Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Commish on HB 301

This from Dr H's Blog:

Remarks to House Education Committee Concerning HB 301

During the early ‘80s, I was doing an internship in order to receive my principal license. I was matched with a veteran high school principal, and I started at the beginning of the school year. During the first few days, I walked along with him as he patrolled the halls. He told me that his job for the first two weeks was to single out 10 to 12 “drop-back-in” students. The purpose, he told me, was to get them out as quickly as possible.


The students usually just dropped back in to see if the rules had changed, and when they found out nothing had changed, they then started creating problems for teachers. He said teachers really liked this visible show of support for a safe environment.

I thought at the time – what about the kids? What happens to them?

When I became an assistant principal at the same school, I was determined to do something different for the drop-back-in students. That was when I started to really investigate alternative programs. I quickly figured out that the adults needed to change, rather than expecting the children to be something they were not able to be.

As with most things, I was probably a little ahead of my time, but when I became a superintendent in North Carolina, I had to meet with 16-year-olds who wanted to drop out of school. At most of these meetings, I was frustrated and the parents were frustrated. Why?

There was something terribly wrong with these scenarios – the 16-year-old students were making the decisions and telling the adults what they were going to do. A 16-year-old does not have the capacity to understand how a short-term decision is going to have such long-lasting ramifications on his/her life....

Superintendent Evaluations – Transparency vs. Effectiveness

Conflicting opinions over Senate Bill 178 from Commissioner Terry Holliday and UK Journalism professor Mike Farrell.

This from Doc H's Blog:

Early in my tenure in Kentucky, I was informed about an Attorney General’s opinion (08 OMD 165) that superintendent evaluations were required to be conducted in public. I asked –“You mean they are required to report the outcome of the evaluation in public?” I was told – “No, the actual evaluation must be conducted in public.”I can tell you that this was a new one on me.

Having been in education for 37 years, I certainly know that evaluations are very important and that privacy and confidentiality are crucial in the process of evaluation. Having served as a superintendent in two districts for more than 12 years, I have spent many mid-year and end-of-year evaluations having excellent discussions with school board members about personnel matters and other components of superintendent evaluation. The key to the evaluation was always a unified summative report that listed the positive elements of the evaluation and the areas for improvement.

While I am very supportive of transparency in conducting the public’s business, I believe that neither a school board nor a superintendent could possibly engage in a full and informative discussion of the components of an evaluation system during an open meeting...

The Senate Education Committee took a very important step this week in this matter, and Senate Bill 178, sponsored by Sen. David Givens, gained unanimous and bipartisan support. I hope the full Senate and the House will act to correct this situation prior to the end-of-year evaluations of superintendents.

In rebuttal, Mike Farrell wrote in the Herald-Leader:

Legislature wrong to close superintendent evaluations

In a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice William Brennan wrote this country has "a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."

Kentucky legislators failed to honor that principle when they voted to allow elected
school board members to evaluate the performance of school superintendents in secret.

Kentucky taxpayers and our children can only hope that Gov. Steve Beshear, who has established a strong record on government openness and transparency, will veto the measure.

Senate Bill 178 will allow school board members to conduct performance evaluations of the superintendent behind closed doors. It is an appalling piece of legislation that works against good government, undermines transparency and strips away the rights of taxpayers who spend millions each year to provide children a quality education. This is the opposite of education reform.

What government service is more important than providing a quality education?

Is anything more important to Kentucky's future than ensuring that every public school system is doing the best job with the resources it has? And the person most responsible — who thus should be most accountable to the people paying the bills — is the local school superintendent...

The Courier-Journal reported that a school board member testified before the House Education Committee that the evaluation of a superintendent needed to be conducted in a closed meeting to allow for "frank, honest and sometimes painful" conversations.

"It's sometimes difficult to be totally honest in front of the press," she told the committee. That may be a legitimate argument in some situations, but it doesn't change the overriding principle that the public's business must be conducted in public, even if that means some government officials are not treated fairly in the process. Why would a public official be afraid to be "totally honest" in front of the people who elected her? ...

This bill will mean school board members and superintendents, and by extension public schools, are less accountable to voters who will be unable to judge their performance when it matters most.

Hurt feelings are not the enemy of good government. Lack of accountability is.

Kentuckians ought to be asking their state legislators why they are more concerned with protecting school board members and superintendents than watching out for the rights and interests of taxpayers.

When I retired from the principalship and decided I wanted to write, I audited a couple of journalism courses at UK. Mike Farrell taught an editorial writing class I took.

Education Trust and the Battle for the Soul of Charter Schools

There is a battle going on
for the soul of charter schools.

It is very important who wins that battle.

--Kati Haycock

During Q & A at the end of this afternoon's presentation I was able to change the subject and ask a question on charter schools.

KSN&C: I know that you have written to advise the Obama administration regarding the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. What I haven't heard the Education Trust talk about, really, is charter schools - either pro or con. Are you all keeping hands off that topic for a reason, and if so, could you share that with us.

Haycock: It's a good question. When charter movement started, we basically said in our organization, 'that's kind of a side game.' The vast majority of low income and minority students - which is our focus as an organization - are educated in public school districts, so our energy is going to go toward helping those interests get better.

Over time, we have revisited that decision many times, mostly because, obviously, in some communities a large segment of low income kids are in charter schools, and because there are horrible variations in charter movement.

And there is a battle going on for its soul. In my view, it is very important who wins that battle.

There are people, as I suspect everybody knows, who are in the charter world primarily because they want to make a difference for kids, and the apparatus around traditional public schools makes that too hard. So they are in it to make things better for kids and there are wonderful examples ...of charter schools.

There are others in the charter movement who are just about freedom from regulations and whose results are worse than some of the worst traditional public schools.

So we think it matters who wins.

What I'm not entirely sure is, what an organization like ours - other than demanding accountability from all kinds of schools - we're not sure what we add. And because we're smallish, our tendency has been to say, 'this issue is really important to the kids we worry most about and nobody else is going to work on it, so we're going to work on it.'

You can't say that about charters right now.

For us it has not been a central purpose; not because we hate them, or that we adore them, but because they're a mixed bag.

Haycock's Bullet Points

KSN&C had a brief chat with Kati Haycock before her presentation. In a nutshell, she is concerned about the likelihood of NCLB reauthorization in present political climate.

EKU President Doug Whitlock introduces Haycock

Here are some snippets from Haycock's presentation:

  • College-going is up in all sectors, but especially for whites. So while college-going is up for minorities, the gap between the rich and poor has grown.
  • Low income students are less likely to graduate.
  • Upper income kids graduate at 8 times higher rate. Is this a threat to democracy?
  • Today's young folks are less educated than their parents..for the first time.
  • We have turned the corner on closing gaps in elementary and middle schools but not in high school.
  • Recent federal dollars have shifted toward more affluent students with reductions of pell grants which support poor students.
  • More money has been channeled to non-need based aid.
  • Colleges themselves - through the actions they take and don't take - contribute to this.
  • Colleges have reduced institutional aid to low income students while increasing aid to affluent students.
  • 60% of institutional support at 4-year colleges, goes to students with no financial need whatsoever.
  • College results comparing schools with identical populations vary greatly.
  • EKU graduation rate is low for 4year-1st year Frosh but has closed the income gap; males lag females.

"What we see in Georgia is

poor people buying lottery tickets

that go toward sending rich kids to college."

Roger Cleveland and Sherwood Thompson

Colleges that improve look at their data - and react.
  • Schools that improve pay attention to their leading indicators.
  • Lack of available course sections stalls too many students, frustrates them and some drop out.
  • Pay attention to details...especially attendance.
  • Pay attention to introductory courses...big enrollments that serve high percentage of students.
  • Successful schools bring back the students they lose.
  • Leaders make sure student success is a priority.
  • Assign clear responsibility for student success.
  • Do not hesitate to demand and require what students need to do.
Jim Rinehart (center) with Billy Thames and Bob Biggin (back right)

Haycock to Visit EKU Today

This morning at 10 and again at 1:30 PM, Kati Haycock will be addressing EKU faculty and students on the ways schools enhance student success according to national data. The 1:30 session is open to the public and will be held in SSB O'Donnell Auditorium.

Haycock is one of the nation's leading child advocates in the field of education. She currently serves as President of the Education Trust, a 501 (c) (3) public charity with approximately 50 employees. Established in 1992, the Trust speaks up for what's right for young people, especially those who are poor or members of minority groups. The Trust also provides hands-on assistance to educators who want to work together to improve student achievement, pre-kindergarten through college.

A 2006 study identified the Education Trust as America's 4th most influential education policy organization just behind Congress, the US Department of Education and the powerful Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a major benefactor of the Trust.

Most recently, Haycock commented on the latest NAEP scores saying,

Since 2007, all student groups and the nation as a whole made modest gains in reading at the eighth-grade level on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Some other results are troubling, however:

Performance among America’s fourth-graders—where the strongest and most consistent growth has occurred over the past decade—appears to have flattened.

Achievement gaps did not narrow at either the fourth-grade or eighth-grade level.

Only one state—Kentucky—improved its overall scores in both grades.

Fourth-grade scores in four states—Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico, and Wyoming—actually declined.

Given these trends—which are nearly identical to those from the 2009 NAEP mathematics assessment—it is more important than ever for educators and policymakers to identify and scale up the strategies that powerfully improve student learning.

Haycock on Race to the Top:
The great promise of Race to the Top—and the unprecedented resources it will distribute—is the opportunity to drive meaningful and powerful change for students. That promise will be squandered if reviewers and federal officials aren’t willing to say, “Sorry, this plan just isn’t good enough,” to states that fail to focus squarely on equity for all students or that lack the capacity to implement a strong application. America’s students need and deserve the best education reform plans possible. Any proposals that don’t shoot for the moon need to be left in the dust.

Holliday's RTTT Analysis

Yesterday, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday completed an initial analysis of the scoring in the Race to the Top competition.

The spreadsheet shows the points per finalist in each of the Race to the Top (RTTT) categories.

Holliday's analysis is as follows:

State Success Factors – Kentucky’s strategy of 100 percent participation did pay off, as shown by our 2nd-place ranking behind Delaware. We are 5.8 points behind Delaware, so we should review Delaware's application and presentation to see if we can pick up these points. Other states that did not have full state participation were as much as 26.2 points behind Delaware and more than 20 points behind Kentucky.

Standards and Assessments – Ohio was tops with 69.4 points, and we had 68.4 points (tied for 3rd place with Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee). If we update our application with our April 12 Unbridled Learning Summit information and deployment plans, then we can max out this assurance area.

Data Systems – We rank 3rd, behind Delaware. The gap is only 3.6 points, and we can work on this in same manner as the state success factor.

Great Teachers and Leaders – We rank 10th in this assurance area and could improve our performance by at least 10 points by clearly addressing the teacher evaluation component. We will need support from teacher organizations to address this gap.

Turnaround – We are tied for 7th (with Louisiana and North Carolina) in this assurance area, but only have a five-point gap from the top scorer (Washington, D.C.). We need to review D.C., Tennessee and Georgia for possible ways to address this gap.

General – As expected, we rank last. Only through our strong performance in the other areas were we able to end up in the finals and rank as high as 9th overall. This area has our largest gap (32 points), and it is totally due to the lack of charter schools. Without support from the General Assembly to pass charter legislation, there is no need to address this area. The only way for the General Assembly to pass charter legislation would be through a special session, and I am unsure that there is support for a special session.

With the maximum focus on the teacher and leader area and slight improvements in the other areas, I believe we can continue to be very competitive in Round 2. We expect between 8-13 states to receive funding in the final round, and Kentucky must revise its application to meet the funding criteria range of $60 million to $175 million.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

KDE Looks to Add Lexile and Quantile Scores to Assessment

This is an interesting idea that merits study.

This from the Commish's email:

Volunteers Needed for Linking Studies

The Kentucky Department of Education needs the support of superintendents to provide an exciting new addition to the reporting of the Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT). The project deals with reporting a Lexile reading measure and a Quantile mathematics measure on the spring 2010 KCCT. Both measures provide instructional information to teachers, students and parents and create a vertical scale to help with Senate Bill 1 growth models in the future. This unique resource can help educators more accurately tailor instructional materials and intervention systems to the level of individual students and accelerate the growth of all students.

Through a communication with district assessment coordinators, the KDE Office of Assessment and Accountability has asked schools and districts to volunteer to administer a linking study to establish the connection between the KCCT and Lexile and Quantile measures. The administration of the multiple-choice linking study requires less than one hour and can be administered at a school’s convenience between April 26 and May 28...

To learn more about the Lexile and Quantile Frameworks, visit and

Charter Frenzy ?

This is the moment I have feared.

Time is short. Money is on the line. And there has not been enough of an effort to craft an effective charter school law.

With the last remaining hours of the legislative session quickly dwindling away, will there be a big push to pass some kind of charter legislation and earn 32 more points to nail down Kentucky's share of Race to the Top funding in the second round? Yesterday, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday gave the effort a big shove.

If Holliday's math is correct, the additional points in the RTTT competition would yield a score of 450.8, and place Kentucky just behind top scorer Delaware (assuming everybody else remains the same - which is, admittedly, a big assumption). Susan Weston shows the breakdown of points over at Prich.

The commissioner has expressed concerned that charter schools should not be lacking in oversight. “The only way I would support them is if they were authorized by the local school board and superintendent and that they be high-performing,” Holliday has told KSN&C and This is wise. In other states some charter schools have floundered before having to be shut down. Holliday wants to ensure that charters are effective and placed where they are needed.

Charter advocates off-handedly tout the state’s ability to shut down ineffective schools as a strength, apparently without regard for the affected students. ‘If they don’t work you can close them,’ some say. But that’s hardly a strong endorsement. Some charter advocates seem to be planning to fail, but in Kentucky we need schools that will work the first time. And they must work in cooperation with the public system – not in competition with it.

At the same time legislators ought to allow fresh options for public schools that have languished. Low-performing schools tend to deny a quality education to the same groups of underserved students over and over again – a cycle that must be broken.

At present two pre-filed bills are sitting in the legislature, hopefully going nowhere. Despite the sponsors’ public comments about how the bill would help the poor and underserved, the language of the bills would open charters to competition with any school in the state, potentially draining funding from even the most effective.

If Kentucky is to move forward on this issue, and perhaps we should, it ought to be done cautiously so as not to create an opportunity for "semi-private schools" to be formed for white suburban parents using public money – which I skeptically suspect is Rep Stan Lee and Rep Brad Montell’s true intention. If I'm wrong, I encourage Montell and Lee to amend their bills.

This from Jim Warren at H-L:

...Kentucky Education Secretary Terry Holliday said Monday afternoon that he plans to have a report ready for Gov. Steve Beshear and General Assembly leaders by late Tuesday, outlining steps that possibly could be taken in the remaining days of the legislative session to enhance Kentucky's chances in the second round. One possibility cited by Holliday was legislation providing for charter schools in Kentucky, which he said could immediately add 32 points to Kentucky's Race score.

Charter schools are granted special permits, or charters, that allow them to operate outside usual state regulations.

Meanwhile, two Republican legislators later Monday afternoon urged their colleagues to consider charter schools as a way to boost Kentucky's Race chances. The two — Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, and Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville — both sponsored charter legislation in this session.

Also Monday afternoon, a citizens group calling itself Parents for Improving Education issued a statement asking Beshear and Holliday to begin work on charter school legislation to lift Kentucky's Race odds.

Only three working days remain in the legislative session, but it's still possible for lawmakers to adopt a charter school bill...

Monday, Holliday said he wants to review federal comments on Kentucky's application to determine where the state might have come up short. He plans to include that in his report to Beshear and lawmakers on Tuesday. But it is known that the state had a "32-point handicap" because its application lacked provisions for charter schools, Holliday said.

"That's our handicap, and I don't know if that's something Kentucky wants to take up or not," Holliday said. "I'll have to leave that to the politicians. But it looks like we need about 30 more points."

Both Delaware and Tennessee have charter schools, but so do many finalists that didn't win grants on Monday. Kentucky was the only state among the 16 finalists that does not have charter schools....

If there is to be a late push for charters in this session we need a bill that starts from scratch.
Such a law should consider the following:

1) Consistent with the Kentucky Constitution, the General Assembly shall, by appropriate legislation, assure that the public school system, including charter schools, will provide an adequate education to every student throughout the Commonwealth. Accordingly, charter schools will not be permitted in competition with successful public schools as defined by the legislature and measured by the state accountability system. And accordingly, no public school district will deny a charter to a properly submitted charter school applicant proposing to serve a traditionally underserved population as defined by the General Assembly and measured by the state accountability system. The growth of public charter schools in the state shall be closely monitored by the General Assembly to assure that all constitutional requirements are satisfied and that a reasonable amount of growth in the number of charter schools is set for any given year.

2) Public charter schools may include new start-ups and public school conver­sions where requested by the school council. The General Assembly will study the efficacy and specific purposes for which virtual schools may be appropriate prior to issuing any charters for virtual schools.

3) Charter schools may be authorized only by application to the Kentucky Education Cabinet except for any legislatively chartered schools as the General assembly may choose to create. There will be no limit on the number of charter schools one provider may establish in the state except for those limitations as the General Assembly may impose on the number of new charter schools in a given year.

4) Anyone holding a charter for schooling in Kentucky shall submit to a reporting program designed by the General Assembly based on objective data, and overseen by the Kentucky Education Cabinet, which will, in turn, assure that all chartering entities receive the appropriate amount of state funding and assure public accountability for all such expenditures.

5) A transparent charter application, review, and decision-making process will be developed by the General Assembly including compre­hensive academic, operational, governance, and performance application requirements, with such applications reviewed and acted upon by the Education cabinet.

6) Comprehensive public charter school monitoring and data collection processes will be developed by the General Assembly to assure that all charter holders can verify public charter school compliance with applicable law and their performance-based contracts.

7) The General Assembly will draft clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions, including school closure and dissolution procedures to be used by all charter holders.

8) Performance-based charter contracts will be required, with such contracts created as separate post-application documents between charter holders and the Kentucky Education Cabinet, detailing academic performance expectations, opera­tional performance expectations, and charter holder rights and responsibilities.

9) The General Assembly will draft legislation specifying the parameters of fiscally and legally autonomous schools, including the creation of independent public charter school boards possessing most of the powers granted to other traditional public school district boards.

10) The General Assembly will draft legislation that provides for clear student recruitment, enrollment and lottery procedures, which must be followed by all public charter schools.

11) The General Assembly will draft legislation that provides automatic exemptions from many state laws, except for those covering health, safety, civil rights, student achievement assessment and accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information requirements, and generally accepted accounting principles.

12) Public charter schools will be exempt from any outside collective bargaining agreements, while not interfering with laws and other appli­cable rules protecting the rights of employees to organize and be free from discrimination.

13) Educational service providers will be allowed providing there is a clear performance contract between the independent public charter school board and the service provider and there are no conflicts of interest between the two entities.

14) Multi-school charter contracts and multi-charter contract boards will be permitted such that an independent public charter school board may oversee multiple schools linked under a single charter contract or may hold multiple charter contracts.

15) The General Assembly will study extra-curricular and interscholastic activities eligibility and access to determine (a) under what conditions public charter school students and employees are eligible for state- and district-sponsored interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs (b) if, and to what extent, public charter schools will be required to provide extra-curricular and interscholastic athletic activities (c) or if, charter school students will have access to those activities at traditional public schools for a fee via mutual agreement.

16) The General Assembly will draft legislation clarifying the identification of special education responsibilities, including determination of the local education agency (LEA) responsible for such services and how and where such services are to be funded (especially for low-incidence/high cost cases).

17) The General Assembly will draft legislation providing equitable operational funding and equal access to all state and federal categorical funding, flowing to the charter school in a timely fashion and in the same proportional amount as district schools following eligibility criteria consistent with all other public schools.

18) The General Assembly will draft legislation providing equitable access to capital funding and facilities, including multiple provisions such as: a per-pupil facility allowance (equal to statewide average per-pupil capital costs); facility grant and revolving loan programs; a charter school bonding authority (or access to all relevant state tax-exempt bonding authorities available to all other public schools); the right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed or unused public school facility or property; and clarity that no state or local entity may impose any facility-related requirements that are stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

19) The General Assembly will draft legislation providing access to relevant employee retirement systems, with the option to participate in a similar manner to all other public schools.

20) The General Assembly will study transportation issues related to those public charter school students who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program.

That's a lot to consider in such a short time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Delaware and Tennessee Named the Only 1st Round RTTT winners

Kentucky Ranks 9th Nationally

New Rule Limits Ky to $60-175 million in Phase II

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that Delaware and Tennessee have won grants in the first phase of the Race to the Top competition.

“We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee,” Duncan said in announcing the winners. “Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”

Delaware will receive approximately $100 million and Tennessee $500 million to implement their comprehensive school reform plans over the next four years. As with any federal grant program, budgets will be finalized after discussions between the grantees and the Department, and the money will be distributed over time as the grantees meet established benchmarks.

In response to Duncan's annoucnement, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said,

Although I’m disappointed that Kentucky’s application was not selected for funding in the first round of the Race to the Top allocations, our work to improve the state’s P-12 system of education will continue. We’ll begin reviewing the scores and comments on our application and planning for the second round immediately. This does not mean that the work outlined in Kentucky’s plan will not be done – it just means that we’ll have to work harder to ensure that every funding source is tapped. Kentucky’s Race to the Top plan is more than just an application for federal funding. It is the roadmap for the state’s next move forward in public education, and we will not abandon that.

Governor Steve Beshear added,

“While we are disappointed that Kentucky did not win an award in the first phase of Race to the Top funding, our selection as a finalist, as well as the recent news that Kentucky made the greatest gains in reading scores in the nation, persuades us that we are on the right track. With the combined efforts of my office, the Department of Education (KDE) and the General Assembly, Kentucky will remain a strong contender for the second phase of these federal funds. In the meantime we will continue to move forward with our vision for education reform through the ongoing efforts of the Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky task force, as well as the implementation of Senate Bill 1 of 2009. With the successful passage of Senate Bill 176, as well as other pending legislation, we can strengthen our Phase 2 application, and I will continue to work with KDE and the General Assembly to find other areas we can improve upon.”

Kentucky's Application PDF (18.0M);

Appendix PDF (92.7M);

Score sheet PDF (50.8K) and

Reviewers' comments and scores PDF (19.2M) at US Ed.

The U.S. Department of Education will have about $3.4 billion available for the second phase of the Race to the Top competition.

“We set a very high bar for the first phase,” Duncan said. “With $3.4 billion still available, we’re providing plenty of opportunity for all other states to develop plans and aggressively pursue reform.”

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is an unprecedented federal investment in reform. The program includes $4 billion for statewide reform grants and $350 million to support states working together to improve the quality of their assessments. The Race to the Top state competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for the first phase of grants. Delaware and Tennessee were selected from among 16 finalists who presented their proposals to panels of peer reviewers earlier this month.

The peer reviewers awarded the highest scores to Delaware and Tennessee. They awarded Delaware and Tennessee high marks for the commitment to reform from key stakeholders, including elected officials, teacher’s union leaders, and business leaders. In both states, all school districts committed to implementing Race to the Top reforms. Delaware and Tennessee also have aggressive plans to improve teacher and principal evaluation, use data to inform instructional decisions, and turn around their lowest-performing schools. In addition, both states have put in place strong laws and policies to support their reform efforts.

Applications for Phase 2 of Race to the Top are due on June 1, 2010. To help states as they prepare their proposals and to continue the nationwide dialogue on education reform, the Department of Education has made all Phase 1 applications, peer reviewers’ comments, and scores available on its website; videos of states’ presentations will be posted next week.

The Department is making one change to the rules for the Phase 2 competition. To fund as many strong applications as possible, the Department of Education is requiring states’ budgets to be within the ranges that were suggested in the original notice.

Why Delaware and Tennessee Won Race to the Top

This from Politics K-12:

In two words: stakeholder support. Both states had strong plans and significant buy-in from local school districts and teachers' unions.


• Unanimous participation, broad collaboration: 100% of the state's districts and teachers signed on; 100% of the state's students will benefit; stakeholders include governor, state education department, local districts (LEAs), unions, business community

• New state law on teacher/principal effectiveness: no educators can be rated as "effective" unless their students demonstrate satisfactory levels of growth; teachers rated as "ineffective" for two to three years can be removed from the classroom, even if they have tenure

• Financial incentives help to more equitably distribute effective talent: teacher and principals can earn transfer bonuses and up to $10,000 per year for teaching in high-need schools and subjects

• Turnarounds, or "time-limited escalation" strategy: allows an identified school to locally bargain for implementation of turnaround or transformation model; if unsuccessful, the state implements restart or closure model; school must show improvement within two years

The folks at Prichard remain optimistic, saying that even though Kentucky did not receive funding in the first round of funding, good things are happening:

Stronger standards - with Kentucky leaders committed to the common core approach.

More effective evaluation methods.

Better-aligned principal and teacher preparation programs.

More intense intervention in the state's weakest schools.

Better integrated P-16 data systems.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The National Policy Playing Field

Over at This Week in Education, Andrew Russo presented a peek at the policy playing field surrounding he reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, with his NCLB: Blueprint Commentary Cheat Sheet based on comments at the National Journal.
Could Duncan's catchphrase "tight on goals, loose on means" translate into a loss of accountability under the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act? What does the blueprint get right? What does it get wrong?

Russo suggested that the "smartypants at [the] National Journal" scored low on brilliance and innovation in his "entirely unofficial but extremely handy dandy summary, which may or may not be entirely accurate but will save you a lot of time."

Sandy Kress Former Senior Advisor on Education to President George W. Bush, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP – Very disappointed. Only focusing on the worst 5 % is a mistake. This is too ‘loose’ an approach of accountability. More federal pressure to ensure disadvantaged students are being served well is needed.

Diane Ravitch Research Professor Of Education, New York University - Still too focused on ‘measure and punish,’ the prescription for lowest 5 % is worse than current NCLB tactics.

Ellen Moir Executive Director, New Teacher Center - Applauds the focus on teachers as professionals laid out in blueprint. Collecting teacher survey data on professional support and working conditions is a great idea.

Rep. John Kline R-Minn., Senior Republican, Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives - Lack of specifics on the blueprint is a good thing. The gov is on a slippery slope when it comes to nationalization of standards and assessment.

Richard Rothstein Research Associate, Economic Policy Institute - Blueprint has some good thoughts but a host of problems. The economic recession and fiscally starved public schools are not compatible with the competitive funding propositions. Middle class students may be entirely left out of accountability. Best hope for blueprint at moment is that it may lead to the Secretary handing out waivers to states for non-compliance with current NCLB.

Frederick M. Hess Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute - A lighter federal role on school intervention is a good thing, but Hess isn’t convinced it won’t turn out to be more prescriptive than the rhetoric would lead you to believe. Replacing AYP and removing burdensome--but no necessarily helpful--sanctions is a good thing.

Steve Peha President, Teaching That Makes Sense - Blueprint doesn’t present a vision for a new form of education, which is needed for ed reform. Without a new vision on form, it’s not possible to evaluate the blueprint.

Monty Neill Deputy Director, FairTest - Blueprint relies too heavily on standardized testing. Congress should largely reject it and construct a new one.

Tom Vander Ark Partner, Revolution Learning; served for seven years as Executive Director of Education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Blueprint gives up on promise to ensure every American family that they have access to at least one good school. Dropping tutoring and school choice for parents is disappointing. There are other good aspects to Blueprint.

Sherman Dorn University of South Florida, Professor of education history - The blueprint takes steps in the right direction. CCR is an improvement over AYP, schools can’t be measured in the same way: They face different problems. Not enough research to support turnaround prescriptions; let’s invest in research on that.

Deborah McGriff Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund, a Gates funded, pro charter school effort - blueprint keeps hope alive. Those criticizing competitive funding as an attack on equality in education miss the point: Formula funding hasn’t produced equality. Disappointed that school choice wasn’t replaced with something else.

Michael L. Lomax President and CEO, the United Negro College Fund - Blueprint is a good step forward. It’s important to remember that it’s a beginning, not a conclusion. Student-lending reform and ESEA show admin’s commitment to a comprehensive policy on education.

Education Unit Helps Lift Pearson's Net Profit

This from the Wall Street Journal:

Education and publishing company Pearson PLC reported a 46% jump in 2009 net profit to £425 million ($648 million) Monday, boosted by an education business that CEO Marjorie Scardino says could be helped further by U.S. President Barack Obama's push for common state standards in math and reading.

Pearson's North American education division, which comprises the company's largest business and includes Prentice Hall, reported £2.47 billion in sales for 2009, a 5% increase at constant exchange rates.

Overall, the company reported £5.62 billion in sales, up 4% at constant exchange rates from £4.81 billion last year.

The education division's growth could be boosted in the U.S. in the coming year as 48 states develop common core education standards for math and language arts as part of a voluntary state-led effort encouraged by the White House, Ms. Scardino said.

The implementation of core standards would reduce the burden Pearson faces in adapting materials to individual state requirements. It could also open up an opportunity for Pearson to win a new contract measuring the progress of that common-standards initiative. The degree to which Pearson will reap benefits depends on how many states ultimately opt into the common standards and how specific they are.

Ms. Scardino said Pearson could also benefit from $4.35 billion in "Race to the Top" grants the Obama administration will begin distributing to states this year for education innovation and reform. Data systems that measure student success, one of Pearson's key product areas, are an emphasis of the grant plan. ...
Disclosure: Pearson Custom Publishing produced Schooling in Kentucky, eds 1 & 2 which I use for and educational foundations course.

From the Nation's Cartoonists

These from Slate:

Judge: Rights Violated in Prom Case, But No Injunction

This from Mark Walsh at the School Law Blog:

A Mississippi school district likely violated the free speech rights of a lesbian student when it refused her permission to take her girlfriend to the prom or to wear a tuxedo, a federal district judge has ruled.

But U.S. Senior District Judge Glen H. Davidson, of Aberdeen, Miss., denied an injunction that would have required the 3,700-student Itawamba County School District to reinstate the April 2 school-sponsored prom, which was canceled March 10 amid the controversy over the request by student Constance McMillen.

Because parents have stepped forward to put on a private, inclusive prom open to all students of Itawamba Agricultural High School, "the court finds that requiring defendants to step back into a sponsorship role at this late date would only confuse and confound the community on the issue," Judge Davidson said in his March 23 opinion in McMillen v. Itawamba County School District.

Despite his refusal to grant the injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union on the student's behalf, the judge's preliminary ruling was that McMillen's First Amendment rights were violated...

Backstory from CBS News.

Principals Group Calls Obama's Four Strategies for Low-Performing Schools "Misguided"

This from NASSP:

Oppose Principal Firing through the Four Models!

NASSP has been steadfast in our opposition to the four models for school reform that would all require the principal’s replacement as a condition for receiving funds under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.

We remain very concerned that the U.S. Department of Education will try to expand this misguided strategy as part of its proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We therefore, encourage you to visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) at, and urge your members of Congress to oppose any legislation that encompasses the four models for school improvement.

Specifically, the SIG guidance requires districts to use SIG funds to implement one of four interventions in the identified, low-performing schools:

Turnaround Model, which includes replacing the principal and at least 50% of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new and revised instructional program;

Restart Model, which would require a district to close the school and reopen it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an educational management organization;

School Closure, which would require a district to close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in other, high-achieving schools within the district; or

Transformation Model, which would require a district to replace the principal and develop and increase teacher and school leader effectiveness by implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies such as extending learning time, creating community-oriented schools, and providing sustained support and operating flexibility with staff, calendar, and budget.

Congress does have the authority to modify the SIG requirements through legislation, although it is unlikely to do so outside of reauthorizing ESEA.

As you may know, the current SIG guidance requires states to target funding only to the lowest-performing schools in the state, including middle and high schools that are eligible for, but not currently receiving, Title I funds. But there is concern among the education community that the proposal could be expanded to impact additional schools, and as a result, the principals that lead them.

In December 2009, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Graduation for All Act (H.R. 4122) to authorize a $2 billion competitive grant program for districts to support high schools with low graduation rates and their feeder middle schools. The bill requires districts to implement one of the four Models of Success in each of the schools being served.

NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi has expressed his concerns with the legislation to Chairman Miller and the other cosponsors, and submitted formal comments on ESEA reauthorization that include our recommendations for middle level and high school reform.

British school condemned after pupils left in tears by mock shooting

Schoolchildren were left in tears
after seeing one of their teachers shot down
by a crazed gunman in the playground
in a role-playing stunt organised by staff.

This from the Telegraph:

Blackminster Middle School in Evesham, Worcs, faced condemnation from parents after their children were left traumatised by the mock shooting.

The youngsters, aged between 10 and 13, thought they were taking part in a fire drill when an alarm bell rang and they were ushered out into the playground.
But they were left in terror as a man appeared brandishing a gun and appeared to shoot dead Richard Kent, their science teacher, as he ran across a field.

Following a loud bang simulating a gunshot, other staff involved in the act rushed to the teacher's aid and appeared to try to resuscitate him.

There was a delay of 10 minutes before weeping pupils were taken back to the assembly hall where teachers explained that the pretend shooting had been laid on as part of a science lesson. But some of the children were left in shock with some being sick and one girl suffering a panic attack, parents claim.

The school was forced to apologise to parents, admitting that the stunt on Tuesday afternoon had gone “too far” and that pupils should have had their fears allayed sooner....

The Big Idea -- it's bad education policy

Once a proponent of charter schools and other nouveau reform efforts when she served in the George H W Bush administration, Diane Ravitch has changed her mind, repented and now adopts the role of Cassandra in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She warns that schools are not like businesses, yet powerful businessmen create foundations that launch unsuccesful school reforms on little evidence, and contribute greatly to (and probably lead) federal education policy. The book is worth the read. Her recent Op-Ed is a taste.

One simple solution for our schools?
A captivating promise, but a false one.

This from Diane Ravitch in the LA Times:

There have been two features that regularly mark the history of U.S. public schools.

Over the last century, our education system has been regularly captivated by a Big Idea -- a savant or an organization that promised a simple solution to the problems of our schools. The second is that there are no simple solutions, no miracle cures to those problems.

Education is a slow, arduous process that requires the work of willing students, dedicated teachers and supportive families, as well as a coherent curriculum. As an education historian, I have often warned against the seductive lure of grand ideas to reform education. Our national infatuation with education fads and reforms distracts us from the steady work that must be done.Our era is no different.

We now face a wave of education reforms based on the belief that school choice, test-driven accountability and the resulting competition will dramatically improve student achievement.Once again, I find myself sounding the alarm that the latest vision of education reform is deeply flawed. But this time my warning carries a personal rebuke. For much of the last two decades, I was among those who jumped aboard the choice and accountability bandwagon. Choice and accountability, I believed, would offer a chance for poor children to escape failing schools.

Testing and accountability, I thought, would cast sunshine on low-performing schools and lead to improvement. It all seemed to make sense, even if there was little empirical evidence, just promise and hope.

Today there is empirical evidence, and it shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working. But with confidence bordering on recklessness, the Obama administration is plunging ahead, pushing an aggressive program of school reform -- codified in its signature Race to the Top program -- that relies on the power of incentives and competition. This approach may well make schools worse, not better...

New York schools' ban on homemade goods at bake sales has parents steamed

Low-fat Doritos and Pop Tarts are in;
goodies baked at home are out.

School officials say they're fighting obesity.

Angry parents say it sends the wrong message about food habits.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

Parents, teachers and children stage
a "bake-in" to protest New York City's
ban on homemade goods in public school bake sales,
in part because they don't list nutritional content.
(Michael Appleton / For The Times / March 18, 2010)

Homemade spinach pies are out; packaged baked potato chips are in. Mom's pumpkin bread is out; Kellogg's Pop-Tarts are in -- but they must be the whole-grain brown-sugar cinnamon variety.

At public school bake sales, Pop-Tarts are among 29 items the Department of Education has deemed nutritionally sound enough to sell in lieu of homemade goods, which have been banned in part because they do not list nutritional content.

Parents say the regulation, issued last month, pushes kids to eat processed food and undercuts parental efforts to teach nutrition at home by outlawing homemade goodies like organic popcorn balls and vegan cookies, which they argue are healthier than anything housed in a vending machine."

What's the message we're sending here? That highly processed foods are healthier than food cooked at home," said Elizabeth Puccini, the mother of two elementary school pupils in Manhattan."You're bound to create a lifetime of bad eating habits with that," said Puccini, who organized a "bake-in" outside City Hall on Thursday to protest the rules.

Even by New York standards, it was an unusual gathering. Scores of parents, teachers and children banged wooden spoons, whisks, sifters and pots and pans while chanting, "Read our lips, no more chips!" and waving signs reading, "Save our bake sales" and "Pure, not processed."Protesters set up two tables laden with goods. One featured banned items: plates of mini- empanadas, vanilla cupcakes with pale pink icing, and pumpkin bread among them. The other showed what is permitted, such as bags of low-fat Doritos, granola bars and packaged cookies.

The Department of Education says the regulations are aimed at combating obesity among the city's more than 1.1 million public school children, about 40% of whom are overweight. By restricting bake sale offerings to goods limited in calories and wrapped in packaging that lists nutritional information, schools will help children reduce their intake of unhealthy snacks, officials say...

The New Poor

Susana Holloway of Le Cordon Bleu’s culinary school
in Portland, Ore., where
a 15- or 21-month program costs $41,000.

This from the New York Times, Photo by Leah Nash:
One fast-growing American industry has become a conspicuous beneficiary of the recession: for-profit colleges and trade schools.

At institutions that train students for careers in areas like health care, computers and food service, enrollments are soaring as people anxious about weak job prospects borrow aggressively to pay tuition that can exceed $30,000 a year.

But the profits have come at substantial taxpayer expense while often delivering dubious benefits to students, according to academics and advocates for greater oversight of financial aid.

Critics say many schools exaggerate the value of their degree programs, selling young people on dreams of middle-class wages while setting them up for default on untenable debts, low-wage work and a struggle to avoid poverty. And the schools are harvesting growing federal student aid dollars, including Pell grants awarded to low-income students.

“If these programs keep growing, you’re going to wind up with more and more students who are graduating and can’t find meaningful employment,” said Rafael I. Pardo, a professor at Seattle University School of Law and an expert on educational finance. “They can’t generate income needed to pay back their loans, and they’re going to end up in financial distress.” ...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Public Art Therapy as Advocacy for Victims of Domestic Violence

A strikingly simple, yet effective, protest took place on EKU's campus Wednesday night in the form of art therapy for its participants. As part of "Take Back the Night," EKU women, organized by Melissa Dunn, participated in the Clothesline Project.

This from Cathy Malchiodi in Psychology Today:

The tradition of art as a voice for domestic violence survivors has spawned a number of well-known programs, including the Clothesline Project, a project to address violence against women. In 1990, visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper, inspired by the AIDS quilt, presented the concept of using shirts hanging on a clothesline as a way to raise consciousness. Since doing the laundry was always considered women's work and women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry, the concept of the clothesline became the vehicle. Each year thousands of women now tell their stories of survival—and commemorate victims who died from domestic violence—by using words and/or artwork to decorate a t-shirt to be exhibited on a clothesline. And programs such as A Window Between Worlds in Venice, CA, serve as models for how art helps both women and children develop a sense of hope, possibility, and safety.

Sex Offender Living Near School Spurs Neighborhood Controversy Before Heading Back to Jail

Since it is illegal to impose consequences on criminals retroactively (individuals must be tried under the laws that exist at any given time) there are some number of convicted sex offenders are still living near schools. This would not be permitted for individuals convicted after 2006. It is also a difficult situation for a principal to handle since doing the right thing will undoubtedly get one into trouble of one sort or another. (Some KSN&C readers may recall I was once reprimanded for exceeding my authority when I alerted Cassidy parents to a man who was cruising our playground. I really got into dutch when I told my boss, and his boss, that I would do it again.)

But after elementary parents in Louisville rousted a neighborhood perpetrator, and he was found by police violating his probation, it's back to jail for 90 days.

KSN&C heard from upset parents at Bloom Elementary School this week. They were upset because the school did not alert them to the perpetrator's presence, across the street from where their children play.

This from C-J:

He is a convicted sex offender living across the playground from Bloom Elementary School — and it is perfectly legal for him to do so.

David J. Southard is one of roughly 1,200 sex offenders convicted before Kentucky changed its law in 2006 to bar all offenders, rather than only those on probation and parole, from living nears schools, parks and daycare centers.

Last October, the state high court held that the new law couldn’t be applied retroactively to people whose offenses occurred before the law was changed. And on March 8, without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court said it wouldn’t hear an appeal from Kentucky attorney general’s office.

But some of Southard’s neighbors who have children at Bloom have demanded that he move by April 1, threatening to sue him and publicize his crimes if he doesn’t, his family says.

The controversy has divided Bloom parents and posed a dilemma for principal Janice Bobo, who says Louisville Metro Police advised her while she could refer parents to the Kentucky State Police sex offender’s Web site, posting or distributing fliers with his picture might be considered harassment...

...Jane Walsh, a member of Bloom’s site-based decision-making council, said she realizes there are “shades of gray” in the sex-offender law — that not all offenders’ victims are children and that such statutes have made it nearly impossible for some offenders to find a place to live.

But she said of Southard: “I don’t think this is much gray here. I think it is pretty straightforward. As a parent, you worry about him living next to a school.”

Some other parents, including Mary Beth Rother and Teresa Dowell Inman, said they think they should have received more explicit notice from the school.

Principal Bobo said she learned last fall that Southard was living across from the school’s playground and called Louisville police, who told her he was living there legally.

Bobo said a couple of parents who are attorneys contacted Southard and asked if he would move. She said she distributed a copy of Southard’s picture to teachers and staff, and has informally told parents who inquired to look at the sex-offender Web site...

According to court records, Southard and two roommates were charged with sodomizing a 5-year-old boy in 1998. He served 10 years behind bars before being released in July 2008. That's when he moved in with his father near Greathouse/Shyrock Traditional Elementary School where he was arrested one month later for allegedly stalking a boy and for living within 1,000 feet of a school. He pleaded guilty of grabbing his crotch and beckoning to the boy, and was given a 365-day jail sentence that was suspended for two years. Southard's no-alcohol, no-pornography probation went awry when police found beer and a "Boys Will Be Boys" video tape in his apartment. The County Attorney sought and obtained a revocation of his probation.

This from C-J:

David J. Southard, a registered sex offender who lives legally across from Bloom Elementary School, was ordered Thursday to serve 90 days in jail for violating the terms of his probation on a stalking conviction.
The county attorney’s office sought to revoke his probation after he was found to have beer and an adult pornographic video in his apartment. District Judge Mason Trenaman instead ordered to him serve 90 days in jail, after which he will be placed back on probation. Southard’s family said he had had agreed to move voluntarily by April 1, after some Bloom parents objected to him living across from the school. It was unclear whether those plans will change because of Thursday’s order.

Kentucky has 7,860 registered offenders, with roughly 60 percent required to register for life because they were convicted of rape, sodomy or multiple or violent offenses. Attorney General Jack Conway told C-J that he was disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the Kentucky high court’s 5-2 decision striking down the state’s attempt to retroactively apply the residency restrictions to sex offenders. The court said that doing so violates the constitutional ban on increasing punishment for crimes after the fact. The law bars sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, licensed day-care centers and public parks with pools or playgrounds.

OK, so it was a temporary victory for the parents.

But Bloom parents were upset about more than the neighborhood offender. They were upset with the way the district has - or has not - handled the situation.

Apparently stories on the incident first appeared at until someone complained to WordPress. That site has now been taken down, reportedly because the blogger did not own the words "Bloom Elementary." But now, at Bloom Elementary Overload the blogging persists. One imagines that if this site is taken down, the next will be titled Bloom Elementary Sux" etc., etc. Overload posted the following,

Keep Those Babies Close and File a Complaint: A Convicted Sex Offender Lives Across the Street from Bloom Elementary

Heads up, Bloom parents!

Ya think a sex offender living at 1610 Lucia Avenue is watching our babies on the playground? He used to live with his father near Greathouse Elementary but was caught by police following a child.


After you click the above link, click on Search the Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry. Then, enter the zip code 40204 to find the resident of 1610 Lucia Avenue.
Do staff members at Bloom know about this guy? Of course they do! An LMPD detective confirmed this with me today. Your principal knows but has remained largely silent.

Did anyone bother to let parents know that a convicted pedophile is living within a stone’s throw of our school? Of course not!

But it is not clear that the school failed to respond.

Parent Jennifer Schlechty reported to Overload that the school did send a notice on or about March 10th, but that notice did not include the name, address or photo of Southard, and other parents said that was not a proper notice, and "doesn't count."

Believing that it was Jefferson County school officials who, upset that parents were being alerted to a sex offender in the neighborhood, complained to WordPress, Bloom Elementary Overload also posted this:

when a parent starts blabbing about a convicted
sex offender living across the street from Bloom’s playground

“Hey, giiirrrl!
Let’s shut down that blog that’s telling parents about the child molester
and pretend we didn’t do it!
Wiggy, wiggy, wiggy!!”

School News from Around Kentucky

Jury convicts all 8 defendants in Clay vote-buying case: Some of the most powerful public officials in Clay County corrupted elections in recent years, buying and stealing votes in pursuit of power and money, a federal jury ruled Thursday. The jury convicted all eight people on trial, including former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle, 66, and former school Superintendent Douglas C. Adams, 58, on a charge that they engaged in organized criminal acts to rig elections. After a seven-week trial, jurors deliberated about nine hours before convicting the defendants on all the charges they faced, which included vote-buying, mail fraud, extortion and money laundering. (Herald-Leader)

A one-year delay - Reason for putting off hike in dropout age a bit puzzling: The Senate Education Committee has amended the House-approved bill raising the minimum dropout age from 16 to 18, but not before approving an amendment that will delay implementation of the new law by a year. While we have no strong objections to the change, we are a bit puzzled by the explanation Senate Education Committee Chairman Ken Winters, R-Murray, gave for the amendment.Under the House-approved bill, the minimum dropout age would be raised from 16 to 17 in 2014 and to 18 a year later. Under the Senate amendment, the dropout age would be raised to 17 in 2015 and to 18 a year later.Winters said delaying the effective date gives students and parents more time to adjust to the higher dropout age. Just how much time does one need to adjust to quitting school? (Daily-Independent)

Leading schools - Keep chief's evaluations open: The open meetings law already allows school boards to go into private session to discuss hiring, firing and disciplining superintendents. The legislature should not rob the public of its right to hear what school board members have to say during a superintendent's annual evaluation. Senate Bill 178, which is a House vote away from passage, would close preliminary evaluations to the public while requiring that only final evaluations be discussed and voted on in public. The House Education Committee approved SB 178 after hearing testimony that school board members would shy away from having a frank discussion about the superintendent in front of the public and press. That line of reasoning ignores why we have sunshine laws: The people who pay the taxes and depend on public schools to educate the state's children have a right to hear those frank discussions. It's the public's business, and the House should respect that by rejecting this rollback of Kentucky's sunshine laws. (H-L)

Commissioner Holliday to superintendents - cuts are coming, prepare to deal with it: Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has challenged the state’s superintendents to find ways to deal with anticipated SEEK funding cuts in the 2010-2012 budget being negotiated in the General Assembly. And Holliday offered to work one-on-one with any who don’t think they can make ends meet without reducing students’ classroom learning time. “Surely as superintendents we can figure out ways to address a 1 percent to 1.5 percent cut,” Holliday said in a Wednesday afternoon webinar for the state’s chief district administrators. “I know we’ve had lots of cuts. It’s difficult. But as a local superintendent (in North Carolina), I had to make a 10 percent cut. We didn’t cut any instructional time and we made sure the money went to the classroom. My challenge to you today is to do that. “I know you are getting mad at me. Some of you are steaming at the collar. But as commissioner, my No. 1 priority is instructional time for children. We cannot be seen as backing up on instruction,” he said. (KSBA)

No to shadowy dealings: ‘It's sometimes difficult to be totally honest in front of the press.” That startling statement was made yesterday by Sara Call, a member of the Frankfort Independent Schools board, speaking in favor of Senate Bill 178, which would close portions of school board meetings in Kentucky to the public. Ms. Call went on to describe such sessions, in which superintendents are subject to evaluation, as a time when board members need to have conversations that are “frank, honest and sometimes painful. She said that closing a portion of the evaluation would allow board members to have difficult conversations that might not occur in an open meeting...This is a bad bill. The present sunshine law already permits closing the meetings for truly private issues. The Senate passed it already, so if the full House takes it up and passes it, Gov. Steve Beshear should put it at the top of his list to veto. (C-J)

Closed doors don't foster accountability: In several recent court rulings, school board members preferring that their thoughts about how their superintendents are performing remain private have found that the law wasn't on their side. Now they're trying to change the law.Senate Bill 178 was approved by the House Education Committee Tuesday, and assuming it passes the full House and becomes law, school districts could conduct any preliminary discussions about the evaluation of superintendents in closed session.Rep. Jim Glenn, an Owensboro Democrat and one of nine who voted against the bill Tuesday, had it right when he questioned why board members would have one thing to say in private, but something different once they are in public."I'm an elected official. I'm required to be frank. I don't understand why they have a concern with that," Glenn said after the hearing. "That's what you're elected to do, and the public should have a chance to hear it." (Messenger-Inquirer; subscription required)

Exercise bill is well intentioned, just not practical: House Bill 52 is a well-intentioned piece of legislation, but we believe that it would take away students’ time from the primary purpose of Kentucky’s schools - education.The bill would mandate that 30 minutes of physical activity be set aside each day for schoolchildren attending K-5 schools and encourage schools with grades 6-8 to adopt similar policies. The intentions behind the bill are to reduce obesity and improve body mass index in children.Again, this bill sounds very good in theory, but there are some concerns being raised by Warren County and Bowling Green school officials that appear to have validity.They say the measure presents difficulties from a school facilities standpoint and a scheduling perspective. From a facilities standpoint, there are some problems such as how would this be implemented in the winter months when it’s too cold for kids to go outside or when it is raining or snowing? (Daily News)

House leaders hear governor's suggestions, concerns on budget: The Senate's $17.3 billion budget includes deeper cuts to almost all state agencies than the House's $17.5 billion budget. The House's version calls for 2 percent cuts in the first year of the budget and exempts some social services and other programs. The Senate's version calls for across-the-board cuts of about 1.5 percent on top of the House's 2 percent cuts in the first year, and for a 1 percent cut in the second year. The House and Senate versions also differ in cuts to K-12 education. The House proposed cutting two instructional days, while the Senate proposed cutting 1.5 percent from the main funding formula for schools and an additional 1 percent in the second year. It restored the two days but did not add any money to pay for them. The Senate gave schools greater flexibility in how to use some state money but also suspended some rules about classroom size and teacher credentials. Stumbo said earlier Thursday that he knew the Senate budget would not pass the House as it stands. The cuts to education are too deep, Stumbo said, noting that cuts to one of his local school districts would be more than $600,0000. Not funding those two school days is an "unfunded mandate," Stumbo said. (H-L)

Education leader looks to Madison County for ideas: Kentucky Commissioner of Education Dr. Terry Holliday visited several Madison County schools on Wednesday to tour the campuses and interact with students.Holliday began the day at B. Michael Caudill Middle School and Glenn R. Marshall Elementary School, participating with Madison County Schools superintendent Tommy Floyd in a district-wide live broadcast to students...Holliday next made a trip to Madison Central High School, where he met with students in the Superintendent’s Teen Task Force, Student Voice and the African American Male Mentoring Program, asking students what they thought could be done to improve education in Kentucky.“Last year, 7,000 students dropped out of school in Kentucky,” Holliday said. “Every day in the U.S., 7,000 dropped out. I’m real worried about that. That’s a dead end street, dropping out of school.”Students often drop out because of boredom or a feeling that they are not important, said Holliday.“How can we change high school so more students graduate and are ready to face the world?” He asked. (Richmond Register)

Bullitt Central teacher sued by student who claimed sexual abuse: The Bullitt County teacher charged with sexual abuse involving a 16-year-old female student has been named in a lawsuit filed by the student and her family. The lawsuit, filed Feb. 22 in Bullitt Circuit Court, also names Bullitt Central High School's principal and three assistant principals. Timothy Lands, 43, was charged with first-degree sexual abuse in January and was suspended without pay from his job as a social studies teacher at the Shepherdsville high school. (C-J)

JCPS sees progress in student-assignment plans - Board members say they are expecting much smoother start for classes this fall: After listening to an update on a number of operational changes for Jefferson County Public Schools' new student assignment plan, school board members said Monday night they believe the changes will mean a much smoother start this fall. “I think this year will be much better,” member Carol Haddad said. “It won't be perfect, but it will be better.” District officials have acknowledged the student-assignment plan's first year was bumpy with complaints of long bus rides, students getting on the wrong buses and not being notified promptly of their school assignment. “We've solved an enormous amount of problems,” Superintendent Sheldon Berman said. “We are light years ahead of where we were last year.” (C-J)

Schools asked to try alternative discipline - Group wants kids to remain in class: A group of religious organizations and concerned citizens will meet with local education and court officials Monday night to promote alternative discipline methods as a way to stop “the school to prison pipeline.” Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, which will hold the meeting at the Kentucky International Convention Center, plans to push for restorative justice, a form of discipline that seeks to avoid removing problem students from regular classrooms and schools. The program, which is in use in New Zealand, requires that offenders face their victims, who would address the offending students directly before other punishment may be handed out.
Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church and co-chair of the group's crime and violence issues committee, said the method is designed to make the students understand their mistakes and restore them to the classroom. “Punishment is retaliatory,” he said in an e-mail. "Restorative justice transforms the offense by making the offender face the harm they've done and trust they've broken.” (C-J)

School system should’ve been more proactive: Two recent incidents involving Warren County schools raise valid concerns about the school system’s failure to advise the parents of alleged victims in a timely manner.The first incident involves allegations made against Warren Elementary School Principal Phillip Shelton.Shelton is accused of inappropriately touching a 10-year-old female student on the buttocks in a classroom March 9. The teacher in the room at the time made an anonymous call to the Warren County Board of Education to report the incident on March 10. The student told her parents that day after talking to her teacher.Shelton was suspended with pay March 11.It appears the school system took the appropriate action in suspending Shelton, but the fact is, school officials never notified the child’s parents of the incident.In another alleged incident, this time on March 8 on a school bus carrying students home from Oakland Elementary School, a 9-year-old boy is accused of fondling three 5-year-old girls, but again, parents weren’t notified of the incident until several days later. (Daily News)