Friday, April 30, 2010

New Charter Language Contains Surprise

Juggling the conflicting interests of teachers, superintendents, boards of education, principals, politicians, parents and the press, this afternoon Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday released revised language proposed for House Bill 109 - a charter school bill.

In a surprising development, Jefferson County, the school district which has drawn most of the protest from pro-charter groups, is apparently off the hook. The sweetheart language reads,
A district that has, as of the date of this act, an established student assignment plan that includes school choice and magnet options shall not be required to authorize charter schools under this act.
It's hard to imagine the status quo satisfying Jefferson County charter advocates.

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:

KDE charter school draft addresses enrollment,
teacher tenure, may exempt Jefferson County

A draft of charter school legislation released Friday afternoon by the Kentucky Department of Education makes significant changes in the language of House Bill 109, the charter school bill passed by the state Senate late in the 2010 General Assembly but not considered by the House of Representatives.

The bill language, provided by Education Commissioner Terry Holliday in his Fast Five on Friday e-mail to state educations leaders, is described as “an attempt from KDE staff to address written concerns received at the department” from the Kentucky School Boards Association, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Kentucky Education Association...

The Jefferson County Board of Education would appear to be exempted from being required to authorize charters if the bill becomes law. The district could be the only one that meets the exemption of having an existing student assignment plan, school choice and magnet schools, elementary to qualify for the exemption.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman this week announced his opposition to House Bill 109, indicating the district might pull its endorsement of Kentucky’s Race to the Top $175 school reform funding application if such legislation becomes law in Kentucky. Commisioner Holliday has sought charter school legislation in order to strengthen the state’s second round Race to the Top application.

Revised Text of HB 109 Here:

According to the bill,

A charter school shall be a public school within the school district that grants its charter and shall be accountable to the school district's local board of education for purposes of ensuring compliance with applicable laws and charter provisions.

The mission of charter schools is to:

(a) Focus on closing achievement gaps between high-performing and low-performing groups of public school students by expanding learning experiences for students who are identified as academically low-achieving;

(b) Increase pupil learning through the implementation of high, rigorous standards for pupil performance;

(c) Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of education opportunities that are available within the public school system; and

(d) Be allowed freedom and flexibility in exchange for exceptional levels of results-driven accountability.

Other snippets from the bill:
  • A majority of the school's students [must] reside within the school district.
  • [An existing school could convert to a charter on a vote of] 75% of the faculty at the school and 75% of the voting parents of students enrolled in the school
  • [Charters would be] subject to all federal and state laws and constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services.
  • Enrollment decisions [must be] made in a nondiscriminatory manner.
  • [Charters can change instructional practices but] curriculum, assessment, and accountability [remain the province of the state].
  • A charter school shall not charge tuition... [and must submit a plan] to meet students' transportation needs [and] health and food services.
  • [A charter] shall be responsible for its own operation...[ and must] adhere to the same health, safety, and facility requirements as other public schools.
  • The charter shall have standing to sue and be sued... [and must submit to an] annual audit of the financial and administrative operations.
  • A charter school’s results on state assessments shall be included and reported in the chartering district’s assessment reports...[and] shall meet or exceed the student performance standards adopted by the state board.
  • The charter school application shall ... [comply with] any locally bargained contract.
  • [Must describe] rules and procedures by which students may be disciplined, including but not limited to expulsion or suspension from the school.
  • No person, group, or organization may submit an application to convert a private school or a nonpublic home-based education program into a charter school or to create a charter school which is a nonpublic home-based educational program.

Son of House Bill 109 to be Delivered Today

"If we don’t have a special session, as of June 1,
you will never hear me speak about charters again,
unless it is to say that ‘I don’t support charters in Kentucky”

--- Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Charter chatter is increasingly occupying more space in the public debate over education reform in Kentucky. The Herald Leader ran my Op Ed on charters this moring.

The Prichard Committee has outlined the senate charter plan, how the bill deals with charter applications, and the impact of charter schools on Kentucky's bid for Race to the Top dollars.

But House Bill 109 is getting an overhaul from Commissioner Terry Holliday. We hope to learn more today.

What appears to be missing at present is any conncection of a charter school law to the Kentucky Constitution's equity requirements. This is precisely the moment for lawmakers to remember their duty to provide schools that improve equity and excellence in the state - not place them in competition.

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:

KDE to roll out
revised charter school bill Friday
Holliday: Addressing concerns
can’t water down Race to the Top bid


Trying to boost Kentucky’s shot at $175 million in federal school reform funds, the state Department of Education will release a revised charter school bill on Friday for possible action in a May special legislative session on a state budget.

Speaking in Shelbyville Wednesday to superintendents of the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday also said that Kentucky’s second Race to the Top (RTTT) application will not include major, immediate changes in teacher evaluations. The Obama administration’s push to tie
teacher evaluations to test scores has divided education communities in several
states vying for the federal funding.

While offering no specifics on the new charter language, Holliday said he has discussed concerns about House Bill 109 – the charter bill that passed the Senate but not the House of Representatives earlier this month – with leaders of the Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Kentucky Education Association.

“We’re willing to rewrite the legislation to address your concerns, but we don’t want to put forth charter legislation that doesn’t get us any (RTTT) points,” he said. “We know where the line is that we can’t go beyond.” Kentucky scored the lowest of the applicants chosen as finalists in RTTT round one on the area that includes charter schools, an educational alternative being championed by the Obama administration.

Holliday repeated his position that he is not a charter school proponent, but believes that charter legislation is “the only way we are going to get (RTTT) funding.” ...

Holliday said the department will offer school boards, superintendents and local KEA chapters the option of withdrawing their RTTT endorsements before the application is filed. However, he also warned that there could be consequences for districts that break the state’s 100 percent endorsement achieved for the first RTTT application that was named a national finalist.

“I would hate for you guys to pull out, and we get a charter law and get the money, and then you’ve got to deal with charters anyway and you’ve got no money,” he said referring to the provision that only districts endorsing the state’s proposal would share in the estimated $100 million in direct-to-districts funding. “That’s the kind of decision you’d be making. I hate to be so blunt about it but that’s what will happen.” ...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Foundations Impacting Education Policy....again.

A few months ago I began looking into the impact of foundations in American education policy. Holy cow! We've never seen anything like this before.

As the incomplete picture below (from a working draft of a paper) begins to show, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alone has had a huge impact, giving money to schools and other policy groups that support Gates' strategies, while former Gates-associated personnel have found their way into the Obama Administration.


Now comes a new joint effort to improve education from a coalition of foundations, and it not the first of such partnerships we've seen either - but perhaps the biggest.

This from Google:

Foundations offer $506M for education innovation

A coalition of wealthy foundations is offering up to half a billion dollars to match federal grants meant to encourage education reform, taking the pressure off schools scrambling to find the matching dollars they need to get the money.

A dozen foundations plan to announce this week that they are investing $506 million, a portion of which is for a matching fund for the $650 million federal government grant program, called Investing in Innovation.

The foundations also set up an Internet portal for applying for matching funds from all the foundations in one step, streamlining the task of seeking money from multiple sources. School districts, schools and other nonprofits have until May 12 to apply for the money, which will be paid out by the end of September.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he was ecstatic about the foundations' interest in the innovation program and called the partnership unprecedented.

"This is how we should be working together. This is how sectors should collaborate," Duncan said. "If this goes well, think of the possibilities going forward."

The unusual group effort by a dozen education-focused foundations reflects their enthusiasm for the fact that the Obama administration is pushing states and school districts to embrace changes the foundations have long championed. Some of the foundation money will go to innovative proposals that do not get federal dollars.

"Every foundation dreams of having one of its programs scaled up by the federal government" and expanded across the nation, said Brad Smith, president of The Foundation Center, a national authority on philanthropy since 1956.

The foundation money and the federal program are both aimed at three aspects of education reform: innovation in the classroom, ideas for turning around low-performing schools and research to study ideas that can be expanded across the nation...
The group of foundations includes the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; Ford Foundation; John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Lumina Foundation; Robertson Foundation; The Wallace Foundation; Walton Family Foundation; William & Flora Hewlett Foundation; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

HT 2 KSBA.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When is a Kentucky Board of Education member Not a Board Member?

I thought I'd be writing a correction today on an issue related to the Kentucky Board of Education. But now - maybe not.

On Saturday, I wrote that Kentucky Board of Education members "typically serve until replaced."

Support for that statement came from information provided KSN&C by the governor's former Communications Director Dick Brown in April 2008. At that time, I was told that board members "continue serving until someone new is appointed."

That drew a response from a finicky KSN&C reader who knows a lot more about the law and how the Kentucky Board of Education really operates than I do.

The source tells KSN&C that

Any action taken by any putative Board member after his or her term expires would be invalid (the term is “ultra vires” in legal mumbo jumbo).

Ultra vires is Latin for "beyond the powers."

My legal dictionary suggests that government entities created by a state are public corporations governed by statutorily imposed grants of power. Historically, the ultra vires concept has been used to construe those powers of a government entity narrowly. Failure to observe the statutory limits has been characterized as ultra vires.

To prevent a contract from being voided as ultra vires, it is normally necessary for governmental groups like the Kentucky Board of Education to prove that the member actually had the proper authority to act. Similarly, where a government employee (like a commissioner) exceeds his or her authority, the government entity (the board of education) may seek to rescind the contract based on an ultra vires claim.

I wonder if a private citizen could make the same claim. So with apologies to former KBE Chair Joe Brothers, let me posit a scenario.

Suppose Brothers liked being on the board and didn't really want to step down. Suppose that KDE had some action that required the board chair to do something; sign a contract, perhaps, or otherwise attend meetings and act on behalf of the board. Could a disgruntled citizen bring a claim against the Board to nullify whatever actions he took? What if that action was really important to the children of the state?

KSN&C asked KDE for a ruling. Apparently after consulting with KDE General Counsel Kevin Brown, spokeswoman Lisa Gross told KSN&C,

The statute says that the terms expire on April 14, and although there is nothing in the statute that says the members whose terms have expired may continue to serve (or must not serve), the tradition has been to consider those whose terms have expired as “held-over” members if no new members are appointed before the next regular meeting occurs.

Tradition? I like tradition as much as the next guy, but when it comes to how the government functions, I've always preferred to be able to read the law and have some understanding of what it means. I do not anticipate a problem, but one wonders what an Attorney General might opine. But I should add that our finicky reader is not concerned, thinks we should leave the AG out of it, but also thinks the law is crystal clear - after April 15th the expired members are just that.

The Board of Education statute (KRS 156.029) states:

Each of the appointed members shall serve for a four (4) year term, except the initial appointments shall be as follows: the seven (7) members representing Supreme Court districts shall serve a term which shall expire on April 14, 1994; and the four (4) at-large members shall serve a term which shall expire on April 14, 1992. Subsequent appointments shall be submitted to the Senate and to the House of Representatives for confirmation in accordance with KRS 11.160...

Now contrast that with the other statutory language. When the legislature wants to allow members to continue to serve, they provide language to support it. Consider KRS 164.821(4) which provides for trustees at UofL:
The gubernatorial appointments shall serve a term of six (6) years and until their successors are appointed and qualified.
There is no language in the KBE statute about “The gubernatorial appointments shall serve … until their successors are appointed and qualified.”

Gross says she does not recall the last time a governor failed to make appointments before a regular meeting and if that has occurred, it’s likely been a few years. Well, I can't remember a time either and doubt it will be a problem this time. In fact, we hear that interviews with potential BOE members have already been taking place, so this is academic.

But KSN&C also hears that the issue of when a BOE member ceases to be one, may have come up this year. There were plans for a May retreat that presumably would have included those members whose terms have expired, but after some conversations, the May meeting got nixed. A special session is looming and the meeting was pushed to June. I suspect the two are somewhat related.

Gross tells KSN&C that over time,

governors have had to appoint one or two members because of resignations or term expirations, and I don’t remember if all of those were appointed before regular meetings occurred. When governors have appointed more than one member due to
term expirations, that has generally occurred prior to the board’s May retreat. This year, the board is not having its retreat in May, but will use one day of the June meeting for that purpose.

What is much more clear is that confirmation of appointments can come later and would not have to be added to the special session - indeed, should not clutter a special session.

Gross says,

Some past appointees have gone through the confirmation process months after their initial appointments. They do not have to be confirmed by the legislative bodies in the “current” session, but can go through the process at the next seating of the General Assembly.

That has occurred recently, and I think, regularly.

But what if the governor does not appoint new members by the June meeting? By my reckoning, there would only be four members qualified to meet and serve.

Gross says that if that comes to pass, the KDE general counsel "will work with the governor’s general counsel to determine the best course of action."

But for Joe Brothers, C.B. Akins, Kaye Baird, Jeanne Huber Ferguson, Austin W. Moss, Judy H. Gibbons and Doug Hubbard, perhaps this is the time to say, "Thanks for your service."

For the Right Reasons

By Penney Sanders

Having been on the road for several weeks (unfortunately I don’t have pictures), I am just catching up with happenings in KY.

The news regarding Kentucky’s Race to the Top (RTTT) effort was not a surprise.

While Kentucky has made significant strides in education, other states have also made dramatic changes. Therefore, in a national competition, Kentucky is not a quaranteed winner.

While Kentucky did well in several categories, receiving a “0” in a category in such a high stakes completion proved deadly. As Kentucky prepares for the second round that will include more states and more competition, a serious review of the proposal’s shortcomings must be undertaken.

The obvious omission was Kentucky’s lack of charter schools. Going into the competition, many knowledgeable insiders, including Commissioner Holliday, knew that the lack of charters could be a problem. It is, was, and will continue to be one.

Now charters are back in the political meat grinder (the Kentucky legislature). Even Governor Beshear has weighed in. Regrettably, we are discussing charters for all the wrong reasons.

Creating charter schools should not be about competing for Phase 2 of Race to the Top funds, it should be about creating real options for students in low performing schools

Over 40 states have charter legislation. In each state, charters were created to offer alternatives to children relegated to failing schools. Currently four or five more states are discussing the feasibility of enacting charter legislation. In fact, Kentucky is very late to the discussion.

Based on various media, there seems to be a lot of misinformation about charters.

Simply, charter schools ARE public schools. Parents actually choose either to enroll their child in a charter or to participate in a lottery that allows their child to be considered for a charter. There is very little elite about a charter. In fact, a number of the charters I have visited have had limited facilities and cater to low income families.

I find it interesting that so many who are currently opposed to charters were quick to embrace magnet schools. There is little difference; both entities select their students through a variety of methods. Yet, magnets are great and charters a threat?????

In other states, oversight for a charter school may be held by entities other than the school board. For example, in Indianapolis, a number of charters are held by the Mayor‘s office. In a number of states, colleges and universities hold charters. The options are quite varied.

Sadly, it seems that Kentucky wants to constrain the creation of charters as much as possible. Keeping charters under local school board control is an option it is not and should not be the only option.

While legislating that staff at a charter should be credentialed (certified) seems to be a political “compromise”; staff should not be bound by union contracts. The purpose of charters is to allow as much flexibility as possible in both the hiring and dismissal of staff. Negotiated/union contracts do not give charter administrators the necessary flexibility to deal with poor performing staff.

One of the most successful charter programs in the country, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) hires teachers on an annual contract based on their classroom performance. The results in the KIPP schools have been most impressive.

Finally, I am amused as to the concerns expressed about the “quality” of charters. Because a charter can be altered or closed if they fail to meet their goals, these schools are very responsive and accountable. Why not hold “regular” public schools to the to the same standards as charters.

Yes, there are poor performing charters and surprise, there are poor performing public schools. So why not close any school that fails to ensure that every student makes academic progress every year

Why the desire to constrain one (charters) and not the other (publics)?

Kentucky should enact charter legislation, but only for the right reasons and with the proper legislative underpinnings. The Kentucky legislature should conduct a free and open discussion of both the promise and perils of charter schools.

The House and Senate must define the terms of the discussion not the educational establishment.

_________________________________

On a related note, my travel reading has included Paul Tough’s “Whatever It Takes” a description of Promise Academy and the development of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The book describes the work of Geoffrey Canada who began reclaiming the children and families of Harlem one block at a time. It is about the belief in possibilities.

The book details the creation of Promise Academy, a charter school, as one of the foundations for improving the academic performance of some of our country’s poorest children.

It should be required reading for everyone involved in Kentucky’s current discussion of charters.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On Charter Schools

Around the time charter schools first began to appear in Minnesota, Kentucky was neck-deep in KERA, the most sweeping set of school reforms undertaken by any state at any one time. As a result, there was little interest on the part of the legislature, or the press for that matter, in allowing Kentucky schools to veer from KERA's path. Everybody's hands were full. The new law was already being attacked from the right and supporters worried there might not be enough votes to sustain KERA in 1996. Meanwhile the Patton administration took the position that “Kentucky is not ready for charter schools.”

The idea for charters began around 1988 with Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers. Shanker proposed that teachers who believed they had a better approach for helping the toughest students, ought to be able to get permission from their districts to try. Such experimental schools would directly target dropouts, and likely dropouts. The schools would be given a specific charter - a mission, if you will. Their successes would improve equity in the school system.

Since charter schools would experiment with new approaches, regulations governing curriculum and instruction would have to be waived. Any improvements that could be validated would be shared. Thus, charter schools were seen as an effort to strengthen the public schools, not to make “losers” of them. That idea came later, and from others who were much less interested in the public schools' success.

While the American economy soared in the early '90s, Bill Gates was becoming the world's richest man. To his credit, he made retirement plans that included spending 90 percent of his personal wealth by supporting important causes, including education. The $43 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent hundreds of millions on public schools. The foundation's first effort - to make inner city high schools excellent by making them smaller - was an admitted failure. But undaunted, Gates nimbly moved on to new ideas, one of which was promoting charter schools.

As more charters arose, a new and more opportunistic breed of charter operator began to shift attention away from the original mission of improving the public schools while helping the least among us, to providing parents with public funds they could use to escape them both. Charter schools were starting to re-segregate as birds of a feather exercised school choice.

When Shanker first saw such developments, he renounced his own idea. He came to believe that charters, once established, turned into a form of privatization that was indistinguishable from vouchers and he began to fight against charters as a threat to public education.

Conservatives argued that charter schools provide “school choice.” They claimed that the public schools were bad and - forgetting recent lessons from Wall Street - that deregulated competition was inherently good. In Kentucky, the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions (BIPPS) went further, promoting the addition of vouchers, and the subtraction of the Kentucky Education Association.

Interestingly, BIPPS found an unlikely ally in Rev. Jerry Stephenson and the equity-minded Kentucky Education Restoration Alliance. Apparently fed up with certain persistently low-performing schools in Jefferson County, and perhaps lacking faith in Superintendent Sheldon Berman - who in 2004, sued to stop charters in Massachusetts - the Alliance sought to create better schools for inner-city kids and locked arms with BIPPS to promote charter schools. One wonders if they stood together while BIPPS opposed President Obama's healthcare plan; a plan that surely will benefit many of the children Stephenson sought to help.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says that he is no great fan of charters, but supports them under the right circumstances and with sufficient community oversight. He has 175 million reasons to give them a try. But he wisely insists that all publicly supported schools, charter and otherwise, must be accountable for results.

Hoping to avoid the lax oversight that has existed in other states, Kentucky's HB 109 places primary oversight with the local school boards. But the bill fails to specify the conditions under which a charter might be granted. Governor Steve Beshear is considering a special session to give the bill the public vetting it needs.

During a recent appearance at Eastern Kentucky University, Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust put the charter school issue into perspective. She told the audience that there are people in the charter world because they want to make a difference for kids - and there are wonderful examples of charter schools. But there are others in the charter movement who are just about freedom from regulations and whose results are worse than some of the worst traditional public schools.

“There is a battle going on for the soul of charter schools. It is very important who wins that battle,” Haycock said.

Kentucky gets $176 million to shore up school budgets

This from C-J:

The U.S. Department of Education has approved an additional $176 million in federal stimulus funds that will help Kentucky save jobs of teachers in the coming year.

Without the money, “we would have laid off lots of teachers,” said Terry Holliday, the state’s education commissioner.

The funds mean that Kentucky has now been allocated more than $1 billion in education funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in 2009 to stimulate a staggering national economy.

State officials had budgeted in anticipation of the latest funds for the coming fiscal year, according to Holliday. Congress had made this category of education funding available for both 2010 — used by Kentucky schools in their current budgets — and for 2011.

But receiving the second year’s funds required approval of a separate grant application, which was announced Friday by federal education officials.

The new funding will be earmarked toward fiscal stabilization, a category that has enabled school districts to preserve teacher jobs.

To qualify for the funding, Kentucky had to document such things as how it has used student data and evaluations of teachers and principals for educational improvements.

Holliday said that while the latest grant will cushion budgets for another year, “My biggest concern going forward is fiscal year 2012.” He said he hopes Congress works out more funding for that year to prevent major cuts...

Charter school roadblocks not in state’s best interest

I going to chat through this editorial from The Paducah Sun (subscription):

STYMIED

Introducing charter schools won’t guarantee Kentucky will get federal education funding through the Race To The Top initiative when the second round of grants goes out. But failure to do so will all but guarantee the commonwealth will be passed over...

But it will gets as close to a guarantee as one can expect.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has been trying to make the case for charter schools, without much success. But he has attracted the attention of one who could become a powerful ally: Gov. Steve Beshear.
Actually, if you consider how Holliday has approached this topic along with the substantial changes sought by the feds, it seems to me that he has kept the potentially divisive issue on the radar screen while holding a consensus. That's a lot better than average.
Beshear’s not exactly brimming with enthusiasm for charter schools. Not yet anyway. He says he is “open to the topic.” The governor acknowledges that charter schools “could be a tool, if utilized properly, that would benefit some of our school districts.”
This would have been a good place to the Sun to describe what "utilized properly" means, but they didn't.
The reason behind Beshear’s measured endorsement might be the same reason the bill giving school districts the authority to create charter schools barely passed in the state Senate and died in the House: KEA opposition.
That seems to give all legislators pause.
The Kentucky Education Association opposed the bill over concerns about job security for teachers and the potential impact on public schools.
Good. The KEA should be concerned. The two earlier bills filed by Lee and then Montell, would allow uncertified teachers into the classroom. HB 109 is better.
The “impact” would be competition. Competition in the marketplace improves the product, whether in business or education.
Uh oh. It sounds like somebody's been drinking the free-market kool-aid.

Perhaps the Sun could explain to us how the unregulated competition, which produced nothing but a bunch of other fake financial instruments and nearly crashed the economy, improved banking; or perhaps, how competition for sub-prime loans saved the housing market; or how unfunded credit default swaps posing as insurance made robbers out of stock brokers, and was therefore, an improvement.

The Sun does not seem to know that the idea behind charter schools is to allow small experimental schools to focus on the neediest students. The idea began with a teacher's union leader that believed teachers could make a difference. The charter school idea was to recruit students who had dropped out and who were likely to drop out. It would seek new ways to motivate the most challenging students and bring whatever lessons they learned back to public schools, to make them better. The Sun seems to think that a competitive circumstance where one school puts another out of business would improve circumstances for children. I just don't see where that helps anyone.

In education, when charter schools have been given carte blanche to offload regulations without much accountability, student achievement has suffered greatly. Financial mischief often abides. A bad charter law - one that simply gives away the store - is not worth the effort. A good one is.
The association said it will not oppose charter schools, provided the legislation addresses its reservations. KEA President Sharron Oxendine said, “I don’t think we’ll ever be in love with the idea of charter schools, but we might be able to tolerate it.”

That’s big of them. They “might be able to tolerate” a program to improve education through competition. And, oh by the way, it could also result in a few hundred million dollars more for education.
Take the money, but carefully control what kinds of charter schools get a foothold in Kentucky. They don't all improve education, and many of them make school worse.
Commissioner Holliday says Kentucky needs to improve its application score 30 to 40 points to compete for RTTT funding. “And the only way to get 30 to 40 points is with charter school legislation.”

President Obama recognizes the value of charter schools. So do parents of children trapped in underperforming schools. Charters have proven successful in other states, not only in serving their students but in motivating neighboring public schools to improve. Dedicated, high-performing teachers will welcome some healthy competition.
This is surely true in places, and the target of charter schools ought to be those places where Kentucky schools have failed - but not everywhere.

And President Obama would do well to pay attention to the resegregating effects of charters. Frankly, I was surprised when Obama came out in favor of charter schools.
Not every charter school is superior to its public school counterpart, of course, but it is undeniable that charter schools have a solid track record in boosting student achievement.
It's plenty deniable and there is much evidence to the contrary. One of the problems with charter schools is that it's such a mixed bag that you never know what you're going to get. Will Kentucky's charter law be dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our toughest students? If so, good. If not, what's the point?
Charter schools are not a panacea. It goes without saying that the charter school portion of the reform plan should draw from the most successful programs in other states while avoiding the pitfalls of less successful efforts. But the measure should be student achievement, not the estimation of the KEA.
Agreed. But it sounds like the Sun is mad at teachers, which KSN&C is not.
The Education Department has about $3.4 billion available for the second round of competition. Applications are due June 1. With the regular session over, the only way the General Assembly can pass legislation creating charter schools in time for the deadline is if the governor adds it to the agenda for the special session to approve a budget. He should do so.
Agreed.
And lawmakers should put the welfare of students before the unions, and not just to get federal grant money.
...or appease the press.
Charters hold promise for improving the education of Kentucky students.
That depends on the strength of the law, and teachers, principals, opinion writers, legislators and parents....everyone should be concerned with that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beshear to Appoint New Board Members to Implement Senate Bill 1

Over at Dr H's Blog, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday reminds us that Governor Steve Beshear will soon replace as many as seven members of the Kentucky Board of Education.

Those whose terms expired on the 14th of this month (and who typically serve until replaced) are: Chairman Joe Brothers, Vice Chair C.B. Akins and members Kaye Baird, Jeanne Huber Ferguson, Austin W. Moss, Judy H. Gibbons and Doug Hubbard.

That leaves Vice Chair Dorie Combs, Billy Harper, Brigitte B. Ramsey and David K. Karem whose terms expire 4/14/2012.

The new board will have the task of implementing Senate Bill 1 which calls for a new accountability system, internationally benchmarked standards, formative and diagnostic assessments, and thankfully, student growth measures.

Vision for Education Reform in Kentucky

The Commish says,

I have started the process of engaging all advisory councils in the dialogue concerning a new accountability system and strategic plan for the Kentucky Board of Education. The board will hold a strategic retreat prior to its June meeting... The key to our success in transforming education in Kentucky will reside in our ability to focus on a few goals with a few strategies that are done with precision and fidelity. These few goals will focus on the vision of every child proficient and prepared for success.

This vision will be measured by indicators of proficiency, growth and closing gaps among student groups.

Proficiency will be measured by the cohort graduation rate and our comparative position among states.

Growth will be measured by the increases in our annual percentage of high school graduates who are prepared for college and career as compared against other states.

Closing gaps will be measured by the decreases in gaps for the graduation and readiness rates among student groups in Kentucky as compared against other states.

Holliday sees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) along with the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) system as the "ultimate measures" of Proficiency, Growth and Gap rates.

The NAEP is the only nationally representative longitudinal assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history.
Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts. The NAEP has been used to show how some states lowered their own standards under the pressure of NCLB's current accountability model; a model Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he wants to change.

The EPAS system is required in Kentucky but does not enjoy NAEP's nearly universal acceptance due to its contrived set of benchmarks. Testing experts, like Skip Kifer, say the Hierarchical Linear Modeling EPAS uses is statistically indefensible and creates flawed benckmarks because it ignores institutions. Students are part of institutions and should be modeled that way.

Holliday's strategic priorities are based on federal guidance provided by Race to the Top, State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, the proposed plans for the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB), SB 1, SB 168, SB 130 and other state statutes.

The new lingo is:

  • Next Generation Learners
  • Next Generation Professionals
  • Next Generation Support Systems
  • Next Generation Schools and Districts

In addition, Governor Steve Beshear has appointed a Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK) Task Force which is scheduled to make recommendations for the 2011 legislative session.

Holliday has called for comments and suggestions from the public and the alphabet groups. The TEK Task Force will conduct community forums and focus groups in August to gather input.

Ky. colleges likely to see up to 6% tuition increases

"Without a budget, we would need to close our campuses.
The likelihood of this impact is real and substantial."

-- Robert King

This from the Herald-Leader:
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education on Friday approved guidelines for tuition hikes for 2010-11 of 6 percent for the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, 5 percent for comprehensive universities and 4 percent for community and technical colleges. Last year's increase was staggered at 3 percent to 5 percent.

Some of the state's public university presidents and council members questioned why the in-state undergraduate tuition increases shouldn't be more than 6 percent. Even if each school adopts the maximum tuition increase allowed, all will be substantially in the red, according to the presidents.

And if the state doesn't adopt a budget soon, said council president Robert L. King, the universities will have to shut down temporarily. The common perception is that universities can run on tuition revenue in a budget pinch, but using tuition requires a budget appropriation, which requires that the state have a budget, King said.

After a 60-day legislative session that ended last week, Kentucky doesn't have a budget...
UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. told the council that he called Beshear on Thursday to tell Beshear he was going to ask for a 7 percent ceiling.

Even with a 6 percent increase, CPE figures show UK will have a deficit of nearly $7.6 million for operations. Eastern Kentucky University would have a deficit of $3.8 million with a 5 percent increase; Kentucky State University, $6.2 million after a 5 percent increase; and Morehead State University, $3.8 million after a 5 percent increase...

From the Nation's Cartoonists

This from Signe Wikinson in Slate:
From Mike thompson:
From Chuck Asay:
From Signe Wilkinson:
From Jeff Danziger:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Civil Rights activist Ruby Bridges visits Olmstead School

This from the News-Democrat & Leader:

A piece of American history came to life at Olmstead School last week when author and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges spoke to students.

Ms. Bridges was only 6 years old and in the first grade when she walked through the doors of William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Ruby was chosen, based on test
scores, by the NAACP as one of three first graders to integrate, per a court order, the all-white school on November 14, 1960.

Both of Ruby’s new classmates backed out of integrating the school the day before they were to begin at William Frantz leaving Ruby to be the only African-American student to do so.

Despite the death threats, harsh words, and picketing opposition Ruby and her mother, escorted by federal Marshalls, entered the school and made history.

Ruby would continue to show bravery and fearlessness with the help of her teacher, a white lady from Boston, Mrs. Henry even though hundreds of white students were
pulled from the school by parents. Together Ruby and her teacher learned life lessons alone throughout Ruby’s first grade year until the spring when less than ten white students returned to school.

Students studied the civil rights movement including Ruby Bridges’ for a month leading up to the surprise visit, per Ms. Bridges’ request. Online web quests, double journal entries, and delving into text written by and about Ruby Bridges (Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles) were all part of the learning process.

Olmstead students of all ages were inspired and challenged by Ms. Bridges’ story and other African-Americans who changed America. Middle school students were told true stories of struggles for racial desegregation in the south, listened to Ruby Bridges’ brave story, and viewed photos documenting the integration of William Frantz Elementary School. Primary students also heard Ms. Bridges tell her story along with viewing some of Ruby’s personal photographs. Both groups ended with a question and answer time.

Students asked Ruby Bridges about how she felt to be treated with such cruelty along with her plans for the future of William Frantz Elementary School which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Ms. Bridges told students she feared little most days during her experience thanks to her faith and prayer.

The Ruby Bridges’ Foundation headed by Ruby continues to raise funds and awareness of equality in education along with rebuilding the school where she changed history. William Frantz Elementary School will reopen in 2012 thanks to Ruby Bridges’ efforts. Ms. Bridges’ visit also included a book signing in the library where students and staff spent one on one time with the author.

Ruby Bridges’ visit is one that Olmstead students and staff will not soon forget. The themes "Open Hearts, Open Minds" that Ms. Bridges continually shares all across America, radiated throughout the day as well as her message and challenge to love all people despite the color of their skin.

School News from Around Kentucky

Cuts coming to Owen school district: Teachers and teachers’ aides – primarily from Maurice Bowling Middle School and Owen County Primary School – attended Monday night’s Owen County Board of Education meeting in hopes of receiving information about rumors of teacher cuts. Several district employees cited a lack of a state budget as a major contributor to these rumors. The Kentucky General Assembly ended its regular session last week without passing a budget for the next two-year period, which begins July 1. Owen County School District Finance Officer Sheila Miller said a rough economy is also a factor in the possible cuts. Owen County School District Superintendent Mark Cleveland said there will be teacher cuts. “To be completely honest, it’s going to happen,” Cleveland said during the meeting. “There will be cuts. I just don’t know how deep they’ll be.” (News-Herald)

Clark Co Schools may have calendar by May 3: Usually by this time of year, school districts across the state already have their calendars set for the following school year. But because of uncertainties caused by the lack of a state budget and no final word on whether or not the General Assembly will vote to take away two instructional days from next year, districts have had to delay finalizing their 2010-2011 school calendars. The Clark County Board of Education Tuesday got one step closer to having a final calendar for next year by selecting two possible options, one without the two days and one with the two days built in, out of six proposals. (Winchester Sun)

Corbin, Knox reciprocal agreement fight now going to the courts - Knox Superintendent calls Corbin decision to appeal a 'risky' move: With the rulings of the Kentucky Education Commissioner and the Kentucky Board of Education not to their liking, the Corbin School Board unanimously agreed to appeal the non-resident student agreement dispute with Knox County Schools to Franklin Circuit Court. "We want parent choice," said Board Member Kim Croley following Monday's special called meeting. "You should be able to send your child to the school you want them to go to." The board met with its attorney in the matter, Robert Chenoweth, for more than an hour Monday night in executive session. Superintendent Ed McNeel said previously the purpose was to review the Kentucky Board of Education's decision on the matter and explain the board's options. On April 13, the Kentucky Board of Education upheld Commissioner Terry Holliday's decision to permit Knox County students attending Corbin Independent Schools under the reciprocal agreement to continue to do so during the 2010-11 school year, while adding that their siblings not yet enrolled be permitted to do the same. (News-Journal)

Police say there is no evidence attack against gay teen was a 'hate crime': The mother of a gay Jackson County teenager says an attack on her daughter by classmates was a hate crime, but a detective said he would not classify the incident that way. Cheyenne Williams, 18, was attacked Friday because she is openly gay, said her mother, Dee Johnson. "It is a hate crime," Johnson said. State police Detective Joie Peters, who is investigating, said it appears the incident began as a practical joke but got out of hand, escalating to the point that Williams sustained minor injuries. Peters said he was not minimizing the incident but has not uncovered evidence it constituted a hate crime. (H-L)

Signs of protest - Bus director supporters stage rally: Several supporters gathered outside the Christian County Public Schools’ central office this morning to protest the superintendent’s decision to place Transportation Director Elzie Pollard on paid administrative leave.About 30 members of Pollard’s church, members of the community and transportation employees held signs and walked in front of the Glass Avenue building just after 8:30 a.m.“We do know what they are saying, and we do know what they’re doing,” Felicia Radford, who described herself as a fellow parishioner. Pollard is a member of Mount Olive Baptist Church. “We’re not here to start no trouble or down the superintendent. We want them to do what’s right and stop sugarcoating what they are doing.”Since the New Era reported Pollard’s administrative leave Monday, district officials have declined to provide information about why Superintendent Brady Link placed Pollard on leave. (Kentucky New Era)

Glasgow HS will be part of AP program in fall of 2010: Glasgow High School is one of 16 additional schools that will be participating in the AdvanceKentucky program beginning in the fall of 2010.A total of 44 Kentucky high schools will be involved in the Advanced Placement (AP) Teacher Training and Incentive Program in the coming school year and beyond. The program promotes students taking college-readiness courses before graduation from high school.“We think it’s great,” said Glasgow Board of Education Chairman Jerry Ream of the announcement of the high school’s inclusion in the state’s third group of AdvanceKentucky schools. (Glasgow Daily Times )

Budget scramble for KY school districts: At a committee meeting for JCPS board members, Chief Financial Officer Cordelia Hardin usually presents her tentative two-year school budget -- but not today. Because lawmakers in Frankfort couldn't pass a budget, Hardin's own budget is in limbo. "Extreme frustration and that's why it's hard to present to the board where we fell we're going to be in the next two years because there's so much that's unknown," says Hardin. What she does know isn't very hearting. Modeling her budget off the senate's version, Hardin expects JCPS to lose millions of dollars. "$8 million is a lot of money, obviously, and it pays for a lot of teachers," says Hardin. (WDRB-TV, Fox 41)

Students again protest dismissal: In the second protest of the termination of Glasgow High School principal Kelly Bell’s contract for the next school year, there were tears and response from the superintendent.Some students who had participated in Friday’s protest at the school district’s central office brought friends and additional supportive parents to the Glasgow Middle School for the regular school board meeting. About 30 to 40 students stood outside the doors of the middle school, chanting as school board president Jerry Ream, school board members and superintendent Charlie Campbell walked into the building. (Glasgow Daily Times )

Franklin Co Teachers placed on the chopping block: County schools will eliminate six teaching positions next year, as the district tries to offset of a $400,000 projected deficit. The biggest cuts come from the high schools – 3.5 certified teaching positions at Western Hills and two at Franklin County High School. WHHS announced last month that it would end its Army JROTC program, which employs two teachers. The 70 students who participate will travel to FCHS for classes. The district will also eliminate 2.5 secretarial positions and one custodian. Combined, the cuts will save the district an estimated $357,000. (State Journal by way of KSBA)

More contact with teachers helps trouble students learn: A year ago, Jasmine Sanders' high school career was unraveling fast, like a tattered baseball. She didn't feel smart enough. She skipped school, cut classes, argued with fellow students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and saw little hope for the future. Then, last fall, Jasmine's guidance counselor recommended that she apply to The Learning Center, Fayette County Public Schools' new alternative school for middle school and high school students who have been failing in mainstream classrooms. One of the first 50 students admitted, Jasmine quickly blossomed in The Learning Center's intimate, familylike atmosphere. Now, the 18-year-old senior is on track to graduate, plans to earn an associate degree, and dreams of becoming an officer in the Navy. "I don't put myself down anymore, tell myself that I'm not smart enough, or just give up," Jasmine said. "Here, if you're struggling with something, they will stop and make sure you understand it. They really want you to succeed here." (H-L)

Brown accepts interim position - Former county superintendent will take over as enrollment chief at Western: Former Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Dale Brown has been named interim associate vice president for enrollment management in Western Kentucky University’s Office of Academic Affairs.Brown is replacing Dean Kahler, who has been named executive director of Navitas at WKU, a program to increase international enrollment.A national search is under way for the enrollment management position. (The Daily News)

Opinion -- Kudos to KHSAA for Tackett hiring - Association's new commissioner will make a world of difference: A great big running, jumping chest-bump thingy to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control, which did the right thing this week. The board members voted unanimously to hire Julian Tackett as the association's new commissioner. Tackett is one of the sharpest people I've ever met in sports. He's also genuine, gutsy and a master communicator. He's served the commonwealth well as an assistant commissioner for 26 years and he'll do the same as the head honcho. If you're a KHSAA basher, give him some time. If Tackett's first press conference was any indication, he might be shaking things up a bit. (Enquirer)

Quick Hits

Students are honored for community water-conservation project: Fifth-graders at one Pennsylvania middle school won statewide recognition for a project to promote water conservation in the community. After conducting research, the students raised money, purchased rain barrels and conducted a community workshop to teach residents how to collect rain to use for watering gardens and washing cars. Gifted-education teacher Allison Stebbins advised students throughout the "Rainkeepers" project, which won the top prize in the state's Earth Day 40 Schools Challenge. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Higher bar for Florida high-school students sparks concerns: Educators in Florida are divided over stricter high-school graduation requirements signed into law this week by Gov. Charlie Crist that will require students to take more difficult math and science courses in an effort to help improve student achievement. Critics say the requirements could harm the state's at-risk students who are already struggling to earn diplomas, and they question the push amid a shortage of qualified math and science teachers. (Orlando Sentinel)

Teacher programs adopt medical schools' residency model: Some teacher-training colleges are adopting a residency program modeled after medical school residencies. One such program, Boston Teacher Residency, has caught national attention. Participating teachers are mentored by a master teacher, and trainees work in Boston classrooms several days each week. The Boston program has had success in teaching teachers how to teach, and it offers a support system once educators are in the classroom that has kept 85% of graduates in teaching. (National Public Radio)

Research-Teacher quality has measurable affect on student reading: A study by researchers at Florida State University pointed to teacher quality as an important factor affecting how quickly children learn how to read. Researchers cautioned, however, that variables such as behavior of classmates likely affect the results, and teacher quality can be improved with training and resources. (Google)

Teachers union seeks additional oversight of New York charters: New York state's teachers union called on state lawmakers at a legislative hearing to increase oversight of the state's charter schools, asking that no further charters be approved until additional monitoring is in place. The union cited the case of a Buffalo charter school where records were vague about how the school spent some $7.2 million in taxpayer money. (The New York Times)

Museums develop traveling programs for schools: Museums across the country are bringing lessons in science, art and other subjects to the classroom amid an increased focus on testing and budget cuts that have led to a decline in school field trips. Museum educators have developed online lessons, classroom materials and traveling programs designed to complement the curriculum, but some worry students are missing out by not visiting the museums. "In this program, they get more focus on what paleontologists actually do," an educator at Boston's Museum of Science said, "But they miss the wow factor of actually seeing that huge Triceratops skeleton." (The New York Times)

Texas school sees success with Teacher Advancement Program: A system for evaluating and training teachers is being credited for a significant rise in student test scores and decreased staff turnover at one Texas elementary school. Components of the Teacher Advancement Program -- used in about 250 schools across the country -- include performance pay, an increased number of regular and unannounced observations and evaluations, and weekly sessions with master teachers. (The Dallas Morning News)

Teaching empathy may help prevent bullying, experts say: Child-development experts say bullying may be preventable if children experience, and are taught, empathy at a young age. Studies are showing children who experience trauma, neglect or who are not nurtured as infants grow up having trouble understanding how others feel. (TIME)

Nearly 2,500 applications are expected for i3 grants: Close to 2,500 nonprofit groups, schools and districts have notified the Education Department that they will be seeking a portion of the $650 million set aside for federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grants. The grants are designed to stimulate the development of creative fixes to four of the Obama administration's top priorities for schools: new standards and assessments; turning around low-performing schools; improved data systems; and increasing teacher and principal effectiveness. (Education Week)

San Francisco school shares model for success: San Francisco's Marshall Elementary School has been successful in its efforts to improve student performance, and national education leaders are taking notice. Implementing a dual-language immersion program, creating a school culture that engages parents and hiring quality staff -- including teachers, a social worker, a nurse and a paid parent liaison -- are some of the factors that have brought about the school's success, according to parents and educators who spoke with Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller at the school. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Sampling of Md. teachers shows support for national standards: A sampling of Maryland teachers found they are in favor of national standards being developed by the National Governors Association for teaching K-12 students, according to a survey by The Baltimore Sun. The proposed standards -- which focus on in-depth and analytical learning -- are more straightforward and clear than the state's existing standards, the teachers said, with some math instructors praising the idea of teaching fewer concepts and some language-arts teachers supporting an increased focus on writing. (The Sun)

Is a new reading curriculum the answer for Milwaukee schools?: School officials in Milwaukee are choosing a common reading curriculum as part of the district's efforts to offset the effects of frequent school-switching among its students and improve their low reading scores. But some educators are not sure whether such a centralized approach is the answer, and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Alan J. Borsuk suggests that even the best materials cannot take the place of quality instruction and support for students. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Study looks at future demand for teachers in Louisiana: Nearly 15,000 new teachers will need to be hired in Louisiana schools over the next six years, according to a state report. That translates to an annual demand of about 2,900 new teachers, which is about the same number of teacher candidates graduating from colleges and universities in the state, the report showed. The need for new hires was attributed to the retirement of veteran teachers and younger educators leaving the profession. The report also pointed to a growing demand for special-education teachers in the state. (The Times-Picayune)

Alternative program draws 1,400 applicants for Memphis, Tenn.: A call for teaching recruits from The New Teacher Project has drawn about 1,400 applicants interested in turning around schools in Memphis, Tenn. However, they'll have just two years to prove they can improve student scores. As many as 75 applicants will be accepted to the alternative teacher-certification program. (The Commercial Appeal)

Technology aids motivation among middle-schoolers in Calif. district: A California school district has implemented a technology upgrade at all of its middle schools, thanks to a $592,000 federal grant and private funding. The principal of one school says the new technology -- from SMART Boards to laptops to online learning -- has improved students' motivation as well as their attendance at school. "This is their medium," she said. "This is their future." (Daily Breeze)

Data show benefits of preschool programs in Los Angeles County: A study from Los Angeles Universal Preschool shows that students who attended its preschool programs demonstrated improved social and emotional skills and an increased readiness for kindergarten. English-language learners made the most progress, mostly closing a proficiency gap. Their gains surpassed those of English-speaking peers in some measures after just one school year. The programs, which are primarily funded by taxpayers, serve some 10,000 students in 325 schools. (Los Angeles Times)

States are receiving $3.5 billion in school-improvement grants: The Education Department is distributing $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement Grants to states, giving them six months to launch turnarounds of their lowest-performing schools. All states are expected to receive some of the funds, which come with strict requirements and deadlines for adopting one of four federally approved reform strategies: replacing 50% or more of a school's staff, reopening a school as a charter, closing the school or overhauling the school's curriculum and teaching methods. (Education Week)

Colorado district sees early success with modified RTI approach: Educators in a Colorado school district are seeing positive results in their first year using a state-mandated Response to Intervention framework. Each school in the Aurora district has its own RTI coordinator, and the district has adapted the RTI model by adding a fourth layer of intervention between tier one and tier two to help delay or prevent the referral of at-risk students in tier two. "It keeps the focus back on good instruction at that first tier level until our achievement improves," one district official said. (Education Week)

Educators are wary of switching to digital texts in Texas: Policymakers in Texas are promoting a switch to digital textbooks in the state's schools, but some educators remain skeptical. Officials say they will ensure that electronic media used in schools complies with state academic standards, but some educators are worried about maintaining quality and ensuring equal access. "Some of the headaches that come with computers won't be any cheaper than traditional textbooks," the state's school board chairwoman said. (The Dallas Morning News)

Changes in testing systems are on the national agenda: The Obama administration wants to overhaul student assessments nationwide, and some say technology will play an important role in the new tests. In addition to allocating $350 million to states that create tests aligned with common standards in math and English, the Education Department is offering $10.7 million for the creation of innovative testing methods that are more accessible for students with disabilities and that assess multiple components of student proficiency. (eSchool News)

JCPS assignment notifications confuse some elementary parents

This from Toni Konz at C-J:
Jefferson County Public Schools is being criticized by some parents who say they are confused and frustrated over they way the district is notifying them where their children can attend elementary school this fall.

District officials said they have sent out 626 letters notifying parents that their children have been granted at spot this fall at the popular magnet schools — Brandeis Elementary, the Brown School, Greathouse-Shryock, Audubon, Carter and Schaffner. Another 1,300 children were put on a waiting list.

All six magnets, except Brown, told parents they have until Friday to accept their spot.But assignment notifications for the district's neighborhood, or cluster, schools won't be mailed until April 28, when more than 12,000 children will be given their assignment for the fall.Some parents like Tamara Owens who have applied for both a magnet and neighborhood school say the separate notifications cause needless anxiety, especially given parents' angst over the new student-assignment plan.

“I want to know what all of my options are before I have to make a decision,” said Owens, who applied for a magnet school and an elementary nearest to her home, her preferred choice...

State Supreme Court strikes down aid to religious school

This from the Herald-Leader:

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the legislature's 2006 attempt to give $11 million in state funds to a private religious university for a pharmacy program, but it did so without restricting other kinds of state aid that flow to religious colleges.

The court's decision focused on the Baptist-affiliated University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, which wanted $10 million to build a pharmacy school and $1 million to start a pharmacy scholarship program.

Kentucky's Constitution prohibits state money from going to a "church, sectarian or denominational school," the court said. The funding, backed by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, also violated the Constitution's rule against "special legislation" because it was intended exclusively for one small category of students, it said.

"If Kentucky needs to expand the opportunities for pharmacy school education within the commonwealth, the Kentucky General Assembly may most certainly address that pressing public need, but not by appropriating public funds to an educational institution that is religiously affiliated," Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson wrote for the majority, upholding a 2008 circuit court ruling that blocked the funding.

Williams, who previously argued that the funding was legal, declined to comment Thursday.

Having lost twice in court, the University of the Cumberlands will drop its pharmacy school plans, said its president, James Taylor....

KSN&C Backstory.

Holliday to school leaders: Don’t Back Out of Race to the Top support

“We don’t anticipate any major changes
in what we will ask of schools:
deploy the new standards,
develop formative assessments,
work on teacher and principal effectiveness,
make sure our statewide longitudinal data systems are working
and turnaround (lowest performing) schools.”

--- Terry Holliday

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is asking Kentucky educators not to allow concerns about the possible creation of charter schools or changes in teacher evaluations to lead them to withdraw their support for the state’s bid for $175 million in federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funds.

In a statewide webinar Thursday to update superintendents on actions of the 2010 General Assembly, Holliday acknowledged his push for inclusion of charter school legislation in next month’s expected special session on the budget and that state Department of Education staff are working on new teacher and principal “effectiveness instruments,” two areas where Kentucky did not score highly in the first phase of RTTT.

“Please, before you call and say, ‘I’m not part of phase two,’ give me a chance to talk to you, come meet with your board, your teacher unions.

“We will provide a way for districts to opt out, to withdraw your memorandum of understanding – we hope that won’t happen,” the commissioner said. “If you pull your MOU, you impact your district by losing funding for work you have to do anyway to implement Senate Bill 1 (the 2009 Kentucky school reform law with many elements linked to RTTT goals) and you damage your neighbors’ chances for funding because it’s so important that we have unified signoff for Race to the Top Two.”

One of the RTTT scoring areas Kentucky outpaced most other states in the first round, in which the state was one of 16 finalists, was for local cooperation. Organizations like the Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky Association of Schools Superintendents and Kentucky Education Association had encouraged their local units to back the state’s original RTTT application for more than $200 million. However, only Delaware and Tennessee were selected by the U.S. Department of Education for RTTT Round One awards.

Holliday said he knows that many concerns about the state’s plans to rebid for RTTT Round Two funding centered around the issue of charter schools. He and Gov. Steve Beshear met this week Tuesday with teacher union leaders, and the commissioner and the governor’s office are reaching out to other education groups on the charter issue. KSBA has provided Beshear, Holliday and legislative leaders with a list of concerns about House Bill 109, the latest charter school bill which died in the last hours of the just-completed 2010 session. HB 109 has become the starting point for discussions about a revised bill for consideration when the governor calls the legislature into special session next month to reach a compromise on a state budget for 2010-12....

Board asked to okay elective Bible course

This form the McCreary County Record:
Though no formal action was taken at Thursday night’s meeting, the McCreary County Board of Education is considering a Bible class for high school students.Board members heard a presentation from Roger Dillon, Kentucky State Director for Christian Educators Association International, who discussed the development of an elective course high school students could take to learn more about the Bible.

Dillon explained that the 1963 Supreme Court decision (Abington Township School District v. Schempp) which prohibits public school officials from leading prayers and/or devotional Bible reading does not prohibit such a class.

“The Bible can be taught from a historical or literary perspective so long as it is not taught devotionally,” Dillon said.

Such electives are even encouraged in legal guidelines issued by the Clinton administration in 1998.While the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and the Bible Literacy Project each have courses which have been taught around the country, Dillon also noted that a bill is currently under consideration for Kentucky to develop its own curriculum as Tennessee recently opted to do.

Senate Bill 142 passed the Senate on February 25 by a vote of 37-1 but has languished in the House’s Education Committee since March 2...

Hat Tip to KSBA.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kentucky's worst-performing schools get $56 million in federal help

This from the Courier-Journal:

Kentucky has been awarded $56 million to help turn around its lowest-performing schools, including six in Jefferson County, with radical changes that could include replacing staff, closing or restructuring the school.

The federal school-improvement grants, announced Wednesday, represent a six-fold increase from last year — a boost funded by the federal stimulus program. They'll help 10 of Kentucky's worst-scoring schools with at least $1.5 million each over three years to implement strategies intended to turn them around.

Another 98 state schools, in slightly less dire circumstances, will get smaller amounts to be determined.

“It's a huge investment, and we've got a lot of work to do,” said Kentucky education commissioner Terry Holliday, “At some of these schools, less than 30 percent were passing 10th-grade competency requirements.”

The money, as well as recent leadership audits of the schools and districts, is part of a newly passed state law that prescribes an intervention system for the state's most chronically underperforming schools. In Louisville, they are Fern Creek, Western, Valley and Shawnee high schools, along with Frost and Western middle schools.

Auditors recently collected test data at each school, interviewed staff, observed teachers and spoke with parents and students. The results, which could be released in the coming weeks, will recommend one of four intervention options — restaffing, closing the school, hiring outside managers or replacing the school administration...

“Part of the challenge of turning around low performing schools is not having the dollars to do it. So this is important, especially in a time when schools are struggling with budgets,” said Cindy Heine, associate director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. “But if the infusion of his kind of money can't turn around these schools, they really should be closed.”

Holliday said closing schools won't be a likely option, at least initially.

Reforms that some schools have started could be considered fulfilling part of the requirements, he said. Decisions about which approach to take will be led by districts, with state oversight, he said.

Kentucky Department of Education officials said the money would be a big help. Struggling schools in years past often only got $100,000 to spark major changes from the grant. Now, they'll be getting five or six times that much each year.

“They're serious about this — they want changes. And if that means you get rid of staff, or close a school, that's what has to be done,” said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education. “It's fairly dramatic compared to what's happened in the past.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Software "update" affects Kentucky computers

This from Fox41:

Antivirus vendor McAfee Inc. confirmed that a software update caused its antivirus program for corporate customers to misidentify a harmless file.

The Kentucky Department of Education says the issue has likely affected nearly every school district in the state. It says school districts are being advised to shut down workstations that are affected by this update. Late Wednesday afternoon, McAfee came up with a temporary fix for the problem.

The Education Department says it not aware of any privacy breaches related to the issue.

Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Roberts tells Fox 41 News that several JCPS computers have been affected. She said affected computers display a message that they have been infected and JCPS is warning users not to reboot.

The website for the Bullitt County Public School system displayed the following message as of 12:50 Wednesday afternoon:

"We are experiencing problems with a state-wide virus attack. Computers are shutting down on their own. We are investigating the problem...For updates, call 869-TECH."

Fox 41 contacted Bullitt County Public Schools, but a spokesperson declined to comment.

Kentucky State Police Lt. David Jude said Wednesday that state police personnel have been instructed to turn off computers while technicians try to resolve the problem. Jude says the problem has not interrupted the ability of state police to respond to complaints.

In Shepherdsville, city Police Capt. Kenneth Bernardi said his department was advised to turn off their car terminals.

McAfee has posted a replacement update for download.

KDE Spokeswoman Lisa Gross issued the following guidance by email late this afternoon:

I’ve just been alerted that a temporary fix has been designed for the issues that school districts (and other users) may be experiencing due to the faulty update received from McAfee for users of the company’s products.

Technology staff in all 174 school districts have been provided with the temporary fix. KDE staff is still actively working with McAfee to find a long-term solution to the problem.

...This issue has likely affected nearly every school district, but is not limited to school districts.

...We are not aware of any privacy breaches related to this issue.

Hat tip to KSBA.

Rollins Remains Skeptical on Charters

“I’m not going to guarantee I can be convinced
that charter schools would be a good thing.”
-- Rep Carl Rollins

This from C-J:

...[Education Commissioner Terry] Holliday said Tuesday that he has been discussing charter schools with education groups to see if a compromise could be reached. He said Kentucky probably won’t win Race to the Top money without charter schools.

“We’ll look at what we can do,” he said before a meeting with [Governor Steve] Beshear and representatives of the Kentucky Education Association and Jefferson County Teachers’ Association.

KEA, JCTA, House Democrats and many local superintendents oppose the charter school concept.

KEA President Sharron Oxendine said her group is open to working with the governor and House and Senate leaders to make a charter schools bill more palatable to teachers.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to be in love with a charter schools proposal, but we understand the state desperately needs funds,” she said.

Oxendine said KEA wants a bill that requires more local control over charter schools and a requirement that teachers be certified.

Rep. Carl Rollins, the Midway Democrat who is chairman of the Education Committee, said he’s willing to discuss the idea, but “I’m not going to guarantee I can be convinced that charter schools would be a good thing.”

Rollins said he isn’t certain legislators can come up with a charter schools proposal that would be palatable to teachers’ groups.

Oxendine told the Ashland Daily Independent,

A bill passed in the Senate in the just concluded session allowed local boards of education to charter such schools, but wants more assurance that the schools would have to employ certified teachers. “We feel like every child deserves a certified teacher,” Oxendine said. “If you’ve got a 100 kids and there’s one teacher and four or five teaching assistants, that would be a key for us.”

Oxendine said KEA will never be enthusiastic about charter schools but doesn’t want to impede the state’s ability to secure the federal funding. She said KEA is most interested in general funding for education and teacher pay and benefits...

...Beshear continued Tuesday to say he wants a special session sooner rather than later to pass a new state budget and would consider calling it before the May 18 primary election if legislative leaders could agree to a budget in advance. “I would certainly look at (May 10) if the House and Senate leadership would come to an agreement by that time,” said Beshear. He said he needs a budget by June 1 in order to re-finance bonds in the general fund and road funds to save about $170 to $180 million dollars which both House and Senate budgets counted on to balance...

Not Afraid to Shoot

This from Marc Murphy in C-J:

Two Jobs Bills Provide Hope for State Teachers

Earlier in the year the House passed the Jobs for Main Street Bill, which is now pending in the Senate. On April 14th Senator Tom Harkin introduced his bill, the Keep Our Educators Working Act.

Both bills contain $23 billion for education and if passed could mean approximately $309,987,000 for Kentucky to sustain educational programs and save teachers' jobs.

The Keep Our Educators Working Act
Will Create an Education Jobs Fund

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and of the Senate Appropriations panel that funds education initiatives, introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act today. The bill will create a $23 billion Education Jobs Fund to help keep teachers, principals, librarians and other school personnel on the job as states face crippling budget shortfalls.

“This country is about to face a massive wave of layoffs in our schools and institutions of higher learning that could weaken our economic recovery and cause serious damage to our education system,” Senator Harkin said. “This bill is an investment in our kids, in our economy and in our future.”

The Keep Our Educators Working Act will create an Education Jobs Fund modeled after the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) that was established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the ‘Recovery Act’).

The SFSF is currently supporting more than 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors, and is widely credited with mitigating the impact of the recent recession. However, even with the SFSF, schools across the country have laid off workers, and the job outlook is worse for the 2010-2011 school year. Additional resources are needed to help states and districts avoid a “funding cliff” that would result in even more layoffs.
“Recent headlines make the case that two pillars of the American dream – a good job and a good education – are at risk for millions upon millions of our citizens,” Harkin said. “At this point in our fragile recovery, we need to put Americans back to work educating the next generation, and that’s what this bill does.”

The $23 billion included in the Keep Our Educators Working Act is roughly half of the amount dedicated to state aid in the SFSF, and is equal to the amount passed by the House in its December 2009 jobs legislation.
Funding could be used for:

• Compensation and benefits and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees, and for the hiring of new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational and related services; or
• On-the-job training activities for education-related careers.

JOBS FOR MAIN STREET ACT OF 2010

The country is struggling to overcome the longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. With eight million jobs lost and 15 million people still out of work, the number of unemployed has more than doubled in the last two years. Main Street has been hit especially hard. Many families cannot pay their bills or mortgage payments, and trillions of dollars of wealth have been stripped from retirement accounts. The recession has led to job cuts and reductions in vital services, including education and health, which help some of the most vulnerable among us.

At the start of the year, the nation’s economy was in disastrous freefall, losing nearly one million full time jobs a month. Nothing could prevent additional job losses, but Congress had an obligation to act to limit job loss as much as possible. That is why the Recovery Act was passed, and it is doing what it was intended to do. It has supported over a million jobs – including teachers, police officers, and construction workers – and limited cutbacks in critical services that would have otherwise been necessary for states to keep a balanced budget this year. And the rate of job loss has declined, with only 11,000 jobs lost last month.

Unfortunately, families and small businesses are still struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times. Continued high unemployment takes a toll – both on those unemployed and their families who experience the frustration of not finding work and on their community which must support them. Additional government action is required to help. That is why the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010 redirects $75 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) savings from Wall Street to Main Street to fund infrastructure and job investments to further stabilize jobs and provides additional emergency funding to help families who are suffering.

The bill redirects $48.3 billion from Wall Street to help put people to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing public buildings, and cleaning our air and water...

Among the efforts:

School Renovation Grants: $4.1 billion to allow State, local, or tribal governments to receive a federal grant equal to the cost of tax credits that would otherwise be payable on bonds issued to finance school construction, rehabilitation or repair.

Education Jobs Fund: $23 billion for an Education Jobs Fund to help States support an estimated 250,000 education jobs over the next two years. 95% of the funds will be allocated by States to school districts and public institutions of higher education to retain or create jobs to provide educational services and to modernize, renovate, and repair public education facilities. The remaining 5% of funds is reserved for State education-related jobs and administration of the Education Jobs Fund.

College Work Study: $300 million to support the College Work Study program, which supports low- and moderate-income undergraduate and graduate students who work while attending college. Together with institutional matching funds, this appropriation will help approximately 250,000 students stay in school.