Friday, July 30, 2010

Kentucky's RTTT Team Announced


On Tuesday, August 10, five individuals will be in Washington, D.C. to present Kentucky’s plan to the Race to the Top peer reviewers.

The five are:

  • Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky Education Commissioner
  • David Cook, director of the Division of Innovation and Partner Engagement, Kentucky Department of Education
  • Mary Ann Blankenship, executive director of the Kentucky Education Association
  • Tim Hanner, superintendent of the Kenton County school district
  • Dr. Aaron Thompson, interim vice-president of the Council on Postsecondary Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that 18 states (including Kentucky) and the District of Columbia are the finalists for more than $3 billion available in the second round of funding in the Race to the Top program. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of Race to the Top.

The 19 finalists are Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

The finalists will travel to Washington during the week of August 9 to present their plans to the peer reviewers who scored their applications. After the state's presentations and an extended question-and-answer period, the peer reviewers will finalize their scores and comments.

The U.S. Department of Education intends to announce the winners of the competition in September.

More information, including applications for this round of Race to the Top funding, is available here.

EKU College Bass Masters !

We're # 1
Jonas Ertel and Tyler Moberly of Eastern Kentucky University looked at a map of Brewer Lake for about 10 seconds Friday night.

They had just been told it’s where they’d fish for the College Bass National Championship and this was their first look at the body of water.

“Where would you go?” Ertel asked Moberly. Moberly pointed to a spot offshore. Ertel smiled, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

They had a limit from the spot by 7 a.m. and never left on their way to a 21.39-pound limit that beat second place Georgia by almost 10 pounds. They caught the majority of their fish on a football jig.

The national championship, sponsored by ESPN, will be shown on ESPNU tonight, Saturday night, and Sunday morning. Programs will air at 5 p.m. tonight, July 30; 3 p.m. tomorrow, July 31; and 3 a.m., Aug. 1.

July 30, 5-6 p.m.; July 31, 3-6 p.m.; Aug. 1, 3-5 a.m. Location: ESPNU

“I thought we had it won by 7 a.m.,” said Moberly, who has finished seventh twice in the national championship. “But I started getting more and more nervous as the day went on.”

EKU was the only team that didn’t hit the banks early. Both Moberly and Ertel said they’re more comfortable fishing deep and they do a lot of it in Kentucky, specifically on Kentucky Lake.

“We’re used to sitting in 50 feet of water and throwing into 30 feet,” Ertel said.

Brewer Lake set up perfectly for the pair, but Moberly said it was a stroke of luck that got them that far. After weighing in 8.51 pounds off the Arkansas River on Thursday (eighth place), Moberly said he was excited to see that safety concerns was moving the tournament to Maumelle, a deep, clear lake.

“I don’t think we would have made the cut if the event has stayed on the river,” Moberly said. “Everything worked in our favor.”

Randy Tolbert and Ben Cleary, the team from Georgia who brought in a field-stomping 14.55 pounds on Day One of the event, said he knew they might be in trouble after a short look at Brewer Lake.

“I knew EKU was going to be tough to beat because it really fit their style of fishing,” Tolbert said.

Alabama’s Dustin Connell and Daniel Taylor finished third with 7.88 pounds despite fishing without a graph.

“I knew they were going to be deep, but we had no choice but to fish shallow,” Connell said.

The two teams that tied for the heaviest two-day weight coming into the final – Louisiana State and Northwestern Sate – both struggled on Saturday.

“I knew things were breaking down as soon as I started fishing deep,” said Doug McClung of LSU. “The deepest water in Louisiana is in my bathtub.”

Paul Rini, of Northwestern State, said they had the same trouble – there just aren’t many good deep lakes in Louisiana to practice.

“Most of what I know about fishing deep I’ve learned in the College Bass events,” Rini said. “I’m getting better, but it’s a process.”

As for the champions, who snuck in by .15 ounces over Arkansas on Friday and fell into a perfect situation on Saturday, they said it was EKU’s time.

“I can’t even talk right now,” Ertel said. “This is crazy. My head is going wild right now.”

Moberly said he hopes this helps raise EKU’s status among the top clubs in the country.

“A lot of people overlook EKU, but we’re always at the top,” he said. “It feels good to show people what we’re capable of.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Civil Rights Groups Call for New Federal Education Agenda

This from Politics K-12:
Seven leading civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Urban League, called on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today to dismantle core pieces of his education agenda, arguing that his emphases on expanding charter schools, closing low-performing schools, and using competitive rather than formula funding are detrimental to low-income and minority children.

The groups, which [yesterday] released their own education policy framework and created the National Opportunity to Learn campaign, want Duncan to make big changes to his draft proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Kentucky Still Alive in Phase 2 of Race to the Top

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced 19 finalists, including Kentucky, in the second phase of Race to the Top today. These states will now compete for a share of the $3.4 billion in the interview portion of the competition. 17 other states left the competition empty handed.

The finalists will be invited to send up to five people to argue their virtues before a panel of US Education Department judges in Washington during the week of August 9.

The amount of money remaining in the pot, however, will depend on which states may be selected in front of Kentucky. The list of states includes: Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. All finalists scored above 400 points on a 500-point scale. But if a few larger states are picked ahead of Kentucky the amount of remaining funds may dwindle. If Rep. David Obey's bill prevails in congress that amount could be $800 million less.

The winners will be announced in late August or early September.

Michele McNeil at Politics K-12 reckons,
...if New York, Florida, and California win and are awarded the maximum amount allowed by the Education Department's rules, they'll eat up $2.1 billion, or more than half of the remaining funds. Altogether, the states are asking for $6.2 billion, far more than the $3.4 billion that's available.

Monday, July 26, 2010

So, he was crazy when he shot those folks, but he feels better now and would like to get out of jail.

This from the Paducah Sun (subscription)
Carneal receives February hearing

A hearing that could last 10 days will be held in February to determine if Michael Carneal’s mental illness prevented him from appealing his guilty plea to the Dec. 1, 1997, murders of four Heath High School students.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell on Friday set the Feb. 7 hearing during a conference call with Carneal’s public defender and a representative of the state attorney general’s office...

Did the AG Just Open a Loophole for Future Schennagans?

Subtle Distinctions Seem to Confound Open Meetings Law

This murky ruling would seem to allow a future Education Commissioner (or current Commissioner Terry Holliday, in the future) to call together groups to conduct public business in private. According to the Attorney General, it all depends on who calls the meeting. See if you can figure this one out - 'cause I can't.

This from Toni Konz at C-J:

Education agency may have violated open meetings law,
attorney general says

The Kentucky Department of Education may have violated the state’s open meetings law when a committee met in private to interview candidates for an open seat on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Attorney General Jack Conway said in an opinion issued Friday.

Conway said that if the three-member committee that interviewed four women for the open school board seat was created by the Kentucky Board of Education — a public agency — then the law was violated. But if it was created by Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, it was not.

“On the KDE website, they say that the committee was created by the state board,” said Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Courier-Journal. “If that is the case, they violated the law by meeting in secret and for not following the process for going into closed session.”

But Kevin Brown, an attorney for the Kentucky Department of Education, has previously said that the screening process is “not an action of a public agency” because the board was created by Holliday.

“The opinion speaks for itself,” Brown said on Friday. “The commissioner’s actions were compliant with his duty under KRS 160.190.”

Brown said that the document on KDE’s website is in error and that it will be amended with correct information....

The newspaper argued that the screening committee is a public agency, because it was established by the education department, and that “all meetings of a quorum of the members of any public agency at which any public business is discussed” constitute a public meeting.

The attorney general’s opinion says that if the committee were created and controlled by the Kentucky Department of Education under the terms of the procedures document that was posted on the website, then the committee is a public agency. However, the opinion said there is no “empirical proof” to resolve that issue...

Race To The Top Phase 2 Finalists to be Announced Tomorrow at 1PM

Tomorrow - Tuesday, July 27, at 1:00 p.m. ET, the U.S. Department of Education will issue a press release announcing the Race to the Top Phase 2 finalists.

At the same time Education Secretary Arne Duncan will discuss "The Quiet Revolution" in education reform at a National Press Club luncheon wegbcast live.

In his address, Secretary Duncan will celebrate the wide range of reforms underway across the country at the state and local levels and will announce the Race to the Top finalists.

The event will be webcast live by the National Press Club. Click on the link that says “Calendar.” Once in the calendar, go to the right-hand side of the page, and click on “Arne Duncan.” The webcast will pop up. You will not be able to access this link until about 12:50 p.m., just a few minutes before Secretary Duncan begins his remarks.

For those who are unable to watch the event live, you may return to the National Press Club Web site and view the speech through their archived news events.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

From Alleged Felner Co-conspirator Thomas Schroeder's PreTrial Memo

Federal indictments allege that from 2001 to 2008 former Education Dean Robert Felner and alleged co-consprator Thomas Schroeder used a sham entity called the National Center on Public Education and Prevention (NCPEp) to execute a scheme to defraud.

In May, Felner was sentenced to 63 months in prison for his role in defrauding U of L and the University of Rhode Island of $2.3 million. Felner pleaded guilty to nine federal charges, including income tax evasion. In addition to prison time, Felner must pay restitution of $510,000 to U of L, $1.64 million to the University of Rhode Island and $88,750 to the Rock Island County Council on Addiction in Illinois.

Schroeder is essentially charged with mail fraud.

Count 1 charges that the two men executed their scheme using NCPEp to defraud the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a division of the University of Rhode Island (NCPE-URI), the Rock Island County Council on Addiction (RICCA), and the University of Louisville (UofL).

Count 2 charges they conspired to use NCPEp to launder the proceeds of the fraud charged in Count 1.

Count 3 charges that they conspired to defraud the Internal Revenue Service through, among other means, the use of NCPEp.

The government alleges Schroeder and Felner fraudulently used NCPEp to divert funds that were intended as payment for work actually completed. They diverted funds from three school districts, Santa Monica, Buffalo, and Atlanta. The invoiced work was never completed.

In all instances, NCPEp was invoicing the three school districts, RICCA, and UofL for work it did not complete. The only distinction was that Schroeder, on behalf of NCPEp, personally invoiced the three school districts and UofL, whereas Felner, on behalf of NCPEp, personally invoiced RICCA. The money from all three victims was laundered through NCPEp bank accounts controlled by Schroeder and/or Felner. RICCA was not aware of Schroeder’s involvement with NCPEp. Similarly, NCPE-URI and UofL were not aware of Felner’s involvement with NCPEp.

From its inception NCPEp was deliberately created as a subterfuge and from 2001 through 2008 NCPEp did no work. Instead, NCPEp was used exclusively to launder money stolen from URI, RICCA, and UofL. Schroeder’s fingerprints were all over NCPEp from the beginning in 2001 through the execution of a federal search warrant in 2008. NCPEp never filed a tax return.

Check out Page One Kentucky for more.

KDE Overhaul Prompted by Budget Cuts

In a cost-saving move prompted by a steady stream of cuts to the Kentucky Department of Education budget over recent years, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is proposing a reorganization of the Department that would eliminate four of the top 10 administrative posts under his office.

Last week Holliday fired two administrators, including former state Rep. Frank Rasche, the department's legislative liaison.

KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross told C-J, “Primarily this is being done for economic reasons — our budget cuts. But this also reflects the commissioner's vision by streamlining in a way that will allow us to focus on ... the strategic priorities of the [state Board of Education].”

Some of those in jobs being eliminated will move to lower-level positions in the department under the plan. Gross said the savings from eliminating top administrative jobs could amount to $500,000 annually...

Gross emphasized that an executive order enacting the proposal has not yet been signed by Gov. Steve Beshear. She said Holliday met with Beshear Wednesday to discuss it.

This from KDE Press release:

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is embarking on a new model of organization that is designed to make the agency more streamlined and efficient and to help provide services more effectively.

This reorganization proposal delineates a model that focuses on next-generation learners; next-generation schools and districts; support and services for all the agency’s constituents; information and data services; and more. KDE began operating under this new structure on Monday, July 19, and an executive order from the Governor’s Office formalizing the new organization will be forthcoming.

“This proposed reorganization addresses two major issues,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “First, this model will incur annual cost savings of approximately $500,000 in salaries with the elimination of higher-level positions and increase the efficiency of the agency. Second, this model enables the agency to directly address priorities related to Senate Bill 1 and other legislative mandates, Kentucky’s Race to the Top application and the Kentucky Board of Education’s strategic plan.”

The highlights of this model include:

  • a structure that provides more direct reporting to the commissioner of education from KDE offices
  • a logical distribution of programs, projects and teams based upon KDE’s core,
    guiding and support processes
  • grouping of efforts that address common activities and issues

The proposed organizational hierarchy is as follows:

  • The current structure of eight offices is streamlined to six offices, with a primary focus on the Kentucky Board of Education’s strategic priorities.
  • The number of operational divisions in KDE also is reduced by a third due to consolidation and redirection of strategic priorities.
  • Some office, division and branch names have been changed to reflect the changes in priorities and work.

Although office names have changed, and individuals within the agency may be assigned to new areas, KDE’s mission is the same: to prepare all Kentucky students for next-generation learning, work and citizenship by engaging schools, districts, families and communities through excellent leadership, service and support.

The proposed new organizational model will enable the agency to target the areas of greatest importance and provide the services schools and districts need to ensure student success, while complying with additional budget reductions required by the biennial budget shortfall.


Commissioner’s Office
Terry Holliday, Ph.D.

Office of Guiding Support Services/General Counsel
Kevin Brown, Associate Commissioner

Division of Communications and Community Engagement
Lisa Gross, Director

Division of District 180
Sally Sugg, Director

Division of Innovation and Partner Engagement
David Cook, Director

Office of Administration and Support
Hiren Desai, Associate Commissioner

Division of Budget and Financial Management
Charles Harman, Director

Division of Resource Management
Lynn McGowan-McNear, Director

Division of District Support
Kay Kennedy, Director

Division of School and Community Nutrition
Denise Hagan, Director

Office of Knowledge, Information and Data Services
David Couch, Associate Commissioner

Division of Engineering and Management
Mike Leadingham, Director

Division of Operations and Services
Phil Coleman, Director

Office of Next-Generation Schools and Districts
Larry Stinson, Associate Commissioner

Division of Consolidated Plans and Audits
Debbie Hicks, Director

Division of Next-Generation Professionals
Michael Dailey, Director

Office of Assessment and Accountability
Ken Draut, Associate Commissioner

Division of Assessment Design and Implementation
Kevin Hill, Director

Division of Support and Research
Rhonda Sims, Director

Office of Next-Generation Learners
Felicia Cumings-Smith, Associate Commissioner

Division of Program Standards
Michael Miller, Director

Division of Learning Services
Larry Taylor, Director

Division of Early Childhood
Annette Bridges, Director

EduJobs Bill on Life Support?

Last week Obama administration officials reiterated the president's threat to veto a proposed $10 billion education jobs fund measure if the new aid for schools comes at the expense of existing reform programs. Approved by the House on July 1 and awaiting reconciliation with a Senate version, the supplemental appropriations bill would fund the $10 billion intended to stave off teacher layoffs by trimming $500 million and $200 million from the Race to the Top and Teacher Incentive Grant programs, respectively, as well as another $100 million from the public charter school program. Nonetheless, the officials, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, made clear that they hope to avoid a veto by working with senators to identify appropriate offsets to pay for the bill.

At Politics K-12, Alison Klein writes,
Back when it was looking like Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was going to trim unspent funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to pay for edujobs, I thought it was pretty likely he'd take money out of the $650 million Investing in Innovation or 'i3' Fund. Instead, he ended up targeting the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund.

Klien's snooping suggests the reason for avoiding i3 may well be "that many folks in the House of Representatives were asked by non-profit organizations in their districts to write letters of support for i3 applications." As Michele McNeil reported, there are 1,698 applications for the fund, many of whom sought their congressperson's support...creating a sort of built-in public relations and lobbying campaign.

Klein writes,

You think getting the edujobs bill through the U.S. House of Representatives was hard, what with the whole Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., versus the Whithe House thing, and the veto threat, and the Polis letter?

Well, that was a cake-walk compared to what is likely to happen in the Senate. Over at This Week in Education, Alexander Russo has a headline saying that the bill is "dead."

Is the bill dead? Alison doesn't think so - quite yet - but finds it necessary to keep taking the bill's pulse.

Supporters told the Ed Week reporter that EduJobs may be attached to a Small Business Administration bill.
As for that $800 million package of cuts to Race to the Top, charters, and the teacher Incentive Fund, no official word yet, but for now it appears unlikely, folks say, that those offsets will be part of the final package. (Of course, that would mean the Senate would have to find another $800 million in cuts...which could be messy.)
Klein thinks that those programs will most likely be spared, given this letter and also the veto threat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Economic Benefits of Reducing the Dropout Rate Among Students of Color in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Areas

Eliminating half of Louisville's 1050 dropouts
from the Class of 2008
Would have increased earnings $5.6 million
Spending & Investment $5.4 million
Home & Auto sales $11 million

This from the Alliance for Excellent Education:
Years of data have consistently underscored the persistent graduation gap between America’s students of color and their peers. The most recent estimate shows that high school graduation rates for African American, Latino, and American Indian students hover only slightly higher than 50 percent. This is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of their white peers.

In addition to the moral imperative to provide every student with an equal opportunity to pursue the American dream, there is also a strong economic argument for helping more students of color graduate from high school. Lowering the dropout rate brings a range of benefits to a community, many of which most people do not realize. Graduating more students from high school can have a profound impact on increased earnings potential, home and auto sales, and other important economic indicators for communities and states.

Earlier in 2010, the Alliance for Excellent Education documented the benefits of reducing the dropout rate for all students in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Building on this work, the Alliance is now able to estimate the economic benefits of reducing the dropout rate among students of color in these metro areas. These findings were developed in partnership with Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., an Idaho-based economic firm specializing in socioeconomic impact tools, and with the generous support of State Farm®.

To see how cutting the dropout rate in half in students of color subgroups in the nation’s fifty largest cities—and the metropolitan areas that surround them—would benefit the nation’s economy as a whole, read the aggregate analysis.

Check out the data for Louisville here.

Hat tip to the Commish

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The myth of teacher tenure

This from Perry Zirkel in the WaPo Answer Sheet:

If only we could abolish teacher tenure, propose liberals and conservatives alike, surely we could improve our nation’s public schools. Right?

Wrong. Although hailed as a panacea, getting rid of teacher tenure will not solve the problem of incompetent teachers or noncompetitive student achievement in the global marketplace. Separate the lore from the law, and a clearer picture comes into focus for evaluating this prescription.

It is a myth that teacher tenure provides a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.

Tenure’s primary purpose is economic job security, tied to the otherwise uncompetitive pay in comparison to other professions; however, tenure is not a lifetime guarantee.

Nor does tenure necessarily mean a costly and complicated process for terminating a poorly performing teacher. The balance between a teacher’s individual rights and the school board’s institutional responsibility can be a fairly efficient process. The extent of the procedural process that is “due” depends initially on the will of the public at the state legislative and local contractual level. It may be no more than reasonable written notice of the charges and a one- or two-night board hearing with prompt impartial review.

The prevailing belief is that the outcome of litigation is usually in favor of the plaintiff-teacher, not the defendant-district.

Quite the contrary. Schools districts consistently win the vast majority of the court decisions concerning the involuntary cessation of a teacher’s employment based on incompetency. In a comprehensive canvassing of court decisions based on teacher evaluation for compe tency, I found that the defendant districts prevailed in more than a 3-to-1 ratio, and that there was no significant difference between the outcomes for nontenured as compared to tenured teachers.

Indeed, in an often-touted table from the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2007-2008 School and Staffing Survey, the standardized percentage of teachers in the United States who lost their jobs due to poor performance via the non-renewal of nontenured teachers (.7%) was half of that for the termination of tenured teachers (1.4%).

Unless and until a multifaceted reform package, including the investment in compensation and professional development attracts and retains a competitive supply of excellent teachers, removing tenure will not change the termination rate, much less the student achievement gap...

Bill Gates lauds city's steps to improve schools

This from the Pittsburg Post Gazette:

Calls teacher's contract
model to renew profession
With its recently adopted teacher performance initiatives, the Pittsburgh school district offers a model for other U.S. teachers and administrators who are working together to improve public education, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said Saturday.

Mr. Gates lauded key aspects of the collective bargaining agreement the city school district recently reached with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers as "the kinds of changes that can renew the profession of teaching." He spoke in Seattle during the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers.

Specifically, he cited two bonus programs woven into the five-year contract that introduced merit pay for teachers in city public schools.

"In Pittsburgh, they're creating incentives for highly effective teachers to go into low-performing schools. In certain schools, if students have better-than-expected gains in learning, their teachers earn additional pay," he said.

"In another program, teachers will work as a team with a group of incoming ninth-graders and stay with those kids for two years. If at the end of 10th grade the kids are on track for college, the whole team will get a bonus." ...

Quick Hits

N.J. school focuses on individualized learning over test prep: In a departure from the test-driven school culture, a New Jersey elementary school has for the past decade focused on visceral indicators, such as students' social abilities and musical and athletic talents. The learning method is based on a theory from Harvard University professor Howard Gardner that teachers should focus on individual learning styles and then teach each lesson in multiple ways. He also believes that schools should focus on student interaction and self-expression. (The Wall Street Journal)

Will stricter graduation requirements help or hinder S.D. students?: Students entering high schools in South Dakota this fall will be the first to face tougher graduation requirements aimed at better preparing them for college or careers. Some schools will offer alternative classes and extra help for students who struggle with the new requirements, which mandate that all students pass upper-level math and science courses. Critics are concerned, however, that schools will make the courses easier to ensure that students pass. (Argus Leader)

Some Florida schools begin awarding merit bonuses for teachers: About 50% of Florida's lowest-performing schools are offering merit pay for teachers who help raise student scores. But bonus amounts vary by district, and some teachers say the bonuses say are too small to be used as incentives. Others think the merit pay should be applied to all educators, not just those who teach academic subjects. "I think it ups the morale of teachers," one physical-education teacher said. "Even though it's not really life-changing money, it gives you something you can look forward to." (Orlando Sentinel)

2 Minn. schools are taking a hybrid approach to online learning: Two Minnesota high schools are adding "hybrid learning" courses that blend virtual studies with human interaction in the classroom. Supporters of the hybrid approach say it takes advantage of the cost-effectiveness of online learning while offering students the benefits of interacting with teachers and each other. "The research is beginning to suggest that the blended model appears to be a bit more influential than just online, or just face-to-face," one district's technology coordinator said. (Star Tribune)

Do home computers help or harm low-income students?: Researchers are finding little educational benefit to students in low-income households having computers at home and, in some cases, are finding a decrease in students' academic performance. A study by Duke University professors found that math performance declined among middle-school students -- primarily from low-income areas -- after broadband service was installed. Another study, conducted in Texas, showed mixed results when students were "immersed" in computers and other technology, including a decline in some students' writing scores. (The New York Times)

Common core standards have support from 23 states: Twenty-three states have signed on to use national academic standards, and more are expected to do so before Aug. 2 to increase their chances of receiving federal Race to the Top funding. The Council of Chief State School Officers expects 41 states to agree to the core standards by the end of 2010. However, critics say that states are rushing to adopt the standards, and some have questioned whether states are motivated by commitment to a national curriculum or by potential federal funding. (Education Week)

D.C. test scores show mixed results: Elementary-school students in Washington, D.C., posted a decline of four to five percentage points over last year in reading and math proficiency on standardized tests, putting an end to a two-year run of gains among the students. Middle- and high-school students' scores continued progress made in previous years, with an average gain over the past three years of 14 percentage points in reading proficiency and 17 percentage points in math. The elementary-school scores, however, were seen as a setback for D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, who has made test-score improvement a key part of her efforts to reform D.C. schools. (The Washington Post)

Duncan - Equality in the classroom will lead to equality in society: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a speech at the NAACP's annual convention, called education "the civil rights issue of our generation." Duncan called on the NAACP to make equity in education a priority and urged community leaders and the group's members to become more involved in improving the nation's schools. (The Kansas City Star)

NEA votes "no confidence" in Race to the Top: The National Education Association has taken a vote of "no confidence" in the federal Race to the Top initiative. Phil Rumore, the president of the NEA's affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., introduced the measure and said the federal guidelines and emphasis on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act only reinforces the focus on standardized testing in schools. (Education Week)

Popularity of online credit-recovery programs grows, despite concerns: Online credit-recovery programs are being established in many school districts, including Boston, New York City and Chicago, as part of efforts to improve graduation rates and student achievement under No Child Left Behind. The programs often allow students to earn credits based on subject mastery rather than time spent in the classroom -- which is in conflict with seat-time requirements in some states -- and some critics of the programs say there is little research that supports their effectiveness. (Education Week)

Students have computer access to the night sky with NASA project: NASA has joined with Microsoft to create a seamless, digitized map of the night sky -- including a 3-D map of Mars that users can navigate on a computer. The mapping project, called Terapixel, can be viewed using Microsoft's free Internet-based WorldWide Telescope program, and was developed to help interest more students in studying science and related fields. "What we're trying to do at NASA is make our data more accessible," NASA's chief technology officer said, "and we're doing that by connecting students in the classroom and at home to a user-friendly platform." (eSchool News)

Poll - Teachers should determine what is taught in Texas schools: About 72% of a sampling of Texans think teachers -- not the state's school board -- should determine what is taught in the classroom, the results of a survey show. Some 68% of respondents said separation of church and state is important, but nearly 50% said religion should carry more weight in schools. The survey was commissioned by the Texas Freedom Network, which polled likely voters on current issues facing the state's schools. (The Dallas Morning News) (Houston Chronicle)

Barnes & Noble to debut free textbook software: Barnes & Noble is launching NOOKStudy -- free software that gives students a place to store e-textbooks, study guides and other class materials on their PCs and Macs. The software, set to debut in August, has been tested in schools by students and teachers. (FastCompany)

Digital curriculum aims to engage students in economics: Digital-education publisher Shmoop is launching multimedia programs and games to help engage middle- and high-school students in economics. The curriculum was developed by graduate-level economics faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University and uses role-playing, current events and humor to teach concepts in economics. The beta version of the curriculum is available for free. (T.H.E. Journal)

Whole-child charters team up to offer independent study: Two charter schools in California's Ventura County that focus on educating the whole child are teaming up to share resources and create an independent-study program for students who are home-schooled. The program will include enrichment courses, an online component and will allow students to be part of a school community without attending classes every day. (Ventura County Star)

Controversial turnaround strategy is under way at L.A. high school: Fremont High School in Los Angeles reopened Tuesday with mostly new teachers hoping to improve achievement at the long-struggling school. The school is an example of the Obama administration's controversial education reforms, which allow underperforming schools to adopt one of several school-turnaround strategies, including replacing a majority of the school's teachers and staff. But critics of the strategy, including education expert Diane Ravitch, say it is unproven and insults teachers. (Los Angeles Times)

Want children to pay attention? Make their brains curious: In 360 B.C., Plato shared a thought that has not lost its timeliness: "Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind." Neurosurgeon and educator Judy Willis explores this profound thought from a brain-based perspective in a recent ASCD EDge blog post. She shares insight into the inner workings of the student mind, suggests strategies for building novelty into teaching and expounds the benefits of joyful learning. (ASCD)

Bad Economy Boosts Teach for America

This from the New York Times:

Alneada Biggers, Harvard class of 2010, was amazed this past year when she discovered that getting into the nation’s top law schools and grad programs could be easier than being accepted for a starting teaching job with Teach for America.

Ms. Biggers says that of 15 to 20 Harvard friends who applied to Teach for America, only three or four got in. “This wasn’t last minute — a lot applied in August 2009, they’d been student leaders and volunteered,” Ms. Biggers said. She says one of her closest friends wanted to do Teach for America, but was rejected and had to “settle” for University of Virginia Law School...

Ms. Biggers [counts herself] lucky to be among the 4,500 selected by the nonprofit to work at high-poverty public schools from a record 46,359 applicants (up 32 percent over 2009). There’s little doubt the numbers are fueled by a bad economy, which has limited job options even for graduates from top campuses. In 2007, during the economic boom, 18,172 people applied.

This year, on its 20th anniversary, Teach for America hired more seniors than any other employer at numerous colleges, including Yale, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Harvard, 293 seniors, or 18 percent of the class, applied, compared with 100 seniors in 2007. “So many job options in finance, P.R. and consulting have been cut back,” said Ms. Carlson, the Yale grad.

In interviews, two dozen soon-to-be-teachers here in Houston, one of eight national Teach for America centers that provide a five-week crash summer course in classroom practices, mentioned the chance to help poor children and close the achievement gap as major reasons for applying...

While Teach for America is highly regarded by gets mixed reviews from education experts.

Research indicates that generally, the more experienced teachers are, the better their students perform, and several studies have criticized Teach for America’s turnover rate.

“I’m always shocked by the hullaboo, given Teach for America’s size” — about 0.2 percent of all teachers — “and its mixed impact,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, a University of Texas professor. Dr. Heilig and Su Jin Jez of California State University, Sacramento, recently published a critical assessment after reviewing two dozen studies. One study cited indicated that “by the fourth year, 85 percent of T.F.A. teachers had left” New York City schools...

Teach for America... [cites] a 2008 Harvard doctoral thesis indicating that 61 percent of their recruits stay beyond the two-year commitment. However, that same thesis also says “few people are estimated to remain in their initial placement school or the profession beyond five or six years” — a finding not highlighted in the releases...

“These people could be superstars, but most leave before they master the teaching craft,” Dr. Heilig said...

Southern Regional Education Board Honors Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear for Her Work in Education

The nonprofit Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) will honor Jane Beshear, the First Lady of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, at the 24th annual SREB High Schools That Work Staff Development Conference this week in Louisville, Kentucky, for her dedication to improving graduation rates in Kentucky and ensuring more students are prepared for college and careers.

Through her "GRADUATE KENTUCKY" initiative, First Lady Beshear has drawn attention to the importance of graduating more Kentucky students and preparing them for college, advanced training and careers. The initiative is raising awareness of the dropout problem as a community issue, instigates community discussions of the issue and helps to develop action plans to address it.

GRADUATE KENTUCKY is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive statewide conversation not only understand to why students are contemplating dropping out of school, but also to share ideas and best practices of how communities and schools can play a pivotal role in reducing the dropout rate and creating a strategic vision for keeping children engaged in school.

"First Lady's Beshear's efforts to reduce the high school dropout rate, along with her long history of striving to improve adolescent literacy, are closely aligned with two of SREB's major initiatives," said SREB Senior Vice President Gene Bottoms. "We commend Mrs. Beshear for the great progress she is making in improving education in Kentucky. "

First Lady Beshear has a long history of striving to improve education, with a particular focus on improving adolescent literacy. She is a Scholastic Reading Ambassador, encouraging children to read during their summer vacations. Mrs. Beshear began her own Reading Recommendations initiative in 2009 by releasing a list of 10 recommended books for children each season.
A graduate of the University of Kentucky and a former career/technical educator, Mrs. Beshear taught business education at Woodford County High School, which was a HSTW site for more than 10 years.

SREB's single largest program, HSTW is a national, comprehensive school improvement design based on the premise that most students can master rigorous academic and career/technical studies if school leaders and teachers create a school environment that motivates all students to make the effort to succeed. More than 1,100 high schools in 30 states and the District of Columbia participate in the HSTW school improvement initiative. Nearly 6,000 teachers, principals and other educators are expected to attend this week's conference in Louisville.

SOURCE: KDE press release

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lawmakers Watching Consultant Contract Spending

This from WFPL:

In these tight budget times, Kentucky lawmakers are keeping an extremely close eye on the state’s personal service contracts with outside consultants.

For instance, consultant John Thompson of Lexington has a contract with the Department of Education to vet individuals appointed to fill vacancies on local boards of education. Thompson doesn’t work every day, but when he does, he makes 300-dollars a day, with a 90-thousand dollar annual cap. But Lexington Rep. Jesse Crenshaw wonders why the state even needs Thompson’s services.

“It seems to me that you all would have someone else in the Department of Education that could perform this service,” he says. “I don’t why you need to contract out. I know you want to keep politics out of it, but why can’t you keep politics out of it with someone who’s already on your staff?”

Crenshaw and Rep. Brad Montell voted against the contract, which moved forward on a 2-2 tie vote. That was just one of almost two thousand personal service contracts and agreements tackled by the Government Contract Review Committee during a four hour meeting.

Increasing Number of Legal Actions Challenge Constitutionality of Budget Cuts

This from ACCESS:

As states continue to reduce school aid, plaintiffs have turned to an array of legal arguments in the hope of preserving educational resources. Advocates and school districts in various parts of the country filed challenges last month. In Arizona, a lawsuit contends that the Legislature’s failure to implement annual inflationary adjustments to school funding, as required by a 2000 ballot initiative, violates a constitutional voter protection provision. In Illinois, the Chicago Teachers Union has alleged that class size increases violate safety codes. Plaintiffs in New Jersey have invoked the state Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, claiming that the Governor’s budget violates specific court orders.


In June, five school districts, the Arizona Education Association, the Arizona School Boards Association and several voters filed a special action before the state Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Legislature’s fiscal year 2011 budget, which did not include inflationary adjustments to foundation school funding levels. Petitioners in Cave Creek Unified School District v. Martin argue that the budget fails to fulfill the requirements of Proposition 301, a 2000 ballot initiative that requires the Legislature to annually increase funding by the rate of inflation (or 2%, if it is lower), and consequently, constitutes a violation of Article IV, Part I §I(6), the voter protection clause of the state constitution, which bars the Legislature from repealing laws passed through referenda, or amending said laws “unless [it] furthers the purposes of such measure and at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature”, or diverting funds set aside for these initiatives.

At issue in the case is an ambiguity in the language of the statute, which stipulates that the State make upward adjustments in “base level [support] or other components [of education funding],” or both. The Legislature claims that its actions meet constitutional muster, as this year’s budget includes an increase in transportation funding—one small component of school aid. In their complaint, plaintiffs appeal to both the history of the referendum and precedent to argue that the budget bill constitutes an illegal amendment of Proposition 301. They appeal to precedents and other statutes where “or” and “and” have been construed to mean the latter, and explain that the Legislature’s use of “or” as a disjunctive would produce irrational results. There “can be little doubt,” the complaint explains, that voters expected “that [the measure] would increase education funding so as to offset the effects of inflation.” By choosing to increase funding for only one component, the Legislature “must always…[decrease] funding for education in constant dollars,” thus flouting the voters’ will. The State, they argue, must maintain general funding for education and aid for other components.

The Supreme Court will decide to accept or reject the special action on September 21. Petitioners ask the Court to prohibit respondents, State Treasurer Dean Martin and the State of Arizona, from implementing the budget, and request that the Court rewrite the budget. If they prevail, districts could receive an additional $61 million, compared to the considerably lower $5 million increase they received under the State’s interpretation of Proposition 301. Arizona consistently lags behind the rest of the nation in per-pupil school funding, ranking 49th according to a report released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau.


The Chicago Teachers Union, on June 8th, filed a lawsuit against Board of Education of the City of Chicago in the Circuit Court of Cook County challenging defendants’ decision to increase class sizes to 35 students per classroom apparently in response to the fiscal crisis.

Plaintiffs charge that the presence of 35 students and 1 teacher in each classroom “pushes…rooms past the safety threshold,” in violation of the Municipal Code of Chicago, §13-56-310. The plaintiffs seek an order from the Court prohibiting the Board from increasing class size.

New Jersey

During his brief tenure in office, first-term New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly targeted education funding in his effort to close revenue gaps and balance the state’s budget. In February, he issued an executive order freezing $475 million in school aid. His order directed school districts to tap into surplus accounts in order to offset the loss in state funding, a move sharply criticized by advocates of equity and adequacy. More recently, Christie proposed a budget that would reduce education funding by almost $1 billion.

Last month, the Education Law Center (ELC), on behalf of the Abbott v. Burke litigants, filed a motion requesting the state’s high court to block implementation of the 2010-2011 budget, which fails to fund schools at the levels required by the 2008 School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). In Abbott XX, the high court declared that special funding for the Abbott districts was no longer necessary and upheld the constitutionality of the SFRA, arguing that it provided for a “thorough and efficient education for every child.” The Court warned, however, that providing adequate aid was a “continuing obligation,” and ordered the state to provide full funding each year and conduct a review of the formula after its third year of implementation. If “any deficiencies of the constitutional dimension” were to arise, it would remediate.

ELC lawyers argue that the state has violated the constitution as it has failed to meet its funding obligations, and consequently, foreclosed the possibility of a three-year review of the formula’s “full implementation.”

Last spring, in an unrelated case, the Perth Amboy School District argued that Christie’s executive order violated the separation of powers doctrine. The state appellate court upheld Christie’s action on the grounds that the funding cut was within his powers in a time of “fiscal emergency.”

Life lessons

This from the Richmond Register:
The Bellevue Learning Center has received state-wide recognition. Bellevue
was one of 11 Kentucky schools to be named Best Practices Site for Alternative Education by the Kentucky Board of Education.

Bellevue was recognized in two areas: Culture, Support and Professional Development and Leadership and Resources/Organization and Planning.

Principal John Fields said he believes this is the first time Bellevue has received an award of this magnitude in its 20-year history.“That’s been my vision, to make this one of the top programs in the state and we’ve been able to achieve that,” said Fields, who has been ... Bellevue’s principal for two years. “Our students have been very successful and it’s been a team effort among our staff.”

Most students are at Bellevue because of chronic discipline and academic and/or school attendance problems, according to information provided by the center.

“The kids are in trouble when they get here,” Fields said. “We work on social skills to help them change their behavior so they can be successful when they go back to their schools.”

Ky. education cuts undermine gains

This from Bob Sexton in the Enquirer:

The recently enacted state budget is another step backward for Kentucky kids. And it comes at a particularly bad time - just when the state is poised to move student achievement to the next level and help lead the nation on the most important education reforms in a generation.

Our ranking on key indicators of progress has moved from the cellar (43rd in 1992) to closer to the middle (32nd in 2009), according to an index compiled by the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center. Kentucky students scored above the national average in science, reading and fourth-grade math on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Kentucky legislation enacted in 2009 requiring new, tougher academic standards positioned Kentucky to be the first state to commit to common standards developed by a consortium of 48 states. This summer, Kentucky educators are working to move those higher standards into classroom use, and new statewide tests will be administered in 2012 to reflect the changes.

In short, we're setting higher expectations and giving educators more to do, but our schools have fewer resources to work with.

Two cuts deserve special mention. First, cuts in professional development come at the very moment we are asking teachers to master new standards and develop more effective ways to teach them in the classroom. We say, "Learn more, do more," but then we strip away most of the funding to help teachers do that.

Second, the 2012 budget will eliminate all funding for highly skilled educators - people of great talent and expertise who help the state turn around Kentucky's weakest schools. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday had hoped to use these funds to deploy people to help build local capacity to ensure classroom success with the new standards. Instead, the new budget includes bad cuts to the funding we need to implement some very good reforms.

As direct funding to help kids learn is cut, one big thing is still growing - health insurance costs. These show up in the direct cost of employee health insurance, the health-driven share of current retirement premiums, and the state's continuing obligation to pay back the retirement system for the legislature's past borrowing. From 2009 to 2012, those benefit costs will increase by $138 million. Meanwhile everything else the state spends on P-12 education goes down by $107 million.

Clearly, the recession and an outdated revenue system are not the only things undermining Kentucky's ability to do what it needs to do in education. Indeed, the unsustainable growth in health insurance costs could be the worst revenue problem we have.

Kentucky's governor and legislators must do two things if we are to stop eating our seed corn.They must reform our antiquated tax system so state education revenue can keep up with economic growth. And they must get control of spiraling health insurance costs while ensuring that teachers and other public employees receive fair and sustainable benefits. None of this will be easy.

We need more thinking - and action - to meet our obligations to Kentucky's school children and to the future of our commonwealth.

When I wasn't looking...

A week or so ago at Essential Left-Overs, Family Foundation of Kentucky popularist Martin Cothran solved the charter debate. He says let parents decide. He doesn't say which parents, but I have a suspicion he has certain parents in mind.

Richard Day's continued attacks on charter schools are indicative of the wider public school establishment's disdain for them. Day and other fixtures of the education establishment want the same kind of accountability that has failed the public school system for years: that is to say, no accountability other than to themselves.

That Cothran thinks looking critically at both sides of an issue constitutes an attack, says more about him than it does about me.

For the record, I am in favor of a strong charter school law in Kentucky. I supported Commissioner Terry Holliday's call for local school board control over them.

Cothran's comments are inaccurate and, if he is a man of integrity, they should be retracted.

What I'm not in favor of are shallow, sweet-sounding, bad ideas that would rob the public schools while returning Kentucky to the days when (often poorly educated) local trustees built good schools for some and poor schools for others.

The public schools can rightly be criticized for myriad failures with America's most difficult students. Those who espouse local control over all things can be rightly criticized for myriad instances of not even trying. At the same time, the public schools can be credited for developing the bulk of the American workforce; a workforce that built a great nation.

Local control over the schools existed in Kentucky for 162 years before KERA and left the state at the bottom of most measures. For most of that time the state operated a separate system for blacks and women were treated as an afterthought. There are still a lot of difficult problems to be solved, but in the 20 years since KERA, the state's standing has risen into the middle third. It is unlikely Cothran would consider such data since it refutes the veracity of his comments.

Kentucky spent many decades tolerating middling schools with strong local control exercised by trustees who feathered their own nests and used the schools as a jobs program for their families and supporters. The increase in state control over schooling was, in fact, a direct reaction to this lousy non-system, one that left many Kentucky children behind.

The growth in state involvement was attributable to the public's loss of confidence in local schools' ability to provide high-quality education. In addition, in the mid-1960s, new interest groups drew the nation's attention to such issues as civil rights, women's roles, student rights, and bilingual education--issues that had been overlooked by local politicans.

Federal and state categorical aid programs were established to meet the needs of underserved populations while local entities such as the PTA gradually lost their influence. Local initiatives were further eroded in the 1970s by the failure of communities to support property taxes to improve the schools, and court decisions concerning student rights and due process - issues that would likely yield to "higher" priorities, if Cothran had his way.

Guskey Weighs in on Charters

Pretty much says what we've said....

This from the Herald-Leader:

Charter schools should not have unfair advantage
...Allowing charter schools would certainly enhance the state's application for Race to the Top funds. The federal government believes that giving parents the option of enrolling their children in a charter school may serve to increase educational quality and accountability.

But certain influential education organizations in Kentucky don't want charter schools because they fear charter schools will detract from the viability of our public school systems.

As an educational researcher, I have read much of the research on charter schools. From what I can determine, the findings are inconclusive at best. Some studies say charter schools work, while others suggest they offer little or no advantage.

Unfortunately, the quality of most of these studies is not very good. The majority have significant methodological flaws that challenge the validity of their results.

The most we can say at this point is that we really don't know whether charter schools are necessarily good or bad. No strong evidence shows students learn better in charter schools than they would if enrolled in regular public schools. But no confirming data shows that charter schools harm students or public school systems either.

The real issue comes down to the policies set for launching charter schools.

Guskey suggests two rules for charters in Kentucky:
  1. Charters must accept any child who wants to enroll.
  2. Charters have to keep that child and will be held accountable for his or her learning progress, no matter what.

Guskey says these rules would level the playing field and that any school can look good if allowed selective admissions or if allowed to "counsel out" students who don't fit.

That is why saying charter schools work for students who stay for three years has little significance if all those students not doing well were "encouraged" to leave.

Holliday Proposes Vitrual School in lieu of Disaster Days

This from WFPL:

The head of Kentucky public schools believes virtual learning on the Internet may be the best way to avoid losing instructional days to disasters.

Last school year, disaster days, which don’t have to be made up, were granted to 11 Kentucky school districts, including nine days each in Knox and McCreary counties. But Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is trying to figure out a way to avoid disaster days, and believes virtual learning may be the answer.

“The solution we think might be possible is to build upon a system we already have in place and it’s our virtual learning system,” says Holliday.

He wants five districts in eastern Kentucky to participate in a pilot project to see if the system can work. Holliday wants to present the proposal to lawmakers in January.

Among the obstacles to be overcome are computer availability and Internet access in rural areas.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kentucky's Educational Legacy after Rose



Richard E. Day, Ed. D.


Good day to all of you attending the 6th International Symposium on Educational Reform in the Republic of South Africa.

Let me begin by thanking Dr Lars Bjork and Dr Justin Bathon of the University of Kentucky for making this presentation possible. I would also like to extend greetings to South African educational governing boards leader, Paul Colditz. I wish I could be with you at this most exciting time in South Africa - and this most challenging time for educators hoping to provide a stronger workforce and better economy for all the people.

· People Interested in school reform – interested in the 1989 Kentucky Case - Rose v. Council for Better Education
o cited 380+ times in US
· WHY the interest?
o Because Kentucky had NOT been seen as a leader in education before that time.
· When the Kentucky Supreme Court found the entire system of schools to be unconstitutional – it provided the political will for the legislature to write a new school law in 1990 called the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA)
· Metaphor –
o Imagine the worst football team in the best league
o Like other US states, Kentucky has shared in the benefits of universal education
§ Economy has advanced
§ People’s lives improved

· But compared to other US states - support for the schools has been a serious problem throughout Kentucky’s history.
o Kentucky’s Constitution requires our state legislature to provide “an efficient system of common schools throughout the state”
§ define “efficient”
§ define “common”
§ “throughout the state” refers to equity

· But our state lawmakers have been content to allow Kentucky’s schools to rank among the least supported in the nation.
o This is about $.
o Out of 50 states, Kentucky ranked 49th so often - Thank god for Mississippi

· Today, I will attempt to put that struggle for adequately funded public schools into an historical context, focusing on the Kentucky Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Rose v. Council for Better Education.

· I examine this decision in light of present efforts to define and assure “an adequate education for each and every child” which is our state’s standard.

o This is a new standard that came out of the Rose case.
o Now declared a fundamental right

· The Council for Better Education began as a collection of local school superintendents from the poorest schools districts in the state.
· The activities of the Council for Better Education were part of a national effort to determine a set of judicially manageable standards for equitable and adequate school funding.
o Because American courts operate under the separation of powers doctrine, judges are reluctant to tell the legislature what to do about anything.
o If one is going to go to court – one must help the court by presenting a way for judges to determine whether the legislature has met its Constitutional obligations - or not.
o This has contributed to the standards movement in American education
o Equity refers to a relative balance of the financial resources made available to Kentucky’s school districts.
o Adequacy is an issue of whether schools have the resources necessary to meet the goals set by the state.
o When schools are inadequately funded, equity and adequacy are forced to compete.

· When our expectations of the schools are low, we don’t have to spend much money on them. However, Kentucky’s assertion that “every child can learn and most at high levels” is no easy standard.
o In this sense, an adequate education for Kentucky’s children is thought of as sufficient in quality and quantity to ensure that all schools satisfy the fundamental rights of all students.

· I spent several years studying the Council for Better Education – a group of local school superintendents
o Focusing on 1984 through 1993 as Kentucky sought to implement a new system of common schools.
o Bert Combs - Council’s efforts “were of sufficient merit to warrant an historical treatment,” and that “future lawyers would benefit from a chronology of Council events.”
o Interviewed the members of the Council, the judge, the attorneys, and others
o some insight into the effort required to bring about this historic result
§ Local school superintendents sued the state legislature
· The state superintendent of schools threatened their jobs
· Legislators were mad at them and put pressure on local board members
· It required personal courage to sustain the suit
o Kentucky Education Reform Act is – a true exception in Kentucky’s long history of modest support for its schools.
o Rose v. Council for Better Education can best be seen as a pioneering effort to alter Kentucky’s history and as a move toward more social justice and economic prosperity for all children of the state.


· For reasons owing to Kentucky’s traditionalistic political culture and agrarian attitudes, the Commonwealth was slow to develop a system of common schools and once finally established, support over the years was weak.

· The achievement of Kentucky’s children suffered as fiscal support for the schools languished among the poorest in America along with the rest of the South.

· Litigation emerged (1968 – 1973) to challenge state systems of school finance.
o Plaintiffs were frustrated in their attempts to use the U. S. Constitution
§ Rodriguez (1973) education not a fundamental right under the US constitution
§ “Equal protection” under the 14th amendment applies to individuals not governmental entities
o found more success using education clauses
· The Kentucky Supreme Court, in Rose v. Council for Better Education
o Declared education to be a fundamental right
o Reaffirmed the Legislature’s sole responsibility to provide an efficient system of common schools and defined the elements of that system.

Here’s how it happened:

· On December 31, 1983, incoming State School Superintendent Alice McDonald, released Arnold Guess

· This act freed Guess
o He called together a group of twenty-eight School Superintendents
o With outstanding technical consultants
o legal counsel
o the Council lobbied the legislature for change
o and threatened to sue using $.50 per child in school funds
o The Council met with hostility from legislators who did not want to be blamed for the existing conditions, and from the State Superintendent
o When lobbying efforts failed, the Council filed suit.

· The Council greatly benefited from powerful outside forces
o the press,
o the Prichard Committee,
o and a host of civic, business and education groups - all pressing for better schools.
· But despite this groundswell, the legislature tried to stop the districts from using school funds to sue the state
o did not go far enough to satisfy the Council or forestall litigation.

· Plaintiff’s attorney Bert Combs would have preferred a federal court,
· the appropriate plaintiffs
o the children
· and who were the defendants,
o there was no precedent for suing the state
o Do you serve every member of the legislature?
o They decided to follow the model for suing the US Congress by suing the legislative leaders
· and by determining the individuals whom would best contribute to the case.
· Separation of powers problem
o Appropriate relief would have to be suggested carefully so as not to intrude on legislative authority.
· The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the present system was unconstitutional;

· Defense attorney, William Scent
o argued that the inequities would not exist if the plaintiff had not mismanaged funds
o and had passed permissive taxes
§ It is true that local officials did not want to raise taxes either
o the Legislature had done the best they could since the people of Kentucky did not want more taxes
o and that Kentucky is a poor state.

· Meanwhile, a statewide election produced a new Governor (who had promised no new taxes) and State Superintendent (who was a member of the Council for Better Education) while the Prichard Committee continued to forge new coalitions with business and education groups.
o The best example of the Prichard Committee’s activity may be their Town Meeting
§ 20,000 people meeting at the same time
§ in 140 locations
§ representing every school district
§ tied together by a program on Kentucky Educational Television
§ with local activities after the program
o Or their Institute for Parent Leadership
§ They now have 1,500 people across the state who have been trained to become active in their local schools
§ Maintain contact with about 1,350 of them

· May 31, 1988, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Raymond Corns decided that the legislature had failed in their duty to provide an efficient system of schools.
o Following a principle used in a West Virginia court, Corns established an Education Committee to advise the court
o the Legislature punitively called for audits of the plaintiff school districts.
o Audits showed that schools were managing their resources fairly well.
· Immediately appealed to the Supreme Court
o Scent argued that the Legislature had as its goal the best system possible in Kentucky.
§ recent legislative changes had a positive effect
§ “efficient” means doing the best with the dollars one is given.
§ He challenged the standing of the plaintiffs, calling the Council for Better Education a funding vehicle created solely for the purpose of suing the state using tax dollars.
§ He claimed that school districts could not sue their creators
§ that Corns’s Education Committee was simply a “dog and pony show” which violated the separation of powers doctrine. (Which Justice Stephens later suggested was indeed unconstitutional.)
o Bert Combs and Debra Dawahare focused most of their effort on confirming the lower court’s conclusion
o Combs was particularly careful arguing the separation of powers issues and guiding the court to conclude the system was unconstitutional without demanding specific remedies of the legislature.

· The Kentucky Supreme Court came to its landmark decision
· activist Chief Justice, Robert F. Stephens
· Stephens decided to assign the writing of the opinion to himself and after hundreds of hours of study at the University of Kentucky, he changed the course of the opinion from one closely crafted to finance issues only, to a broad declaration that the entire system was unconstitutional.

· The heart of the Rose case was the court’s definition of an efficient system of common schools.
o The Supreme Court discussed the characteristics of an efficient system of schools:
§ one established and maintained by the Legislature
§ to be substantially uniform throughout the state,
§ free to all Kentucky children,
§ and one that provides equal educational opportunity regardless of place of residence or economic conditions.
§ must also be sufficiently funded,
§ free of waste, duplication, mismanagement, and political influence
§ and it must have as its goal the development of seven specified capacities. These capacities enumerated a substantial set of skills that each student must learn.

· Stephens was most concerned about the court’s ability to require anything of the Legislature when only the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate were actually before the court. After the fact, he advised that if he was the attorney in such a case, and even if it took a month, he’d serve every member of the legislature.

· Reaction to the ruling was initially shocking to the Legislature

o a brief flirtation with defying the court,
o the legislative leaders embraced the decision
o used its political capital to reform the public school system
o followed by a series of public proclamations where various members of the legislature began taking credit for the reform.
o But, it was the combined efforts of the Council for Better Education and its allies that persuaded the courts and gave the legislature the necessary courage to reform Kentucky’s schools.
· By 1993, Kentucky was spending approximately $5300 per pupil and its standing among southern states rose from 12th to 7th while continuing to lag about $1000 per child behind the national average.
· By 1999, Kentucky had risen from 49th to 36th in the nation.

· After Bert Comb’s death, and concerned by the erosion of education’s share of the state budget the Council for Better Education reemerged in 2007, suing the state again. (Young v Williams: 03-CI-00055 & 03-CI-01152)
o The Council commissioned an adequacy study
o Claimed that funding is an “essential and minimal element” of an efficient system of schools
o And that a standards-based system is a rational way for the court to look at the schools
o But the Council specifically asked the court to require the legislature to raise taxes
o the Franklin Circuit Court refused to “pierce the separation of powers” and rendered summary judgment for the defendants.


From Rose: Each child, every child in this Commonwealth must be provided with an equal opportunity to have an adequate education... The children of the poor and the children of the rich must be given the same opportunity and access to an adequate education.

The landmark Kentucky Supreme Court decision in Rose v. Council for Better Education is singular event that not only changed the state’s system of schools, but also started a third wave of national school finance litigation based on equity and adequacy claims and education clauses in state constitutions. Without the political cover provided by such a judicial ruling, combined with strong grassroots citizen advocacy, history strongly suggests that the legislature would have happily contented itself to under-fund a modest system of schools for the benefit of most students.

Thank you:

Before taking questions, via Skype, let me thank you again for this opportunity to share with an international audience, our experience with school reform in Kentucky.

Complete information on my study is available online at Find the heading for “The Rose Case” and click on “More Reports.” There you will find my study, the listing of school finance cases, and a chronology of Council for Better Education activities.

And now, we’re ready for questions.

America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2010

Each year since 1997, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published a report on the well-being of children and families. Pending data availability, the Forum updates all 40 indicators annually on its Web site and alternates publishing a detailed report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, with a summary version that highlights selected indicators. The America's Children series makes Federal data on children and families available in a nontechnical, easy-to-use format in order to stimulate discussion among data providers, policymakers, and the public.

The Forum fosters coordination and integration among 22 Federal agencies that produce or use statistical data on children and families and seeks to improve Federal data on children and families. The America's Children series provides accessible compendiums of indicators drawn across topics from the most reliable official statistics; it is designed to complement other more specialized, technical, or comprehensive reports produced by various Forum agencies.

Average mathematics scale scores
for students in grades 4 and 8,
selected years 1990–2009

The indicators and demographic background measures presented in America's Children in Brief all have been presented in previous Forum reports. Indicators are chosen because they are easy to understand, are based on substantial research connecting them to child well-being, cut across important areas of children's lives, are measured regularly so that they can be updated and show trends over time, and represent large segments of the population, rather than one particular group.

Preterm births and adolescent births declined, eighth graders' math and reading scores increased, and more children had health insurance, according to the federal government's annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation's children and youth. The report also showed several economic changes that coincided with the beginning of the economic downturn: increases in child poverty and food insecurity, as well as a decline in secure parental employment.

The report, America's Children In Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2010 was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families. The report groups the most recently available major federal statistics on children and youth under several domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. The purpose of the report is to provide statistical information on children and families in a nontechnical, easy-to-use format in order to stimulate discussion among data providers, policymakers, and members of the public.

"The decline in preterm births is encouraging," said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "Preterm infants are at higher risk for death in the first year of life, for serious illness in infancy, and, in later life, for obesity and its associated complications."

"Also of note is the decrease in births to teens," said Edward Sondik, Ph.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. "This drop occurred after two years of increases, and we will be interested to see if this is the beginning of a new trend."

Dr. Sondik said that the report on the well-being of the nation's children is a significant vehicle in informing the nation about key issues in their lives.

"The impact of the federal agency collaboration cannot be understated—our commitment to the future is evidenced in our measured analysis of the past."

Among the statistically significant changes seen in the period 2007–2008 are:
  • A drop in the proportion of infants born before 37 weeks, from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent
  • A drop in births to adolescents, from 22.2 per 1,000 girls ages 15–17 to 21.7 per 1,000
  • A rise in the rate of children from birth to 17 years of age covered by health insurance at some time during the year, from 89 percent to 90 percent
  • A rise in the proportion of related children from birth to 17 years of age living in poverty, from 18 percent to 19 percent
  • A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with at least one parent employed year round full time, from 77 percent to 75 percent
  • A rise in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living in food insecure homes, from 17 percent to 22 percent, the highest prevalence since monitoring began. The report defines food security as access at all times to enough food for active, healthy lives for all family members.

For the period 2007 to 2009:

  • Eighth graders' average mathematics scale score increased, from 281 to 283,
  • while fourth graders' scores were flat after rising for a number of years
  • Eighth graders' average reading scale score increased, from 263 to 264,
  • but fourth graders' scores were unchanged.

From 2008 to 2009:

  • The proportion of youth ages 16–19 neither enrolled in school nor working increased from 8 percent to 9 percent.
Hat tip to J'nette

Gov. Beshear encourages community support of education

TEK Talk community forums will discuss Transforming Education in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 13, 2010) – Recognizing the value of public support of education throughout the Commonwealth, Gov. Steve Beshear will host TEK Talk community forums on Aug. 17, 2010. Kentuckians are invited to gather at 10 locations across the state to discuss Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK). The governor created the TEK initiative last fall to focus current education programs toward the unified goal of better preparing Kentucky students for the challenges of the 21st century.

“The success of our education system in Kentucky is dependent upon the involvement of our communities,” said Gov. Beshear. “Local participation and support reinforces our united commitment to improving educational opportunities statewide.”

Gov. Beshear is working in partnership with the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Prichard Committee, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Kentucky Educational Television to provide this opportunity for the public to share its concerns and ideas. The local events will take place in Paducah, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Louisville, Lexington, Northern Kentucky, Somerset, Prestonsburg and Ashland.

In addition to the local discussions, KET will stream a live panel discussion with the Governor, First Lady Jane Beshear, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King. The panel will address questions posed at the community forums and discuss issues that emerge from local events. Bill Goodman of KET will moderate the panel for his program, “Education Matters.”

Last October, Gov. Beshear formed the Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky to study school improvement efforts currently underway and to help develop new strategies.

Members of the task force include education advocates, parents, teachers, superintendents, lawmakers and business and community leaders who have been handpicked for their commitment to education and to Kentucky.

Meetings have focused on improving college readiness; providing every student with the opportunity to earn college credit during high school; assessments that measure what employers value and making high school more relevant; expanding the use of technology for learning; improving teacher recruitment and retention; boosting academics in career and technical education; and improving transitions between preschool to K-12.

The group is preparing to recommend ways to channel all of these efforts into an integrated and comprehensive system of education in Kentucky. The goal is to formulate recommendations by the end of 2010 for consideration during the 2011 legislative session.

Governor Beshear and the TEK Task Force will use the public input from TEK Talk as guidance for the work of Transforming Education in Kentucky.

More information about the TEK initiative and about the local TEK Talk events, here.