmark of 100 on the statewide transitional index.

On the downside, Fayette high schools continued to struggle. Once again, no public high school in the county reached adequate yearly progress goals under the No Child Left Behind program. Other concerns: index scores fell at six schools; district reading targets for African-American students were missed; and six schools that made NCLB targets last year failed to do so this year...
And this:

Majority of schools have made progress

The percentage of Kentucky public schools that met federal goals fell slightly from last year, according to statewide student test results released Wednesday, but education officials said that could be misleading.

The results show that statewide, 696 Kentucky public schools — or 60.2 percent — made Adequate Yearly Progress goals for 2008-09 under the federal No Child Left Behind program. For the 2007-2008 school year, 72.9 percent of the state's public schools made AYP.

But state education department officials said during a briefing in Frankfort on Tuesday that new, higher goals for reading and mathematics probably helped depress scores and contributed to the lower percentage of Kentucky schools meeting AYP for '08-'09.

Overall, 464 schools failed to make AYP this time. Even so, 228 of them did make 80 percent or more of their goals, officials said.

Statewide, 110 Title 1 schools will face consequences under NCLB.

One school, Jefferson County's Thomas Jefferson Middle School, now has failed to meet NCLB standards for nine consecutive years. But it faces no stiffer consequences than schools that have missed only seven years.

Similarly, Jefferson County's Knight Middle School ranks near the bottom of Kentucky's middle schools and has languished there under the same leadership for most, or all, of those years.

Nineteen years into KERA, Knight's estimated index for this year is 60.1; down from 61.1 in 2008; and down from 63.4 in 2007 - and they only met 6 of 16 NCLB targets.

When critics ask why Kentucky educators would put up with these situation year after year without a change in leadership, or an even more radical restructuring, I say - it's a good question.

This situation cries out for a charter school.

It also makes me wonder what it takes to get fired in Jefferson County.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Used

One of the problems with being a moderate is that one tends to take flack from both sides. Another problem is that from time to time, the wrong people agree with you.

Such is the case with this week's misinformation from the Bluegrass Institute.

A post by Tabbitha Waggoner at BIPPS asserts on scant evidence that charter schools are needed and would thrive in Kentucky.

Her evidence: People like choice.
Granted. So what?

Her argument: WKU's Gatton School exists. EKU's Model Lab school exists. She wheedles, saying they operate "essentially as charters" - and therefore they are? The Gatton School's students do well on the holy ACT. Wouldn't it be nice to have a Gatton School in your neighborhood? All you have to do is push for choice. Along the way, she attacks strawmen and uses a few magic words: "teacher-union policies," "bureaucratic practices"... you know the list.

Yes, the Gatton School exists - by specific legislation. But No, it does not have a state charter.

The Model Lab School is a much older design, is funded jointly by EKU and the Madison County BOE and follows state policies. It is not now and never has been a charter school. This has been pointed out to the Bluegrass Institute several times before, but one assumes that since the facts don't support their narrative, they continue to deliberately misinform the public. What this think tank mostly thinks about is politics.

If BIPPS's idea of charter schools is Gatton, then Kentuckians should be prepared to oppose a right-wing charter law that will cream off the best students and send them to schools mirroring Gatton's model of a highly selective, and inherently disequalizing series of offerings. All the rhetoric is about choice for poor families. But the realities are much more suburban.

What Waggoner really does is underscore the powerful impact of adequate funding and a select student population on a school's student achievement scores. But she comes nowhere close to describing how charters would thrive or produce the worthy goal that "all Kentucky students should have equal opportunity to a quality education."

KSN&C is evoked as support for this notion. Waggoner sees my disagreement with Helen Mountjoy's assessment, that Kentucky doesn’t need charter schools because Kentucky offers school based decision making councils, as some kind of admission.
Kentucky education blogger Richard Day admits he’s “been having a hard time seeing how (the SBDM argument is) likely to help.”

In a recent blog on the issue, Day reported that he spoke with John White, U.S. Department of Education press secretary, who indicated that SBDMs would not be an acceptable substitute for charter schools, especially if the commonwealth wants to compete for the education stimulus funds tabbed for release later this fall.

“If Kentucky was not open to welcoming these educational entrepreneurs, that would certainly hurt your chances,” White was quoted as saying on Day’s blog, Kentucky School News and Commentary. “It’s a competitive grant, and other states are welcoming them.”
There is no moral high ground in seeking charter schools for middle and upper class Kentuckians. There is federal money and Kentucky should not be so entrenched as to be shut out. But once the department of education issued its guidelines for Race to the Top grants and it became clear that Kentucky would only lose a few points in the application process, some of the steam came out of the issue.

When I was still a principal, I wanted to convert my school to a charter, to off load some state regulations that I saw as counterproductive to our school's success. But my motivation was selfish. I was only concerned with my 500 kids. What we are discussing now is a state law and that has to work for every neighborhood.

The evidence strongly suggests that charter schools perform roughly as well as public schools. They comprise a highly localized set of good schools and bad schools. Their best feature is also their worst - if a charter school fails, it can be closed quickly. That's good, but it also reinforces the appetite for quick change artists who marginalize the importance of high quality instruction in favor of this year's game plan, and perhaps gaming the accountability system.

Kentucky should discuss a charter school law, but it must be done with a lot deeper thought than we find in BIPPS's argument. Allowing charter schools to tailor their student populations, as some have proposed, would do a great disservice to Kentucky students as a whole. But a charter law that allowed private efforts to improve the education of students in areas where the public schools have failed repeatedly over time ought to be given a good look.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Carpe Diem

On Sunday, Prichard Committee Chair Sam Corbett penned an outlook for Kentucky schools that is optimistic and evokes the excitement of a new day. It is also a recalibration of some of the committee's prior views.

That the committee can be nimble is a testament to a new way of thinking about school reform, and cause for optimism.

Gone are the days when KERA was untouchable; for fear that to change any part of KERA might push the whole effort down the slippery slope toward ruination. Now KERA is up for a total review by a Democratic governor.

Gone are the days when complaining about the lack of training available to teachers to properly implement KERA's ambitious programs would brand one a dinosaur, or worse. When despite pleas from the field, education leaders held the course and "assumed our educators were already equipped to respond...[when] in reality, they needed more direct and robust support." The Prichard Committee is talking more and more about the vital importance of effective teacher training these days.

Gone are the days of most of us fighting tooth and toenail against Senate Bill 1. It passed unanimously.

And apparently gone are Prichard's reservation about Terry Holliday. In July, the committee lamented that the commissioner pool was "not the level you would expect for one of the top education commissioner posts in the country."

But this week Corbett writes,
[S]tate leadership is now unified on education in a way we have rarely seen. Leaders in both parties and both houses of the legislature backed SB 1, and they and Gov. Steve Beshear intend to see it succeed. Terry Holliday, our new commissioner of education, is off to a great start, as is Bob King, the new president of the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Together, Commissioner Holliday and President King have already launched major collaborations, including a longitudinal student data system to track students' progress from pre-K to college and beyond.

It's is remarkable how much things have changed in such a short time.

And, the newest thing of all may be the short distance between mainstream R's and D's which measures about two inches, if one ignores the extreme fringes, as one should. New teaching standards and a new assessment are in the works. And Corbett thinks,
...these developments offer Kentucky a great opportunity. If we seize the day, working together with great energy in the coming months, we can ensure that our new standards translate into new teaching strength in every classroom and new levels of achievement for all our children.

Not too long ago an interesting thing happened to P-12 education in Kentucky. King, "the lofty" CPE president, started attending "the lowly" Kentucky Board of Education meetings. And he stayed past the first break. Then when interviews were held for education commissioner, he surprised folks by staying some more and, by accounts, he participated fully.

Once Terry Holliday was selected the two leaders began to look holistically at the public education system, and work cooperatively, and launch initiatives, and speak publicly. They unified behind the bully pulpit and the effort appears to be gaining momentum - and some who railed against change now proclaim its liberation.

Commissioner to Ramp up KDE Communications with SB 1 Webinars

Commissioner Holliday announced on his blog this afternoon that KDE will be seeking increased input on Senate Bill 1 and customer service from KDE. The importance of a successful implementation of SB 1 is hard to exaggerate. As for KDE's customer service Holliday noted, that as he has travelled the state, he has heard many positive comments about KDE staff but he has also heard "concerns about communication and customer service."

For the first few months on the job, I have attempted to get to many parts of the Commonwealth. I have enjoyed meeting with superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, business leaders, legislators and students. I have utilized technology through Twitter, Facebook and this blog to communicate with stakeholders. I will continue this approach of visibility, communication and listening. I also will begin to utilize other technology to communicate with key stakeholders.

Over the next few weeks KDE staff will assist me in developing webinars that will target superintendents, principals and teachers. These webinars will focus on key strategies that are a part of Senate Bill 1 and the numerous federal initiatives that are funding education reform. We will look for two-way communication. We will present some information; however, we are more interested in gathering feedback from these key stakeholder groups. Through surveys and open-ended response questions, we will gain feedback on reform strategies from these key stakeholders.
Holliday said the department will begin to "document customer service standards" and said citizens contacting KDE "should expect a response, within 24 hours, that is accurate and delivered in a professional manner."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jury acquits PRP Coach Stinson on all Charges

This from the Courier-Journal:

The nation’s first criminal trial of a football coach charged with causing a player’s heat-related death ended in a not-guilty verdict after 90 minutes of deliberation.

That’s how long a Jefferson County jury Thursday took to consider the case before acquitting former Pleasure Ridge Park football coach Jason Stinson of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the 2008 death of sophomore lineman Max Gilpin.

After Judge Susan Schultz Gibson announced the not guilty verdict on the charges, as Stinson dropped his head and hugged defense attorney Brian Butler. Stinson’s wife Monica sobbed, saying repeatedly, “Thank you, Lord.”

Minutes earlier, before the verdict was read, Stinson led a prayer circle of friends, family and supporters outside the courtroom, asking God to give the family of Max Gilpin closure and “heal their hearts … they miss their son.”

Michele Crockett, Max’s mother, told reporters that the family was disappointed with the verdict but their main objective was that “Max’s death would not be in vain and this trial brought awareness, which is what we wanted.” ...

...[I]n his closing, Dathorne lashed out at the prosecution for indicting the former coach, saying prosecutors wrongly rushed to judgment and then, because of media attention, refused to back down when they realized they were wrong.

“We’ve got a man looking at prison time for being a football coach,” Dathorne said, telling jurors that football is, in itself, a risk and Max’s death three days after practice was an accident...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quick Hits

Report - Reading and writing skills must be a priority: The findings of a five-year study of U.S. student literacy in fourth through 12th grades has education leaders calling for an overhaul of reading and writing instruction. Among the recommendations in the report, from the Carnegie Corp. of New York's Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, is teaching literacy across all subject areas, using data to inform teachers' professional development on literacy and reorganizing schools, if necessary, to focus on literacy. (Education Week)

Florida revamps high-school assessment system: A new system for evaluating the performance of high schools has been approved by Florida's Board of Education. It will still assign letter grades, but only half of the grade will rely on the results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The other 50% will be based on school performance measures that include graduation rates and student participation in advanced classes. "The FCAT, by itself, was an incomplete picture of achievement in high schools," said a state senator. (The Tampa Tribune)

Group looks at states given flexibility on NCLB: A report looks at a pilot program allowing select states flexibility in their approach to improve schools performing poorly under No Child Left Behind standards. The Center on Education Policy looked at Georgia, Maryland, New York and Ohio and found the states were using data to determine what type of instruction to provide and that they adjusted adequate yearly progress assessments to reflect school conditions. (Education Week)

Study - Charter schools see more attrition, Fewer students are graduating: Fewer than half of the students who enrolled in Boston charter high schools as freshmen over the past five years made it through to graduation, usually departing for other schools, according to a new study that will be officially released tomorrow at a legislative hearing on charter school expansions. (Boston Globe)

Immersion classes for young students are being piloted by Calif. district: Kindergarten and first-grade students at two elementary schools in a California school district are taking part in a dual-language immersion pilot program. One school teaches Mandarin Chinese and the other offers Spanish. A teacher said her goal is to eventually teach 90% of her class in Chinese and give her students Chinese names for class. "I'm giving everything in English now, but when I use a Chinese word, I always translate for the students so they can understand," she said. (Pasadena Star-News)

Ravitch - Students need knowledge to think critically: A single-minded focus on skills without teaching knowledge is a strategy that has never worked, writes Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and co-chairwoman of Common Core. Ravitch argues that schools can't teach 21st-century skills without teaching knowledge. "Until we teach both teachers and students to value knowledge and to love learning, we cannot expect them to use their minds well," she writes. (The Boston Globe)

Textbook Money Slashed to Balance Budget

In the latest round of buget cuts Gov. Beshear spared specific items such as the SEEK funding formula, school employees’ health insurance and the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System but other areas, like textbooks, took a whallop.

At KSBA, Brad Hughes reports that,

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told Kentucky superintendents Wednesday that the state’s ongoing revenue shortfall will mean a 12.7 percent cut in the Department of Education’s operating budget, and an overall reduction in state spending on P-12 programs by 2 percent.

In an e-mail to the superintendents, Holliday said, “Rather than constraining districts by applying the cut to all programs, KDE’s plan calls for the reduction to be applied to the Flexible Focus Funds and specifically to textbooks.


And how big a whallop? Here's an example of cuts in three districts.

District ------FY10 Initial------FY10 Revised
Daviess----------$352,173---------- $39,162
Fayette---------$1,165,815---------$132,627
Gallatin----------$52,025-----------$5,655

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Unprecedented": King's Letter to all University Faculty

They tell me that university faculty never receive letters directly from the head of the Council on Postsecondary Education. Today we did.

This from CPE President Robert King:

To: Kentucky Faculty Members
September 14, 2009

Dear Kentucky Faculty Members,

Let me first say how pleased I am to have been asked to come to Kentucky to work with all of you and your respective campuses on the goals of postsecondary reform. I have been here for nearly nine months and have visited many of your campuses, and I am impressed with the wide variety of activities occurring for the benefit of your students.

Council staff and I have received a number of questions on the status of the recently enacted Senate Bill 1. I am writing you today in order to explain as much as I can about the ever-evolving landscape of this hallmark piece of legislation.

Senate Bill 1, signed by Governor Beshear on March 26, 2009, revises the assessment and accountability system for P-12 education in Kentucky. It requires a revision of standards to be based on national and international benchmarks in order to increase the rigor and focus the content of P-12 education, increasing the number of students that are college and career ready.

The Bill calls upon the Kentucky Department of Education, in collaboration with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, to plan and implement a comprehensive process for revising the academic content standards. Part of this process includes the development of a unified strategy to reduce college remediation rates and increase graduation rates of postsecondary students with developmental education needs. An outline for that process, including timelines for all activities, has been completed and is being implemented. You may find that outline and further information at: http://www.cpe.ky.gov/policies/academicinit/senbill1/.

The next step, already underway, is the review of current systemwide public postsecondary placement policies in English and mathematics, and, working with institutional faculty members and representatives from the K-12 system, determining whether revisions are needed in those content standards. A statewide reading group, partnering with the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (housed at the University of Kentucky), is reviewing strategies for reading in academic content areas. Assessments to identify those reading skills needed for success in postsecondary introductory reading-intensive courses are being developed. A mathematics group, partnering with the Kentucky Center for Mathematics (housed at Northern Kentucky University), is doing the same. Reading and mathematics are widely acknowledged as the gateways for success in all educational endeavors. The science standards will be reviewed in the very near future as part of the next stage of the process.

A catalog of college readiness strategies already in use within the state and nation is being developed. This catalog of strategies can be used by educational cooperatives and P-16 councils in their efforts to limit the number of students in postsecondary education and the workforce underprepared in the essential skill areas. KDE and many other state and national partners will be a part of the process to align course content and assessments between P-12 and postsecondary institutions.

A steering committee also has been established and met on August 12. This committee will provide guidance and oversight in the implementation of the process to create one set of standards from P-12 to college entry-level courses and will provide insight into the development of strategic plans to reduce the remediation rates of high school graduates and increase the graduation rates of underprepared students entering postsecondary institutions.

KDE Commissioner Terry Holliday and I are working together to ensure that the revised standards that are recommended to the Kentucky Board of Education for approval are aligned with postsecondary education course and assessment standards for reading and mathematics. We are guiding a process to improve education at all levels for all students without diminishing admission or curricular standards. We are working with representation from all of the campuses in order to maintain the quality and rigor of the postsecondary experience in Kentucky.

Finally, let me emphasize that the expectations for achieving the goals of Senate Bill 1 extend across the entire educational spectrum in the Commonwealth. The primary driving force behind this legislation is to make sure that the P-12 system and the postsecondary system work together to prepare students who are college-ready, who will subsequently attend and successfully complete postsecondary study, and who will graduate and contribute to Kentucky’s future. These responsibilities are naturally embedded in the professional preparation of educators, both pre-service and in-service, and extend from early childhood through post-graduate study. There is a significant need for relevant and focused research that will facilitate and enable our P-12 colleagues to make and sustain the changes needed to achieve the goals of Senate Bill 1, and you as postsecondary faculty are best positioned for this work. I am honored to be working with you for the good of our communities on this shared obligation.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of Kentucky’s students.

Sincerely,

Robert L. King
President

Monday, September 14, 2009

Commish Talks Graduation Rate

This from Terry Holliday at Doc H's Blog:

While Numbers Are Important, Children Matter Most

...While I was impressed with the Kentucky graduation rate of more than 83 percent, I did learn that Kentucky had not yet reported the NCLB four-year graduation rate due to technical issues. We are scheduled to report this data with this year’s entering freshman class when that group graduates in 2013.

Upon digging into the data, I learned that Kentucky had more than 6,500 students drop out of school in the 2007-08 school year. These numbers reflect real children and reflect a real concern for the economic, social, moral and civil rights impact that high school dropouts will have on our Commonwealth...we cannot accept 6,500 students dropping out of school...

There are some that will focus on the numbers and debate the accuracy of those numbers. We do need to ensure we are reporting accurately; however, we need to focus on the children and what we as adults can do to help more children graduate from high school and be prepared for postsecondary work.

The biggest challenge to overcome is the excuse that some children cannot learn due to their economic and social conditions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beshear Cuts increase from 2.6% to 4%

This from KDE recently:
The Office of the State Budget Director (OSBD) and the Governor’s Office for Policy and Management (GOPM) have indicated that the FY 2010 4% Budget Reduction Plan will be implemented.

The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) plan for the P-12 budget reduction, which will total $13,863,100, proposes that program-area reductions be made from the Flexible Focus Funds. KDE operations also will sustain a 4% cut.
Governor Beshear's explanation was,

Though I proposed 2.6 percent cuts to most state agencies during the special legislative session in June, as many of you know, two new programs that will result in reduced tax receipts were legislatively enacted, along with some additional spending. Those additions have exacerbated the shortfall and resulted in the need for us to make additional spending reductions this fiscal year....

However, I will continue to maintain my commitment this budget year to protect critical education programs from cuts. If Kentucky is going to have a chance at succeeding in the modern world, we cannot back away from investing in our future, our children. That is why, despite these very difficult economic times, I will not cut SEEK, the basic K-12 funding formula for schools, funding for health insurance for public employees and teachers, the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, higher education or adult education.

Duncan calls for Revised Policies on Restraint and Seclusion

In response to hearings before the Education and Labor Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives on "the abusive and potentially deadly misapplication of seclusion and restraint techniques in schools" Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to the states. His July 31 letter asked states to have "revised policies and guidance in place prior to the start of the 2009-2010 school year." That would have been about two weeks notice.

On Wednesday the Kentucky Department of Education sent a letter to school districts on the matter.

Duncan told the states,

I urge each of you to develop or review and, if appropriate, revise your State policies and guidelines to ensure that every student in every school under your jurisdiction is safe and protected from being unnecessarily or inappropriately restrained or secluded. I also urge you to publicize these policies and guidelines so that administrators, teachers, and parents understand and consent to the limited circumstances under which these techniques may be used; ensure that parents are notified when these interventions do occur; and provide the resources needed to successfully implement the policies and hold school districts accountable for adhering to the guidelines. I encourage you to have your revised policies and guidance in place prior to the start of the 2009-2010 school year to help ensure that no child is subjected to the abusive or potentially deadly use of seclusion or restraint in a school.

The Government Accountability Office also publicized testimony on “Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers.”

KDE informed state superintendents it has an initiative in place to implement Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), known as the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline (KYCID). KYCID has provided PBIS training to 303 schools. There are currently 25 district-level initiatives to implement PBIS. Additional information regarding PBIS can be found at the KYCID Web site.

Superintendents were told they could can find guidance regarding the use of time-out rooms posted on the Behavior Homepage Web site at the University of Kentucky.

KDE's guidance conforms to the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders guidelines and includes the following:

  • physical restraint or seclusion procedures should be used in school settings only when the physical safety of the student or others is in immediate danger.
  • Mechanical or chemical restraints should never be used in school settings.
  • Neither restraints nor seclusion should be used as a punishment to force compliance or as
    a substitute for appropriate educational support.
  • any school which employs physical restraint or seclusion procedures should have a written positive behavior support plan specific to that program, pre-established emergency procedures, specific procedures and training related to the use of restraint and seclusion, and data to support the implementation of the principles of positive behavior supports in that environment as well as data regarding the specific uses of restraint and seclusion.
  • Any student in seclusion must be continuously observed by an adult both visually and
    aurally for the entire period of the seclusion. Occasional checks are not acceptable.

The Nation's Cartoonists on Obama's School Speech





















Roots and Heritage




JustFundKy

Joel
Kathy
Kevin
Hoedown





Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quick Hits

Student achievement varies in Minnesota charter-school group: Although the five schools in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., in a charter project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation demonstrated high graduation rates and large numbers of students moving on to higher education, state test results don't show the same success. Two of the charter schools did not meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress on state tests, and the project director acknowledged a need for improvement at the underperforming schools. (Star Tribune)

Kansas says test results slide slightly with tougher standards: Kansas education officials say a downturn in student-assessment test scores this year is attributable to higher state curriculum standards. Overall, 87.6% of the state's schools made federal standards for adequate yearly progress, compared with nearly 90% in 2008. Officials warn that next year's results could decrease because of the effect of state budget cuts. "We've seen class sizes increase, support staff let go. All districts are doing the best they can, but there's not much more they can do," a state education official said. (The Kansas City Star)

Academics offer objections to Race to the Top criteria: Some education experts are concerned about Race to the Top funding guidelines, writes Education Week reporter Stephen Sawchuk in this blog post. Sawchuk is sifting through thousands of responses to the proposed federal rules, and he has found numerous objections and important questions about measuring teacher effectiveness. Scholars who study education are asking whether the research is there to back up reform efforts pushed for by the Obama administration. (Teacher Beat)

Program extends learning to after-school hours: An after-school program for students at a Utah elementary school is drawing praise from educators, parents and students. Students in the program, paid for with Title I stimulus funds, attend two 30-minute sessions Monday through Thursday at the year-round school, receiving instruction in one core subject and one elective. "It's giving students more learning time and giving English-language learners more time with programs in the computer lab. I think all this will have a great impact on their progress," the school's principal said. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

Educator provides insights on teaching inner-city students: In 1999, award-winning educator Gregory Michie wrote a book about his experiences as a white, middle-class teacher from North Carolina working at a Chicago school. Michie, now an associate professor of curriculum and instruction and elementary education at Illinois State University, discusses in an interview how to build trust with diverse students, the complexities of teaching low-income urban students and what it means to teach for social justice. (Teacher Magazine)

Boston teachers union forms pilot school: The Boston Teachers Union has opened a pilot elementary school, a move some say contradicts the union's past stance on such schools. The union has often opposed pilot programs in Boston, citing concerns over hiring and dismissal of teachers as well as longer work days. But union officials say that the Boston Teachers Union School will be able to showcase what good teachers can do, including an emphasis on teacher-student interaction. (The Boston Globe)

Flu concerns prompt schools to examine online learning options: Schools across the country are looking at technology options that will enable students to keep learning during an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, often called swine flu. But such options could also be useful during other school closures. Online learning plans at districts across the country include video lessons, online homework listings and e-mail submission of course work. The Education Department also announced a partnership with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple to use their resources in the event of mass closures. (Education Week)

Federal funds prompt some states to reconsider teacher evaluations: With their eligibility for Race to the Top stimulus funds at risk, officials in California and Wisconsin are working to lift bans on tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Nevada has a similar law, but lawmakers do not reconvene until 2011, which might be too late to make the change, which is opposed by teachers unions. "I don't think the best approach in teacher evaluation comes from students' test scores," said Dave Harswick, a Wisconsin union leader. "It can be part of the picture, but it shouldn't be the whole picture." (The Associated Press)

ADHD education classes are targeted at parents: Classes offered through the advocacy group Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder help train parents and family members on coping and living with an ADHD child. Julie Igram, who teaches one of the Parent to Parent: Family Training on ADHD classes, says the more educated the family is, the more likely a child with ADHD will be successful in school and life. (The Des Moines Register)Iowa)

Broader, Bolder Approach to Education issues Statement

The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education's Accountability Committee recently released its report containing specific policy recommendations on educational accountability.

The report has been receiving a pretty good reception.

Secretary Duncan asked BBA to elaborate recommendations in several follow-up memos. Thus far, BBA has submitted memoranda on the expansion of state-level NAEP, on how discretionary stimulus funds could be used to develop state level qualitative school accountability systems and support other goals of the Broader, Bolder Approach, and on the cost of state qualitative accountability systems, and a submission to the Department of Education by BBA co-chair Helen Ladd, commenting on the Department's proposed regulations for distribution of stimulus "Race to the Top" funds.

Recently, BBA Accountability committee members Linda Darling-Hammond, Dennis Van Roekel, Richard Rothstein, and Diane Ravitch promoted the BBA report at the National Journal's web site, as part of an on-line discussion regarding whether independent auditors are needed to prevent the gaming of test score results.

Media coverage has been mostly positive.
Michael Petrilli on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation web site, called the BBA accountability proposals "eminently sensible."

See an interview with BBA Accountability Committee Co-chair Susan B. Neuman on Education Week's on-line blog, "Living in Dialogue."

Interviews with BBA Accountability Committee Co-chair Christopher Cross and committee member Diane Ravitch on the Learning First Alliance web site, "Public
School Insights
."

A 40-minute video summary of the committee's February 26 public presentation has been posted on the BBA web site. A full list of committee members appears at the end of the report.

In developng the report, the BBA has been overtly bipartisan, conducting briefings with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Democratic and Republican staff from both the Senate and House Education Committees; Roberto Rodriguez, President Obama's special advisor on education; Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; and leaders of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

C-J Smacks Mooney & Meeks

In class Thursday, one of my students wondered aloud if she might be permitted to borrow a Breckinridge County school bus without charge.

It would be like a free rental car from Avis; just provide a driver and pay for the gas.

Is borrowing a bus free of charge a privilege only allowed for activities taking place at the superintendent's s church? Does this kind of sweetheart deal happen all the time?

This from C-J:

Stick to football
If the adult school personnel associated with the Breckinridge County High School football team are as tenacious at getting a squad ready to play as they are at splitting hairs, a state championship surely awaits.

The team's head coach, Scott Mooney, and the district's superintendent, Janet Meeks, triggered controversy recently when Mr. Mooney took about 20 players on a school bus to the Baptist church he attends in nearby Hardin County. There, the group attended a revival, and nearly half of them were baptized. Ms. Meeks, who is also a member of the church, witnessed the baptisms.

The mother of one 16-year-old player is upset that her son was baptized without her knowledge and consent, that a public school bus was used for transportation and that Ms. Meeks was present and did not object. Her son said the coach had told him and other players that the outing would include only a motivational speaker and a free steak dinner. Two other parents, however, said their sons told them that the trip would include a revival. Baptisms apparently weren't specifically mentioned, Ms. Meeks concedes.

On its face, the incident seems a clear violation of constitutional strictures against government promotion of a specific religion. Public schools, and its officers, are an arm of the state; they must remain neutral when it comes to the exercise of religious freedom. Baptisms of young people are the province of personal and family decisions.
Period.

Exactly what part of this Breckinridge County school officials don't get is unclear, however. They are too busy shrouding the incident in fog.

The trip was voluntary, another coach paid for the gasoline and no player was rewarded or punished based on whether or not he participated, Ms. Meeks said. She, of course, ignores that young people often are influenced by their coaches and feel the coaches have authority over them. Parental consent for the baptisms wasn't necessary because the players are 16 or 17 years old, Ms. Meeks added, disregarding that society views young people of that age to be minors who are barred from activities ranging from voting to signing binding contracts to purchasing alcohol.

And, Ms. Meeks contended, if the upset mother didn't know the purpose of the trip, it's because her son wasn't forthcoming. (When all else fails, blame the kid.) And just to make sure no more uncomfortable details emerge, Mr. Mooney says school officials have told him not to comment.

Breckinridge County officials have tried obfuscation. It doesn't work. Next, they should give transparency a chance and pledge not to again confuse their personal religious beliefs with their public school duties.

Fuss over the Obama speech was plain silly

This from the Bowsling Green Daily News:

All the fuss over President Barack Obama addressing the nation’s kids in the classrooms was, quite frankly, silly.

On Tuesday, Obama addressed schools throughout the country, telling kids not to cut class and to stay in school.

What is so wrong with that?

Controversy had arisen days before, alleging the speech was politically motivated and it wasn’t appropriate for him to be addressing children and teenagers while they were in the classroom. Regardless of one’s opinion of Obama or if one voted for him or not, he is our president and has the right to advise our kids to follow their dreams and stay in school.The president was simply telling our nation’s kids, some of whom are dropping out of school or who are considering dropping out, to stay in school. He also challenged them to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.

Late last week, Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Terry Holiday told local school districts that students could opt out of the speech if they had permission from their parents.

One has to respect parents’ opinions and if they felt like they didn’t want their kids watching Obama’s address, then that was certainly their prerogative.It is just hard to envision how our president’s message would have affected anyone’s kids in a negative way.

On Tuesday, only a handful of kids opted out of the speech in the city and county school districts. Again, that was their prerogative, but it would seem that Obama’s message was one with which Americans of all political persuasions should be able to identify.

The uproar surrounding this speech seemed to take on a life of its own prior to the president’s address, but it is just hard to understand what all the fuss was about.

KDE group studies Owensboro Public Schools arts program

As KSN&C readers know, I have expresed serious reservations about the potential effectiveness of program reviews as a barometer of student achievement. But program reviews are a part of Senate Bill 1 and KDE is taking steps toward developing a process.

This from the Messenger-Inquirer (subscription):

A Program Review Committee from the Kentucky Department of Education visited
Owensboro Public Schools' fine arts programs Thursday as part of its work to get a feel for what a "program review" would look like.

Senate Bill 1 mandates on-site visits or program reviews for public school districts' arts and humanities, practical living/career studies and writing portfolios programs as part of Kentucky's new assessment system now being developed.OPS was recommended as having an "outstanding comprehensive arts program," said Robert Duncan, an arts and humanities consultant with KDE and a committee member.

The group sat in on classes and learned about programs...

While the arts are part of the process, they are not part of the pen-and-paper assessment.The committee is looking at programs as a whole."It's too early to tell what exactly the process will look like," [Greg Finkbonner, the Humanities branch manager at KDE] said. "Part of the process is program review development, and we're going out and visiting schools to get first-hand experience of what a program review might look like."The state envisions comprehensive arts, not an art class, said Duncan, who spent 28 years as an art teacher.The Owensboro visit is a fact-finding trip, he said. The group also plans to visit three schools in Fayette County...

Coroner said he thought Gilpin's death was 'horrible accident’

This from the Courier-Journal:

Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Sam Weakley testified Friday that there was no autopsy conducted on 15-year-old Max Gilpin because “at the time there was no talk whatsoever of malfeasance” in his death.

Weakley told jurors that after reviewing medical records and talking to Max’s family, he initially deemed the teenager’s death a “horrible accident,” and concluded as much in his cause of death ruling.

However, Weakley also testified that he did not interview players and other witnesses to the Aug. 20, 2008, practice at which Max collapsed from heat stroke.

“I may have missed something,” Weakley said on the ninth day of former PRP coach Jason Stinson’s reckless homicide and wanton endangerment trial.

Weakley testified that he is waiting for the outcome of the trial to decide if he will change his opinion on the manner of death in his coroner’s report...

In other testimony,
Terry Jones: The retired Louisville Metro Police detective, who led the investigation in the Stinson case, testified that he interviewed about 80 witnesses but acknowledged that he never talked to any medical professionals about Max’s death. Jones also said this was the first homicide case in his 21 years he could recall where an autopsy hadn’t been performed.

Brian Bratcher: A spectator at the soccer game next to the PRP football practice, Bratcher said he heard Stinson ask the team, “Who’s going to be the first to quit?” Bratcher said Max caught his eye as the teen appeared to be woozy, his legs shaking and nearly falling once before catching himself.

Heat Expert:
Max Gilpin would have survived if treated correctly

Max Gilpin would have survived if Pleasure Ridge Park’s coaching staff had treated his heat stroke correctly after he collapsed at a football practice last year, an expert on heat-related illnesses testified Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court.
Doug Casa, the director of athletic-training education at the University of Connecticut, told jurors that though the 15-year-old’s body temperature reached 109.4 degrees shortly after he collapsed, his life would have been “guaranteed” saved if staff would have taken Max into the school’s locker room, about two minutes away, and put him into an iced whirlpool within five minutes of when he went down.

“If treated immediately and aggressively … it’s 100 percent survivable,” Casa told the jury. “No kid should ever die from heat stroke.”...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Did adults learn anything from Obama speech controversy?

This from Tom Eblen in the Herald Leader:
With all of the public attention focused on President Barack Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren, I had to wonder: Did the adults learn anything? ...

It was a pep talk about personal responsibility, not politics. But from the way the right-wing fringe and some Republican Party officials reacted to it beforehand, you would have thought Obama was planning to sprout horns and advocate devil worship.

There was a lot of bluster about Obama "overstepping his authority," even though previous presidents have made similar speeches. Timid school officials offered opt-outs for students whose parents objected. Cowardly school officials skipped the speech all together.

Last week, Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, called Obama's plan to speak to children "very concerning and kind of creepy" and an attempt "to circumvent parents" and "gain direct access to our children."

Robertson and some talk radio entertainers focused on an ill-chosen phrase that federal education bureaucrats used in material prepared for teachers. The phrase, suggesting that teachers could have students write letters to themselves about how they can "help the president," was reworded to how they "can achieve their ... education goals."

It seemed like a lame excuse for objecting to a presidential speech, because that's exactly what it was.

This from Politics K-12:

Kids Have Choice Words for Obama-Speech Controversy

The honor of introducing President Barack Obama at Wakefield High School today
went to senior Tim Spicer, who has to be one of the most popular kids in school today.

He told Alyson, who called in just a few minutes ago from the school, that not only did he get a presidential seal as a thank-you gift from Obama, but he also got the president to autograph the introductory remarks he had carefully typed out.
Spicer acknowledged, though, that he was far more nervous meeting Obama before the speech than actually standing in front of a televised audience and introducing the
president. As for the all of the hubbub that preceded the speech, Spicer told Alyson the controversy was "pointless."

And 14-year-old Elizabeth Brantley, who was one of 40 9th graders who participated in a round table before the speech with Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, called the controversy "kind of dumb."

Another 14-year-old, Max Rosenberg, had even stronger words in speaking to Alyson, saying people who didn't want Obama to address students are "racist." ...

Sen. Tom Harkin to Chair the Education Committee

This from Politics K-12:

It's official! Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa is going to be the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Comittee. As we've said before, this puts Harkin, who already has control of the Senate subcommittee that oversees education spending, in a very powerful position.

He's now the go-to guy in the Senate on both money and policy for K-12 schools, just as the reauthorizations of No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are likely to get going.

So what will this mean? Mandatory full funding of special education may actually become a reality, for one.

And Harkin will almost certainly push for a federal school facilities program. And he may give the administration some push back on K-12 issues...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Quick Hits

Curriculum focused on Sept. 11 attacks to be offered at some schools: A curriculum to teach middle- and high-school students about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was unveiled Tuesday. The curriculum, which will debut this year at schools in at least seven states -- including New York -- will include videos, lessons and interactive exercises. In one activity, students will use Google Earth software to track terrorist activity worldwide. It is believed to be the first comprehensive teaching guide on the attacks. (The Associated Press)

Study- More engineering in schools would bolster math, science: Engineering concepts should be included in the curriculum of schools, according to a recent study by a committee comprising two nonprofit organizations. The National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council concluded that engineering -- the study of product design and construction -- has a vague presence in American schools but could boost student interest and achievement in math and science. (Education Week)

Education translates into higher earnings around the world: Investing in education may seem difficult in the current economic slump, but it can have a huge payoff in the long run, writes Education Week staff member Sean Cavanagh in this blog post. He explains the results of a recent report that makes a strong economic case for education. In the countries studied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average college-educated man earned $186,000 more in his lifetime than a non-college-educated peer. (Curriculum Matters)

Gates Foundation to use television for anti-dropout message: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hopes to curb the dropout rate with an education campaign on television channels that are popular with students. The foundation is partnering with Viacom on the five-year "Get Schooled" campaign, which began this week with a documentary and will integrate a message against dropping out into popular programming on channels such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central. (Houston Chronicle)

Bible-literacy law's vagueness baffles some Texas school districts: A recent law requires Texas public schools to offer Bible literacy in the classroom this year, but it does not provide specifics on teacher training, curriculum or funding. "Asking a school district to teach a course or include material in a course without providing them any guidance or resources is like sending a teacher into a minefield without a map," said a religious-studies expert critical of the plan. Some schools are offering the material in elective classes; others are incorporating Bible literacy into regular curriculum. (The Dallas Morning News)

Hawaii looks to move student assessments online: State tests in Hawaii could be given online as soon as 2011, and officials say the change could provide faster results and allow students to take the assessments more often. "Because the results would simultaneously be coming back, teachers will see immediately if a student does or doesn't know the standards," said state Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto. (The Honolulu Advertiser)

Gates Foundation plans to watch teachers at work: As part of its five-year, $500 million initiative to look at effective teaching methods, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will videotape 4,000 educators in selected U.S. school districts and analyze teacher practices against student performance. The foundation seeks "a fair, reliable, clear view of teacher effectiveness that both teachers and researchers can support and embrace," said the director of the foundation's education division. (Education Week)

U.S. lags behind other nations in child-welfare study: The U.S. spends more per child but has higher rates of infant mortality, teenage pregnancy and child poverty than other industrialized nations, a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found. The group's report says the U.S. should shift more spending to children younger than 6 to improve health and educational performance. (The Associated Press)