Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why Race to the Middle?

This from the free-market Pioneer Institute:

Massachusetts and California K-12 State Standards
Far Exceed National Standards Drafts

A day after President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan laid out an aggressive plan to expand federal control over K-12 academic standards at the National Governors Association (NGA) winter meetings, a new report criticizes the national standards process as "opaque" and the federal push harmful not only to states with existing high standards but to all states that want its students adequately prepared for authentic college level work.

Why Race to the Middle? First-Class State Standards Are Better than Third-Class National Standards, jointly published today by Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts and Pacific Research Institute (PRI) in California, is authored by Ze'ev Wurman, a Silicon Valley executive active in developing California's standards and assessments in the mid-1990s, and Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a current member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who in the late 1990s oversaw the creation of Massachusetts' nation-leading state curriculum frameworks in the English language arts, mathematics, science/engineering, and history and social science.

Why Race to the Middle? critiques the draft K-12 mathematics and English standards set forth by the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), which was formed in 2009 by the NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) with the encouragement of the U.S. Department of Education (USED), to negotiate standards among all states. They were to be for voluntary adoption by all the states. Yesterday, President Obama and Secretary Duncan made clear that they would now tie Title I funds for K-12 schools to coerce states to adopt the CCSSI proposed standards...

Thanks to Penney.

School News from Around Kentucky

House leaders considering adding debt to fund jobs bill: House leaders are considering adding to the state's debt in an effort to put Kentuckians to work replacing school buildings, roads and waterlines. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Thursday that leaders might add more capital projects to their two-year budget proposal and would borrow money to pay for them. "We believe that the way we put Kentucky back to work is that we create jobs," Stumbo said. "We believe that a jobs bill is important." (Herald-Leader)

Bible literacy bill clears Senate: The Senate passed a measure Thursday that would establish guidelines for teaching Bible literacy in Kentucky’s public high schools.Senate Bill 142, sponsored by Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro, passed 37-1 with little discussion and now goes to the House.The bill calls for the Kentucky Board of Education to establish guidelines for an elective course on the Bible's literary structure and its influence on “literature, art, music, mores, oratory and public policy.” (Courier-Journal)

Five-step method accurately grades exceptional learners: It is possible to grade students with disabilities and English-language learners in a way that is fair and accurate using a five-step method, write University of Kentucky educators Lee Ann Jung and Thomas R. Guskey. The steps include making sure the standard is achievable, modifying standards if necessary, grading based on the altered standard rather than grade-level achievement and including information about the basis of the grade in the student's report card. (Educational Leadership)

Commissioner Holliday - no snow day waivers to be granted; KDE seeks second testing window: Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Wednesday he has formally asked the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to approve a second assessment testing window to give districts a choice: test during the scheduled April 19-30 dates or during a two-week period in May, an option sought by districts behind on classroom time due to last fall’s H1N1 absenteeism and/or this winter’s ongoing snow and ice. However, Holliday also said he will not grant any weather-related waivers of the required 177 instructional days “unless it would be impossible to get their days in by July 1.” (KSBA)

Legislature considers waiver for schools with 20 missed days: With his schools already out for 28 days with the flu and snow and nearly another month of winter to go, Breathitt County Superintendent Arch Turner is looking for relief to schedule make-up days. That relief could come in a bill introduced this week in the state legislature. House Bill 487, sponsored by Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Jeffersonville, would allow local boards of education to ask state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday by May 1 to waive up to 10 days in districts that have missed 20 or more days. (H-L)

Budget plan trims 2 school days - Plan still about $400 million short in second year: A state budget proposed last week by House leaders gives the state a starting point, but legislators say there is still a long way to go. The proposal is about $405 million short of a balanced budget in the second year, nearly double the first projections last week. It would provide a balanced budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1. State Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) said he and most of the members of the House are encouraged by the first steps. “I like the direction it’s taking, and I think most everybody is on board right now,” he said. “Based on what I’m seeing, I think this can be a very good budget, but there are some hard decisions and some tough cuts.” ...Shelby County Superintendent James Neihof said that would cost the district between $200,000 and $240,000 in salaries alone. (Sentinel News)

Education Cuts Should be Off the Table: Given Kentucky's woeful national education ranking, it's hard to believe we'd want to handicap ourselves even more. But that's exactly what the state's lawmakers are attempting with their proposal to trim expenses by cutting two days from the school year. Are they kidding? With Kentucky consistently ranking anywhere from below average to way below average in virtually every educational category, shouldn't we be devoting every penny possible to improving our status? (WDRB)

Quick Hits

School defends move to go with AP preparation over honors courses: Officials at Boston Latin School are defending their decision to eliminate honors classes in an effort to prepare more students to take Advanced Placement courses in 11th and 12th grades. Many parents expressed concerns that removing the honors courses -- weighted an extra half-point in students' grade-point averages -- would hurt their children's GPAs, but administrators emphasized that the change would have little effect. (The Boston Globe)

Virginia officials to restrict use of alternative assessments: Virginia officials are moving to restrict the use of portfolio assessments, designed to replace standardized multiple-choice exams for special-education students, in response to criticism that schools are overusing the alternative tests and inflating student scores. The portfolio tests were introduced in 2004 for special-education students, and federal officials approved the use of reading tests with English-language learners in 2007. The use of the tests in Virginia schools has more than doubled, to 47,000, in the past three years. (The Washington Post)

New calculation method drops Alabama's graduation rate by 21 points: A new method being used to calculate Alabama's graduation rate shows only 65 percent of students finished high school on time in 2009, which is a 21 point difference from the state's previously reported rate of 86 percent. The new formula, called the 4-year Cohort Graduation Rate, only counts students who receive a high school diploma within four years as graduates. The state previously counted anyone who received any of six available diploma options regardless of the amount of time it took. (

New Arkansas elementary school to debut with Web-based curriculum: A new elementary school in Cabot, Ark., is set to open in August with an all-digital curriculum. District officials say they hope to expand the Web-based curriculum to all grade levels throughout the district if it is successful at Mountain Springs Elementary School. (KATV-TV)

Lawmakers question Duncan on Teach for America funding: Congressional lawmakers at a House committee hearing on the federal education budget questioned Education Secretary Arne Duncan on changes to funding policies for programs such as Teach for America, which would not be directly funded but could instead compete for a grant. Duncan defended the administration's shift toward more competition, saying it could mean even more federal money for Teach for America and other programs. But lawmakers were critical of making established programs compete for aid. (The Washington Post)

More students choosing alternatives to traditional senior year: A growing number of high-school students are choosing internships or taking advantage of early graduation or other options rather than attending a traditional senior year. Many of the students are academically advanced and may be restless or looking to accelerate the progress of their education. The trend is catching on with education policymakers as well, with a new program in eight states allowing students to take college and high-school courses concurrently. (USA TODAY)

South Dakota intermediate school takes on project-based learning: Educators at a South Dakota intermediate school are taking a more student-centered approach to lessons, giving assignments that require students to become experts in the subject they are learning about while also developing skills in reading, math and spelling. The approach is part of the school's switch to project-based learning, which aims to teach students critical-thinking skills instead of memorization. The school plans to share its experience with other schools. (The Brookings Register)

Charter advocates ask for more oversight in NCLB hearing: Charter-school advocates testified at a congressional hearing on revising No Child Left Behind to urge lawmakers to include more oversight of charter policies on admissions, academics and finances as part of the government's broader push to increase financial support of the schools. One advocated noted that a $2 billion influx of federal aid for charters in recent years was supported by less than $2 million for oversight. "It's as if the federal government had spent billions for new highway construction, but nothing to put up guardrails along the sides of those highways," one charter advocate said. (The New York Times)

Students can earn college credit in certified engineering program: A national high-school engineering program in an Ohio district received national accreditation that will allow students to obtain college credit for courses they take in high school. About 350 students from two district high schools are enrolled in Project Lead the Way, which aims to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields. (Columbus Local News)

Does NCLB help or hurt special-needs students?: Some educators at New Jersey's Morris County schools say state assessments under No Child Left Behind are unfair to students with disabilities, while others say the law has shed light on the achievement of students with special needs for the first time. Under NCLB, failure of too many special-needs students can lead a school to be labeled as "needing improvement." One official says the tests do not accurately reflect what special-needs students have learned because each has an individual learning plan and should be assessed in different ways. (Daily Record)

Philosophical discussions let gifted students think deeply: Teachers at a Maryland middle school are leading a philosophy club where students respond to deep, intellectual questions and discuss ethical issues during lunch. "It gives kids the ability to think deeply. Kids need that," one teacher said of the group, which is mostly composed of gifted students. (The Washington Post)

Who’s Winning the Race to the Top?

“This is a very, very difficult competition.
This is not a race to the middle.
This is a race to the top,
and we meant what we said."
--Arne Duncan

This from Thomas W. Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, in the City Journal:

Love for Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

...and likes Colorado, Georgia, Delaware and Michigan.

Calls the rest likely losers

After reviewing all the available state applications, totaling thousands of pages, I’ve grouped the 40 applying states (and D.C.) into three categories: very competitive (three states); competitive (four states); and likely losers (33 states, including four last-minute flameouts). With luck, both the winners and the losers in Race to the Top will prompt further education reform across the nation.

Three states submitted applications that strike me as very competitive: Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee. All three began sprinting around the education-reform racetrack long before the Race to the Top starting gun was even fired.

Over the past decade, Florida has consistently been among the nation’s most aggressive education-reform states. Among the pluses: Florida’s excellent accountability system for schools; annual testing in grades three and higher, instituted even before the adoption of the No Child Left Behind act; a longitudinal database containing student data from pre-K through age 20; a strong charter-school law that has enabled the state to open more than 400 charters serving almost 130,000 students, with no cap on the number of such schools; 19,500 students receiving special-education vouchers; and a tax-credit program for corporate donations to private-school scholarship programs benefiting more than 22,000 students. Florida’s application also provided the best “gap analysis”—that is, it identified precisely the next steps that the state would need to take to meet its Race to the Top expectations.

Louisiana, meanwhile, has been using a value-added model to track student achievement for three years. It has also participated in the development of the Common Core Standards Initiative; created alternative-certification routes that allow organizations other than education schools to give teachers credentials; improved its teacher pipeline through strong partnerships with The New Teacher Project and Teach for America; and experimented with performance-based compensation in 41 school districts. Louisiana has one of the nation’s strongest charter-school laws; among other things, it no longer caps the number of charter schools allowed in the state. New Orleans posts the highest charter-school market share in the nation, with 55 percent of its public-school students enrolled in charters.

In education circles, Tennessee is perhaps best known for the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), which has amassed 18 years of longitudinal data on student progress—an important advantage, given the importance that Race to the Top places on data. Tennessee also has drawn considerable attention for the aggressive efforts of Governor Philip Bredesen, a Democrat, to make his state more competitive for Race to the Top funding. In 2009, the governor pushed through revisions in the state’s relatively weak charter-school law, getting the cap on charter schools increased from 50 to 90. The law provides per-pupil facilities funding (something that many charter laws lack), and it extends the length of charters from five to ten years. For an encore, the governor—after hardball negotiating—signed legislation requiring districts to base at least 50 percent of their teacher evaluations on student test results and 35 percent on data from TVAAS...

In total, awards to these seven states (Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, Delaware and Michigan) would allocate almost half of the $4 billion in Race to the Top dollars, leaving about $2 billion unspent—giving other states another chance to adopt reforms in time for the June 1 second-round deadline...

Experts Lay Out Vision for Future Assessments

This from Education Week:

A group of high-powered policymakers and educators led by Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, outlined a comprehensive assessment system that includes summative and formative tests of higher-order thinking skills, reflecting a marketplace that they say places increasing value on such skills.

They urged a move away from of multiple-choice tests that demand factual recall, toward the development of a set of deeper, more analytical questions, tasks, and projects that ask students to solve and discuss complex problems. One example is a problem that has been posed to Connecticut high school students: Figure out how to build a statue that could withstand the effects of acid rain, then describe, analyze, and discuss your findings.

Such assessments, Ms. Darling-Hammond said, can be “of, for, and as learning.” They can “embody” content standards, she said, not just approximate them. Because teachers would help create and score the assessments, and the assessments would be pegged to good-quality content standards, an aligned teaching-and-learning system would take shape that would help teachers adjust instruction in real time and help district and state administrators plot longer-term education strategy, the experts said...
The white paper describes what a student assessment system could look like if built from the principles and best practices found in current educational research and effective educational systems in the U.S. and high-achieving nations around the world.

With this paper, the Council of Chief State School Officers seeks to illuminate and enrich the discussion around comprehensive systems of student assessment and to help lead the development of more effective ways to assess student learning. It describes existing successful assessment systems that use a variety of ways to ensure student achievement in programs in our country and in high-achieving countries around the world.

Teachers' Lap Dance Video Sparks Uproar at Canadian High School

This from Fox News:

After footage of the graphic lap dance was posted online, the Winnipeg School Division launched an investigation into the incident at Churchill High School.

The video, "Two Teachers, One Chair," features physical education instructor Chrystie Fitchner and an unidentified male teacher in a sexually explicit routine that had students turn from laughter to disbelief.

"At first we were laughing and then it was like, ‘Oh that's a little too far,'" The Globe and Mail quoted 14-year-old Freshman Saigha Vincent.

Winnipeg school trustee Mike Babinsky expressed his outrage at the teachers' behavior, and said he will wait for the results of the investigation before deciding whether to lobby for further disciplinary action, The Globe and Mail reported.

"He is sticking his head into her crotch, into her private area," Babinsky told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday. "I don't know if they're making contact, but it's way too close."

Thirteen-year-old student Montana Fortier said the "whole school was rattled" after the assembly.

L.A. teachers gain control of 22 campuses in reform effort

The school board turns over most of the
30 campuses targeted for reform to instructors.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

In an unlikely victory, groups of teachers, rather than outside operators, will run the vast majority of 30 campuses under a controversial school reform effort, the Los Angeles Board of Education decided Tuesday.

It was an ironic twist to a strategy that was designed to allow outsiders to manage new or troubled campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District. When the board approved the concept in August, it was a stunning acknowledgment that the nation's second-largest school system needed help to improve its schools.But the result was far different.

Acting mostly on recommendations from Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, the board agreed Tuesday to turn over 22 of the schools to teacher-led efforts. Board members also supported Cortines' proposal to have different groups share some campuses. Teachers, for example, were given a role at two other schools along with outside groups.

The teachers competed against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nonprofit school organization and charter schools, independently run public campuses that are mostly nonunion.In the end, charter schools were given the chance to run four schools and the mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools was given three...

More Students and Not Enough Space: Rural Community Colleges Discuss Challenges

This from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Rural community colleges are the fastest-growing of all community colleges in the United States, but they face many challenges as they expand, a group of community-college leaders told Education Department officials and Congressional staff members on Wednesday.

Their remarks came at a "Rural Community College Day" meeting convened by the Education Department and the Rural Community College Alliance. It was the first time the Education Department has met specifically with rural-college leaders, department officials said, describing community colleges as a "linchpin" in President Obama's quest for the United States to have the world's highest proportion of adults with college degrees by 2020. Rural colleges make up 64 percent of the nation's 820
community-college districts, according to data from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and are often in areas in which few adults have college degrees.

But granting degrees to more students, which would be necessary if the Obama administration is to meet its goal, will present challenges, the college leaders said (see related chart.

"It's depressing to see that the bulk of the dollars go to our urban and suburban counterparts," said Randy Smith, president of the alliance, an advocacy group based in Oklahoma.

The Education Department hoped the meeting would show community college leaders that rural institutions are included in the Obama administration's plans, said John White, deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach. Some of the presidents expressed concern at the meeting that they were often left out in policy discussions related to community colleges...

First dorms were coed, now rooms are, too

At least two dozen colleges
allow students to mix it up
in living quarters

This from MSNBC:

Erik Youngdahl and Michelle Garcia share a dorm room at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University. But they say there’s no funny business going on. Really. They mean it.

They have set up their beds side-by-side like Lucy and Ricky in “I Love Lucy,” and avert their eyes when one of them is changing clothes.

“People are shocked to hear that it’s happening and even that it’s possible,” said Youngdahl, a 20-year-old sophomore. But “once you actually live in it, it doesn’t actually turn into a big deal.”

In the prim 1950s, college dorms were off-limits to members of the opposite sex. Then came the 1970s, when male and female students started crossing paths in coed dormitories. Now, to the astonishment of some Baby Boomer parents, a growing number of colleges are going even further: coed rooms.

At least two dozen schools, including Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College, Clark University and the California Institute of Technology, allow some or all students to share a room with anyone they choose — including someone of the opposite sex. This spring, as students sign up for next year’s room, more schools are following suit, including Stanford University....

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

EXPLORE and PLAN Results Show Improvement

Kentucky’s 8th- and 10th-grade public school students participated in a statewide administration of the EXPLORE and PLAN assessments in the fall of 2009, and overall school scores moved up slightly in most subject areas tested.

Unlike most other states, all of Kentucky’s 8th- and 10th-grade public school students participate in EXPLORE and PLAN assessments. As is often the case with these examinations, when the pool of test-takers is large, overall scores tend to be lower. For the 2009 administration, Kentucky’s overall scores increased in nearly every subject area.

In the 2009 administration, 48,347 8th-grade Kentucky students in 323 public schools took the EXPLORE assessment. The scoring scale for the assessment is from 1 to 25.

In the 2009 administration, 49,589 10th-grade Kentucky students in 228 public schools took the PLAN assessment. The scoring scale for the assessment is from 1 to 32.

The national normative data for EXPLORE and PLAN are based on students who took all four academic tests within standard time limits as part of a national study conducted in Fall 2005.
ACT, Inc. developed College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, science and reading and applied those to the EXPLORE and PLAN scores. The benchmarks indicate the degree of college readiness of 8th and 10th graders.

The benchmark scores for EXPLORE are:
§ 13 or higher on the English Test
§ 17 or higher on the Mathematics Test
§ 15 or higher on the Reading Test
§ 20 or higher on the Science Test
The benchmark scores for PLAN are:
§ 15 or higher on the English Test
§ 19 or higher on the Mathematics Test
§ 17 or higher on the Reading Test
§ 21 or higher on the Science Test
Scores by ethnicity and gender followed trends similar to those found in other assessments.

Administration of the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT assessments, which are provided by ACT, Inc., was mandated by Senate Bill 130 (codified in KRS 158.6453) in the 2006 session of the Kentucky General Assembly. The assessments will help schools focus on meeting academic standards across the entire secondary school program. Scores from the assessments will be helpful in measuring student achievement, gauging their readiness for transition and evaluating school programs.

EXPLORE is a high school readiness examination designed to help 8th graders explore a broad range of options for their future. The exam assesses four subjects (English, mathematics, reading and science) and provides needs assessments and other components to help students plan for high school and beyond.

PLAN helps 10th graders build a solid foundation for future academic and career success and provides information needed to address school districts' high-priority issues. The exam assesses four subjects (English, mathematics, reading and science) and is a predictor of success on the ACT.

Both assessments help schools pinpoint areas of weakness for individual students and schoolwide curriculum and make changes to improve learning. Schools will analyze their individual results to inform decision-making.

State law (KRS 158.6459) mandates that the Individual Learning Plans of students whose scores on EXPLORE and PLAN indicate that they need additional assistance in particular subject areas will incorporate strategies to help them improve their performance.

See complete details on district and school EXPLORE and PLAN data by clicking here.

SOURCE: KDE press release.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hoxby's Hocus Pocus

A few weeks ago I was discussing Carolyn Hoxby's most recent studies with a fellow blogger and I felt compelled to confess that I couldn't read it. My blogger buddy said he only reads the executive summaries. But that seemed wrong - like asking to be lied to - to me.

Here's why:
Hoxby's regression formula is Greek to me.

So how does one determine whether her methodology is useful? How does one determine if it rises to the level of the "gold standard" as Hoxby claims?

The typical approach is to have professional papers reviewed by knowledgeable peers before issuing the findings in a juried journal. But not these days. When somebody gets a wiff of confirming evidence, straight into the news cycle it goes.

So what's a lowly blogger to do? Is this the greatest study of all time or just a bunch of malarkey? Perhaps it's somewhere in the middle.

For help, I decided to seek out a the most neutral party I could find. I was looking for some folks who were very knowledgeable technically, but who were totally disinterested in any particular outcome. I wanted people with strong mathematical/statistical backgrounds. I wanted folks who knew how unbiased research ought to be conducted. I wanted folks who couldn't care less whether it was a good study or bad. I found them among the postdocs of a certain research university I know. Not in the education department. Not in economics, but pure mathematicians. These are not political people and they are unaware, so far as I know, that there is even a debate over charter schools.

I sent the study with no commentary other than a request for review of Hoxby's 2007 technical report with comments. Here are the early returns, edited to remove any identifying comments:

Sorry its taken me so long to get back to you...I did read through the paper and I have to say I'm not very impressed.

The entire paper is convoluted and its hard for me to decipher exactly what the findings are and what kind of implications are conjectured based on the findings. That aside, the mathematical approach doesn't appear to be very rigorous and there is no clear explanation of the actual mathematical tools employed.

Again, I am not a statistician so I can't argue the validity of their methods because I don't understand them myself. I can, however, tell you that the explanations of
their methodology are poorly written and give the impression that they might not
understand their methods either.

For example, when explaining the variables used in the 'estimating equations' the variable epsilon_i is not defined but is claimed to "remind us of the robust standard errors clustered at the student level". This is not a definition and not the rhetoric of a mathematician or statistician. Further there is no reference to what the "exhaustive set of lottery fixed effects" and other fixed effects are.

Several times there were unsubstantiated statements made such as "we believe that we should be able to match only about 90% of students, plus or minus a few percents" (pg 13), "Class size has an association with achievement effects that is estimated with a fair degree of precision" (pg 35), and "we estimate the magnitude of the understatement to be about 8 percentage points" (pg 15). Why do they believe that a 90% match is 'good enough'? Where did that statistic come from? What is a 'fair degree of precision'? How did they estimate the understatement to be 8 percentage points?

These statements alone are enough for me to discount the entire validity of the paper because if we can identify one statistic that was pulled out of thin air, then why should we believe that all the others aren't as well?

Also, for several results, reasons are given as to why the result should not be regarded as significant. For example, the authors clearly state why policy effects
should be discounted (p35). However, they go on to evaluate policy effects as well as speculate on reasons for the results. If policy effects should so clearly be disregarded, then they shouldn't be analyzed.

Finally, I saw many instances of bias remarks made which should be carefully avoided when evaluating statistics.

So there you have it.

The paper has now been passed on to another department at the same university for a confirming/disconfirming review. I'll let readers know if we learn anything from that.

Mom's Mad that School Failed to Enforce Her Punishment

School folks get upset when parents fail to reinforce school decisions affecting the well-being of a child. Make sure they do their homework. Sign this reading log. Consider restricting your child's privileges. But what happens when parents expect the same thing in return?

To what extent are (or should) schools be prepared to enforce a mother's discipline of her son?

This from Eve Samples at WPTV:

HOBE SOUND, FL -- The day started out like most for Laura Cancio and her family. She readied her children for school, repeatedly reminding her fourth-grade son to assemble his lunch. The food was laid out. All he had to do was put it in his bag.

But, anxious to play video games during the last few minutes before the family hit the road, the boy forgot.

Cancio realized her son’s mistake only after she dropped him off at Sea Wind Elementary in Hobe Sound.

Hoping to teach him a lesson about responsibility, she decided to let him go without food until he got home at 2:30 p.m. He had eaten a large breakfast of cereal, fruit and juice. It didn’t seem like a big deal.

She sent an e-mail to her son’s teacher:
“Everett forgot to pack his lunch even after several prompts to do so. Please do not provide him with any food. Thank you.”

She got a polite reply, logged off the computer and thought that was that.

But Everett’s teacher forwarded the message to Principal Lawrence Green, who had a different take.

Green responded in an e-mail:
“Mrs. Cancio, although I understand that Everett needs to be more responsible and you would like to teach him this skill, we cannot deny any child a lunch. This would be against the law. We can get him a school lunch and you can reimburse us at a later date.”

When Everett got home, he told his mother the cafeteria gave him a cheese sandwich. He also said a school official told him that what his mom proposed to do was illegal.

Cancio felt undermined.

To her, it boiled down to this question:
“Do I not have the right to make these physical decisions for my child?”

Her encounter illustrates the delicate balance between parental rights and school responsibility. When our children spend so much of their day at school, how far should the school go to obey a parent’s wishes?

Despite Green’s e-mail to Cancio, there is no law or Martin County School District policy that dictates whether a school should feed a child in this situation. Green later backed off the claim that not feeding Everett would be illegal.

“It boils down to the administrator, the principal, doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the student,” district spokeswoman Cathy Brennan said.

Green told me he thought he was doing what was best for Everett on that day in December.

“It was my feeling that we needed to feed the child. Research has shown that a child that is nourished is going to perform better,” he said.

Cancio declined to pay for the lunch because she did not request it, so the school covered the cost. Green has never had a parent complain about giving a student a free lunch. In fact, he’s received thank you notes for such gestures in the past.

But it still upsets Cancio. Green defied her, as she sees it.

Nobody has ever died from missing one meal, she said. Plus, her son is a picky eater who has been known to throw his lunch out. She thought not having lunch was a natural consequence for forgetting it that morning....

Not Everyone Loves White House Title I/Standards Proposal

I must admit, I was surprised (and less than thrilled) that the Obama administration seems to be tying their goals to everything that moves in education.

This from Alyson Klein at Politics K-12:
Yesterday, we heard from governors who either praised the proposal to tie Title I money to rigorous college and career-readiness standards in a renewed Elementary and Secondary Education Act ... or said they were still "studying" it.

But last night, the National School Boards Association put out its own statement. And that group is not happy with what it sees as federal "coercion" (Catherine Gewertz over at Curriculum Matters has more.) Meanwhile, David Shreve over at the National Conference of State Legislatures also told me he's worried about the feds stepping on what has been a state and local issue. It seems the farther you go down the chain of government, the more concern there is over this proposal, although a number of groups have yet to weigh in.

And we still haven't heard from another key constituency: Congress. Tomorrow, I'm planning to attend the House Education and Labor Committee's very first hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The topic is charter schools, probably the issue most likely to have Republicans and Democrats joining in a kumbaya chorus of bipartisan agreement....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Deliberate Deafness

As our educational leaders plead for an alternative solution
- saying NO to this decision -
it appears that our voices are being ignored.

--15th District PTA President Myrdin Thompson

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told the Courier-Journal Friday that the House budget was still about $200 million short of being balanced. But it turns out the gap is actually about $405 million when all of the changes detailed by Stumbo and House budget committee Chairman Rick Rand are totaled.

Missed it by that much.

But that's OK. We haven't really counted on Stumbo's data since he and Senate President David Williams told Kentuckians that our kids could get by just fine by reducing the amount of schooling they receive. I'm glad they didn't try to balance the whole budget by reducing schools to a 150 day school year. Instead, they can rest assured that Kentucky children will be ready to meet the demands of the twentieth century.

Over at the Bluegrass Institute, Richard Innes observed that " the very same time the House leader says we can cut school days, the education committee under his jurisdiction says we need to add more.."

A UNESCO study of 43 countries showed that 33 of them have school years longer than 180 days and some go as many as 220 days per year. Our legislative leaders say these extra days don't matter - while an increasing number of foreign nations flash past America in the percentage of citizens ready for the 21st Century.

Stumbo presents no evidence, but continues to claim that the number of instructional hours required by six of our seven surrounding states is less than Kentucky. In fact, five of the seven surrounding states go to school more days than Kentucky. Enacting Stumbo's plan would lower Kentucky another notch. True, some neighboring state laws only require a "minimum" number of hours (an historical remnant as low as 3 hours in Mississippi) but students in those states actually attend longer days.

Teachers would pay for the Stumbo/Williams plan.

According to the Daily-Independent, by reducing the number of instructional days from 177 to 175, the state will save about $34 million and teachers – on average – will lose about $500. Another cost savings, however, may yet rile educators – state employees will likely pay more from their paychecks for pensions and for health insurance.

Stumbo and Williams' commitment to educational excellence seems soft and subject to more immediate concerns - like the next election and the dred fear of fallout from the tax reform they know we need.

Governor Steve Beshear's plan was much better than this.

According to Rep. Tim Firkins, D-Louisville, it may still be a little early to tell, but so far, he hasn't heard much from constituents about the plan to reduce the two school days and increase teachers' healthcare costs. Those days were added to the school year in 2006. Firkins told the Daily Independent that he didn't expect to start seeing “green slip” messages from constituents for another couple of days because the broad budget plan became public only late last Thursday."

But Firkins' message is being echoed by other legislators.

This from the Daily Independent:

No outcry thus far on reducing school days

Stumbo said budget document should be ready soon

Lawmakers returned to Frankfort on Monday after a weekend at home, but most said they didn’t hear much feed back on a state budget proposal that would shave two days off the school calendar.

Rep. Danny Ford, R-Mount Vernon, said he attended a legislative breakfast at home Monday morning and while the subject of the school days came up, he didn’t detect an uprising.“We had some people say we wish you didn’t have to do that, but it wasn’t bad,” Ford said.

House Education Committee Chairman Carl Rollins, D-Midway, concurred. He said he’d received some blowback from teachers and educators, “but not that much. I was kind of surprised really.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he’d not heard much about the days while back in Floyd County this weekend. He said some members told him
they’d been asked about the days, but again, there was no indication of widespread shock or anger...
Are our legislators not hearing anything from educators...or not listening?

Kentucky’s education commissioner warned legislators Friday that their budget proposal to eliminate two days of public school “would move us backward,” shortening the school year at a time when many other states are trying to add days, the Courier-Journal reported.

“The national average is 180 days, and the international average is around 200 days,” said Terry [Holliday], who head[s] the state education department. “Kentucky is at 177 days.

“If people want to know why some of our schools aren’t doing so well on test scores, they need to look at the amount of time that is being spent on instruction and the length of our school calendar.”
This from the Enquirer:

NKY to Frankfort: Save our schools

Educators from across Northern Kentucky flocked Saturday to the Boone County High School gymnasium to deliver a collective message.

The state lawmakers that make up the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus listened to concerns from the public ...the dominant topic at the public meeting was the future of education in Kentucky.

"These are difficult times and we're going to have to make some difficult decisions," said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union. "Education is very important and I think all members of the General Assembly realize that and want to do everything they can to provide a quality education for our children."

The dozens of teachers, school administrators and staff, school board members and other education advocates who attended the meeting wore red as a show of solidarity. In two-minute increments, they stressed to the legislators the importance of a good education and addressed a House proposal that would cut two classroom days in public schools to help balance the state budget....

This afternoon, Council for Better Education President Tom Shelton reminded state education leaders that it is the General Assembly that is solely responsible for the schools.

As I am sure you have heard, the House budget proposal calls for the reduction of the two days that were added to school calendars and teacher contracts four years ago. They have indicated that local districts could pay for these days from their contingency funds / fund balances. I know you realize this but even if a district can afford to pay the two days from their contingency / fund balance, they could not do this on a recurring basis and salaries are recurring costs. Fund balances / contingencies are one-time funds and a district should not obligate these funds for recurring costs. That is how districts become deficit.

Also, by the Constitution, it is the obligation of the General Assembly, not local districts, to provide an adequate public school system. Contingencies / fund balances are local funds, not state funds, and the General Assembly, has no authority to obligate these funds. Trying to say that it is optional at the local district creates equity issues across the state and flies in the face of KERA and the establishment of SEEK funding. We do not need systems of the haves and have nots.

The General Assembly continues to pass off their obligation to local school boards and communities. This is not just happening now during an economic recession but has been happening for 15 years. It is time for them to step up and modernize our state budget and system of revenues so that they do not continue to jeopardize the future of our state by inadequately funding education. I encourage you to consider my thoughts and if you agree, feel free to share with all of your constituencies.

Tom Shelton
Superintendent, Daviess County Public Schools

That drew a rather specific response from Tommy Floyd in Madison County that shows the bind local school districts are now in.

I must admit, I am troubled by the supposed legislative solutions:

Here we are in the latter half of the current session with somewhat of a false belief that school districts have not been good stewards. I wanted to state where my experience leaves me today:

1. We are planning on our 3rd draft budget at $3866.00 per child.

2. Almost every consumable has increased significantly in cost since the above rate has not changed.

3. Most of our local sources of revenue including investments are at the lowest point in recent memory. Our school board voted/approved the maximum local 4% increase in property tax.

4. Most of our layers of extra support have been reduced or eliminated from elementary, middle, and high schools with respect to personnel on our part.

5. We are still paying for a 1% raise from 09/10, and without additional funding, will continue to do so @$450,000+.

6. We are still payig for Infinite Campus.

7. Our Flex Focus funds have been significantly reduced affecting multiple layers of our district’s ability to serve the students that need it most.

8. Most of our state grant programs have all had reductions and have been adjusted accordingly while still delivering much needed services. (Remember - We had to show need in order to get them in the first place).

9. We have worked to find ways to run transportation and food service more efficiently and have reduced costs- and we should have.

10. We experienced record low attendance last fall due to H1N1. We disinfected our buildings/buses and immunized many of our students in an effort to stay open and are just now feeling some of the imminent impacts of this lowered ADA effect which will also be forthcoming in next year’s SEEK base.

11. We have accumulated a balance over the last ten years (~8%). This balance is largely due to the reliance on capital outlay funds or would not be where it is today.

12. The obligation to fund (2) days from General fund (Supposed surplus) would cost Madison County Schools an additional (~$400,000 - $450,000) in salaries alone.

I believe that we, as a district, are doing what we should be in response to what our state and nation are experiencing with the recession…..

What troubles me the most when talking about using local funds for recurring costs, is obviously the impact on students…..especially unsuccessful students.

Even as a young teacher, I knew that we must increase the number of successful students that reach graduation and obtain a diploma that means more than just a certificate of attendance. Currently fifteen percent of our Commonwealth’s kids do not even achieve that.

In a time where so many good things could happen for Kentucky’s unsuccessful students, we are definitely at a crossroads. There is no shortage of articles and suggestions on stepping out of the “box” to change how we educate our kids. The opportunity to reconsider Pre-K efforts, and to re-think our current High School model could pay huge dividends for our Commonwealth’s unsuccessful students.

That is, unless we choose the path of trading our kids future, for an easy fix.

I have thought many times as I drive away from one of our schools; our kids do not know anything about state education funding, budget deficits or contingencies. They just know that regardless of their current status, the world is waiting for them and they must be ready. The adults that work with them everyday know this too.

They are keenly aware that they are expected and continuing to do more with
less. If the conditions exist that Mr. Shelton describes below at the end of the session, we will have a lot of explaining to do someday to our students; especially our unsuccessful ones.

Tommy Floyd
Madison County Schools

This from the Daily News:

Bowling Green Independent Schools Superintendent Joe Tinius [is] scratching his head.

...Schools now get $3,866 for each student based on average daily attendance, not taking into account the number of instructional days, Tinius said.“So I don’t see how they can save that money without reducing the SEEK formula,” he said.

Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said when the state added the two additional days several years ago, it did so making it a budget line of $16 million for two days each year. The amount is now $17 million.“It wasn’t included in the SEEK calculations,” Richards said.

But Tinius said the funding did come to schools by way of an increase in SEEK funding.The only way to have any savings would be to reduce the SEEK base funding.Stumbo suggests that if districts want to pick up the tab for the additional days themselves, they could.“I just don’t see that happening,” Tinius said.

Richards said he’s against the idea of dropping the two instructional days because it goes against the trend of other states that have added instructional days.

At WFPL 15th District PTA President Myrdin Thompson objected:

When I have to balance my personal budget I do not sacrifice my children and their needs. I make sure that they are clothed, sheltered, fed, and EDUCATED, first and foremost. As adults, we often go without so that our children will not.

We have educational initiatives such as increasing the drop out age from 16 to 18 (supported by First Lady Beshear and her Drop Out Prevention Summits), and just initiated Core Standards as well as announcing SB1.

Kentucky has only 177 instructional days, compared to a national average of 186.

How can we expect our students to achieve greatness when we devalue their educational experience? How can we ask them to go on to higher educational experiences and become solid 21st century citizens when we then say that two days of instructional time won’t make a difference. Those two days could be all the difference in a child’s life. This is unacceptable.

As our educational leaders plead for an alternative solution, saying NO to this decision, it appears that our voices are being ignored.

My children are not statistics. They have hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations. Through the Dream Out Loud Challenge they are being ecouraged to look ahead to what they will do after College graduation. Today, I want our elected leaders to understand how many will not graduate to Dream Out Loud if this action is taken. We cannot sacrifice our children in order to balance a budget.

This from H-L:

Give at the office

If the General Assembly follows through on the House proposal to cut two instructional days from the school year and school districts are unable to fund the two days locally, Kentucky teachers could face the equivalent of a small pay cut.

That doesn't seem to concern Senate President David Williams, who downplayed that prospect at a Friday news conference.

"If there were slight pay decreases — a percent or a percent and a half — it would pale in comparison to what's happening in the private sector," Williams said.

True enough.

But teachers, particularly those with post-graduate degrees, arguably don't earn as much as comparably educated people in the private sector. So, even a small pay cut might have a disproportionate effect on them.

Besides, if Williams' empathy for private sector employees is so strong that he thinks teachers also should take a hit, then he needs to step up and feel the pain as well...

If legislative leaders can't hear, they're just not listening.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Common Standards a Plus ...Charters a Minus

This from Politics K-12:

Obama Ups Ante
for Common Core

As Lesli Maxwell over at State EdWatch previewed yesterday, President Obama today dropped another big clue as to how the administration wants to reshape the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This is timely especially as congressional hearings in the House get underway on Wednesday, and as finalists for Race to the Top are expected to be announced next week.

In order to qualify for billions of dollars in Title I money for disadvantaged students, states will have to certify that their math and reading standards are college- and career-ready. They can either do this by adopting the state-led "common core" standards, or work with an institution of higher education to certify their standards. Read a one-page fact sheet here.

Practically speaking, Obama's plan doesn't require states adopt what comes out of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, being spearheaded by the NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers—but it's clearly the administration's preference. "You'll be able to better compete for funds," President Obama told the governors today at the White House. That means as the administration seeks to make more education funds competitive, participants in the common core effort will have a leg up...

C-SPAN Video: Obama on Education at 12:50 mark.

This from the White House:

President Obama Calls for
New Steps to Prepare America’s Children
for Success in College and Careers

Obama Administration Applauds Governors
for Bipartisan Work to Develop
Higher Standards in Education

WASHINGTON, DC – Today at a meeting with our nation’s governors, President Obama outlined new steps to better prepare America’s children for college and the workplace. The President is calling for a redesigned Elementary and Secondary Education Act that includes a comprehensive, new vision to help states successfully transition to and implement college- and career-ready standards by improving teacher preparation and development, upgrading classroom instruction, and supporting high-quality assessments.

“America’s prosperity has always rested on how well we educate our children – but never more so than today,” said President Barack Obama. “This is true for our workers, when a college graduate earns over 60 percent more in a lifetime than a high school graduate. This is true for our businesses, when according to one study; six in ten say they simply can’t find qualified people to fill open positions.”

Last year, the President challenged states to develop standards and assessments that will help America’s children rise to the challenge of graduating from high school prepared for college and the workplace.

Today, the Obama Administration announced new efforts to promote college- and career-ready standards in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The President and Secretary Duncan applauded Governors for their efforts to work together in a state-led consortium – managed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) – to develop and implement common reading and math standards that build toward college- and career-readiness.

“With many states well positioned to adopt these common standards that better position our students for college and careers, the Governors initiative is an essential first step in improving the rigor of teaching and learning in America’s classrooms,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

To better align the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to support college- and career-ready standards, the Obama Administration will integrate new policies into a re-designed ESEA, which will:

  • Require all states to adopt and certify that they have college- and career-ready standards in reading and mathematics, which may include common standards developed by a state-led consortium, as a condition of qualifying for Title I funding.
  • Include new funding priorities for states with college- and career-ready standards in place, as they compete for federal funds to improve teaching and learning and upgrade curriculum in reading and math. This priority applies to the President’s FY2011 budget request for new Effective Teaching and earning programs in literacy ($450 million) and STEM ($300 million).
  • Encourage states, schools districts, and other institutions to better align teacher preparation practices and programs to teaching of college and career-ready standards. This priority supports the President’s FY2011 budget request for a new Teacher and Leaders Pathways program ($405 million).
  • Assist states in implementing assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards, under a new Assessing Achievement program. The President’s FY2011 budget supports $400 million in state grants under this program.
  • Support the expansion of the Race to the Top, beyond funding in the Recovery Act, to dedicate $1.35 billion in awards to states and school districts that have college- and career-ready standards in place as a condition of funding.
  • Support professional development for teachers, leaders and other school instructional staff to better align instruction to college and career-ready standards. This supports the President’s FY2011 budget request for the Effective Teacher and Leaders state grant program ($2.5 billion).

Fact sheet

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Every School Day Counts: The Actual Number

This from the Herald-Leader:

Legislative leaders on Friday defended a House proposal that would cut two school days to help balance the state budget.

The loss of two instructional days, which were added in 2006, would not impact a child's education, argued House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, during a joint news conference Friday morning.

"If you look at the actual number of instructional hours
that we're still allocating,
we exceed six of our seven surrounding states...

There is absolutely no evidence at all
that adding these two days
had any impact on the learning process."
---Greg Stumbo

And I'm not aware of any report to the contrary. So I suppose the Speaker is just sayin'.

What is clear, is that Stumbo's data is simply incorrect, at least, according to a 2009 report from the Education Commission of the States. Scroll to: Scheduling/School Calendar.

Updated: The actual data from ECS shows 175 days by statute for Kentucky. However, in 2006, the legislature added two more days by line item in the budget that was not picked up in the ECS report. I don't typically monkey with a source's data, but in the presence of knowledge to the contrary, it's kinda stupid not to in this case, so I have corrected the map above with an asterisk. Kentucky's 177 days includes 4 professional days - which are very important - but are not days when teachers are working with students.

Instructional days and hours refer to the amount of time students are expected to attend in a school year. Since the 1980s, the trend has been to increase the minimum number of instructional days (or hours) that students are in school: Fifteen states have increased the minimum number of instructional days while only nine states have reduced that minimum.

While state requirements vary on the number of instructional days and hours in the year, the majority of states set the school year at 180 days (30 states). Eleven states set the minimum number of instructional days between 160 and 179 days, and two states set the minimum above 180 days (Kansas and Ohio). Finally, eight states currently do not set a minimum number of instructional days. Instead, the school year in these states is measured in numbers of hours.

This from the National Center on Educational Statistics report Every School Day Counts:
Why Does Attendance Matter?

A missed school day is a lost opportunity for students to learn.

In this era of increased accountability for states, districts, and schools, the connection between student attendance and learning is being studied more than ever before. As a result, education agencies are asked with increasing frequency to report attendance data in a standard manner to allow comparisons across organizations and jurisdictions.

The primary rationale for high-quality attendance data is the relationship between student attendance and student achievement. Teacher effectiveness is the strongest school-related determinant of student success,1 but chronic student absence reduces even the best teacher’s ability to provide learning opportunities. Students who attend school regularly have been shown to achieve at higher levels than students who do not have regular attendance. This relationship between attendance and achievement may appear early in a child’s school career. A recent study looking at young children found that absenteeism in kindergarten was associated with negative first grade outcomes such as greater absenteeism in subsequent years and lower achievement in reading, math, and general knowledge.2

Poor attendance has serious implications for later outcomes as well. High school dropouts have been found to exhibit a history of negative behaviors, including high levels of absenteeism throughout their childhood, at higher rates than high school graduates.3

These differences in absentee rates were observed as early as kindergarten, and students who eventually dropped out of high school missed significantly more days of school in first grade than their peers who graduated from high school. In eighth grade, this pattern was even more apparent and, by ninth grade, attendance was shown to be a key indicator significantly correlated with high school graduation.4

The effects of lost school days build up one absence at a time on individual students. Penalties for students who miss school may unintentionally worsen the situation. The disciplinary response to absenteeism too often includes loss of course credits, detention, and suspension. Any absence, whether excused or not, denies students the opportunity to learn in accordance with the school’s instructional program, but students who miss school are sometimes further excluded from learning opportunities as a consequence of chronic absenteeism.

1 Adelman, C. (2006). The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School through College. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
2 Romero, M., and Lee, Y. (2007). A National Portrait of Chronic Absenteeism in the Early Grades. New York, NY: The National Center for Children in Poverty.
3 Hickman, G.P., Bartholomew, M., and Mathwig, J. (2007). The Differential Development Trajectories of Rural High School Dropouts and Graduates: Executive Summary. Phoenix, AZ: The College of Teacher Education and Leadership at the Arizona State University at the West Campus.
4 Allensworth, E., and Easton, J.Q. (2005). The On-Track Indicator as a Predictor of High School Graduation. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Here's the rundown.

State [citation] / Minimum Instructional Time
  • Alabama [Ala. Code § 16-13-231(b)(1)(c)] 180 days
  • Alaska [Alaska Stat. § 14.03.030] 180 days (includes up to 10 in-service days)
  • Arizona [Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 15-341.01] 180 days
  • Arkansas [Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-106; 005 19 CARR § 007(10.01)] 178 days (plus minimum 10 days (60 hrs) professional development/in-service)
  • California [Cal. Educ. Code § 46200(c)] 180 days
  • Colorado [Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-109(1)(n)] 160 days
  • Connecticut [Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-16] 180 days
  • Delaware [Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 1049(a)(1)] N/A
  • District of Columbia [D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5, § 305] 180 days
  • Florida [Fla. Stat. ch. 1003.02(1)(g)]; [Fla. Stat. ch. 1001.42(3)(f)] 180 days
  • Georgia [Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-168(c); Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. r. 160-5-1-.01] 180 days
  • Hawaii 180 days
  • Idaho [Idaho Code § 33-512(1)] N/A
  • Illinois [105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/10-19] 176 days
  • Indiana [Ind. Code § 20-30-2-3] 180 days
  • Iowa [Iowa Code § 279.10] 180 days
  • Kansas [Kan. Stat. Ann. § 72-1106(a),(b)] Grades K-11 ~ 186 days Grade 12 ~ 181 days
  • Kentucky [Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 158.070] 175 days (includes up to four days for professional development)
  • Louisiana [La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 17:154.1; La. Admin. Code tit. 28, § CXV:333] 177 days (plus two days for staff development)
  • Maine [Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 4801] 175 days (plus no more than five days for in-service education)
  • Maryland [Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-103] 180 days
  • Massachusetts [Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 69, § 1G; Mass. Regs. Code tit. 603, § 27.03] 180 days
  • Michigan [Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 380.1284, 1284b, 388.1701(3)(a)] N/A
  • Minnesota [Minn. Stat. §§ 120A.40, 41]
  • Mississippi [Miss. Code Ann. §§ 37-13-61, 63] 180 days
  • Missouri [Mo. Rev. Stat. § 171.031] 174 days
  • Montana [Mont. Code Ann. § 20-1-301; Mont. Admin. R. 10.65.101] N/A
  • Nebraska [Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 79-211, 212] N/A
  • Nevada [Nev. Rev. Stat. 388.090] 180 days
  • New Hampshire [N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 189:1; N.H. Code Admin. R. Ann. Educ. 306.18(b) 1),(2)] 180 days
  • New Jersey [N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:7F-9] 180 days
  • New Mexico [N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 22-8-9(A)(1), 22-2-8.1] 180 days
  • New York [N.Y. Educ. Law § 3604(7)] 180 days
  • North Carolina [N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-84.2(a)(1),(d)] 180 days
  • North Dakota [N.D. Cent Code § 15.1-06-04] 173 days (plus two days for professional development and two for parent-teacher conferences)
  • Ohio [Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.48] 182 days (including up to two days professional development)
  • Oklahoma [Okla. Stat. tit. 70, § 1-109] 175 days (plus up to 5 days used for professional meetings)
  • Oregon [Or. Admin. R. 581-022-1620] N/A
  • Pennsylvania [22 Pa. Code § 11.1] 180 days
  • Rhode Island [R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-2-2] 180 days
  • South Carolina [S.C. Code Ann. § 59-1-425] 180 days (plus three days for mandatory professional development)
  • South Dakota [S.D. Codified Laws §§ 13-26-1,9] N/A
  • Tennessee [Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3004] 180 days (plus five days for in-service and one day for parent-teacher conferences)
  • Texas [Tex. Educ. Code Ann. §§ 25.081, 0811] 180 days
  • Utah [Utah Admin. Code R277-419-3(A),4(C)] 180 days
  • Vermont [Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 1071] 175 days
  • Virgin Islands [17 V.I. Code § 61] N/A
  • Virginia [Va. Code Ann. §§ 22.1-79.1, 98] 180 days
  • Washington [Wash. Rev. Code §§ 28A.150.220] 180 days
  • West Virginia [W. Va. Code § 18-5-45(c),(e)] 180 days
  • Wisconsin [Wis. Stat. § 121.02(f)] 180 days
  • Wyoming [Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 21-4-301] 175 days

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pa. school district denies spying on students with MacBooks

This from Computerworld:

Claims it only remotely activated cameras
to locate lost or stolen Apple laptops

A suburban Philadelphia school district yesterday denied it spied on students by remotely activating the cameras on their school-issued MacBook laptops.

In a statement released late Thursday, Christopher McGinley, the superintendent of Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., admitted that the MacBooks' cameras could be turned on without a user's knowledge but said that the functionality was part of a security feature.

"Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school property," said McGinley. "The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen, so that the laptop could be returned to the student." When switched on, the feature was limited to taking snapshots of whoever was using the notebook and capturing the computer's current screen.

Laptop cameras have only been activated for that purpose, McGinley continued. "The District has not used the tracking feature or webcam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever," he said.

On Tuesday, a high school student and his parents sued the district, claiming that the boy's MacBook had been used to spy on him in his home. According to the lawsuit, Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley, Pa., said they first found out about the alleged spying last November after their son Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of "improper behavior in his home" and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.

Doug Young, a spokesman for the school district, declined to answer questions about whether Blake Robbins' computer camera had been activated and, if so, under what circumstances. "I can't speak to the lawsuit," Young said.

The lawsuit speaks for itself, said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "This is utterly shocking, and a blatant violation of [the students'] constitutional rights," Bankston said Thursday, citing the Fourth Amendment after reviewing the Robbins' complaint. "The school district would have no more right to [use the laptop's webcam] than to install secret listening devices in the textbooks that they issued students." Bankston suggested that students should tape over the lens of their laptops' cameras when not in use.

McGinley confirmed that the district had disabled the camera activation feature Thursday and would not switch it back on without the written consent of students and families. The Robbins' lawsuit alleged that the district had not told students or their families of the activation feature when it handed out the MacBooks. All 2,300 students at the district's two high schools have been given notebooks.

Evidence of the need for more learning

"There is absolutely no evidence at all
that adding these two days
had any impact on the learning process."

---Greg Stumbo

This from John Sherffius in Slate:

This from H-L:

Legislators defend cut of two school days

FRANKFORT — Legislative leaders on Friday defended a House proposal that would cut two school days to help balance the state budget. The loss of two instructional days, which were added in 2006, would not impact a child's education, argued House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, during a joint news conference Friday morning.

"If you look at the actual number of instructional hours that we're still allocating, we exceed six of our seven surrounding states," Stumbo said. "There is absolutely no evidence at all that adding these two days had any impact on the learning process."

But education leaders on Friday expressed regret that lawmakers were considering cutting school days and reclaiming $35 million in excess school funding to help balance the state's two-year budget. Reducing the number of school days to 175 will save the state about $34 million each year.

"I feel strongly that reducing the number of days in the school year is going in the wrong direction," said Stu Silberman, superintendent of Fayette County Schools. "I understand the issues with the state budget, but Kentucky already has one of the shortest school years in the country." ...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic Goals for Education

On February 12, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, kicked off the Alliance's coverage of the Winter Olympics. In his first video, Gov. Wise discusses the other international competition that American students engage in every single day and reminds viewers that improvements in education lead to a better economy.

In his second report from the 2010 Winter Olympics, Bob Wise observes that speed skaters and students have something in common -- the need for public support. He also talks about how the U.S. has fallen behind its international counterparts in high school and college graduation rates.

The Very Worst Thing

"Near the back of the bus,
the freezing water closed around the waist of William Leedy, 13,
who said he blacked out briefly after the bus struck the wrecker.
In the mounting chaos, the boy made his way to the rear emergency
door and, after turning a handle, kicked it open" ...

One boy, Bucky Ray Jarrell, 14,
"was with us back there, but he went back up front
to get his sister and didn't come back," Donald Dillion said."

All over the bus, brothers and sisters
were trying to find each other, Ezelle Copley said.
Others reported seeing terrified small children
huddled together in seats, hugging each other...

This from the Floyd County Times:

A documentary on the 1958 school bus accident that claimed the lives of 26 children and the driver of the bus is scheduled to premiere at the Mountain Arts Center on Feb. 19.

The Very Worst Thing,” directed and produced by Michael Crisp, of Georgetown, revisits the tragedy that left a permanent scar in the history of Floyd County by including interviews with several people whose lives were personally affected by what is known as the worst school bus accident ever in the United States.

On Feb. 28, 1958, a school bus carrying 48 students left the road and crashed into the Big Sandy River. The actual cause of the accident was never officially determined, although an automobile in the ditch around a curve and a wrecker attempting to pull it out is believed by many to have led to the driver of the bus swerving and losing control. It took over two days to locate the bus.

Martha Burchett, one of the 22 students who survived the accident, is one of the people interview in the documentary. Also interviewed is John Crum, a student who was supposed to be on the bus but decided to stay home. Crum witnessed the bus crashing into the river.

Along with recounts of the accident by those who were there, and from those whose lives were changed forever by the tragedy, the documentary also includes original photographs taken during the recovery effort, including many that have not been seen by the public. A radio broadcast from the rescue scene recorded just hours after the accident is also played, giving viewers an auditory window to what it was like during a time of immense grief, panic and heroism from the volunteers involved.

This from WLEX:

The documentary is set to start at 7:30 p.m. and will be immediately followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers and cast. The tickets for the event are priced at $8 and can be purchased by calling the Mountain Arts Center at (606) 889-9125.

The story from RootsWeb:

Prestonsburg. The morning of Feb 28, 1958 was cloudy and cold, but the pavement on old U.S. 23 above Lancer was dry. About 7 AM, bus driver John Alex DeRossett began his usual route from Cow Creek to consolidated schools in Prestonsburg, stopping to collect students in the communities of Sugar Loaf and Emma. The bus would never reach the schools. It would plunge into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, killing 26 students and the bus driver...

"We just couldn't believe something as big as a school bus
could be in the river and we couldn't find it," said
Floyd County Judge-Executive John M. Stumbo,
who was a member of the school board.

Quotes from Sharon Young at RootsWeb.

Obama Available as Commencement Speaker

Oh, No. He's doing it again. President Obama wants to talk to some more students.

The president wants America to, once again, lead the nations of the world in the percentage of college graduates - and he's willing to show up at your high school school to prove it.

Let's hope Kentucky Republican Party Chair Steve Robertson and radio talk show host Leland Conway don't find out about his latest plot to turn us all into productive, well-educated citizens.