Monday, November 29, 2010

Holliday Named to CCSSO Board

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced today the 2010-2011 CCSSO Board of Directors and Deputies Leadership Commission members. All board members and officers are chief state school officers and continue their tenures in their respective states while serving on CCSSO’s board.

“Our new leadership has a deep commitment to advancing the education reform agenda outlined by states,” said Executive Director Gene Wilhoit. “During a time of incredible transition across the country chief state school officers are dedicated to providing the leadership necessary to reshape American public education.”

CCSSO Board of Directors
President: Christopher Koch, Superintendent of Education, Illinois
President-Elect: Thomas Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Idaho
President Pro-Tempore: Michael Flanagan, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Michigan
Larry Shumway, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Utah
Terry Holliday, Commissioner of Education, Kentucky
Deborah Delisle, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio
David Steiner, Commissioner of Education, New York
Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education, Massachusetts
June Atkinson, Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Carolina

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

Quick Hits

Students in project-based gifted program study bridge design: Students who are gifted at a Georgia elementary school with a project-based curriculum participated in the school's Bridge Day, where they experimented with models of their own creation. The students researched bridge history and design to prepare for the project, and also participated in a quiz bowl and other events to test their knowledge. (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Support erodes for NYC schools appointee: The appointment of publishing executive Cathleen Black as the schools chancellor of New York City may be in jeopardy, as New York state officials consider whether to grant a waiver that would allow her to take the helm of the state's largest school district. A panel expressed doubts Tuesday about Black's credentials, as did state schools chief David M. Steiner, who said he may be willing to grant the waiver if Black works alongside an educator to help her run the school system. (The New York Times)

Some districts return Race to the Top funds: Some school districts that won funding under the federal Race to the Top program are declining to accept the money because the cost of implementing the required reforms is too high or because they disagree with the grant's requirements, education blogger Valerie Strauss writes in this post. Strauss writes about a Georgia superintendent who is giving the money back rather than adopt value-added teacher evaluations, which he says are an unreliable way to assess performance. (The Answer Sheet blog)

Minn. school leaders seek expanded campaign against bullying: The Minnesota School Board Association wants schools to expand the groups of students protected under anti-bullying rules to include protections against harassment based on "race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status, and status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation or disability." The group is also asking districts to use "disciplinary action" against school staffers that do not intervene in and report bullying incidents. (Star Tribune)

How netbooks are changing teaching and learning: Every student at a Chicago-area middle school is given a netbook computer to use during the school day -- a one-to-one model that has become popular nationwide. The miniature laptops have changed teaching and learning at the school, where students now access online textbooks, complete homework and collaborate with students and teachers using the netbooks. "The students are more engaged in the activities that we're doing," a teacher at the school said. "They feel like they have some control over things now. It's not just us lecturing to them." (Chicago Tribune)

Calif. district moves toward college-prep path for all students: A California school district is adopting a college-preparatory curriculum for all of its high schools to ensure that students are graduating ready to attend state universities. The A-to-G curriculum will be the standard beginning with next year's freshman class, although it will not be required for graduation and some students in career-academy programs will be able to opt out. (San Jose Mercury News)

Proposal for all-boys charter school struggles to win support: A proposal to open a charter school in Madison, Wis., for male minority students -- who would likely be predominantly black -- is facing opposition from those who say educating the students separately does not prepare them for the real world and would negatively affect diversity at other schools. However, Urban League President Kaleem Caire, who hopes to open the Madison Preparatory Academy, says the approach is needed to improve lagging achievement among minority boys in the district's public schools. (Wisconsin State Journal)

Q&A: Duncan discusses strategies for improving education: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in this interview that he wants to make No Child Left Behind less punitive, and reward the best teachers and principals. He also discusses more rigorous common standards and other plans to improve the country's education system, including new assessments and improving teacher quality. "We're putting a huge amount of resources into figuring out how to systematically get the hardest-working, the most committed teachers and principals into underserved communities," Duncan said. (The Wall Street Journal)

Are cyber charter schools providing a quality education?: Educators have mixed views about the effectiveness of online charter schools, which make up 217 of the 5,000 charters across the country. Critics say the schools drain funding from traditional schools and are unable to offer a quality education with a one-size-fits-all approach that lacks opportunities for student socialization. However, supporters say they serve a population of students whose needs are not being met in traditional schools and that more cyber charters now offer field trips and other face-to-face activities. (The Atlanta Post)

Should states fund charters with ties to religious groups?: The emergence of more charter schools with ties to religious groups is raising questions about whether the schools should be allowed to access public funding. In Texas, more than 20% of charters are associated with religious groups, including six of seven schools approved this year. "The church-state line is beginning to blur," a Fordham University education professor said. "We may be coming to a midpoint between the best of what is private and the best of what is public." (The Dallas Morning News)

Opinion - Improving the U.S. education system requires more of all: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman considers education a matter of national security and writes that the U.S. is failing to provide students with the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills needed to compete globally. He argues in support of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's push to demand more from teachers and elevate the profession, but he also suggests that more should be asked from parents and students in order to ensure the education system is improved. (The New York Times)

Charter-school founder is recognized for successful leadership: The founder and superintendent of a science-focused K-8 charter school in Arizona was named the Arizona Charter Schools Association's Charter Leader of the Year for creating a successful experience for students. "Science engages the child," Edu-Prize School leader Lynn Robershotte said. "It allows for higher-order thinking skills. Science, to me, is the natural springboard for education." (The Arizona Republic)

Decline is seen in number of students diagnosed with learning disabilities: The number of students classified as having learning disabilities is continuing to drop and was 2.5 million in the fall of 2008, according to the IDEA Data Accountability Center. Education Week blogger Christina A. Samuels cites early identification and the use of response to intervention as possible reasons for the trend. However, she also questions whether educators are responding to pressure to reduce the number of students they refer to special education and whether the students are getting needed help. (On Special Education blog)

What is the mission of charter schools?: Education officials in Rhode Island are working to clarify the purpose of charter schools as the state plans a significant expansion as part of its $75 million Race to the Top grant. State laws and some charter groups say the alternative public schools are meant to be laboratories for innovation, while the state's schools chief Deborah Gist is promoting new guidelines to ensure that charters be held higher standards than traditional schools. (The Providence Journal)

Ore. may seek federal waiver as special-education funding is cut: Statewide budget cuts have reduced funding for special education in Oregon's schools by $19 million from last school year, officials said, and the state is considering joining at least five other states in seeking waivers from the federal government to avoid penalties. States are required to maintain or increase special-education funding from year to year. "A sanction at the state level would put an additional hardship on our school districts that are already struggling," a state education official said. (The Oregonian)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Man and His School

It was my privilege recently to participate in the rededication of Cassidy School. Just renovated, Cassidy School was also celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Last summer, a research assistant and I spent the better part of a week in Superintendent Stu Silberman's office pouring over old Fayette County Board of Education documents extracting information on M A Cassidy, Lexington's progressive school leader at the turn of the last century. The analysis is not yet complete, but enough details have emerged to present an interesting story of the development of the Fayette County schools in general, and one school in particular.

Current Cassidy School principal Rhonda Fister opened the program and made introductions - including one very special introduction.
Superintendent Silberman also greeted the crowd.

Then it was my turn to tell the story of a man and his school.

The Rededication of M A Cassidy School
on the Occasion of its 75th Anniversary

18 November 2010
Photos of the event by Amanda Ferguson

Good evening ladies and Gentlemen. As always, it’s great to be back at Cassidy. Tonight, I hope to share with you a few of the reasons why I feel that way.

First I’d like to thank Kelli Helmers and the best PTA I know, for the invitation to speak tonight, about this school I love, and the inspirational man for whom it was named.

And I’ve got to acknowledge Charleen Hiten – THE most senior staff member in the Fayette County public school system. For 47 years, and counting, Charleen has greeted visitors, put on Band-Aids, organized the school, and kept the books – all in good order. We thank her for her uncommon dedication.
Leadership is key to any successful enterprise and I‘d also like to thank Rhonda Fister for taking such great care of the place; and Stu Silberman for his stewardship of the district. Both the school and the district are in good hands and achieving new heights.
Our greatest superintendents have been men and women of vision. Able to foresee the increasing needs of American industry, they worked tirelessly to meet the rising demand for an educated workforce, and to make Kentucky a better place.

The most visionary educational leader in Kentucky at the turn of the last century was arguably Massillon Alexander Cassidy.

So great was the public affection for Cassidy, that upon his sudden death in 1928, the school children of Lexington and Fayette County collected sufficient funds to erect an impressive monument. An unnamed Italian artist was commissioned to fashion a monument, including a marble bust of Cassidy, which stands in the Lexington Cemetery near that of Henry Clay’s.

Cassidy’s eulogy was delivered by Dr. A W Fortune, pastor of the Central Christian Church who said it was the optimism of M. A. Cassidy that created confidence in the public school system.

“His genial spirit created an atmosphere of good will which has characterized our schools,” Fortune said. “M A Cassidy loved people and enjoyed mingling with them. He had a big heart and was sympathetic in his attitude toward all. He had the confidence of children and…He had the confidence and love of his teachers.

We honor M.A. Cassidy because of the conception of education which he impressed on our children… He believed the supreme function of education is the development of character. He said, “Learning without character is a vain and noxious thing.”

“The worth and strength of the nation depends far less on the form of its institutions than upon the character of its people,” Cassidy wrote. He believed it is the function of the public school to serve the nation through development of character. He believed the time to develop character is in the early years. He was convinced that it is infinitely better to start boys and girls in the right direction than it is to let them drift in the early years and try to redeem them when they are grown. As Cassidy understood, and we understand here at the elementary level, “One former is worth a thousand reformers.”

Like other visionary leaders Cassidy was a man of his time. He understood the changes that were occurring around him and set out to educate the larger community to meet those challenges.

From the start, Lexington attracted a relatively educated set of settlers who were sufficiently interested in the cultural arts that the town came to be called, “Athens of the West.” As early as 1783, John “Wildcat” McKinney opened the first school near the fort at Lexington. As the story goes, Wildcat earned his nickname by chasing a real wildcat out of the school house before class one day. Today, those who attend Thursday Night Live or the Farmer’s Market at the new pavilion next to the old Fayette County Courthouse on Main Street are once again playing in McKinney’s school yard.

Over the next 40 years, a handful of tuition-based schools were opened for white children, the closest by Waldemar Mentelle, at the other end of Henry Clays’ property near Ashland, commemorated today by Mentelle Park. The first “Sunday afternoon” school for free blacks was organized by Lexington merchant Col. Patterson in 1798. The school taught various “trades” like masonry and carpentry at a time when many of the skilled artisans in Lexington were blacks. In 1810, Lexington’s 4,300 residents ranked 35th largest in America.

The first tuition-based city school was established, in 1835, when William Morton bequeathed $12,000 to establish a school. The Morton name has been the oldest - in continual use since that time - and since 1938 has shared a campus here on the city’s “old circus grounds” with Cassidy School.

It was not until 1848, following the crusading efforts of State Superintendent Robert J Breckinridge that a fledgling state-wide system of free schools was established. For the first time free common schools could be built using public funds derived from taxation. Several private schools were also opened around this time but only Sayre, which was formed in 1854, has endured.

Since the time of Socrates - and I believe it is still true today - nothing relates more completely to the success of the educational enterprise than the quality of the teacher. Numerous studies strongly suggest that there is a direct relationship between the knowledge of the teacher and the learning of the student. Lexington was fortunate for its ability to attract “good teachers” which was a major stumbling block for much of the rest of the state. A teacher could only teach what they knew or had books to support.

The instructional method, since antiquity, considered the brain to be like a muscle. If you want to get strong, you lift weights, repeatedly. In school, scholars were led to develop “mental discipline” by memorizing large passages of text through endless repetition, choral reading and recitation. Physical discipline could also be harsh for wayward students, and there was no choice of what to study, as it was thought that all students needed the same curriculum.

But a new progressive way of thinking about schools emerged in the late 19th century spurred by a series of articles published in the Forum Magazine. While “muckraking” journalists like Upton Sinclair, was exposing corporate wrongdoings to the American public, Joseph Mayer Rice was doing the same thing to the public schools. His investigation of 1,200 American teachers revealed, “political hacks hiring unqualified teachers who lead children through mind-numbing drill, rote repetition and meaningless verbiage.” The response from the public was massive and the first education reform movement was launched.

Into the fray stepped Massillon Alexander Cassidy and his high-minded effort to make schools child-centered – and to democratize intellectual capital by making it available to all. Cassidy expanded the function of schooling into such areas as health and occupational competencies. He sought to apply scientific research to improve teaching and began “tailoring instruction” to different types of students variously identified within the school population.

Born August 22, 1856, at Morristown, Tennessee, Superintendent Cassidy was the son of “an educator of some note” from Virginia, Jeremiah Alexander Cassidy, and Martha Matilda Jackson Cassidy. He was educated in private grammar schools, graduated Regan High school inMorristown, and received a Master of Arts degree at the University of Kentucky. Professor Cassidy, as he came to be known in Lexington, had been a teacher and journalist in Tennessee and practiced law in Knoxville.

Cassidy was chosen superintendent of Fayette County schools in 1885. He served both the city and the county schools until 1901, after which he remained superintendent of the Lexington Schools until his death in 1928.

The Cassidy family tells a story from his youth. At the close of the Civil War, when Cassidy was a young teen in Tennessee, he was said to have served the Confederate cause. One day he came home to see his mother. Union soldiers were patrolling in the area and came to her home in an attempt to find him. His mother, Martha, saw them coming and had Massillon climb down into the family's well, with its cedar bucket and windlass, to hide. When the soldiers had finished searching the house and grounds, the Union Captain, despite his obvious power, politely asked Martha for a drink of water.

Massillon's mother said, "On one condition: Provided that I can have the first bucket load." The Captain agreed.

When the soldiers cranked up the first bucket with Massillon aboard, the Captain smiled and said, "Madam, I am a man of my word. You can keep the first bucket load."

Cassidy, it is said, came to believe he was spared from an uncertain fate by kindness and the meaning of a man's word - a lesson about honor he carried throughout his life.

Cassidy’s later writings carry overtones of religion and science as was expected of this new breed of progressive schoolmen. Educational leaders of his time made use of religious imagery to underscore the importance, even reverence, with which they undertook to educate the masses and lift the common folk into a civilization full of possibilities for those of good character who were willing to work hard. Along with the efficient use of scientific management the schools were seen as America’s best vehicle to fulfill its destiny as a nation. Schools became the instruments of democracy; to be run with “authority” by professionals who knew best how to run them - in loco parentis. The schools began to be consolidated and curriculum tracking and electives emerged. The system offered “equality of educational opportunity.”

Judge Charles Kerr's 1922 History of Kentucky cites Cassidy's leadership of the Lexington schools as comparing favorably "with those of any other city in the country." His innovations were frequently replicated "in various other sections of the country which have realized the value of elevated educational standards."

During his tenure, he rallied to get children in school and dramatically increased enrollment, "from a few hundred pupils to about 7,000." Kerr writes, "The City of Lexington has long enjoyed the reputation of having one of the best administered and most up-to-date systems of schools found anywhere in the country ... and was one of the first cities in the United States to reorganize its schools on the 6-3-3- plan" – which relates to 6 elementary grades; 3 in junior high; and sophomore through senior years in high school.

The list of Cassidy’s innovations in the schools was long:
• Cassidy condemned nearly every school in the county as his first act as superintendent
• employed teachers who were college graduates
• instituted the penny lunch
• manual training for boys
• "domestic economy" for girls
• Indoor restrooms,
• "opportunity classes ... for irregular children"
• "open air schools"
• "kindergarten in all white schools and some of the negro schools"
• opened building for community use including laundries in the basements of schools for both children and parents" and a community center with a swimming pool and auditorium
• he introduced the "moving picture apparatus" to instruction
• held the first county graduation ceremonies in Kentucky
• formed the Fayette County teachers' Normal Institute in 1887
• appointed a Catholic school trustee in 1896
• formed the Fayette County Colored Teachers' Institute in 1901 with Prof J H Johnson.
• removed the colored board of trustees for not reporting school census
• was regarded as the father of Kentucky's progressive school laws from 1893 - 1905.
• Called for tax increases to better support the schools on several occasions
• was a member of the Democratic Party, the Masons and the Presbyterian church
• And was described in the Lexington Leader as "familiar to every teacher in Kentucky"

Cassidy won wide recognition in educational and other fields. He was a member of the National Educational Association and served as president of the Kentucky Educational Association and of the Southern Educational Association. Cassidy also was widely known as an author, contributing short stories and other articles to various magazines. He won recognition nationally as the author of the Golden Deeds system of character building, which was used throughout Lexington schools.
Cassidy died of a sudden heart attack at 2:45 o’clock after working at his offices downtown that morning. He was 72 years old.

Despite the Great Depression the east end of Lexington was growing rapidly in the thirties. Chevy Chase was being developed and contained many desirable homes for Lexington’s young families. Hollywood and Ashland Park were already established neighborhoods and there was need for a school in this section of the community. M A Cassidy School was completed in 1935 to meet this demand.

Dr Henry H Hill was the director of the building program for the Lexington Public Schools under Cassidy. When he was appointed superintendent in 1930, he named the district’s next new building in honor of his predecessor. Professor Cassidy had won a place in the hearts of Fayette Countians following forty-three years of dedicated service to educating the young.

Annelle Kelly, Cassidy School’s first principal wrote, “The building is a modern red brick structure consisting of six classrooms, large kindergarten room, library, small museum room, office and lavatories. Initial plans were made so that rooms could be added as the enrollment increases.” Interestingly, the land on which it rests once belonged to the Great Compromiser (Kentucky statesman) Henry Clay. The total cost of the building and land was $103,267.00. President Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration paid for 30 percent of the cost and the building was erected by PWA workers.

During the first year (1935-36) the total enrollment was 108. There were three grades and a kindergarten. It was planned to add one new grade per year. Since there was no cafeteria, auditorium or gym, there was only one daily session which ran from 8:30 to 1:15 in the afternoon with a midmorning lunch. It was not until Morton Junior High School was built in 1938 that Cassidy’s school day was lengthened to two sessions and the students shared use of the Morton’s gym, cafeteria and auditorium.

A few years later a new library and one classroom were added to the building. But by September 1956, a large number of children, who were born during the post World War II baby boom, were ready for school, and a new ten classroom wing was built including a cafeteria and gymnasium.

According to the Cassidy Chronicles, published by Cassidy students in 1989, from the start Cassidy School was considered modern and progressive. “The school used phonics in the teaching of reading, rather than the Look-Say method.” During World War II, in lieu of classes one day a week, students planted victory gardens, and collected paper and metal to assist the war effort. The Halloween Carnival was a favorite for years. School children enjoyed the band, orchestra and fully stocked library. City Council member Bill Farmer recalled for our young researchers how much Cassidy emphasized hands-on activities. At one time, the school sponsored both basketball and football teams.

School principals included Mignon Newbern (46-50), Owen Cammack (50-52), Briscoe Evans (52-56), Jeannette Pates (56-65), Emmet Hardy (65-66) Dorothy Friend (66-89), Richard Day (89-04) and Rhonda Fister (04-present).

In the 1968-69 school year, the school was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and exceeded all of the goals that had been set for its improvement. Cassidy received a comprehensive rating from the State Department of Education. The school boasted many fine programs and strong community support. The Cassidy PTA was similarly recognized as the best PTA in the state, honorable mention at the national level and among the first schools to be recognized by the National PTA for its high level of parental involvement. Cassidy had become a model for other schools to emulate.

To prepare for a renovation in December of 1976, the entire school population was moved, for the entire school year, to that other school named for Cassidy - Picadome. Picadome School derived its name from the first two letters of the names of four men: State Superintendent Pickett; Superintendent Cassidy, and District Trustees Douglas and Meyers.

By the mid 80’s a national wave of school reform had begun again. Following a report called A Nation at Risk, schools began a number of efforts including increased testing of school children. The state developed the Kentucky Essential Skills Test and began recognizing the best schools through the Flags of Excellence program. To receive a Flag of Excellence, 80% of the student body had to exceed the national average on the test while maintaining better than 95% attendance. Cassidy received a flag every year of the program and routinely ranked at the top of district ratings.

Four more classrooms were added in 1988 as major changes were about to take place in schools across Kentucky because of the Kentucky Supreme Court’s declaration that the entire state system of schools was unconstitutional. By 1990 the Kentucky Education Reform Act took effect. A host of new initiatives were implemented including the Primary Program and School Councils. By the mid nineties, the state had implemented a high-stakes accountability system based on test scores reported by subgroups. The operating philosophy in the schools changed from “equality of educational opportunity” to “equity of student achievement outcomes.” Overnight, Cassidy went from being the school with the highest average performance, to being the school with the largest achievement gap. Much of the school’s subsequent effort went toward closing those gaps. In 2006, the school was recognized by the Fayette County Educational Foundation for having closed 80% of the achievement gap.

The current school reform movement echoes the challenge Cassidy faced a century earlier. In his day, a grammar school education was no longer sufficient and high schools were built in every county in Kentucky in response. Today’s educational leaders face a similar, but still higher, goal of increasing the percentage of Kentuckians who have Bachelor’s Degrees or advanced technical training required by today’s industries.

Remarkable recent advances in technology and communications have once again raised the bar, but this time the competition is not just state to state. It is global. I shudder to think of the future of a Cassidy child who goes out into the 21st century world armed only with a high school diploma. What kind of job might they expect to get? I am comforted by the knowledge that Cassidy parents are already planning for the advanced education of their children.

In 2009, the state legislature called for a new testing system, which will be based on national standards, to replace the CATS test. The new system promises to take less time to administer and it will collect student test data from 3rd grade through graduation on each student. It will also include the ACT, and end of course exams in Algebra, Geometry, Biology and U S History. The arts will be assessed through a program review.

In the meantime, several state education groups have continued to report the performance of our schools under a revised version of the CATS system. By that reckoning, things are going better than ever at Cassidy School. In the most recent testing, Cassidy kids finished with a nearly perfect Transition Index of 123. That’s number one in Fayette County, and number two in the state. Way to go, y’all.

At the district level, Superintendent Silberman reported this week that 24 Fayette County schools have reached proficiency. Overall the district has moved 76 percent of its students into proficiency while achievement among most subgroups of student have improved. The superintendent credited the district’s success to the same group of folks who have always come together wherever successful schools exist: hard-working teachers, dedicated administrators and a community that values a great education for its children.

Silberman also credited the nickel tax, approved in 2007, for securing state-of-the-art educational facilities for the future. We find no better example of that than Cassidy’s $11 million makeover.

In the words of architect Susan Hill of Tate Hill Jacobs, "Buildings are not just about the architecture, they’re really about the life of the community that's gone through them. They're about the lessons learned, the stories shared, friendships made – and [this] building embodies all of that. A new building would never do that, even if it was built on the same site."
I feel quite certain that MA Cassidy felt the same. He knew that we public school folks are in the people business.

Soon after his death, Cassidy’s friends began receiving his annual self-designed Christmas greetings in the mail – complete with one of his famous poems. It was entitled,


My Picture Gallery

I’ve strolled in halls where famous art displayed in all its splendor,
stirred deep emotions in my heart- repulsive mixed with tender.

But in my heart there is a hall adorned with finest pictures,
on every side they deck the wall with no revolting mixtures.

A single artist painted them on canvas that’s eternal,
and every one that artist’s gem, whose joy is diuturnal.

The artist is well known as Friend, a true and tender painter,
whose colors last unto the end nor with the years grow fainter.

His colors are affections, smiles, and trueness and devotion,
unmixed with any sordid wiles, or any base emotion.

Within my hall, you I behold, and count you as a treasure,
that paintings all by artists bold can never find a measure.

And in my heart hall there’s a glow that comes from sunny faces;
and nothing sweeter shall I know than all your friendly graces.

By Dr Richard Day
Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations
Eastern Kentucky University
Principal, Cassidy School, 1989-2004


Happy Thanksgiving

In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln was increasingly concerned by the tremendous growth in the number of causalities in the Civil War. Following the disastrous loss at the second battle of Bull Run, he wrote a Meditation on the Divine Will in which he expressed the quandary of God’s presence.

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time.”
But to most Americans - north or south - God was on their side. Union and Confederate soldiers both prayed to the same God. Both read the same Bible. Both invoked the same God to aid him in battle against the other side.

Lincoln’s thoughts read like an ancient philosopher’s argument. “By his mere quiet power on the minds of new contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

In a country split and ravaged by war - truth, for Lincoln, had begun to dawn. God was not at America’s beckoned call. America was at his.

By October 1863, with the Union victory in the Civil War all but assured, Lincoln was looking for a way to reunite the country. He proclaimed a national holiday to be spent in reflection – a day of thanksgiving.

The proclamation, written by his Secretary of State William Seward, called upon each citizen to regard America’s vigorous growth despite the long war.
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”
America remains at war – not a civil war - but one that divides us spiritually nonetheless.

As we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving 2010, and acknowledge our blessings, let us also remember our disobedience and “commend to His tender care those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers” in our present conflicts.

Let us become peacemakers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Berman Out in Jefferson County

JCPS Superintendent
Sheldon Berman
to be replaced

A lack of urgency on achievement cited

Yesterday, while JCPS Board members were pondering the fate of Superintendent Shelly Berman, the rest of the city was reading this: Will overhaul help or harm academically struggling Iroquois High School? This is the first in a series of planned articles about six Jefferson County high schools listed as “persistently low achieving. The law calls for an overhaul of failing schools. But supporters say the poor performance masks the real, if modest, gains Iroquois has made while serving some of the district's most challenging students, many of whom arrive years behind in school, disillusioned with learning and lacking support at home.

And they question whether changes that could result in a wave of new teachers and administrators — not just at Iroquois but other so-called “failing” schools — is simply change to placate the public and politicians with no guarantee of success.

“We have been concerned with the stagnant growth
in the key areas of reading and math.
As a board, we wish to refocus our energies
on student achievement on every level
with an emphasis on making substantial progress
in student performance.”

----JCPS Board Chair Debbie Wessslund

This from Toni Konz at C-J:

The Jefferson County Board of Education decided Monday night to replace Sheldon Berman as school superintendent.

After an interim evaluation of his job performance in a private session, the board voted 5-2 not to renew Berman's contract when it expires in June. Instead, the board will begin a nationwide search for a new superintendent.

“The most important duty of the (school board) is to choose and support a superintendent who will lead a successful school system that prepares all students for post-secondary education and careers,” board Chairwoman Debbie Wesslund said in a statement read during the public portion of the meeting.

“We reviewed past evaluations of the superintendent, student performance progress under his leadership, as well as management and operations issues,” she said. “The board has determined that it will not renew his contract.” ...
Berman told C-J he was “very surprised and disappointed” with the board's decision. “We've made a lot of progress and have some very important initiatives that are moving forward in a very positive direction,” Berman claimed.

But the past year has been marked with controversy and discontent, including parents complaining about long bus rides required by the district's student assignment plan and a growing number of district schools being listed among the state's lowest performers.


Direct link to C-J video here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Legal Wrangling in Cowan Case

In the past couple of months, activity in Jill Cowan's suit (Civil Action # 09-CI-1905) against Fayette County Superintendent Stu Silberman, Jesse Clark Principal Lisa Goodin and former Middle School Director Michael Ernst has been limited to attorney's motions relative to the Second Amended Supplemental Count Two.

KSN&C Backstory, then here, and here and here.

Cowan is suing the Fayette County Public Schools alleging she was denied an opportunity for promotion and that the denial was related to an unwelcomed advance from Goodin, her superior at the time. The case is being heard in Ernesto Scorcone's Seventh Division Fayette Circuit Courtroom.

Goodin's attorney filed a motion, late this summer, arguing that Cowan had been too vague about her allegations. Judge Scorcone agreed and the attorneys have been arguing over whether their clients have actually been accused of anything under the Second Amended Supplemental Count Two.

Cowan claims that she was being "blackballed" through a series of "behind the scenes" actions. The defendants claim that she has made no specific complaints to which they can respond.

Cowan claims she was denied advancement within the Fayette County schools after she reported unlawful discrimination based on her gender. She says she was retaliated against by the defendants in a conspiratorial fashion and that she "is not privy to the behind the scenes machinations of the FCPS." Cowan hopes discovery will reveal the particulars of how she was discriminated against. Cowan alleges "both a pattern of discrimination and a charge that Goodin both conspired to and acted to retaliate against her for her complaints" about Goodin.

Goodin claims she was suspended, and outrageously escorted out of the school by armed police officers, after she filed a civil rights complaint against Goodin. Her suspension, she says was "based on mere superficial claims from Goodin that Jill had returned late from a meeting in the prior month" and that she had "purportedly been 'unprofessional' during a prior telephone conversation with Goodin."

Silberman says Cowan "was suspended with pay...to afford the opportunity for an investigation of certain information" concerning Cowan's conduct.

In other news, the case is moving into the discovery phase with Jill Cowan scheduled to be deposed by Goodin's attroneys on January 5th 2011.

The attorneys involved in this one include:
For Cowan: J Robert Cowan and Charles W. Arnold.
For Silberman and the BOE: Robert Chenoweth and Grant Chenoweth.
For Ernst: Larry Bryson.
For Goodin: Steve Barker and Joshua Salsbury.

Leadership and Loyalty

Too many bosses seem to believe that their job is to instill fear in their workforce, writes Mike Myatt. That may work when it comes to achieving short-term goals, but it'll make your workers hate you -- and the moment they sense weakness, they'll abandon you in droves. "If you believe that instilling fear in your employees is a good thing, you may be a tyrannical bully, but you are certainly not an effective leader," Myatt writes.

This from N2Growth:

...How do you tell if your employees respect you or fear you? Review the 5 items below:

A Team of Yes-men: Feared leaders either surround themselves with like-minded people, or train people to share their views in a vacuum. Either way they lose…Great leaders value the opinions of their team whether or not said views happen to be in concurrence with their own beliefs.

Lack of Interaction: If top management, and staff don’t proactively seek your advice and input then you have a respect problem. They either don’t value your contributions, or they know from experience that you’ll treat their inquiry in a belittling fashion. Over time, many fear-based leaders unknowingly train their team to think: “Why even try if there is no upside? The boss will never go for that.”

Lack of Feedback: If as a leader you don’t subject yourself to a 360 review process, then you are not earnestly looking for personal growth and development opportunities. Here’s an ego check – if you do utilize a 360 review, and all the responses are positive, evaluate whether this has occurred because you are feared and are thus the recipient of insincere flattery, or because you have the loyalty and respect of those you lead.

Revolving Door: If you either can’t attract or retain tier-one talent, you are not an effective leader who has earned the respect and loyalty of your team…In fact, upon closer examination you’ll find that you probably don’t have a team. Sad but true…real talent won’t be attracted to, or remain engaged with leaders who operate on fear-based tactics.

Poor Performance: Leaders who have the respect of their team will outperform those that don’t. Leaders who attempt to use command and control tactics without the necessary underpinnings of real leadership principles will simply not do well. If your organization is not thriving and growing, then the first thing that should occur is a long look in the mirror…Begin your triage by first evaluating your leadership qualities or the lack thereof.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is Berman On the Way Out?

School board may decide
JCPS Superintendent's future on Monday

This from Toni Konz at the Courier-Journal:

The Jefferson County Board of Education has called a special meeting Monday afternoon to conduct an interim evaluation of Superintendent Sheldon Berman, which could lead to a decision on whether to extend his contract or start a search for a new district leader.

“We are going to revisit the evaluation we did over the summer and the next step will be to consider his contract, which expires in June, and whether we extend it or not,” said board chairwoman Debbie Wesslund. “It’s possible we’ll make a decision on Monday, but it’s not a guarantee.”

Berman, who makes $273,182 a year, plus benefits, and is in the final year of his four-year contract with the school board, said Friday he wants to stay with the district....

Board members said [in July] that it was “unacceptable to continue to have some of the lowest-performing schools in the state,” referring to the six schools that were named among the 10 lowest-performing schools in Kentucky in 2009.

They also noted that the new elementary student assignment plan “met a rocky beginning” when it was implemented at the start of the 2009-10 school year.

Since that evaluation, six more Jefferson County public schools were identified as being among the lowest performing in the state for 2010.

The district also began facing a push for a return to neighborhood schools, including a proposed state law that would allow them, after mistakes and confusion on the first day of school resulted in hundreds of students spending extra hours on buses, with some not getting home until 9 p.m...

It seems the fundamental question for the board should be whether the district is headed in the right direction. If that's how they view it, then...
Hasta La Vista
Adios
Ciao
Sayonara
Auf Wiedersehen
Farewell
Buh Bye

The Campus Tour

This from Dan Wasserman at Slate:

The Transylvania Book Heist

Volume recounts time leading up to
2004 book heist

This from the Herald-Leader:

For five years and from within his federal prison cell, Charles Allen wrote down everything he could remember about the years, months and days that preceded Dec. 17, 2004. That was the day he and three of his friends borrowed his aunt's van and robbed valuable first-edition books from Transylvania University's special collections library, tying up and terrorizing a librarian in the process.

The result is Mr. Pink: The Inside Story of the Transylvania Book
Heist, written by Allen, now 25 and incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington. Self-published, the title of the book refers to the names that the conspirators gave one another during the commission of the crime. The book went
on sale this week.

What Works in Madison Co. Schools?

This from Madison County Schools Superitntendent Tommy Floyd in the Richmond Register:
Critics continue to write about shortfalls and missed opportunities. Like many of you, we have read and viewed much of this coverage, and, because so many examples are given, we are forced to again ask ourselves the question: How are we doing — really?

For Madison County Schools this has become a daily question. Our teachers are asking it at the end of today’s lessons. Before they continue with the plans they have for tomorrow, they first must know how students mastered today’s learning. As simple as this seems, the next step is very difficult. We must alter our instruction each day depending on how well learning took place today...

Being a great school district...means providing excellent instructional and academic services for students. Some of the ways Madison County Schools accomplishes that goal include:

• Tracking student progress to make instructional decisions. Through the use of instructional rounds, monthly principal cadre meetings, principal walk-throughs, professional learning communities and school leadership teams, the district is able to advance student proficiency by being better informed about where students are in the learning process on an individual and regular basis.

• Accountability for building principals and staff in the ongoing monitoring of student progress to make instructional decisions. With the addition of extra data dissagragation (sic) days, assessment walls, school snapshots MAP, AIMsWeb and APEX Learning, the district is continually improving student success.

• Changes in key personnel, such as the addition of Director of Professional Development, Instructional Supervisor and District Assessment Coordinator, the district is becoming more efficient in monitoring student progress and allowing the data to drive learning. Those results are being utilized for planning.

• Focus on Assessment for Learning and the training necessary for success. The district is implementing “I Can” statements for all content areas district wide, formative assessments to determine student needs and the use of MAP data to modify lessons and to provide interventions for struggling students. All these things and the many others used in the district help teachers and administrators stay focused on learning results.

• Deconstruction of new standards in reading and math to plan instruction. Standards have been deconstructed by each school into a progression of “I Can” statements so that teachers know exactly what students need to know and what they need to be able to do to master each standard. The eventual plan is to have quality assessments that match the targets and then build a variety of instructional strategies to teach the standards.

• Additional data disaggregation day for teachers to plan interventions. Madison County Schools added an additional data disaggregation day on Jan. 3, 2011, as a “teacher only” day to provide time for teachers to disaggregate the MAP data from the December assessment and decide upon interventions.

• Implementing Fountas and Pinnell reading assessment for kindergarten and first grade. Students in kindergarten and first grade take the Fountas and Pinnell Reading assessment, as well as the Student Numeracy Assessment Progressions assessment to provide teachers with baseline data to help determine students’ strengths, areas of growth and possible interventions.

• Use of computer based APEX Learning to assist secondary students in credit recovery, interventions and extensions for students. APEX Learning software is curriculum-based computer software that allows student to work at their own pace to recover credits in classes they have previously failed and to provide interventions and extensions for students.

• Instructional Rounds in all schools in the 2010-2011 school year. Instructional Rounds is where district administrators do a series of observations in classrooms looking specifically for a “Problem of Practice” identified by the school principal and leadership team. The administrators provide feedback and next steps on how the school may progress. This is the second year of instructional rounds in Madison County Schools. The first year of rounds focused on the secondary schools.

• Read 180/System 44 Labs in all schools to assist struggling readers. Title 1 ARRA funds were able to provide the means to purchase READ 180 / System 44 labs for all district elementary schools to provide interventions for struggling readers. READ 180 progresses through three distinct rotations that include teacher instruction, computer-based instruction and independent reading time aimed at assisting students in their reading ability.

• Planning of middle college located on EKU campus. A draft copy of a Memorandum of Agreement has been developed to progress with the implementation of a Middle College at Eastern Kentucky University. The district is currently working through the appropriate channels at EKU and the Kentucky Department of Education to provide an opportunity for students to enroll in the fall of 2011. Middle College focuses on providing students with the ability to graduate high school with as many as 18 college credit hours.

• Instructional technology. Dell Training provided to Library Media Specialists and lead teachers on Oct. 25 is just the latest in a long series of efforts by Madison County Schools to provide teachers and students with the latest in instructional technology. All Madison County Schools classrooms are equipped with Intelligent Classroom technology and the district has a technology integration specialist that offers teachers weekly supplements to improve their use and understanding of the technology available to them for instruction.

• Early Childhood Education is becoming a focus. In Madison County, kindergarten readiness and the expansion of early learning opportunities include the Madison County Early Childhood Alliance and the Literacy Education and Awareness Program. These programs will help ensure that young children have every opportunity to be ready for their first day of kindergarten.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Safe Handling of Value-Added

As with all fire arms, safe handling is essential. Poorly designed and in the wrong hands, value-added assessment is a shotgun. It may hit what its aiming at, but its likely to hit some other things too. But used within strict limits, we may be reasonably assured of it usefulness.

Like writing portfolios, value-added assessment does a pretty good job at the extremes. In the same way that portfolios could separate the distinguished writer from the novice while poorly differentiating performance among the apprentices, value-added can identify the great teachers and the terrible teachers but can't tell high average from low avarage. It should not be relied upon for important decisions among those scoring in the average range.

A balanced look at evaluating teachers through value-added assessment was offered by the Brookings Institute in a new report this week.

As a principal, I always wanted as much data about the performance of the school as I could get. The presence of reliable data is very useful for improving the quality of the decisions that must be made. I wanted accurate information about everything from monthly budget reports to the time individual buses were arriving at the school. But I did not want to beat anyone over the head with the information. I wanted to solve problems and make the school better.

Similarly, I wanted as much information as I could get about the performance of our students and teachers. I wanted to make sure we were giving our students everything they needed to be successful. Thus, I am naturally attracted to interim testing data and the concept of value-added assessment. But to be of use, all data counted upon for high-stakes decisions must be reliable. Otherwise, it stands a good chance of becoming counterproductive.

How value-added systems are constructed and how they are used matters.

The Brookings folks argue that the use of value-added data to predict future teacher performance is consistent with predictive data used in other fields.

Over at Education Week's Teacher Beat blog Stephen Sawchuk sees the findings as adding a contrasting view in the debate over value-added assessments, which have been criticized as an incomplete way to evaluate teachers.

While an imperfect measure of teacher effectiveness, the correlation of year-to-year value-added estimates of teacher effectiveness is similar to predictive measures for informing high-stakes decisions in other fields, like the SAT test, Brookings says.

The evaluation of teachers based on the contribution they make to the learning of their students, value-added, is an increasingly popular but controversial education reform policy. The report attempts to clarify four areas of confusion about value-added.

The first is between value-added information and the uses to which it can be put. One can, for example, be in favor of an evaluation system that includes value-added information without endorsing the release to the public of value-added data on individual teachers.

The second is between the consequences for teachers vs. those for students of classifying and misclassifying teachers as effective or ineffective — the interests of students are not always perfectly congruent with those of teachers.

The third is between the reliability of value-added measures of teacher performance and the standards for evaluations in other fields — value-added scores for individual teachers turn out to be about as reliable as performance assessments used elsewhere for high stakes decisions.

The fourth is between the reliability of teacher evaluation systems that include value-added vs. those that do not — ignoring value-added typically lowers the reliability of personnel decisions about teachers.

We conclude that value-added data has an important role to play in teacher evaluation systems, but that there is much to be learned about how best to use value-added information in human resource decisions...

Critics of value-added methods have raised concerns about the statistical validity, reliability, and corruptibility of value-added measures. We believe the correct response to these concerns is to improve value-added measures continually and to use them wisely, not to discard or ignore the data...

Quick Hits

NAEP scores show slight improvement for nation's seniors: High-school seniors taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and math increased their scores slightly, but officials say greater improvement is needed. Average reading scores were up two points between 2005 and 2009, and average math scores rose three points in that same time period. "Overall, the results are still disappointing, especially in comparison to the big gains at fourth and eighth grade," said Tom Loveless, a Brookings Institution senior fellow. (Education Week) (The Washington Post)

Mass. charter has project-based curriculum, prep-school feel: A public charter school in Massachusetts with "a private-school feel" is achieving high levels of achievement by featuring a project-based curriculum that emphasizes public speaking and includes independent learning plans for all students. The Innovation Academy Charter School has a strong focus on academics -- requiring that students earn a C or better to move on to the next grade -- but also requires students to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. (The Boston Globe)

Popularity of charters grows in Massachusetts: More parents and students in Massachusetts are choosing charter schools in their quest to find an education that is individualized and academically rigorous. State data shows the popularity of charters continues to grow, with enrollment increasing from about 12,500 to nearly 27,500 over the last 10 years. However, some skeptics feel the charters drain valuable resources and top students from traditional public schools. (The Boston Globe)

Pittsburgh to offer residency program for some new teachers: Pennsylvania school officials approved a one-year residency program to train incoming teachers for Pittsburgh schools. The certification program is being sponsored in part by The New Teacher Project and aims to recruit a more diverse corps of educators, including those who are coming to teaching from other professions. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Denver high school is the target of ambitious turnaround: School officials in Denver approved a plan Thursday to turn around a long-struggling high school and its five feeder campuses. New programs and charter schools will replace some of the existing schools, while new teachers and school leadership will be brought in at two of the campuses. Many teachers and parents attended the meeting, with some arguing to keep the schools open and others rallying behind the changes. (The Denver Post)

Students are taught basic values in character-education program: A character-education program at a North Carolina elementary school is being recognized for its success and could become a statewide model. The program trains students to act as peer mediators and also involves parents and the community in teaching students concepts such as responsibility, respect and honesty. School officials say teaching students to act on such values reduces school conflicts and bullying, in addition to improving student attendance. (The Charlotte Observer)

Duncan: Tough times should lead to school innovations: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, while speaking at an American Enterprise Institute forum Wednesday, called on schools to use difficult financial times as a catalyst for rethinking how schools operate without making cuts that directly affect classroom instruction. Education Week reporter Alyson Klein writes in this blog post that Duncan also floated the idea of raising class sizes in some instances, but also raising teacher salaries. (Politics K-12)

Educator - Students must become critical thinkers, not test-takers: Today's teachers are forced to cover concepts quickly to prepare students for multiple-choice standardized tests, teacher and author Kelly Gallagher writes. This approach has been shown to produce higher test scores in high school, but lower grades in college, where students must demonstrate the ability to think critically. Obtainable standards and better assessments that focus on writing and critical thinking would be a better measure of student learning and teacher effectiveness, Gallagher writes. (Education Week)

Groups push for relief from NCLB requirements: Some education groups are asking the Education Department to provide schools and districts relief from some No Child Left Behind requirements, as a reauthorization of the law has been pending since 2007. Some say there is room to allow a limited number of regulatory fixes, while others say the changes could further delay a revision of the law. (Education Week)

In their post, The New Faces of Ed Reform, ASCD asks, "Now that Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein are (at least temporarily) out of the education reform spotlight, who will be the new faces of education reform?

Personally, I think it is still the same face as before:

In advance of next Monday's National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, ASCD pulled 10 articles from their EL archives that discuss reforming education with teachers as leaders and partners in meaningful, lasting change:

  • "Change From Within": How a school turned itself around, thanks to its on-site experts working together.
  • "Short on Power, Long on Responsibility": To upgrade teacher quality, schools need to go beyond just holding teachers more accountable. They need to give teachers more control.
  • "Lessons from Leading Models": What can we learn from the three most widely used high school reform models (Talent Development, First Things First, and career academies)?
  • "Reform: To What End?": Mike Rose says that we need a different orientation to school reform—one that embodies a richer understanding of teaching and learning.
  • "When Teachers Run the School": A Greek high school demonstrates the effectiveness of distributed leadership.
  • "How North Carolina Improved Teacher Evaluation": For the last three years, North Carolina has been developing a statewide system to ensure that teachers can perform at their best.
  • "To Help and Not Hinder": What school qualities contribute most to teacher growth?
    "Research Says… / Drastic School Turnaround Strategies Are Risky": Successful turnarounds build the skills and knowledge of those responsible for student learning and seriously engage teachers and the community in setting goals and putting them into practice.
  • "How to Become a Digital Leader": Bill Ferriter says, "I've never made more enemies than I did while sitting on a panel of teacher leaders at a conference for principals. Our task was to help a room full of administrators understand the role teachers could play in driving change in schools."
  • "Moving Beyond Talk": Six conditions helped these urban districts launch—and sustain—strong learning communities.

Three Candidates Remain for Fayette County Board Seat

The Kentucky Department of Education confirmed to KSN&C yesterday that three candidates will go forward in the selection process for the last remaining Fayette County Board of education seat.

Marsha Strein, former substitute teacher and former employee of Midway College

Michael Hunter, employee of Concord Custom Cleaners

Daryl Love, Manager Community Relations at Ashland Inc (With Ashland since 1995).

Only one of the three had a strong enough web presence that I could find a photo - that being Love. Love lists the following associations on his Linked In website: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. - Alpha Beta Lambda Chapter, Main Street Baptist Church, Hospice of the Bluegrass (Chair - Board of the Directors), Commerce Lexington (Board of Directors). Past involvement: Governor's School for the Arts Advisory Council and Partnership for Successful Schools.

Interviews are scheduled for Dec. 7 at the Fayette County central office.
This from Jim Warren at H-L:
...Strein describes herself as a full-time school volunteer. She has been a PTA president multiple times at three different Fayette schools; been a site-based council member at the elementary and high school levels; judged essays for the Governor's Scholars Program; received the National PTA Lifetime Achievement Award; and is host of a program on the school district's TV channel that highlights school partnerships....

Love, who works in public relations at Ashland, Inc., has been an elementary school site-based council member and school volunteer; was a board member of the Partnership for Successful Schools; and has served on the advisory committee of the Governor's School for the Arts...

Hunter is the district manager for Concord Custom Cleaners in Lexington. He has been a football and karate coach and enjoys working with young people, a fact that also prompted his interest in education, he said. Hunter said he wants to improve opportunities for all young people....

The racial makeup of the Fayette school board will hinge on the upcoming appointment. The board's only black member, Kirk Tinsley, was defeated in this month's general election and will leave the board at year's end. The board could be without African-American representation for the first time since the mid 1990s. There are five seats on the board...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leaving in Droves?

A commenter recently suggested we might look into how many KDE employees are bailing out of the department. "In droves," it was suggested. "The new commish's leadership style seems to be the issue. The word is that KDE staffers, school district finance officers, and superintendents are about to revolt due to a major lack of support."

Aside from the obvious fact that too few people have too much work, I wasn't sure what to attribute any defections to. Given the budget cuts of recent years, hearing that employees are leaving the department is a bit like hearing there's speeding at Indy. It may well be true that some people are leaving KDE because the workload is overwhelming to them. There’s a great deal of pressure to produce, under the mandates of Senate Bill 1.

The chart above strips out the faculty of Kentucky School for the Deaf and Kentucky School for the Blind, leaving Frankfort-based staff alone. It presents downward trend data since 1998.

KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross told KSN&C,

"What I’ve observed in the past four or five years is that our workforce has gotten smaller. The primary reason for this is budget cuts – in 2008, an executive order from the Governor mandated that the state workforce be reduced, and that was to be done through attrition. What that means is when there are positions open, sometimes we can fill them, sometimes not. All positions must be heavily justified."

In 2006 and 2007, there were a large number of retirements due to the impending elimination of a retirement provision. So it benefited those who could retire to do so before the benefit expired. With those retirements, KDE lost a lot of institutional knowledge, which means there aren’t people who can serve as mentors.

Because of the impact of the school year on the department, KDE tends to have clusters of staff who leave at the same time, some with similar lengths of work experience.

As of August 31, KDE had 550 full-time employees, with 325 of those based in Frankfort.

From July 1 to August 31:
  • 13 appointments to positions were made.
  • One person transferred to another position.
  • One person was promoted to another position.
  • 25 people left KDE.

Only two positions were scheduled for interviews during that time. Drawn from 233 applicants, 22 candidates are vying for the positions.

Another issue that affects our staffing is the use of MOAs – individuals who work on contract with KDE for a period of time, usually a year or two, and then return to their school districts. In the past, MOA workers sometimes had their contracts extended indefinitely, but because of increased focus on personnel by the Governor’s Office and the Personnel Cabinet, we’ve had to tighten up our protocols for MOAs. This has led to some short-timers – people who may only be here for a year, then they’re replaced by other contract workers. This may be what a lot of school officials are seeing as turnover and “flight.”

Gross is reminded of "the time when KERA was passed, and all of our positions were abolished, with new positions re-established the next day. There were many comings and goings during that time, and it took a while for the dust to settle."

Gross kept detailed information about internal hirings and separations and finds that the numbers of people leaving in 2007 and 2008 overall, were about twice as many as in 2009 and 2010 overall.

She remembers when she first began working at KDE in 1986 and the department had about 800 employees.

Silberman Pleased with Progress at Fayette Schools

This from Jim Warren at the Herald-Leader:

Fayette County Public Schools has made major strides in closing student achievement gaps and raising proficiency during the past six years, but there is much to do, Superintendent Stu Silberman said in a "state of the schools" presentation Tuesday morning.

Silberman noted only three Fayette schools were scoring at proficiency level on state tests when he took over as superintendent in 2004, and 24 have reached that level now. Overall, he said, the district has moved 76 percent of its students into proficiency during the past few years.

Proficiency levels among some student subgroups in the district have improved during the same period. For example, the percentage of Hispanic students at proficient or distinguished level in reading is up more than 89 percent since 2004, according to district figures....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick Hits

Ore. school boosts ELL performance with intensive reading time: A Portland, Ore., elementary school where roughly one-third of students are English-language learners is improving these students' reading skills with intensive two-hour periods of daily literacy time. The first hour is devoted to a classroom lesson for students of all abilities, and the second hour is focused on differentiated, small-group instruction. The school's strategy has helped it become the best-performing elementary school for students who are English-language learners in a district that has otherwise shown poor results for these students. (The Portland Tribune)

How can professional-development programs be improved?: The focus on professional development for teachers has increased, but there remains uncertainty over what effective professional development is and how it can translate into better results for students. This analysis shows that many professional-development programs lack standards and accountability. Some schools also might be selecting inappropriate training for their teachers. "We should start where students' weaknesses and shortcomings are and then seek strategies or techniques to help [teachers] understand those shortcomings," one education professor said. (Education Week)

Houston offers bonuses to principals who raise achievement at struggling schools: The Houston school board voted 7-1 on Thursday to offer principals of nine academically troubled schools the potential of earning extra bonuses if they improve student performance. The incentive program, which gives the principals the potential to receive as much as $45,000 on top of their salaries, had come under fire from some parents and the teachers' union. The bonuses are reserved for principals in Superintendent Terry Grier's signature school reform program called Apollo 20. Board member Carol Mims Galloway voted against the incentives, saying that the staff members who "are making it happen for the students are the teachers."(Houston Chronicle)

Civil rights complaints focus on schools' compliance with Title IX: The National Women's Law Center filed civil rights complaints against 12 U.S. school districts Wednesday, claiming a disproportionately low number of female students are participating in athletics. The complaints are reportedly part of a campaign to raise awareness about Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in public schools. There is a "widespread pattern of schools failing to give girls as many chances as boys to play sports," an NWLC official said. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Seniors in Pa. district are back in school despite teacher strike: High-school seniors in a Pennsylvania school district where teachers have been on strike since Oct. 25 are back in school, participating in field trips and attending makeshift classes taught by school administrators. Students who take Advanced Placement classes are using online "Study Island" classes to keep up with their courses. "We can't replicate what the teachers do in the classroom," one principal said. "What we are trying to provide is a good experience so they can graduate on time." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Should charters and traditional schools be collaborating more?: aboration between charter and public schools is not as common as many had expected, but a few successful examples show promise for arrangements in which the schools are working together. Critics of charters say many of the charter schools' innovative practices began in traditional public schools, but charter proponents say they have some ideas that are worth replicating. "We were trying to move past the whole charter-war debates and move to a more productive place," one charter-school advocate said. (Education Week)

Magazine executive to run NYC schools as Klein resigns: New York City's schools chief Joel I. Klein, a former media executive who carried out an overhaul of the nation's largest school system, announced his resignation Tuesday. Klein -- who will stay on until the end of the year -- served for eight years, during which he sought to boost student achievement and hold teachers accountable for student learning. He will be replaced by Cathleen P. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, who -- like Klein -- has no background in education and will become the first woman to preside over the city's schools. (The New York Times)

Education Department releases national technology plan: Education Secretary Arne Duncan released the final version of the National Education Technology Plan on Tuesday. The plan -- which emphasizes the role of the department as a facilitator -- is focused on enhancing academic instruction through Internet-based learning, a decreased emphasis on "seat time" and a preference for more flexibility. The document also includes plans to fund the creation of open-source resources for schools and online professional learning communities for teachers, among other initiatives. (Education Week) (T.H.E. Journal)

Are charter schools weeding out their weaker students?: Charter schools are growing in popularity in Chicago, with some 11,000 students on waiting lists. However, data show that students are leaving the charters at a high rate. Critics say the schools weed out the weakest students -- particularly those who are struggling academically or have behavioral difficulties -- but charter officials say they carefully consider all transfer requests and work hard to ensure that struggling students stay on and improve. (WBEZ-FM)