Sunday, January 31, 2010

RTTT will have "More Losers Than Winners," Duncan tells Forbes

This from Forbes:

Obama's Classroom Fixer

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on

reforming America's schools

--with the help of private enterprise.

...40 states and the District of Columbia had applied for $4.35 billion in federal funding, part of the administration's Race to the Top program to reform America's K-12 education system. It's a free-market-style competition, and Duncan warns in an interview with Forbes that when the results are announced in April, there will be "more losers than winners." ...

On principals and the private sector:

"I'd love the private sector to help train principals and to help administrations on how to manage better. I would argue that today our principals everywhere are CEOs. They're instructional leaders, they are often managing multimillion dollar budgets, they're sometimes managing a couple hundred employees. They're managing a large physical plant, physical facility. They have to work with the community, work with the media. We should be training principals as CEOs. I think the private sector can really help us do that."


"Obviously we're going to dole this money out over time and have real accountability with them. And if something goes wrong, or we don't think they're acting in good faith, or they're not getting results, we'll just simply stop investing there and invest some other place."

Duncan on Katrina: 'Best Thing' for New Orleans Schools

I've spent a lot of time in New Orleans
and this is a tough thing to say
but I'm going to be really honest.
The best thing that happened to the education
system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.
That education system was a disaster.
And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the
community to say that we have to do better.
--- Arne Duncan

This from Politics K-12:
Did the usually smooth-tongued U.S. Secretary of Education really say that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to the education system in New Orleans? Oh yes, he did.

In an interview to be broadcast this weekend on Washington Watch With Roland Martin, Arne Duncan says, "I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.'"

Arne Duncan does speak frankly when it comes to the shortcomings of urban school districts, but this comment seems unusually callous, even though we know what the secretary is trying to say. The public schools were a wreck before the storm, no real debate there. And, yes, the schooling options for many students are better in the city now, and student achievement is slowly, but surely on the rise.

But to the thousands of teachers, students, and school employees who lost colleagues, jobs, classrooms, school records, and the like, a remark like that from the nation's top education official is beyond insensitive....

That post drew a protest from Duncan's folks who wanted to underscore that he was not insensitive to plight of New Orleanians. Then he reiterated: "As I heard repeatedly during my visits to New Orleans, for whatever reason, it took the devastating tragedy of the hurricane to wake up the community to demand more and expect better for their children."

Friday, January 29, 2010

ESEA reauthorization (Not NCLB)

This from Arne Duncan via email:

Dear Education Stakeholders:

By now, I expect you’ve heard the good news. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – “when” we reauthorize, not “if,” he emphasized – and, at a time when most government spending is frozen, the President proposed a significant increase in discretionary spending for education in his fiscal year 2011 budget.

The President’s budget continues and expands his commitment to provide a cradle-to-career education for all of America’s children. It provides a massive increase in student aid – $156 billion in fiscal year 2011, up from $98 billion in 2008. That’s enough to provide federal assistance to nearly 15 million students, or 3 out of 5 students currently enrolled in higher education. The budget also will make it easier for borrowers to repay their loans, lowering income-based repayments and cutting the length of their repayments.

In K-12 education, the President will propose a $4 billion increase, including the previously announced $1.35 billion request to make Race to the Top a permanent program. Of that increase, $1 billion would be made available through a budget amendment when Congress completes an ESEA reauthorization consistent with the President’s plan.

The budget also supports enactment of pending legislation that would provide $9.3 billion over 10 years for the Early Learning Challenge Fund, providing competitive grants to states that expand quality early learning experiences from birth through kindergarten entry.

Along with the increases, the budget will require us to work smarter and more efficiently. We expect to save billions by switching from the Federal Family Education Loan program to the Direct Loan program. In K-12 education, we will provide states and districts more flexibility by consolidating 38 programs into 11, and we will cut six programs that are ineffective or duplicative.

The budget will set the stage for ESEA reauthorization but there is still much more work ahead. With a bipartisan group of members of Congress, our goal is to develop an accountability system built on greater transparency, incentives and rewards, and a focus on turning around persistently underperforming schools.

We can’t wait to make these reforms. Right now, 25 percent of our students fail to graduate high school, and as many as 60 percent of college freshmen need remedial education. Millions of jobs are unfilled for lack of qualified applicants. The President and I know that we need to educate our way to a better economy. I am honored to be working with you to make it happen.



Arne Duncan

Kentucky First in line for National Standards

This from the Commish in his weekly KDE-mail:
On February 10th, the Kentucky Board of Education will meet to formally adopt the common core standards in English/language arts as part of revisions to the regulation titled 704 KAR 3:303, Required program of studies, and then on the evening of February 10th, an historic joint meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education, Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professional Standards Board will occur to adopt a resolution requiring their respective agencies to “integrate the final standards into their work and processes to ensure that all Kentucky students experience a successful and productive future”.

The adoption and implementation of the new standards meets a major requirement of Senate Bill 1 as well as highlights the leadership role Kentucky has played in adopting the common core standards.

Kentucky will be the first state to adopt the standards and our Kentucky teachers will begin to work on translating the standards into classroom and student-friendly language.

The joint meeting will occur at 5:30 p.m., local time, on February 10, at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System offices in Versailles. It will be webcasted and you will be able to access it on KDE’s website through the home page on that date. Tune in and watch history in the making!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Prez on Ed

This from the President's State of the Union aaddress in the Boston Globe:

...Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.

Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city.

In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years -- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.

And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem...

Historic Cooperation

For the first time in history the Kentucky Board of Education will meet in joint session with the Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Education Professional Standards Board and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

9:00 a.m. (EST)

I. KBE Audit/Budget Committee
A. Review Items
· Audit Update and Review of the Commissioner’s and Board’s Expenses
for the KBE Audit Committee (Goal 3: Strong and Supportive Environment
for Each School and Every Child)
· 2008-2010 Current Budget Reductions Update and 2010-2012 Biennial
Budget Process Update for the KBE Audit Committee (Goal 3: Strong and
Supportive Environment for Each School and Every Child)

10:15 a.m. (EST)

II. Call to Order
III. Roll Call
IV. Approval of minutes from the December 9-10, 2009, regular meeting and
January 15, 2010, special meeting (under separate cover)
V. Introduction of new KDE employees and KDE Team Members of the Month
by the Commissioner of Education
VI. Report of the Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet
VII. Report of the President of the Council on Postsecondary Education
VIII. Report of the Executive Director of the Education Professional Standards Board
IX. Report from the Pre-K to 16 Council
X. Report of the Commissioner of Education
XI. Good News Items
XII. Public Comment Segment (To speak, complete sign-up sheet prior to start of meeting;
limit is 3 minutes per speaker with maximum of 30 minutes total for this segment.)

XIII. Full Board Items
A. Standards and assessment
· 704 KAR 3:303, Required Program of Studies (Final) (Core Academic
Standards prototype and new draft standards under separate cover) - Deputy
Commissioner Larry Stinson and Associate Commissioner Felicia Smith;
45-minute presentation/discussion (Goal 1: High Student Performance,
Goal 2: High Quality Teaching and Administration, Goal 3: Strong and
Supportive Environment for Each School and Every Child and Goal 4: High
Performing Schools and Districts)
· 704 KAR 3:305, Minimum requirements for high school graduation (Final) – Deputy Commissioner Larry Stinson and Associate Commissioner Felicia Smith; 10-minute presentation/discussion (Goal 1: High Student Performance, Goal 2: High Quality
Teaching and Administration, Goal 3: Strong and Supportive Environment for Each
School and Every Child and Goal 4: High Performing Schools and Districts)

12:00 Noon (EST)

12:15 p.m. (EST)
(Lunch provided for KBE members, invited guests and Commissioner’s Planning Committee members only)

1:15 p.m. (EST)

XIII. Full Board Items (Cont’d)
B. General items
· Legislative Agenda (Action/Discussion Item) – Commissioner Terry Holliday:
20-minute presentation/discussion (Goal 1: High Student Performance, Goal 2:
High Quality Teaching and Administration, Goal 3: Strong and Supportive
Environment for Each School and Every Child and Goal 4: High Performing
Schools and Districts)
· Hearing Officer’s Report – General Counsel Kevin Brown; 10-minute
presentation/discussion for regular report on status of regulations
. Standards and assessment
· 704 KAR 3:540, Uniform Academic Course Codes (Review Item) – Deputy
Commissioner Larry Stinson and Associate Commissioner Felicia Smith; 30-minute presentation/discussion (Goal 1: High Student Performance, Goal 2: High
Quality Teaching and Administration, Goal 3: Strong and Supportive
Environment for Each School and Every Child and Goal 4: High Performing
Schools and Districts

C. Standards and assessment · 703 KAR 5:060, Interim assessment process (Final) (Action/Discussion Item) –
Deputy Commissioner Larry Stinson and Associate Commissioner Ken Draut;
10-minute presentation/discussion (Goal 1: High Student Performance, Goal 2:
High Quality Teaching and Administration, Goal 3: Strong and Supportive
Environment for Each School and Every Child and Goal 4: High Performing
Schools and Districts)


XIV. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee Meeting
A. Action/Consent Item
1. Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) Advisory Board Appointment (Goal 1:
High Student Performance,Goal 2: High Quality Teaching and Administration,
Goal 3: Strong and Supportive Environment for Each School and Every
Child and Goal 4: High Performing Schools and Districts)

XV. Management Committee Meeting
A. Action/Consent Items:
1. District facility plans: Owsley County and Anchorage and Burgin Independent
School Districts (Goal 3: Strong and Supportive Environment for Each School
and Every Child)
2. 2009-2010 Local District Tax Rates Levied (Goal 3: Strong and Supportive
Environment for Each School and Every Child)
3. 2009-10 Local District Working Budgets (Goal 3: Strong and Supportive
Environment for Each School and Every Child)

B. Action/Discussion Items
1. 702 KAR 3:030, Insurance requirements (Final) (Goal 3: Strong and
Supportive Environment for Each School and Every Child)
2. Request for waiver of the March 1 school council allocation date for 2010
(Goal 3: Strong and Supportive Environment for Each School and Every

C. Review Items
1. 702 KAR 3:246, School council allocation formula: KETS District
Administrative System Chart of Accounts (Goal 3: Strong and Supportive
Environment for Each School and Every Child)


XVI. Approval of Action/Consent Agenda Items (approved as a block of items)
A. District facility plans
B. District tax rates levied
C. Local district working budgets
D. KSB Advisory Board Appointment

XVII. Report of the Management Committee on Action/Discussion Items
XVIII. Board Member Sharing
XIX. Information Items (Questions only)
A. KDE Employment Report (Goal 1: High Student Performance)
XX. Internal Board Business
A. Commissioner’s goal setting discussion
B. Other
XXI. Litigation Report
XXII. Adjournment


5:30 p.m. - Adjournment
(Reception to follow upon adjournment of meeting)

Quick Hits

Mass. board orders closure of charter after cheating investigation: Massachusetts school board officials voted to close Springfield's Robert M. Hughes Academy charter school after a state investigation revealed teachers and staff crossed ethical lines in helping students with state tests administered last spring. Upset that none of the teachers or staff reported the cheating, the school board rejected suggestions that it allow the school to remain open with a change of leadership. The school will be closed at the end of this school year. (The Boston Globe)

New Jersey to pilot community service as a graduation requirement: New Jersey is studying whether to require high-school students to participate in community service activities to graduate. A pilot program set to begin this fall at 15 high schools across the state will require incoming freshmen to complete 20 hours of service -- in or out of school -- over four years. An official at one school that has required community service as part of the high-school social studies curriculum says the activities have been beneficial for students. "It's changed our environment," she said. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Dismissal policies are shown to affect teacher absences in Chicago: Nontenure teachers in Chicago missed fewer days of school when principals were given more authority to fire them, a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed. Under the policy, teacher absences fell by 10%, while the number of teachers who had 15 or more absences in a year fell by 20%. Tim Daly, president of the group New Teacher Project, called the study noteworthy. "Teacher attendance is an overlooked aspect of performance that we know has a direct impact on students," he said. (Education Week)

Teacher creates golf course project to enhance math learning: Texas math teacher Trudy Pzynski created a yearlong project in which her eighth-grade students design a golf course as a practical application of their math skills. Students work in small groups and use linear and quadratic functions and other computations to design and build 3-D models. They also research the business of golf and develop promotional materials for fictitious potential investors. "It was all about finding ways to show the kids how they can use math in the real world," Pzynski said. (Austin American-Statesman)

NYC panel votes to close 19 schools amid concerns over public input: The panel that oversees New York City schools -- with the majority of members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- voted to close 19 underperforming schools. The Panel for Educational Policy, which is required to take public input into account in their decision-making, approved all of Bloomberg's recommended closures, drawing criticism from students and teachers who said the vote was perfunctory. "In the end, the nature of mayoral control is that the mayor makes the tough decisions," schools Chancellor Joel Klein said. "That's what it's all about." (The New York Times)

Recess before lunch helps youths eat, behave better in school: A simple switch to allow school-children to have recess first and then lunch may help them eat healthier and behave better in class, according to this blog post. A school nurse at North Ranch Elementary in Scottsdale, Ariz., suggested the change nearly a decade ago. The school tracked the results, which included less wasted food and fewer visits to the nurse's office. (The New York Times)

School board approves agreement in Florida desegregation case: School board members in Florida's Orange County voted unanimously to approve a settlement in a desegregation case that has caused the district to be subject to federal oversight since 1962. Among the provisions of the agreement: The district will fast-track renovations to 17 schools in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods, set new goals for recruiting minority teachers, and ensure equal access for students to extracurricular activities. The district also must hire consultants to monitor compliance with the agreement, which a federal judge must also sign off on. (Orlando Sentinel)

School considers cuts to science labs to focus on achievement gap: Some parents and educators are protesting a plan by officials at California's Berkeley High School to eliminate a number of advanced science labs -- attended primarily by white students -- to help fund programs for struggling minority students. The science courses helped students achieve high passing rates for Advanced Placement exams last year, but some say funding for the labs are needed to help narrow a wide achievement gap -- just 30.8% of Berkeley High's black students are proficient in English, compared with more than 90% of white students. (Los Angeles Times)

Do female teachers who are uneasy with math pass on anxiety to girls?: Women teachers could be passing their math anxiety on to girls, according to University of Chicago researchers who surveyed the attitudes of female first- and second-grade teachers about math. Researchers found that girls with teachers who were uneasy about the subject were more likely to believe that boys were better than girls at math. Female students who believed the stereotype scored lower than other students on math tests, the study found. (Chicago Tribune)

Audit to look at Detroit teachers' time in the classroom: Detroit school officials are planning an audit to determine if teachers are spending too much time on administrative duties and not enough time working with students. The study was prompted by complaints that principals have teachers performing administrative tasks during a time when budget cuts and other factors have caused classes to grow to as many as 50 students per class. (Detroit Free Press)

Administration pushes to rework No Child Left Behind law

In the Twenty-first century,
the best anti-poverty program around
is a world-class education."

--- Barack Obama

This from the Washington Post:

The Obama administration launched an effort Wednesday to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law, with a proposed increase in federal spending, a pledge to make the Bush-era school reform program more flexible and an appeal to Republicans for bipartisan cooperation.


To grease the legislative wheels, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, the administration will reserve $1 billion to fund programs that may emerge through a revision of the 2002 law....

"NCLB needs to be fixed right now," Duncan told reporters. "Clearly our goal would be this year."

Enacting a new version of what is formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would be a heavy lift as lawmakers face midterm elections. The law and the issues involved -- standardized testing, teacher quality and many facets of school reform -- are complex. Congress last tried to rewrite the measure in 2007 but fell short.

On Jan. 20, the White House and Duncan convened key Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to begin developing a road map for revising the law. "It was a very good meeting," said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), one of the participants. "It couldn't have been more bipartisan." ...

Besides, Stumbo might raid the fund

This from the Winchester Sun:

Schools face $1.5M deficit

Clark County Public Schools are already facing financial woes for the 2010-2011 school year.

A draft budget for the 2010-2011 year was presented to the school board at a special meeting Wednesday night. It includes a deficit of $1,553,677 and a contingency plan under the required 2 percent.

Consultant Dr. Bob Wagoner and Clark County Financial Director Stacey Clark presented the budget, and Wagoner encouraged the board to find a way to cut expenses by $800,000. Wagoner said that if the deficit is dealt with over two years rather than all at once, it would be easier for the district to handle.

"It is going to require some very difficult decisions by the board,” Wagoner said. “. … If it is not tackled, short of winning the Powerball, there’s not going to be a good way to do this without doing damage to your instructional program.”

Wagoner said that before the budget is approved, the contingency fund would have to be increased as well.

Although Wagoner said that having 5 to 8 percent in the fund is preferable, the current financial situation will not allow that....

And this from the Daily Independent:

Schools leery of one possible fix for budget

Proposal would take away districts’ rainy day funds

A proposal for the state to turn to school district rainy day funds as budget bandages has area administrators nervous.

The proposal is one of five possible fixes for Kentucky’s red-ink predicament and, if adopted, would fund deficits in the state’s education budget with money districts keep in reserve for emergencies.

“It concerns me because it’s not extra money. It’s money we hope not to have to use but it’s real money,” said Lawrence County School District Superintendent Mike Armstrong.

While worrisome, the proposal floated by House Speaker Greg Stumbo doesn’t come as a surprise, Armstrong said. Stumbo told superintendents at their recent convention that “anything and everything is on the table,” Armstrong said.

The proposal may not be legal because there is no way to determine how much of a contingency fund is state money and how much is local, said Greenup County School District Business Manager Scott Burchett. Burchett is worried, anyway, because the $780 million in gambling revenue Gov. Steve Beshear had been counting on in his
proposed budget faces certain death in the General Assembly.

That leaves a hole the state will have to fill somehow, Burchett said. “That makes us real nervous,” he said...

Math Teacher Arrested!

A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a compass, a slide-rule and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, the Attorney General said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-Gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction."

Al-Gebra is a problem for us" the Attorney General said. "They derive solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values." They use secret code names like 'X' and 'Y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined that they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country."

"As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle.'"

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Obama said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes."White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President.

It is believed that the Nobel Prize for Physics will follow...

This unattributed malarkey is not a real news story, of course. I heard a similar tale about Weapons of Math Instruction several years ago, but this one kept hitting my inbox this week so I thought I'd pass it along.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stumbo Still Threatening School funds

House Speaker Greg Stumbo continues to rattle the chains toward school contingency funds.

The raiding of contingency funds would further undermine trust in the legislature while promotiong unsound fiscal practices in the schools - all brought to you by a group that understands unsound fiscal policy.

This from the Courier-Journal:

House could ask schools to spend their reserve funds

Not every district would be affected
Cutting funding that local school districts receive from the state and forcing them to spend money in their reserve funds is still an option to help balance the state budget for the next two years, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday.

School districts have a total of about $800million in their reserve funds, although Stumbo said not every district's fund would be tapped.

“There's a significant amount of money there that could be (used) to balance the budget,” the Prestonsburg Democrat said. “I'm not saying we are going to do it, but it could be used to supplement the (school funding formula) in this one-time occurrence.” ...
And from H-L:

...Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, predicted that any attempt to tap those reserve funds would draw strong opposition from school officials.

Even as lawmakers potentially eye the "rainy day" money, districts have been urged by the state Department of Education to build up contingency funds, Hughes said.

"This would be nothing less than one element of state government telling districts 'don't spend money,' and another part of state government saying, 'and now we're going to take it,'" he said....

Public Evaluation of Marion Supt "Uncomfortable" but "the Law"

This from the Lebanon Enterprise:

Board excited with superintendent's progress
Board chairwoman asks superintendent
to move here by next school year

Superintendent Donald Smith has been sitting at the helm of Marion County's school district for more than six months now, and according to the board of education that hired him, he's made a great deal of progress.

Last week, the board and Smith sat down for Smith's mid-year evaluation. In the past, superintendent evaluations have been done in closed session but that changed in 2008 after the attorney general ruled that such evaluations must be public,
except when they might lead to discipline or dismissal.

After eating dinner together in the central office board meeting room Tuesday of last week, the board began the evaluation. Board Chairwoman Sister Kay Carlew made it very clear that she did not feel comfortable doing the evaluation in open session.

"I feel uncomfortable evaluating anybody in public but I certainly will follow the letter of the law," she said. "But I wouldn't want to be evaluated in public. I have heard everyone on this board express the same thing. Donald, just know that this is a first for us." ...

...According to Smith, the leadership team at central office is made up of seasoned employees with many years under their belts and it took them three to four months to understand his leadership style.

"There was a lot of leadership things, in my eyes, that wasn't getting done here," he said. "I was able to pull everybody in... I feel like we have three or four people who are managers. We need leaders." ...

...Smith said he wants to begin acting more as an "irritant" and less like a "bomb," which is what he may have portrayed when he first took the position of superintendent.

"I used to be a bomb - but no more screaming and hollering and spitting at you," he said. "You can't take my passion away but there is a way to deliver to folk and just move on."

School board member Bernard Miles said he was glad Smith brought that up because he had been told that some people felt like they had been hollered at by Smith, especially during the opening day of school.

"But, I have seen some change. I see you handle yourself different in situations now," Miles said...

...Another hot topic during Smith's evaluation was a discussion about placing the most qualified teachers with the students who need them the most. For instance, if there was an effective math teacher at school A - why not put that teacher in school B, which has very poor math scores. While it would be controversial, it could improve test scores and help students succeed, Smith said.

"But, I'd have to move Mt. Everest first," he said. "The teachers work for the district and not the school. Unfortunately, they think they work for the school."

While moving teachers around to where they are needed most in the district might be the "right" thing to do, it's not the popular thing to do, Smith said. But, he's willing to take that risk if it will help students succeed, he said.

"In order to make this happen, it's got to be a district initiative," Smith said. "When you start making these decisions, it could be a political nightmare. But, I will fight the political nightmare if our graduation rate goes up and our gaps close."

Carlew said she and the board would also be willing to take that risk...

Corbin Turns to Holliday

This from the Times Tribune:

Corbin ready to take fight
to Ky. Court of Appeals

The Corbin Board of Education is willing to take its fight to reinstate the non-resident reciprocal agreement axed by the Knox County Board of Education all the way to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

That appeals process will first begin with Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday.

During a special work session Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Ed McNeel to send a written appeal to Holliday.

If that appeal fails to result in the reinstatement of the reciprocal agreement, the board directed McNeel to appeal to the Kentucky Board of Education. If both those appeals fail, Bob Hammons, attorney for the Corbin district, said the district will pursue the agreement’s reinstatement in Franklin Circuit Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Earlier this month, the Knox County Board of Education voted to end its long-standing non-resident reciprocal agreement with Corbin.

That vote, which impacts 169 students who live in Knox district but attend Corbin schools, has sparked an outcry from some parents and protests from Corbin

Once Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday receives the written appeal, he has 30 days to rule on the matter, according to Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.

In forming his ruling, Gross said the primary data Holliday will consider includes academic performance, the impact the decision will have on programs in both districts, facilities issues, transportation and staffing.

KSN&C Backstory...and this.

A shout out to EKU Corbin

Thanks to Peggy Petrilli's methods students for the invitation to chat about formative assessment on your beautiful campus today. Keep up the great work.

It was great to see Peggy McGuire, too; live and in person this time.

Arrrgh. I think I cut off a couple of students! Sorry.
: (

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Plan B

“I’ve got to address [charter schools
as part of Kentucky's
Race to the Top application]
so you stay on board
because if I lose you, I lose the race.

I’ve got to have 174 stay with us
while we’re talking about charters
and come up with something that helps
children without damaging local districts."

---Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Things are apparently much clearer since June. Gone is the talk about how the feds would see Kentucky school councils as a suitable substitute for a charter school law.

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Saturday that Kentucky must have a plan ready to make charter schools legal in the Commonwealth if the state fails in its bid for $200 million in federal Race to the Top school reform money this spring.

Speaking in Louisville at the KSBA annual conference, Holliday said the reason he feels Kentucky has only a 50/50 chance of having its application funded is the state’s lack of charter schools, an education option being pressed heavily the Obama administration.

“If we don’t get the money, then I’ve got to have a backup plan that will work. My back up plan is this: charter schools,” Holliday said.

Asking school board members and superintendents to keep an open mind, Holliday made a pledge to only support charter schools if local boards of education are the deciding authority.

“I will support charter schools with the local school board as the authorizing agent,” he said. “I will not support any effort to take money away from local school boards.

“I will support innovation. I will support flexibility. I will support helping every child reach their potential and be successful....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quick Hits

Calif. district makes gains using RTI with English-language learners: California's Chula Vista Elementary School District has seen a dramatic increase in the reading and math test scores of English-language learners since it began using a response-to-intervention approach with those students. The RTI process involves three tiers of progressively intensive individualized instruction, with the third tier reserved for the students who are struggling the most. With ELL students in Chula Vista, third-tier instruction is aimed at ensuring a language barrier is not being mistaken for a learning disability, which would result in a special-education placement. (Education Week)

Video series teaches science of the Olympic Winter Games: A free video series from NBC and the National Science Foundation uses the Winter Olympics and athletes to explain scientific principles and could be used as a resource for teachers interested in incorporating the games in Vancouver, Canada -- broadcast from Feb. 12 to 28 -- into their lessons. The videos include a look at how angular momentum allows figure skaters to perform, the role of Newton's Three Laws of Motion in speedskating and other principles. (eSchool News)

Charter-school bills face resistance in Alabama legislature: Alabama Gov. Bob Riley is facing resistance in the legislature over his proposal for allowing charter schools in the state. Bills in both chambers of the legislature have stalled and could face long delays before being considered by lawmakers. "With the drought of money already, I have difficulty doing something that would split the money any further," said the chairman of the state Senate's education budget committee. (Montgomery Advertiser)

Massachusetts school takes whole-child approach to learning: A nationally recognized Massachusetts elementary school has an Open Circle curriculum that focuses on communication, cooperation, respect, responsibility and assertiveness as keys to educating the whole child. Developed by Wellesley College, Open Circle includes lessons on coping with teasing, deciphering body language and learning how to be a good listener as part of a premise that these skills help prepare students to lead productive and fulfilling lives. The school is being profiled for the Department of Education's Web site. (Daily Gazette)

Students build digital cameras to learn science, engineering concepts: Students in New York are among the first to participate in a pilot program spearheaded by Columbia University to learn science and engineering concepts by building a fully functioning digital camera from a kit. Students from India, Vietnam and Japan were also given kits, and all students are being asked to share pictures taken with their cameras on (Video at NY1)

Mississippi students visit Reality Town for financial education: Ninth-graders in a Mississippi county will make a three-day visit to Reality Town, a life-skills workshop meant to teach them how their achievement in high school will likely affect their futures. Students receive an amount of virtual money that is based on their first-semester grades and use it to purchase cars, insurance, utilities and other necessities, while facing surprise expenses such as medical bills and car repairs. "We want our kids to graduate as informed consumers and informed citizens," one superintendent said. (The Daily Leader)

Online school enrolls at-risk students in suburban Detroit: An online high-school program in a suburban Detroit school district is drawing a growing number of students who dropped out of or were expelled from traditional schools, and it is also being credited with increasing enrollment for the district. The Cyber School offers students an iMac laptop, a home Internet connection and the flexibility to work at their own pace -- though they must log on daily -- toward earning a high-school diploma by following a Web-based curriculum. (The Detroit News)

Indiana bill to end social promotion is in danger due to funding: An Indiana bill to end the social promotion of third-graders who are not proficient in reading may not become law because of a lack of funding to implement it, some lawmakers said. State officials estimate the initiative would cost about $49 million per year for additional testing and intervention programs, money that the state does not have. Indiana education chief Tony Bennett pledged to fight for the legislation, but a top state senator said that "with our current fiscal condition, we can't pile on the liabilities down the road." (The Indianapolis Star)

Unionized charter schools are becoming more common: Unionized charter schools have become more common over the past year and a half -- with some teachers unionizing over work conditions and some charter operators insisting on working with union teachers. Supporters say the movement can make charters a leader in innovative education and labor agreements. Union leaders say it is a "new path" for charters, but critics worry that unions are a distraction to such schools. (Harvard Education Letter)

Resilience training helps students fight depression, manage stress: A curriculum designed by behavioral therapy researchers is providing middle-school students with resilience training to help them think more positively and ward off depression and anxiety that can affect achievement. At the KIPP Infinity Charter School in New York City's West Harlem, students take "Emotional Health 101" to help them develop reality-based skills for coping with challenging situations. "The evidence is starting to accumulate that these skills can help prevent depression, and they have powerful effects," the program's creator said. (National Public Radio)

Innovative programs draw students, funding in Minnesota: Language-immersion schools, gifted-and-talented programs and a multi-age classroom for students whose IQ is higher than 145 are among the programs available to students across Minnesota, where open enrollment has districts competing to attract students and funding. "There is a sense throughout Minnesota that we need to innovate," said a spokeswoman for the Minnetonka district, which was losing students but now attracts more students than it loses to open enrollment by a ratio of almost 6-to-1. (Star Tribune)

Opinion: States need new incentives to raise academic standards: The upcoming revision to No Child Left Behind provides an opportunity to remove incentives for states to lower their standards for student proficiency in math and reading, writes Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters. School quality should be measured in not only proficiency levels but in how much progress students make from year to year, he argues. A system should also be developed to compare and reward the difficulty of states' exams as a way to encourage the adoption of tougher standards, Winters writes. (Los Angeles Times)

Professional learning communities help teachers improve lessons, school: Professional learning communities -- made up of educators and members of the community -- offer teachers resources for making improvements in the classroom as well as changes to the culture of their schools. "We need to let go of the idea that heroic individuals will change schools," says an education consultant who helps schools establish PLCs. "Instead of looking for superheroes, we need to work collectively to help everyone be successful." (Edutopia magazine)

Massachusetts governor signs sweeping education reforms into law: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a comprehensive education-reform bill that allows for an increase in the number of charter schools and grants superintendents more authority to dismiss ineffective teachers and make sweeping changes in struggling districts. The reforms are designed to position the state to qualify for $250 million in federal Race to the Top money. (The Boston Globe)

San Francisco charter teaches leadership skills using "four R's": Four-fifths of the seniors at San Francisco's City Arts and Technology High School -- part of the Envision Schools charter network -- enroll in four-year colleges. The school relies on "four R's -- rigor, relevance, relationships and results" -- to guide its teaching methodology. Educators create team projects that build academic and leadership skills while keeping lessons relevant to the lives of students -- 60% of whom come from low-income households. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Dismissal policy based on testing wins support of Houston school board: School board members in Houston gave preliminary approval to a policy giving administrators the authority to dismiss teachers whose students consistently perform poorly on standardized tests. Officials said the goal of the policy is not to fire more teachers, but to help improve teacher effectiveness as well as student achievement. "Quite frankly, if we were that good, why do 100,000 of our kids read below grade level?" district Superintendent Terry Grier said. (Houston Chronicle)

Alabama legislators block teacher ethics code: Alabama state lawmakers have passed a resolution rejecting a teacher code of ethics that had been approved by the state school board. A state teachers union official said the code should be a policy -- not a law -- and that the change would leave the code open to legal interpretation. A spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley said the governor supports the code and plans to veto the attempt to block it. "These standards aren't vague. They are common sense and something all parents, teachers and legislators should support," Riley said in a statement. (The Birmingham News)

Singapore math a success so far in Fayette Co.

This from Jim Warren at the Herald-Leader:
Math in Focus, which essentially is identical to the text used by about 80 percent of elementary students in Singapore, a tiny Asian city-state whose kids have been hitting the ball out of the park on international math assessments since the late 1990s. Fayette County is hoping for similar results.

So-called "Singapore math" features problems that often are more complex than American textbooks contain. It demands deep mastery of a few math concepts, rather than an overview of many different ideas. And it aims to give students a basic understanding of how math works, rather than a simple rote system for finding answers.

Because the nine Fayette schools' experiment with Singapore math began only last fall, direct pre- and post-Singapore standardized test results are not yet available. But anecdotally, teachers say early results look promising. "I know I'm teaching math at a much higher level now than I ever taught it before, and the students are grasping it more quickly," Cox said....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hoxby: Too early to draw sweeping conclusions on charters

In the wake of KET's recent discussion of charter schools the communication lines aroud here have perked up.

Some have asked me to look into Sheldon Berman's statements, and I will - next chance I get. It is too soon to draw conclusions about charters. That includes calling charter schools a failed reform. That is nonsense. Just like sclling charter schools a civil right is nonsense.

One KSN&C reader wanted to know why I remain unconvinced by Carolyn Hoxby's research which suggests that New York's charter school students outperform their public school peers. The reader asked why I don't love her method of comparing charter school students with nearby public school students.

Well, in part, it's because I'm not sure they are peers. The other part is an admitted suspicion of psuedoscientific work from some institutions that collect (buy) like-minded researchers and then set out to create data in support of their predetermined worldview.

I have no idea how to guard against this - except to remain suspicious, think critically, and to wait for scholarly confirmation through peer review before jumping to any conclusions.

Speaking of which, there's this from "Advantage None: Re-Examining Hoxby’s Finding of Charter School Benefits" by Lawrence Mishel and Joydeep Roy on Hoxby's 2004 study:

Hoxby's analysis, however, suffers from the fact that her method of comparing charter schools to their neighboring regular public schools (and to those neighboring public schools with a similar racial composition) inadequately controls for student backgrounds. In her sample of matched schools there are often significant differences in the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the students. For instance, comparing the charter schools in Hoxby's sample to the matched neighboring public schools with a similar racial composition shows that the charter schools have a disproportionately higher black population (34% vs. 28%) and higher white population (43% vs. 36%), while the share of Hispanics is lower (18% vs. 30%). Her sample of charter schools also has disproportionately fewer low-income students than does the matched "racially similar" sample of neighboring public schools (49% vs. 60%). The same picture emerges in terms of the demographics of charter schools in central cities: charter schools serve a disproportionately lower share of minorities and low-income students compared to their matched regular public schools. Thus,
without further controls, Hoxby's method of comparing "racially matched" schools does not appear to be effective in controlling for student characteristics.

Hoxby's result of a positive charter effect on math proficiency disappears when racial composition is controlled for directly. Further, when both racial composition and low-income status are controlled for, the positive effect of attending a charter school disappears for both math and reading (it becomes very small and not statistically significantly different than zero). Thus, Hoxby's conclusion that "although it is too early to draw sweeping conclusions, the initial indications are that the average student attending a charter school has higher achievement than he or she otherwise would" (Hoxby 2004a) does not hold up against direct controls for student background.

Plain and simple - the jury is still out on the performance of charter school students relative to public school students.

Now for those who want me to quit doubting Hoxby and start lovin' her findings, particularly in the wake of CREDO's recent softening, my answer is - I can't. At least not yet. Let's have some pros give her data the twice over before we start promising the public something we cannot deliver.

In the meantime, surely skeptics and hopeful romantics alike can agree with Hoxby when she says it's "too early to draw sweeping conclusions."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teacher With Bible Divides Ohio Town

An Ohio teacher, who apparently forgot that he represents the state, provided a field guide for those who would establish religion in the public schools.

He led his football players in prayers before games; before practices; before team meetings. His district had to settle a $18,000 suit as a result.

Later, he proposed that the school board adopt a policy to teach evolution as theory, not proven scientific fact and was denied. He taught Intelligent Design instead and his colleagues began to complain that when they received his former students they had not mastered the basics, causing them to have to reteach.

Students complained that he said, “Science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

Then there was the time he burned a cross (he says it's an X) on the arm of one of his students with a tesla coil.

More recently he posted the Ten Commandments on his classroom door, adorned his room with three more copies of the decalogue and other posters with scripture on it. Supported by a religious activist, he drew battlelines refusing to remove a Bible from the view of his students.

His persistent effort over time to impose his strongly held views promoting a specific religion is the clearest case of establishment of religion in recent memory.

This from the New York Times:
Most people in this quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater.

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half-million dollars.

The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students...
KSN&C Backstory:

If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online

This from the New York Times:

The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones.

And because so many of them are multitasking — say, surfing the Internet while listening to music — they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours. “I feel like my days would be boring without it,” said Francisco Sepulveda, a 14-year-old Bronx eighth grader who uses his smart phone to surf the Web, watch videos, listen to music — and send or receive about 500 texts a day.

The study’s findings shocked its authors, who had concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further, and confirmed the fears of many parents whose children are constantly tethered to media devices. It found, moreover, that heavy media use is associated with several negatives, including behavior problems and lower grades.

The third in a series, the study found that young people’s media consumption grew far more in the last five years than from 1999 to 2004, as sophisticated mobile technology like iPods and smart phones brought media access into teenagers’ pockets and beds.

Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston who directs the Center on Media and Child Health, said that with media use so ubiquitous, it was time to stop arguing over whether it was good or bad and accept it as part of children’s environment, “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.” ...

Video: Profiles of Generation M(2)

This video explores the powerful force that media can be in the lives of teens and tweens. The three young people who are profiled explain what types of media they use—such as smart phones, computers, TV, video games—how much time they spend with media and what impact it has on their lives.

Black Schools Restored as Landmarks

This from the New York Times:

Until 1923, the only school in the largely black farm settlement of Pine Grove was the one hand-built by parents, a drafty wooden structure in the churchyard. Anyone who could read and write could serve as teacher. With no desks and paper scarce, teachers used painted wood for a blackboard, and an open fireplace provided flashes of warmth to the lucky students who sat close.

This changed after a Chicago philanthropist named Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck, took up the cause of long-neglected education for blacks at the urging of Booker T. Washington, the proponent of black self-help. By the late 1920s, one in three rural black pupils in 15 states were attending a new school built with seed money, architectural advice and supplies from the Rosenwald Fund.

“It was a big step up, going to a school that was painted and had a potbellied stove,” said Rubie Schumpert, 92, one of nine siblings who attended the Rosenwald school in Pine Grove — and one of three sisters who went on to college and careers as teachers.

If the desks and textbooks were hand-me-downs from white schools, at least there were real blackboards and rough paper for writing. If there was still no electricity, columns of windows maximized the natural light.

Today, this hard-used wooden building, which narrowly escaped demolition, is one of several dozen Rosenwald schools being restored as landmarks — newly appreciated relics of important chapters in philanthropy and black education. The schools were a turning point, sparking improved, if still unequal, education for much of the South, historians say....

The Hickory Colored School in Mayfield, Ky. The building is being restored and was moved to the Graves County High School campus.

Hat tip to Al Cross at the Rural Blog.

Parents organize against Knox Co school board decision

Developing ‘action plan’ to allow Knox students
to continue attending Corbin schools at no cost

This from the Times Tribune:

Angry Knox County parents are developing an “action plan” to fight the Knox school board’s recent decision to end the reciprocal agreement that allowed county students to attend Corbin schools at no cost. They’ve created a Facebook page — 260 members and growing — and have dubbed themselves Knox Parents for Corbin Schools. But during a Monday planning meeting, parents had varying viewpoints on how they can legally challenge the board’s decision, and some were misinformed on their rights when it comes to school choice.

The meeting was held at Grace on the Hill Church, organized by parents Dr. Paul Cooney and Pat Evans, and publicized by word-of-mouth and text messages. The parents are asking the Knox board to reconsider its repeal of the Corbin reciprocal agreement — a move that means the 169 children in the Knox district who attend Corbin schools will have to pay a $1,200 annual tuition to continue schooling at Corbin.

More than 150 people signed a petition at the meeting Monday opposing Knox’s decision.

“We feel this decision will harm children educationally, socially, and mentally,” the petition reads. “Furthermore, it will have negative ramifications on property values in the west Knox area. We ask you, the Knox County school board, to reconsider this

Cooner also gave out school board members’ home and cell phone numbers, and provided sample statements for parents to express their displeasure with the board when they call.

David Cole, public relations director for Knox County schools, said the school board is expecting a large turnout for its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the board annex building on Daniel Boone Drive in Barbourville. The district is prepared to relocate to the Knox County Middle School gym, but the move will only take place if too many people crowd the annex; residents should show up at the annex before assuming the
meeting will be moved, Cole said.

Six representatives of Knox Parents for Corbin Schools will have a total of 30 minutes to speak about the reciprocal agreement, Cole said. “They’ll not be taking any additional comments from the floor,” he said, adding that Knox Superintendent Walter T. Hulett was preparing a slideshow presentation explaining the board’s vote.


In an article printed in Saturday’s Times-Tribune, Knox officials cited a six-figure revenue loss for the district in their reasoning for the vote.

For the current school year, the state pays school districts a base amount of $3,866 per-student in SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding, though Lisa Gross, spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Education, said the actual amount of state money allocated to each district may vary due to how the funding formula works.

The state is paying $4,153 for each Corbin Independent student and $4,913 for each Knox County student, Gross said.

While 32 Corbin students attend Knox schools, 169 Knox students go to Corbin, representing a net loss of 137 students (and the SEEK funding attached to them) for Knox County.

Gross said the SEEK funding follows students when they attend an out-of-district school only when the two districts have a reciprocal agreement.

Without an agreement, Corbin stands to lose $4,153 for each Knox district student attending Corbin schools, gaining only $1,200 in tuition. Knox stands to gain $4,913 for every student who stays in district for the first time...

All But 10 States Throw Hats Into Race to Top Ring

This from Education Week:

Forty states and the District of Columbia applied for the first round of $4 billion in the Race to the Top Fund competition, which pits states against each other for desperately needed money, bragging rights, and leverage to implement controversial education reforms such as merit pay for teachers.

The 10 states that did not apply by the first round’s Jan. 19 deadline were: Alaska, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. Those states that did not apply, and any losing states from the first round, will be able to compete in the second round of competition, which is set for June.

“This exceeded our expectations,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has made Race to the Top the most high-profile piece of his education reform agenda, said in a statement. “We received word from 40 states that they intended to apply, and thought there might be some drop-off. There wasn’t.” ...
Last fall Swift and Change Able looked at an analysis of which states are likely in the best position to compete for RTTT dollars. Here's the take on Kentucky's chances from the New Teacher Project which notes that Kentucky lacks one or more of the selection criteria. Since that time, Kentucky refused to enact a (bad) charter law.
Kentucky, like 10 other states, has no charter schools now because it has no state authorizing law. But that could be changing.

Two bills to create charter schools or "public school academies" have been filed at least in part as a result of the state’s RttT aspirations.

Support is said to be growing, but the politics will be tricky. Gov. Steve Beshear says "all options are on the table." Teachers unions are vowing to lobby against the bills, on the basis that they are "anti-public school." Supporters include an odd, but increasingly common across the country, alliance of "a group of black Louisville pastors and the Bluegrass Institute, a conservative education think tank."

Beshear's education choice: some pain or big cuts

Senate Bill 1 Implementation
Depends on Fed Dollars
This from Ryan Alessi and Jim Warren at H-L, photo by Ed Reinke:

The state's public universities could suffer minimal pain or double-digit cuts in 2012 depending on the fate of Gov. Steve Beshear's long-shot proposal for gambling.

University leaders didn't immediately leap Tuesday to support the governor's expanded-gambling plan, which faces a skeptical General Assembly.

Officials of the eight public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System politely praised Beshear for what they called his commitment to preserve higher-education funding, then turned to lobbying the legislature.

University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. said the presidents won't back any particular method for raising revenue.

"I firmly believe that the legislature and the governor want to help higher education if they have the resources," he said. "We'll leave it up to them to figure out where the revenue source comes from."

Beshear's plan largely aims to protect education.

The Support Education Excellence in Kentucky fund, the major source of money for K-12 schools, would be exempt from cuts for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 under the proposal. Beshear recommends preserving SEEK funds even if the gambling measure doesn't pass....
In an email message to EKU faculty today, President Doug Whitlock said,

Last night I attended the presentation of Governor Stephen Beshear’s 2010-2012 budget message to the Kentucky General Assembly. I would suspect that many of you have read or seen news accounts of that presentation.

Once again, Governor Beshear has shown his commitment to postsecondary education and his understanding of our value to the Commonwealth’s future...

Tomorrow, I will speak on behalf of the Kentucky higher education committee to the House Budget Review Subcommittee. In my remarks, I will encourage the legislature to consider the profound need for new revenue. Kentucky’s budget woes run far deeper than simply the downturn in the economy. There was a structural imbalance between recurring income and recurring expenses even before the economy soured. It is my sincerest hope that the Governor and General Assembly will work together to solve this issue whether through expanded gaming, some other form of revenue enhancement, or a combination thereof.

This process has just begun and will play out over the coming months. I will keep you informed at every appropriate opportunity. My request to you is to not succumb to alarmism and to continue to do the same fine job you are doing today. That is the best way to continue to communicate our worth and our dedication to the public policy makers of this state.

And from Toni Knoz at C-J:

Kentucky school districts would receive slightly more money per student under Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed two-year budget, but they would see cuts of about 2 percent to other programs and initiatives.

Beshear said one of his highest priorities is maintaining the current level of the state's formula for funding public schools, called Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK.

His budget calls for schools to receive $3,891 per student in 2011 and $3,927 in 2012, slight increases over the $3,866 per student that districts are receiving this year.

“The best long-term investment that we can make in the future of our Commonwealth is educating our kids,” Beshear said Tuesday. “If we give them a proper education, they will be able to get the jobs of the future. If they are working, all of the rest of our problems take care of themselves.” ...

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said he was happy to learn that Beshear is proposing an increase in per-pupil funding, particularly because state funding has been flat the past several years.

“We are very happy that the governor held education as one of his top priorities,” he said.

Beshear's budget also includes $21.9 million over the next two years to implement Senate Bill 1.

But he said that amount is contingent on the state receiving Race to the Top federal grant money from the Obama administration. Race to the Top is an initiative that pits states against each other and rewards those that develop the best plans to improve student achievement.

“If we don't get that money, we will have to revisit (the budget) and see if we need to put additional state monies in there to implement Senate Bill 1,” Beshear said...

Sharron Oxendine, president of the Kentucky Education Association, applauded the governor “for continuing to protect education. I think he realizes the detrimental effect not funding education would have on the commonwealth.”

Oxendine also said she believes Beshear is “doing the best he can with what he's got.”
Beshear's budget proposal also includes an additional $173 million over the next two years to cover the higher cost of health insurance for school district employees and $150 million in bonds for school facility improvements.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another push to raise dropout age

This from H-L:
...Gov. Steve Beshear has thrown his support behind a long-standing legislative proposal to raise the dropout age in Kentucky from 16 to 18.

"The economic benefits of such a move are obvious both to the individual involved and to the commonwealth," Beshear said in an interview last week in his Capitol office.

He pointed to studies that show most dropouts will earn much less than those with high school diplomas and probably will rely on public assistance. Many are predicted to commit crimes and serve time in prison, he said.

"We should be finding ways to ensure that our children can be success stories rather than failures," the Democratic governor says.

Beshear said he will recommend that lawmakers phase in the change: the compulsory school age would increase from 16 to 17 for incoming freshmen this fall and to 18 for those entering eighth grade.

By raising the dropout age gradually, Beshear can support the increase
without providing money for more teachers, truancy officers and alternative
schools in the next two-year budget, which faces a potential shortfall of $1.5

Rush to enact

Bill will hold administrators, teachers more accountable

This from the Daily Independent:

There is nothing quite like the chance to apply for up to $200 million in federal funds for school improvements to convince the 2010 General Assembly to take only nine days to enact the law necessary to qualify for those funds.

During a period when bills in the General Assembly typically move along at an exceedingly slow pace, House Bill 176 was filed on Jan. 5, endorsed by the House Education Committee the next day, approved by the entire House of Representatives on a 96-0 vote on Jan. 11, approved by the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 12, and by the entire Senate by a 38-0 bill on Jan. 13. It was signed by Gov. Steve Beshear on Jan. 14, and since the General Assembly had declared it an “emergency,” it took effect immediately.

Why the rush?

Well, the federal government had established a Jan. 19 deadline for states to apply for federal funds of up to $200 million over four years. While approval of the law is no guarantee that Kentucky will receive any of that money, it is a certainty that the state would not have received a dime unless the required state law was on the books by Jan. 19. Thus, the state beat the federal deadline by four

So what does HB 176 do?

Well, among other things, it holds teachers and principals in “persistently low-achieving schools” more accountable for the academic performance of their students. It would make it easier for administrators and teachers in schools whose students consistently perform poorly on statewide tests to be terminated or reassigned. ...

JCPS less than half way to diversity goal

Berman says district's progress so far is better than expected

This from Toni at C-J:
Halfway into the first year of Jefferson County Public Schools' new student-assignment plan, less than half of the district's elementary schools are in compliance with new diversity guidelines aimed at keeping schools integrated.

According to statistics released by the district, 48 of the district's 90 elementary schools have failed to meet the diversity goal of having between 15 percent and 50 percent of students coming from neighborhoods where the average household income is below $41,000; the average education levels are less than a high school diploma with some college; and the minority population is more than 48 percent.

While officials have said they fully expected that it would take time to bring all schools into compliance, figures show that some schools are not close to reaching that goal...

“We knew that not all of our elementary schools would be in alignment with the diversity guideline the first year because we chose” to exempt more than 3,000 children who would have been moved under the plan to stay at their current schools, said Pat Todd, director of student assignment for the district. “In addition, for the irst year of implementation, it was only the first-grade class that we really monitored for the 15-50 goal.”

But even when looking at just first-graders, 47 elementary schools are either over or under the 15-50 goal....

Obama to Seek $1.35 Billion Race to Top Expansion

This from Ed Week:

President Barack Obama will seek $1.35 billion in next year’s budget to expand the Race to the Top competition, paving the way for the popular economic-stimulus grant program to become a permanent part of the administration’s education arsenal.

In its fiscal 2011 budget request, the Obama administration also will spell out that it wants to open up Race to the Top—which is now a competition among states—to school districts as well. Districts would have their own grant contest and would not have to compete against states, according to senior administration officials...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Charter Debate to Continue on KET

Charter schools will be debated on
KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” show
at 8 p.m. Monday, January 18.

Scheduled guests include:
  • Rev. Jerry Stephenson, chair of the Kentucky Education Restoration Alliance
  • Jim Waters, director of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
  • Sharron Oxendine, president of the Kentucky Education Association
  • Superintendent Sheldon Berman of Jefferson County Public Schools

Charter schools are public schools contracted out to the private sector. In 1992, the first two charter schools operated in St. Paul, Minnesota. By September 1999, almost 300,000 students attended 1,682 charter schools operating in 33 states. By 2000, 38 states had laws allowing charter schools and a year later there were 2,372 such schools in America.

More recently the heat has been turned up on states lacking permissive charter school laws because Education Secretary Arne Duncan tied billions of federal dollars to state acquiescence. Pass a charter school law and better your chances in the Race To The Top sweepstakes.

WFPL reported that several Louisville pastors have been working with Republican Rep. Brad Montell of Shelbyville who filed a bill to allow charter schools in the state. Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington filed a similar bill in July. Both would have permitted charters to operate in competition with successful schools. The vote on Montell's bill was tied in committee, so lacking a majority, died. But supporters sense they are close and vow to push on.

  • Expect Stephenson to say that the greatest need for charter schools is in inner city Louisville where a number of schools are failing.
  • Expect Waters, the BIPPS communications director, to swear by Carolyn Hoxby's widely discredited study and offer it as proof of charter school effectiveness despite substantial evidence that charter performance is as varied as that of the public schools they would replace.
  • Expect Superintendent Berman to defend JCPS's continued efforts to turn around their most challenging schools despite years of stagnant results.
  • Expect Oxendine to question the need for charter schools based on their mixed performance nationally.

The data on charter schools is far from conclusive. Taken as a whole it's impossible to conclude that they are any better, and are sometimes worse, than the public schools. But in places, they have shown success. As I have said before, if education were a natural science, it would be like meterology; highly-localized and ever-changing. Successful charter schools seem to focus on the success of each child, building relationships, and a high quality faculty working their butts off - like in successful public schools.

As early as 1999, Arizona researchers found "evidence of substantial ethnic segregation," and that charter schools "were higher in white enrollment than other public schools." (Cobb & Glass)

In "Does Choice Lead to Racially Distinctive Schools?" Weiher and Tedin (2002) found "that race is a good predictor" of the school choice families make. Whites, African Americans, and Latinos transfer into charter schools where their groups comprise between 11 and 14 percentage points more of the student body than the traditional public schools they are leaving.

In "Decade of Charter Schools: From Theory to Practice, Bulkley and Fisler (2003) at Rutgers
found that "although some successes are evident, there is still much to learn about the quality of charter schools and the experiences of charter school stakeholders. There is strong evidence that parents and students who remain in charter schools are satisfied and that charter schools are more autonomous than other public schools. But the jury is still out on some of the most important questions, including those about innovation, accountability, equity, and outcomes."

In "The effect of charter schools on charter students and public schools ," Bettinger (2004) at Case Western Reserve found that "test scores of charter school students do not improve, and may actually decline, relative to those of public school students," but charters had no significant effect on test scores in neighboring public schools.

In "Charter Schools and Student Achievement in Florida," Florida State's Tim Sass (2006) found achievement to initially be lower in charters. However, by their fifth year of operation charter schools "reach a par with the average traditional public school." Charters targeting at-risk and special education students demonstrate lower student achievement, as do their public counterparts. He found no difference between charters managed by for-profit entities than charters run by nonprofits.

In "Skimming the Cream" West, Ingram & Hind (2006) of the London School of Economics and Political Science found evidence suggestive of both "cream skimming" and "cropping off" educational provision to particular groups of students. "It is concluded that the introduction of market oriented reforms into public school systems requires monitoring and effective regulation to ensure that autonomous schools do not act in their own self-interest."

In "The Charter School Allure: Can Traditional Schools Measure Up? Bowling Green State's May (2006) found that "urban school districts are losing significant resources to charter schools" and that "despite the lack of statistically significant evidence of academic gains, parents perceive an enhanced educational experience." The author surmises that the chasm between perceived charter school success and traditional school failure is a "perception gap"

In "The Impacts of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: Evidence from North Carolina," Bifulco at U Conn and Duke's Ladd (2006) found that "students make considerably smaller achievement gains in charter schools than they would have in public schools" and say there is "suggestive evidence" that "about 30 percent of the negative effect of charter schools is attributable to high rates of student turnover."

Then came the study that defined the debate.

It was the first peer-reviewed detailed national assessment of charter school impacts since its longitudinal, student-level analysis covers more than 70 percent of the nation’s students attending charter schools. In “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States,” reasearchers at the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that "there is a wide variance in the quality of the nation’s several thousand charter schools with, in the aggregate, students in charter schools not faring as well as students in traditional public schools."

While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.

Then, something unusual happened.

Education Week reported Stanford colleague Caroline M. Hoxby, an economics professor, issued a memo critiquing the CREDO study in tandem with results from her own study of charter schools in New York City. That study showed that charter schools in the city were having the opposite effect on their students’ achievement as the CREDO researchers found.

In a memorandum titled "Fact vs. Fiction: An Analysis of Dr. Hoxby’s Misrepresentation of CREDO’s Research," the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, (CREDO), fired back.

The memo, "A Serious Statistical Mistake in the CREDO Study of Charter Schools," by Caroline Hoxby, does not provide any basis whatsoever for discounting the reliability of the CREDO study’s conclusions. The central element of Dr. Hoxby’s critique is a statistical argument that is quite unrelated to the CREDO analysis. The numerical elements of it are misleading in the extreme, even had the supporting logic been correct. Unfortunately, the memo is riddled with serious errors both in the structure of the underlying statistical models and in the derivation of any bias.

This is all going on at Stanford University, the same campus where the conservative Hoover Institution does its work with such notable conservatives as Condolesa Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. It the same place where Eric Hanushek tries to prove that money doesn't matter in education. One gets the distincitive au de political bias from the place. Turns out that Hoxby works there too. What a surprise.

“I don’t think the field of education research or policymakers are well served by scholars going back and forth with dueling memos, without peer review and without ample time to think it through,” said associate professor of education and sociology Sean F. Reardon, a colleague of both scholars at Stanford told Ed Week. “But I don’t think either side got it right,” he added.

Neither study has been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal. But that won't stop political operatives from citing them as definitive evidence.