Monday, July 25, 2011

Backlash Causes NYU Prof to Vow Never to Probe Cheating Again

This from the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

A New York University professor’s blog post is opening a rare public window on the painful classroom consequences of using plagiarism-detection software to aggressively police cheating students. And the post, by Panagiotis Ipeirotis, raises questions about whether the incentives in higher education are set up to reward such vigilance.

But after the candid personal tale went viral online this week, drawing hundreds of thousands of readers, the professor took it down on NYU’s advice. As Mr. Ipeirotis understands it, a faculty member from another university sent NYU a cease-and-desist letter saying his blog post violated a federal law protecting students’ privacy.

The controversy began on Sunday, when Mr. Ipeirotis, a computer scientist who teaches in NYU’s Stern School of Business, published a blog post headlined, “Why I will never pursue cheating again.” Mr. Ipeirotis reached that conclusion after trying to take a harder line on cheating in a fall 2010 Introduction to Information Technology class, a new approach that was driven by two factors. One, he got tenure, so he felt he could be more strict. And two, his university’s Blackboard course-management system was fully integrated with Turnitin’s plagiarism-detection software for the first time, meaning that assignments were automatically processed by Turnitin when students submitted them.

The result was an education in “how pervasive cheating is in our courses,” Mr. Ipeirotis wrote. By the end of the semester, 22 out of the 108 students had admitted cheating.

Some might read that statistic and celebrate the effectiveness of Turnitin, a popular service that takes uploaded student papers and checks them against various databases to pinpoint unoriginal content. Not Mr. Ipeirotis.

“Forget about cheating detection,” he said in an interview. “It is a losing battle.”

The professor’s blog post described how crusading against cheating poisoned the class environment and therefore dragged down his teaching evaluations. They fell to a below-average range of 5.3 out of 7.0, when he used to score in the realm of 6.0 to 6.5. Mr. Ipeirotis “paid a significant financial penalty for ‘doing the right thing,’” he wrote. “The Dean’s office and my chair ‘expressed their appreciation’ for me chasing such cases (in December), but six months later, when I received my annual evaluation, my yearly salary increase was the lowest ever, and significantly lower than inflation, as my ‘teaching evaluations took a hit this year.’”

Worse, Mr. Ipeirotis’ campaign aroused mistrust. Students were anxious, discussions contentious. He found teaching to be exhausting rather than refreshing. Dealing with the 22 cheating cases sucked up more than 45 hours “in completely unproductive discussions,” forcing him to focus attention on the least-deserving students, Mr. Ipeirotis said.

“The whole dynamic of the class changes,” he said. “They hear what I’m saying, but back in their mind they are thinking about cheating, cheating, cheating … It’s a vicious cycle. So, I get into class—I’m less happy because I had to deal with cheating the day before, instead of preparing better for the class. Students get less happy. I look at them. I don’t get positive feedback.” ...

EKU Makes Chronicle's Honor Roll as a Great College to Work For

Eastern Kentucky University was recognized once again by the Chronicle of Higher Education in it's 2011 survey of "Great Colleges to Work For." Honor Roll recognition, for four-year colleges, was given to the 10 institutions in each size that were cited most often across all of the recognition categories.

EKU was recognized in the categories of Leadership (Collaborative Governance, Confidence in Senior Leadership and Department Chair relationships), Compensation (..and benefits, Job satisfaction, respect and appreciation), Professional (career-dev programs, teaching enviromnment, tenure clarity and process) and Environment (facilities, Workspace and security, Work/life balance). The faculty has a voluntary turnover rate of 7% (8% for staff) and average pay for full-time faculty just shy of $62,000.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed's 2011 Survey is based on responses from nearly 44,000 people at 310 institutions. Four-year colleges and universities accounted for 245 of the institutions, and two-year colleges for 65. All accredited institutions in the United States are invited to participate, and participation is free. Approximately 20,000 of the people responding were faculty members, about 15,000 were professional staff members, and about 8,000 were administrators. The survey was sent to almost 111,000 people, with an overall response rate of about 40 percent.

Other large college Honor Roll schools were: Baylor, Duke, Georgia Tech, Lindenwood, Sam Houston State, U of Maryland-Baltimore County, Mississippi, Notre Dame, and Southern California.

Eastern Kentucky University used to conduct faculty-development programs by bribing professors with a free lunch.

"We were lucky if 10 percent showed up," says Charlie Sweet, a co-director of the university's Teaching and Learning Center.

When the university switched gears and invited both faculty and staff members to take a more active role—through so-called professional-learning communities—participation soared.

Now, at any given time, small groups of faculty and staff members are tackling university problems and honing their own skills by participating in these gatherings.

Over the past four years, about 60 percent of faculty members have taken part in at least one cross-disciplinary professional-learning community. And over the past year alone, 36 different groups took on topics from encouraging creativity in teaching to developing a code of ethics for faculty members.

The groups are one of several strategies that employees cited in giving their employer high marks for professional and career development in The Chronicle's fourth annual Great Colleges to Work For survey.

At Eastern Kentucky, a public institution of about 15,000 students, more seasoned professors serve as mentors to new faculty members, and all full-time employees can receive tuition waivers for job-related university courses. The university provides matching funds to departments for staff development. Senior staff leaders can tap into a professional-development fund to pay for on- or off-campus workshops on such topics as leadership development and customer service.

But the learning communities—an approach taken by a growing number of colleges—are one of the most popular career-development options, according to Mr. Sweet and Hal Blythe, the other co-director of the university's Teaching and Learning Center.

Groups typically meet for a few hours, six or seven times a semester. "In the old days, every morning people would come to the faculty lounge, meet with their colleagues and talk about what's going on at the university," says Mr. Blythe. "Now, in this computer age, there's so little face-to-face interaction, and so many of the nuances of those interactions are being missed." The learning groups are one way to restore that sense of community, he says.

Stephen J. Haggerty, Eastern Kentucky's assistant director of a student-support program for first-generation college students, is leading an 18-month-long learning group for professional staff members. The group's nine members, who include librarians, technology workers, and writing coaches, are developing ways to encourage students to think critically and creatively. Then they'll pass those strategies on to students they train as consultants. One group member created a card game in which students, working with two decks of cards, try to cure "zombies," who lack purpose or make quick assumptions, by teaching them the right critical-thinking skills. The player with the most cured zombies at the end of the game wins.

"In the process of working on these projects, the participants have become much more critical and creative in their own thinking processes, and they're developing skills that will make them much more marketable," says Mr. Haggerty...
And this from the Chronicle:

Humanity Plus Flexibility Add Up to Strong Work-Life Balance

After Sharon Whitehead was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, she worried about how her employer, Somerset Community College, would respond to her request for leave. Even if she returned, she feared she might not immediately be able to perform her job as director of a regional campus center, which required a 30-minute commute.

"I was afraid that the world would go on without me," says Ms. Whitehead, who had worked for the Kentucky college since 1978. "I wondered what my position might be when I came back."

But Somerset's president, Jo Marshall, says her decision wasn't difficult. She granted Ms. Whitehead the paid leave for nearly a year and relied on an interim replacement. When Ms. Whitehead returned, she was allowed to teach a reduced load of classes for a semester until she could resume her old job. She has since been promoted to dean of arts and sciences.

"I just kept renewing that medical leave," Ms. Marshall says, "because I knew that if she came back she would be worth every penny. You can have all the rules and regulations that you need, but if you don't treat people with respect, they won't treat you with respect." ...

Holliday Moves to Forestall Cheating Scandals

Recent revelations about the depth and scope of administrators and teachers cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta, Pennsylvania, DC, New Jersey, and other locations has rocked the education reform movement threatening to undermine public confidence in gains made by the system. And Kentucky has not been immune to this issue.This inevidable result was forecast by KSN&C way back in 2007 when we wrote about Campbells' Law.

In response to recent events, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday listed several steps KDE is taking to prevent such an occurance in Kentucky in his “Fast 5 on Friday” (not yet posted to the KDE website):

Specific actions that Kentucky is taking in this area are:

1. Writing an RFP for a Test Security Audit to learn how to improve security. The audit will review our current test security procedures and provide us with additional ideas to improve security.
2. Building into our new test vendor contracts forensic processes to uncover inappropriate activities.
3. Continuing with the regulatory steps of having all educators trained on test procedures and having all educators read and sign a Code of Ethics document.
4. Continuing with having an investigative unit within KDE to deal with inappropriate test allegations.
5. Considering a possible legislative proposal for the 2012 session.
6. Implementing a balanced accountability model and teacher/principal effectiveness system that does NOT focus solely on test scores.
Improving test security is probably good. Forensic process built into the test design might help. Training and a code of ethics are necessary but not sufficient. An investigative unit to deal with allegations of inappropriate testing is necessary - but why must it be within KDE?  Better still - the OEA where no one benefits personally from improved test scores. Possible legislation? What legislation? At teacher or administrator can already be removed for cheating. The weakness is not within the law, per se, it is within human nature - when people are strongly motivated to produce a specific result that may be beyond their ability to produce by legitimate means.The best idea is the last one. Student achievement results should not comprise too much of a teacher's evaluation, not because the results are not important, but because we lack a fair way to assess it in most cases.

This from Dr H's Blog:
In the spring of 2009, I had the honor of standing on stage with my fellow state superintendents of the year at the annual American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference in San Francisco. Little did I know that one day I would be working with one of the four finalists -- Stu Silberman -- in Kentucky.

This past week, I was reminded of that recognition ceremony but not in a positive way. Beverly Hall was selected as the AASA National Superintendent of the Year in 2009. Beverly was the superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools at that time. This week, the state of Georgia released the results of an investigation concerning cheating by principals and teachers on standardized tests.

This report from Georgia comes on the heels of two major national reports on standardized testing. From the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a recent report entitled Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education and from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a report entitled Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform. I think it appropriate to highlight some of the key points from these reports.

The NAS report has two major conclusions and two major recommendations. The report concludes that test-based incentive programs have not increased student achievement enough to bring the U.S. close to the levels of the highest-achieving countries. The other conclusion is that high school exit exam programs decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing achievement.

The recommendations from the report promote the development and evaluation of promising new models that use test-based incentives in more sophisticated ways as one aspect of a richer accountability and improvement process. Also, the report recommends that policymakers and researchers design and evaluate new test-based incentive programs in ways that provide information about alternative approaches to incentives and accountability.

From the NCEE report, the basic premise is that the U.S. should look to those practices from countries that are performing at higher levels than the U.S. on international assessments. The report discusses a focus on teacher preparation, rigorous standards, continuous improvement and support for the existing teaching force. The report highlights the fact that no country performing at higher levels than the U.S. has a singular focus on standardized testing and incentives related to performance on standardized testing.

What does the Atlanta scandal and other testing scandals in D.C. and Baltimore mean for our work in Kentucky? What implications do we draw from these recent reports? The key learning for me is balance. Standardized tests do not create scandals. People create scandals. How leaders both in the classroom and outside the classroom utilize results from standardized tests can either create a focus on improvement of teaching and learning or create negative pressure. How leaders use the results for personnel decisions and incentives can either create a focus on teaching and learning or create negative conditions for teaching and learning.

In Kentucky we are committed to a growth model for our accountability system that is balanced. We are committed to utilizing standardized test results as part of the accountability model; however, test results will not be the singular component of the model. While the state can certainly set the tone, it will always be up to individual school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers to model professional behavior for the eyes that are watching – the students.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

School News from Around Kentucky

M’boro BOE’S open forum policy called into question:  Concerned parent addressed the Middlesboro Board of Education at their regular meeting on Monday night to respond to the proposed Code of Conduct for the Open Forum portion of board meetings. Amy Spurlock spoke briefly regarding the code’s prohibition of allowing the community to address personnel issues at board meetings, saying that as a parent and tax payer, she believes that she should be allowed the right to address the Board of Education with any issue she has with the school district. Board Chair Bill Johnson said that the board did not intend to eliminate the rights of anyone and noted that a Kentucky Revised Statute was in place that prohibits school board members from discussing personnel matters. Spurlock responded that she understood the board’s position in not speaking about personnel issues themselves, but was opposed to prohibiting the public from addressing such issues with the board. (Middlesboro Daily News)
Corbin Schools to attempt mediation with Knox Schools:  Tuesday night, the Corbin Board of Education approved attempting mediation with Knox County Public Schools concerning the non-resident student reciprocal agreement between the two districts. In early June, Commissioner Terry Holiday had ruled that students and their siblings attending school in the Corbin school system could continue to attend their current school for the 2011-2012 school year, but no additional non-resident students can enroll. This ruling was very similar to last year’s ruling by the state commissioner for the 2010-2011 school year, which the state board of education also upheld. In this year’s ruling, Holiday recommended mediation between the two school districts, but did not actually require it. (Times Tribune)

Perry Co school board member facing assault charge: A member of the Perry County Board of Education is facing a misdemeanor assault charge after being accused of striking a former Vicco official during the city’s Independence Day festivities earlier this month. A criminal complaint filed with the Perry District Clerk’s Office states that on July 2, District 3 board member James Darrell Ritchie, 43, of Vicco, struck former Vicco Mayor Harry Ward “in the face and ribs with his hands and feet causing injury to the left side of Mr. Ward’s face.” Ward was transported to the Hazard ARH medical center for treatment, according to the complaint, while Ritchie turned himself in to authorities at the Kentucky River Regional Jail on July 3. But according to Ritchie’s attorney, David Johnson, a criminal complaint against his client was never warranted because Ritchie was defending himself when the alleged assault occurred. Johnson said in the moments prior to the incident, Ritchie’s daughter was playing in the immediate vicinity when Ward apparently became annoyed and “put hands on her in some way or another.” (Hazard Herald)

Teachers study Appalachian history in summer program: A three-week summer program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities is helping 30 teachers from across the country gain a new perspective on the history of the Appalachian region. Lessons are taught by distinguished scholars and writers, as the teachers visit historic sites throughout the area. The program is based on the PBS television series, "Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People." (Asheville Citizen-Times)

Owensboro students, staff receive laptops: It’s been in the works for over a year, but the technology plan tailored by Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Vick is nearing a major milestone, with more than 150 teachers and more than 2,200 students slated to receive laptops that will make critical learning possible. When first proposed by Vick, the $5 million plan called not only for the purchase and use of technology by teachers and students, but a complete rethinking of how education happens. About $3.3 million in stimulus funds went to help create a new digital curriculum and then train faculty and staff on how to most effectively use technology to benefit students.
Vick said the reason behind all this is to prepare students for the wave of the future. (Messenger-Inquirer by way of KSBA)

Quick Hits

Tennessee teacher suspended for sharing test info with students: Tennessee's State Board of Education is investigating a Sweetwater High School teacher after students alerted other faculty they got information they shouldn't have about this year's TCAP tests. There are a lot of specifics the state and Monroe County Director of Schools Mike Lowry won't talk about because the investigation is on-going. However, as of Tuesday night, several students' TCAP scores have been thrown out and a teacher is suspended without pay. (WBIR)

AP classrooms reveal a racial divide in Tennessee: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights tracked minority student trends at more than 72,000 schools in 2009-10, including those in Middle Tennessee. Its report shows many of the region’s minorities are in classrooms led by inexperienced teachers, and relatively few of those students seek out high-level courses. The report calls on schools to make changes and offer equity to low-income and minority children, improving their chances of completing high school and college. But local observers say doing so has been a challenge for decades. “I’ve been studying this since 1991, and the issues are almost the same in 2011 as they were 20 years ago,” said Donna Ford, a Vanderbilt University professor who researches underrepresentation of minorities in gifted and Advanced Placement programs. “There are a number of barriers. ... Low expectations is number one.” (Tennesseean)

Ex-teacher's insanity plea in sex case allowed: [An Ohio] judge ruled Tuesday that he will allow a former Mason High School teacher to plead not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of having sexual contact with students and providing them alcohol. Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler ordered Stacy Schuler, 33, of Springboro to be evaluated and vacated her Aug. 8 trial date. It is not known when Schuler's trial might start. Peeler wrote he made the decision "in an abundance of caution to ensure that the defendant is entitled to present her defense." (

Forecast predicts continued increase in spending on e-learning in schools: E-learning for K-12 students will continue to expand in double digits through 2015, according to a new forecast. Researchers predict the market for education technology in prekindergarten through 12th grade will outpace that of higher education as well as health care despite the elimination of the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology grant program. The report, by market research firm Ambien Insight, predicts spending on e-learning for the preK-12 market to reach $4.9 billion by 2015, up from $2.2 billion in 2010. (T.H.E. Journal)

The debate over how computer science should be taught: A new framework on the development of national science standards is drawing criticism over its lack of focus on computer science. Blogger Erik Robelen considers the pushback from some advocates who say the omission will harm students. "No other subject will open as many doors in the 21st century as computer science, so it is disappointing that neither the science framework nor the mathematics core standards make room for computer science in the K-12 curriculum," said Della Cronin, of Computing in the Core. (Education Week)

Can school officials search students' cellphones?:  One legal expert expects more cases to emerge regarding the search and seizure of students' cellphones at school. Joshua Engel, vice president and general counsel of the Lycurgus Group, writes that under past legal standards such searches are allowed if there is a reasonable suspicion that the phones are being used for illegal activity, such as bullying or sexting. However, the actions of school officials are limited by the suspected severity of the crime, he writes. (The National Law Journal)

How should curriculum materials be designed for the common core?: Two writers of new national academic standards in English/language arts have developed guidelines for creating associated curriculum materials. The guidelines highlight key points of the standards -- particularly where they represent a shift from previous standards -- and are meant to ensure the creation of quality instructional materials. The guidelines, however, are raising questions about whether they go too far in dictating pedagogy to teachers. (Education Week)

Why humanities should be taught in schools: English teacher Bill Smoot makes the case for the continued study of the humanities, even at a time when science, technology, engineering and math are dominating the job market. The humanities, he writes, teach students to pay attention, think critically and have historical perspective, among other things. It is possible, Smoot writes, for liberal arts and STEM to coexist and even complement each other. (Bill Smoot's blog)

What is the best way to prepare teachers for the classroom?: The Relay Graduate School of Education is poised to become the first new standalone teacher-education college to open in New York state in a century. It aims to provide teachers with an alternative to traditional teacher training that is focused on practical techniques that can be implemented immediately. Critics, including officials with other graduate schools in the area, say the approach offers less intellectual rigor. (The New York Times)

Compromise plan could allow Memphis schools to open: School board officials in Memphis, Tenn., are considering a compromise plan that would allow the city's schools to open on time on Aug. 8. The school board had voted earlier this week to delay the start of school until they receive some $55 million in city funds. If the plan is approved by both the city council and the school board, the city would pay the district $15 million by Aug. 15, with the remainder paid in weighted monthly installments. (Reuters) (The Commercial Appeal)

Seattle to close district for a day due to budget cuts: Seattle Public Schools will close Aug. 31 -- before school begins -- and will hold a half day once during the school year as part of an effort to show the public that the state's $1 billion in cuts to education have an effect. Principals, teachers and support staff will take Aug. 31 as a furlough day and a half-day of unpaid leave during the school year. The state cuts to education included 1.9% salary decreases for teachers and support staff and 3% cuts for principals. (The Seattle Times)

TFA-heavy Group is critical of student-teaching programs: Roughly 75% of U.S. student-teaching programs are inadequate, according to a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Researchers rated the programs' against standards related to the quality of their student-teaching components and found that more attention is needed to ensuring high-quality guidance from supervising teachers. NCTQ has developed a system to rank education schools for U.S. News & World Report and those rankings will include the data on student-teaching programs. Critics of the report questioned its methodology. (InsideHigherEd) (The New York Times)

Who is the most influential tweeter in education?: Education expert Diane Ravitch is the most influential Twitter user on education policy, while Vicki Davis is the top educator tweeter, according to a ranking system known as Klout that gauges a person's overall online influence. This article lists the top 25 tweeters in education policy and the top 25 educators on Twitter. While it is still unclear whether the information on Twitter has any effect on the overall education reform debate, this writer points out that the same argument was made several years ago about blogs -- which became widely influential. (Education Next)

Framework for developing new science standards released: A framework for new national science standards was released Tuesday by a panel of experts convened by the National Research Council. The guidelines call for more in-depth study of science, the inclusion of more scientific inquiry and engineering design in science lessons, and a greater "coherence" in instruction of science concepts across grade levels. The framework will be used by the nonprofit group Achieve, which will work with states to write the standards. (Education Week)

Study shows high teacher turnover at L.A. charter schools:  Many charter middle and high schools in Los Angeles have high teacher turnover, with nearly 50% of educators leaving each year, a University of California, Berkeley study shows. The rate -- nearly three times that in other L.A. public schools -- is in contrast to that of students, who are more likely to remain at the charters than at traditional schools, the study shows. Researchers called the results worrisome, citing studies that show long-term relationships between students and teachers to be crucial for student achievement. (Los Angeles Times)

Many parents worry about cyberbullying, survey finds: Eighty-five percent of more than 1,000 parents of 13- to 17-year-olds said their children had accounts on social networking sites, according to a survey by the American Osteopathic Association. About 52% of them said they worried about cyberbullying, and about 17% said their children had been victims. The survey also showed that 91% of the parents believed they hold the responsibility to curb long-term effects of cyberbullying and that more than 75% had talked about it with their children. (HealthDay News)

Should charters be established in successful suburban districts?: Some parents in affluent suburbs such as Millburn, N.J., are working to keep out specialized "boutique" charter schools, which they say would divert resources and students from public schools. They say charter schools, conceived as alternatives to low-performing urban schools for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, are unnecessary in successful districts. Supporters say the charters expand school choices that should be available to all students. (The New York Times)

Notes to teacher paint picture of Depression Era Newport

"Take you a stick and give Clarence a good beating and he will mind you.
That all it takes to make him mind."
--Anonymous parent

This from the Enquirer:
NEWPORT - It began as a pet project, a labor of love to scan in all the wonderful hand-written notes that Linda Mitchell's mother had collected from students and their parents during her time as a teacher in Northern Kentucky.

The notes, now more than 70 years old and yellowing with time, explain - in a variety of ways - how and why the students had missed school during that Depression era. Mitchell's mother, third-grade teacher Victoria Schneider, taught at York Street School in Newport in 1937 when she was just 19. A graduate of Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College, Schneider kept all the notes, one of which read:

"Walter has been very sick with sore throat + toothache. i am not able to have his tooth pulled rite now or his Tonsils removed as my husband isint working study."

Mitchell, 61, wanted to do something more than just save her mother's notes. She decided to gather them into a book, which has become "Dear Miss Schneider, Please Excuse Walter . . .," released by Dog Ear publishing.

"As I started compiling them, I also came across photos from that time period as well as memorabilia from my mother's life in Newport," said Mitchell, who was born in Covington but now lives in Florida. "I decided to put it all together as a keepsake for my children and grandchildren. But as it came together, I felt that it was something others would enjoy."

Some of the letters went further than just giving an excuse. "Take you a stick and give Clarence a good beating and he will mind you. That all it takes to make him mind."

Mitchell says she never really saw herself as an author, though she has "dabbled in some poetry over the years" and currently writes "local interest stories for a newspaper in south Florida."

Mitchell's mother passed away in 2008 at the age of 90. Now her legacy will live on.

"In general it is a firsthand look into the lives of these families and how the Great Depression affected not only the adults but also these children," Mitchell said. "And how strong they were, how they coped. For older readers, it will bring back memories and their own stories. For the younger ones, it will give them insight into family life that they can't get from a history book."

And are there more books in Mitchell's future?

"Possibly," she said. "But the next one will be a children's book."

To find the book, visit, Barnes&, or locally at The Kentucky Haus, 411 E. 10th St., Newport.

Which is bigger: California or Los Angeles? Most fourth graders aren't sure.

Few students have a 'proficient' understanding of geography
as reading and math push social sciences out of the classroom

MONITOR QUIZ: Think you know the US? Take our geography quiz

This from the Christian Science Monitor:
The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, released its third and final social studies report this year, and the results closely mirror the civics and history results that came out in prior months.

In all three subjects, fourth-graders have made some gains, while scores for older kids have stagnated or even declined slightly. And in all three, only a small minority of students achieved a level deemed “proficient” – and just a miniscule handful qualified as “advanced.”

“To the extent … that classroom time becomes an even more precious and scarce commodity, geography, with subjects such as history and the arts, is losing out in the zero-sum game that results from high-stakes testing,” said Roger Downs, a geography professor at Pennsylvania State University, in a statement.

The geography test tries to assess students’ knowledge not just of places and names, but also the relationships between people and the land.

Just over half of fourth-graders knew that farming – as opposed to fishing, mining, or recreation – is the most common land use in the Midwest, for instance. And just 4 percent of eighth graders were able to explain a graph showing urban and rural population changes over time (26 percent gave a partial response).

Even the good news from the report – the rising scores at the fourth-grade level – is mixed. Yes, fourth-graders scored 5 points higher (on a 500-point scale) in 2010 than in 2001, and 7 points higher than in 1994. But the change was solely due to students at the lowest achievement levels moving up. More students reached the “basic” level than in the previous two years, but there was no change in the number of "proficient" students, and the percentage of "advanced" students – just 2 percent of fourth-graders – was actually lower than in 1994.

“These improvements may all reflect another trend in NAEP, the gain in basic reading skills,” noted fourth-grade teacher and National Assessment Governing Board member Shannon Garrison, in a statement on the results. “The improvement in basic reading skills would certainly impact the lower-performing students, since if they can read the questions easily, they have a much better chance of answering them correctly. However, to reach ‘proficient’ requires more detailed knowledge of geography and critical thinking skills.”

A New Kind of Peer Review ...perhaps

This from Inside Higher Ed:
Killing Peer Review
When a cadre of international scientific research powerhouses announced last month that they were teaming up to create a top-shelf, peer-reviewed free journal in the medical and life sciences fields, some called it a "triumph of open access" — proof that the tide was turning in favor of a once-radical movement aimed at cutting through the traditional oligarchies and turning scholarly publishing on its head.

But to Joe Pickrell, a doctoral student in biology at the University of Chicago, the idea was not groundbreaking enough. It will not do merely to lower the barriers to viewing scholarly articles, he thought; academe must lower the barriers to reviewing them.

As one might expect from an advocate of modern publishing, Pickrell took to the blogosphere. "Left unanswered … is a more fundamental question: why do we publish scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals to begin with?" the Chicago grad student wrote on Genomes Unzipped, a genetics blog he shares with other young academics. "… Cutting journals out of scientific publishing to a large extent would be unconditionally a good thing," he continued, adding that "the only thing keeping this from happening is the absence of a 'killer app.' "

Pickrell went on to describe, in general detail, the features this journal-killing app would require. It would bypass the formal peer review process, taking pre-publication papers and allowing a community of users (scholars and experts, most likely) to vote papers up or down — much like social bookmarking sites such as Reddit do for articles in the popular press. The idea would be to let readers decide which articles deserve top billing, rather than ceding that task to a tiny cloister of journal editors and their hand-picked reviewers. Papers with good feedback would shoot to the top of the list. And if scholars do want proxies to help them decide if an article is worthy of their trust and attention, they could turn to the recommendations of their friends and colleagues.

Reader comments started flowing in. Some cheered Pickrell’s post as a sort of manifesto for a rising generation of scholars. "I think this system of academic publication will continue to gain support as more people from our generation (the ones that grew up using community-oriented sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, etc.) further infiltrate academia," wrote Michael Alcorn, another biology Ph.D. candidate at Chicago. Others had not only had the same thought as Pickrell — they had actually built mock-up sites based on the principles he had described.

Still, skeptics wanted to know: In such a wild west of scholarly publishing, who would check facts? Pickrell’s answer is the same as Wikipedia’s: everybody. "I think the system could be totally self-regulating with a big enough community," he said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. The most popular articles would receive the most attention, but they would also receive the most scrutiny. Errors are unlikely to escape a critical mass of studied readers. Mechanisms could be put in place to report errors and redact articles. (Think Wikipedia, but with original research and a specialized corps of volunteer editors.)

The challenge, Pickrell said, would be getting scholars to actively take part in the site — which, busy as they tend to be with activities that are more likely to impress a tenure committee, might be difficult. After all, one of the top journals in the life sciences, Nature, was unsuccessful in converting reader interest into actual feedback when it experimented with open peer review in 2006. One can imagine how difficult it would be to build a successful, publicly reviewed journal from scratch.

Ken Van Haren does not have to imagine. As a doctoral student at Duke University last year, Van Haren briefly tried to start a revolution on the cheap. “Despite being the ones who brought the tech revolution about, [scientific researchers] haven’t really used it for their own good,” he said. So Van Haren created Science.I/O, a website where scholars can post and vote up articles that have not been peer-reviewed. But he had no marketing budget and precious little time to spend outside his studies, and the site soon stagnated.

Still, Pickrell’s blog post tapped into a latent backlash against the traditional model that has given rise to pushes for open peer review in other fields...

How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education

This from Wired:

“This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?

Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.

Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced. In fact, when I visited his class this spring—in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees—the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.

But last November, Thordarson began using Khan Academy in her class. Khan Academy is an educational website that, as its tagline puts it, aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in). The videos are decidedly lo-fi, even crude: Generally seven to 14 minutes long, they consist of a voice-over by Khan describing a mathematical concept or explaining how to solve a problem while his hand-scribbled formulas and diagrams appear onscreen. Like the Wizard of Oz, Khan never steps from behind the curtain to appear in a video himself; it’s just Khan’s voice and some scrawly equations. In addition to these videos, the website offers software that generates practice problems and rewards good performance with videogame-like badges—for answering a “streak” of questions correctly, say, or mastering a series of algebra levels...

Hat tip to Dominic

Friday, July 22, 2011

Colbert on Calif Gay Curriculum

This from Stephen Colbert by way of HuffPo:
California is on the verge of being the first state to require that gay, lesbian and transgendered contributions to society be taught in schools. Of course there are some people who do not agree with this, and on Thursday night's "Colbert Report" Stephen Colbert made light of those naysayers in pitch perfect parody.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
I's on Edjukashun - Gay History & Disney English
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Pointing out that highlighting LGBT accomplishments teaches children the "dangerous lesson that gay people exist," Colbert's fake outrage mimics what some pundits are actually saying. One Fox News commentator suggested that someday kids will be saying that "George Washington was a homosexual."
"How dare California say that a man wearing a powdered wig and silk stockings is gay," Colbert said. "Next thing you know they'll have him crossing the Delaware on a Pride float."
Watch the clip below to hear Colbert offer his own very condensed version of gay history. According to him it started in ancient Greece and didn't emerge again until the the 1970s when Paul Lynde was given the center square.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Want to stop teachers from cheating? A history lesson from corporate America

This from Duke University behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely in the Washington Post:
...In recent years there seems to have been a surge in academic dishonesty across many high schools. No doubt this can be explained in part by increased vigilance and reporting, greater pressure on students to succeed, and the communicable nature of dishonest behavior (when people see others do something, whether it’s tweaking a resume or parking illegally, they’re more likely to do the same).

But, I also think that a fourth, significant cause in this worrisome trend has to do with the way we measure and reward teachers.

To think about the effects of these measurements, let’s first think about corporate America, where measurement of performance has a much longer history. Recently I met with one of the CEOs I most respect, and he told me a story about when he himself messed up the incentives for his employees, by over-measurement. A few years earlier he had tried to create a specific performance evaluation matrix for each of his top employees, and he asked them to focus on optimizing that particular measure; for some it was selection of algorithms, for others it was return on investment for advertising, and so on. He also changed their compensation structure so that 10 percent of their bonus depended on their performance relative to that measure.

What he quickly found was that his top employees did not focus 10 percent of their time and efforts on maximizing that measure, they gave almost all of their attention to it. This was not such good news, because they began to do anything that would improve their performance on that measure even by a tiny bit—even if they messed up other employees in the process. Ultimately they were consumed with maximizing what they knew they would be measured on, regardless of the fact that this was only part of their overall responsibility. This kind of behavior falls in line with the phrase “you are what you measure,” which is the idea that once we measure something we make it salient and motivational, and people start over-focusing on it and neglecting other aspects of their job or life.

So how does this story of mis-measurements in corporate America relate to teaching? I suspect that any teachers reading this see the parallels...

National Education/Business Advocacy Group Recognizes Kentucky - Twice

Kentucky receives
John I. Wilson Leadership for Learning Award
for its Content Leadership Networks and
Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS)

...and a 21st Century Education Award
for the Model Curriculum Framework

This from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

10 States Recognized for Best Practices

Stowe, VT - Julie Walker, executive director of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and chair of P21, along with Lillian Kellogg, vice president at Education Networks of America and P21 vice-chair, hosted the 21st Century Education awards ceremony recognizing 10 states for best practices at Institute.21 - Partnership for 21st Century Skills' 5th annual summit in Stowe, VT on Friday July 15, 2011.

Presented in recognition of state achievement in 21st Century Education, these awards acknowledge the efforts of the P21 Leadership States to integrate 21st Century Skills into their policy, practice and professional development.
The best practices ceremony this year included the new John I. Wilson Leadership for Learning Award, founded to honor John Wilson, NEA executive director, and founding member of P21 who is retiring this year. The criteria for the award includes an emphasis on multi-stakeholder collaboration to honor John Wilson's collaborative spirit and ability to create unique partnerships on behalf of the nation's children.

Wilson joined Walker and Kellogg on stage as Kentucky received the inaugural John I. Wilson Leadership for Learning Award for the state's Content Leadership Networks and Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS).

In presenting the award to its first-ever recipient, John Wilson remarked "I'm retiring from NEA, but not retiring from NEA's causes. P21 is a great cause. We need a continuing movement to demand a rich and engaging curriculum for every student, and P21 is a driver in that movement," said Wilson. "Educators and policymakers must learn from success in other countries, and P21 encourages that study. We know that meaningful action, real change in our schools, takes collaboration of stakeholders, and P21 brings together corporations, educators and non-profits to champion smart education policy. P21 respects the voice of teachers and is dedicated to the success of students. I am proud that NEA has been a part of this important work," he said.

21st Century Education Awardees included:

Arizona, recognizing 21st Century Education Resources for Arizona Teachers: AZ Teach 21, Ed Tech Grade Level Implementation Guides and AzTIM (Arizona Technology Integration Matrix);

Iowa, recognizing the Iowa Teacher Quality Partnership Grant;

Kansas, recognizing the Kansas Commission on Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery's final report and recommendations: Ensure Economic Success for Tomorrow: Graduate All Students Today;

Kentucky, recognizing the Kentucky Model Curriculum Framework;

Louisiana, recognizing the Journey to Careers Curriculum;

Massachusetts, recognizing the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute 2011;

Nevada, recognizing the Nevada Pathway to 21st Century Learning;

North Carolina, recognizing the North Carolina Common Core State Standards and Essential Standards 2011 Summer Leadership Institutes;

Wisconsin, recognizing the Leadership Coaching PD Program;

West Virginia, recognizing the Comprehensive Data Access through "Data Portal for 21st Century for Success" (DP21) and "WVEIS on the Web" (WOW);

"These initiatives provide excellent examples of the implementation of the P21 Framework across our leadership states," said Julie Walker, "and P21 is pleased to recognize and celebrate the states' commitment to 21st century teaching and learning for all students."

P-21 is a national organization bringing together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers, that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.

21st Century Leadership States: Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Member organizations: Adobe Systems, Inc., American Association of School Librarians, Apple Inc., Blackboard, Inc., Cable in the Classroom, Cengage Learning, Cisco Systems, Inc., The College Board's Advanced Placement Program (AP), Crayola, Dell, Inc., EdLeader21, EF Education, Education Networks of America, ETS, Ford Motor Company Fund, GlobalScholar, Goddard Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Intel Corporation, JA Worldwide, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, Learning Point Associates, LEGO Group, McGraw-Hill, Measured Progress, MHZ Networks, Microsoft Corporation, National Academy Foundation, National Education Association, netTrekker, Oracle Education Foundation, Pearson, Project Management Institute Educational Foundation, The Walt Disney Company, and Verizon.

For more information on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills please visit / and connect with P21 on Twitter @P21CentSkills .

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cracking a System in Which Test Scores Were for Changing

This from the NY Times:

There had long been suspicions that cheating on state tests was widespread in the

Atlanta public schools, but the superintendent, Beverly L. Hall, was feared by teachers and principals, and few dared speak out. Last summer a supposedly Blue Ribbon Commission, headed by a businessman volunteering his time, produced yet another flimsy report, urging further investigation.

Gov. Sonny Perdue said he was fed up and determined to conduct a thorough investigation. For this, he called on three men who had spent a good part of their careers putting people in prison: Michael J. Bowers, a former state attorney general; Robert E. Wilson, a former county district attorney; and Richard L. Hyde, who could well be the most dogged investigator in Georgia.

It took them 10 months to uncover the biggest cheating scandal ever in a public school district.

They started with one school, as Mr. Wilson said, “to see if we could crack the egg.” From a list of schools with large numbers of erasures on answer sheets, Mr. Hyde chose Venetian Hills Elementary, in a neighborhood he had patrolled as a young police officer.

“You start by walking around the school, giving everyone your card,” he said. “Stir the pot.” The first time he made the rounds, nobody cracked. But then, a religious woman with a lot to get off her chest came forward. One cracked egg led to the next, and within two weeks, five teachers plus the testing coordinator, Milagros Moner, had confessed that they had changed answers to raise the school’s scores.

Mr. Hyde then outfitted Ms. Moner with a wire and videotaped her meeting with the principal, Clarietta Davis, at a McDonald’s.

Ms. Davis had been so worried about leaving fingerprints while doctoring answering sheets, Mr. Hyde recalled, that she wore gloves.

The taking of Venetian Hills became the prototype for an investigation that found cheating at nearly half the Atlanta schools...

Major Atlanta Execs Invested in Superintendent

This from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
In February 2010, some of Atlanta’s top business leaders realized they had a problem.

For a decade, they had aligned themselves with Beverly Hall, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. They willingly accepted Hall’s story line of rebirth in an urban school system. They promoted and sometimes exaggerated Hall’s achievements — for her benefit and for their own.

State officials, though, were suggesting gains by Atlanta schools resulted from widespread cheating. Suddenly, the deal between Hall and the business community took on Faustian overtones.

The way business leaders responded underscores their complicity in creating the fa├žade of success that hid a decade of alleged wrongdoing, an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. Their reaction also hints at the role business executives might take in rebuilding the school district’s reputation amid Hall’s departure and a still-unfolding cheating scandal.

The city’s chamber of commerce and another business group took control of the district’s investigation last year into irregularities on state-mandated tests. Executives at the Metro Atlanta Chamber set the parameters of the inquiry and largely selected the people who ran it. Later, they suggested ways to “finesse” the findings past the governor.

Business leaders published opinion pieces and letters to the editor defending Hall before cheating inquiries were complete; calls for the superintendent to resign, they said, could undermine the district’s progress. And just as they had lobbied almost a decade earlier to give the superintendent more autonomy from the Board of Education, this year they sought new power for the governor to remove recalcitrant board members....

Our Broken Escalator

Sometimes I hear people endorse education cuts
by arguing that “school isn’t for everybody,”
which usually means something like
“education isn’t for other people’s children”
— or that [some] kids...really don’t need schools...
I can’t think of any view that is more un-American.

-- Nicholas Kristof

Judge Ray Corns was taught as a boy that there was a ladder going up through the roof of the school that students could climb to achieve great heights in life, depeneding upon how hard they worked. For Nicholas Kristof, the metaphor was the same, only it was an escalator, or a rocket ship.  

This from Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times:
THE United States supports schools in Afghanistan because we know that education is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to build a country.

Alas, we’ve forgotten that lesson at home. All across America, school budgets are being cut, teachers laid off and education programs dismantled.

My beloved old high school in Yamhill, Ore. — a plain brick building that was my rocket ship — is emblematic of that trend. There were only 167 school days in the last school year here (180 was typical until the recession hit), and the staff has been reduced by 9 percent over five years.

This school was where I embraced sports, became a journalist, encountered intellectual worlds, and got in trouble. These days, the 430 students still have opportunities to get into trouble, but the rest is harder.

For the next school year, freshman and junior varsity sports teams are at risk, and all students will have to pay $125 to participate on a team. The school newspaper, which once doubled as a biweekly newspaper for the entire town, has been terminated.

Business classes are gone. A music teacher has been eliminated. Class size is growing, with more than 40 students in freshman Spanish. “It’s like a long, slow bleed, watching things disappear,” says the school district’s business manager, Michelle Morrison.

The school still has good teachers, but is that sustainable with a starting salary of $33,676? ...

Holliday says Bath Co Board Chair Should Resign

Cites misconduct and willful neglect of duty

This from Jim Warren at H-L:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday will recommend to the state school board the removal of Bath County School Board chairman Bill Boyd, who has been embroiled in controversy for months.

Boyd has 20 days to respond before Holliday's recommendation goes to the state board for action.

In a letter to Boyd, Holliday asked him to "consider resigning immediately so that this matter does not further distract from the important work of the local board and the school district."

Boyd, who has been on the Bath County board since 2009, said Monday that he won't resign.

The state Office of Education Accountability last month asked Holliday to consider recommending Boyd's removal, citing several issues including alleged violations of Kentucky's open meetings law and "willful neglect" of duties.

Among other things, the accountability office said Boyd called special school board meetings without giving board members or the news media relevant details; sometimes acted without specific authority from the school board; expected the school board to improperly make decisions while in executive session; and improperly involved himself in school district personnel matters...

The Hunt for Missing School Children

An interesting chat at the Prichard blog; Susan Weston has been hunting missing school children.

Weston has been looking for about 3,000 Kentucky students who, sometime after middle school, seem to disappear from the count of graduates and dropouts each year.

The issue matters. Tracking attendance and computing graduation rate tells us whether the opportunity to obtain an adequate education is distributed across the citizens of the Commonwealth, as the constitution requires. Writ large, the K-12 system has only recently become equitable in terms of fiscal support. Similarly, the system has a strong basis to claim advances in student achievement since the Rose decision in 1989. The system is better socially; not perfect.

Anyway, Weston thinks she's found good news - that state information systems are performing better.
the added accuracy is coming from the improved student information system that moved into full implementation two years ago, designed to track students individually from year to year and from school to school across the state.
Overall, though, it looks like a good sign: it looks as though we're getting closer to counting the students who don't collect diplomas accurately, and like we're also getting better at getting many of them through to high school graduation.
She says it could also mean KDE is ...
  • Keeping better track of public school eighth graders as they move through to graduations than we did a few years ago 
  • More private schools students moving into the public schools than we was a few years ago
  • More students who repeat grade 9 nevertheless persevering to graduation.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quick Hits

What technology expectations should teachers have for students?:  Elementary-school computer teacher Mary Beth Hertz highlights a table she created to showcase the technology abilities students should demonstrate in each grade. In kindergarten, students should be able to turn on a computer and use a one-word log-in. Beginning in second grade, students should be able to type, and in third grade they should be able to save a file, Hertz writes. By fourth grade, students should know basic online etiquette, and, in sixth grade, they should be able to collaborate with their peers on a digital project. (Edutopia)

Calif is first state to require LGBT content in history lessons:  California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law a bill mandating the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people be included in social studies lessons. It is hoped that the bill, which school districts must implement by January, also will help reduce bullying of LGBT students. "History should be honest. This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books," Brown said in a statement. (Christian Science Monitor) (New York Times)

Tight budgets send some NYC principals back to the classroom:  Several school principals in New York City are taking on additional teaching duties to cut costs at their schools. One Brooklyn principal is planning to expand his usual semester of teaching into a full year, and is encouraging his assistant principals to take on teaching roles as well. Some principals at other schools are filling in as study-hall monitors or as math and reading coaches. (WNYC)

How will U.S. Supreme Court decisions affect students, schools?:  Several cases involving education-related issues and children's rights were among those decided during the 2010-11 U.S. Supreme Court term, which ended last month. The court supported the legality of a school-voucher program in Arizona, ruling that the arrangement does not constitute government support for religious schools. In addition, the court upheld children's First Amendment rights in barring California from preventing the sale of violent video games to minors and offering additional protections to children being questioned by the police in North Carolina. (Education Week)

"Parent-trigger" standards advance in California:  The Board of Education in California has approved regulations that will guide the implementation of its "parent-trigger" law, which allows parents to petition for changes in staff and programs at low-performing schools. Under the regulations, which could go into effect after a public comment period, the state is required to create a website about the trigger process, petitioners' financial support is to be made public and petition signatures are to be verified based on existing school documents. (Los Angeles Times)

Appeals filed as funding cuts leave some NYC schools with few options:  Some principals and school leaders in New York City are filing appeals with the state, arguing that "creative" budgeting will not be enough to help their schools weather the statewide financial crisis. "I can make creative decisions. I can have a teacher doing two different jobs within a school. I can decide to have a literacy coach or not a literacy coach," said Lisa Siegman, principal of P.S. 3 in the city's West Village. "But I can't allocate more funds. I can't go to larger class sizes." (GothamSchools)

How writing can improve student learning in math and science:  Writing can help students develop the cognitive skills needed for successful learning in other subjects such as math and science, says former neurologist and teacher Dr. Judy Willis. In this blog post, Willis suggests teachers integrate writing throughout the curriculum, using digital tools that allow students to share their work anonymously and relate personally to topics. (Edutopia)

Should students take algebra in eighth grade?:  More of California's eighth-grade students are taking algebra, but data indicate that one-third of seventh-graders are not prepared for the course. The push for earlier algebra lessons primarily has been among disadvantaged schools, while wealthier schools require students to prove they are ready to enroll. A study this year suggested that algebra courses benefit students who are ready for the material but leaves unprepared students "with almost no chance for success." (Daily Breeze)

NCLB waivers could have strings attached:  Education Secretary Arne Duncan has indicated that states could receive waivers for key provisions of the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for offering alternate accountability systems, according to schools chiefs. Waivers could be issued if Congress fails to reauthorize the federal education law. Some state leaders say they would support accountability systems that focus on measures such as students' academic growth over time, graduation rates and Advanced Placement enrollment. (New York Times)

Legislative proposal would boost Title I funding for poor, rural schools:  A House bill would allocate more Title I federal funding to rural schools with a high number of students from low-income households. The measure would alter the complicated formula by which Title I funds are distributed to lessen the focus on high-density populations and increase the emphasis on student poverty. If it advances, the bill could be part of the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (Politics K-12)

Message From a Charter School: Thrive or Transfer

This from the New York Times:

In 2008, when Katherine Sprowal’s son, Matthew, was selected in a lottery to attend the Harlem Success Academy 3 charter school, she was thrilled. “I felt like we were getting the best private school, and we didn’t have to pay for it,” she recalled.

And so, when Eva S. Moskowitz, the former city councilwoman who operates seven Success charter schools in Harlem and the Bronx, asked Ms. Sprowal to be in a promotional video, she was happy to be included.

Matthew is bright but can be disruptive and easily distracted. It was not a natural fit for the Success charters, which are known for discipline and long school days. From Day 1 of kindergarten, Ms. Sprowal said, he was punished for acting out.

“They kept him after school to practice walking in the hallway,” she said.

Several times, she was called to pick him up early, she said, and in his third week he was suspended three days for bothering other children.

In Matthew’s three years of preschool, Ms. Sprowal said, he had never missed time for behavior problems. “After only 12 days in your school,” she wrote the principal, “you have assessed and concluded that our son is defective and will not meet your school criteria.”

Five days later, Ms. Sprowal got an e-mail from Ms. Moskowitz that she took as a veiled message to leave. “Am not familiar with the issue,” Ms. Moskowitz wrote, “but it is extremely important that children feel successful and a nine-hour day with more than 23 children (and that’s our small class size!) where they are constantly being asked to focus and concentrate can overwhelm children and be a bad environment.”

The next week, the school psychologist evaluated Matthew and concluded he would be better suited elsewhere: “He may need a smaller classroom than his current school has available.”

By then, Matthew was throwing up most mornings and asking his mother if he was going to be fired from school. Worn down, Ms. Sprowal requested help finding her son another school, and Success officials were delighted to refer him to Public School 75 on the Upper West Side...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

EKU to host Forum on the History of Education in Kentucky

Here's another little project of mine...organizing the program for this:

A day-long forum at Eastern Kentucky University on Thursday, Sept. 8, will examine the “History of Education in Kentucky.”

Governmental leaders, historians, educators, journalists and others will discuss the past, present and future of the Commonwealth’s public and private P-16 educational system.

The forum was prompted by the recent release of A History of Education in Kentucky by Dr. Bill Ellis, EKU Foundation professor emeritus of history. A History of Education in Kentucky is the only up-to-date, single-volume history of education in the Commonwealth.  Ellis illuminates the successes and failures of public and private education since the settlement of Kentucky and demonstrates how 19th-century political leaders created a culture that devalued public education and refused to adequately fund it. He also analyzes efforts by policy makers and teachers to enact vital reforms and establish adequate, equal education.  Ellis discusses ongoing battles related to religious instruction, integration and the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA). The book is published by University Press of Kentucky.

Sponsors of the event, which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Eastern's Perkins Building, are EKU, the University Press of Kentucky, Kentucky Educational Television and WEKU-FM.

Confirmed participants include:
  • The keynote luncheon speaker, former Gov. Paul Patton, now president of the University of Pikeville
  • Dr. Bob King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
  • Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky commissioner of education
  • Dr Doug Whitlock, president of Eastern Kentucky University
  • Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee
  • Renee Shaw, producer with Kentucky Educational Television
  • Elaine Farris, Superintendent of the Clark County Schools and Kentucky's first African American superintendent
  • Ruthanne Palumbo, legislator
  • Kevin Noland, who co-authored KERA and served as interim Commissioner of Education on more than one occassion; presently teaching at UofL
  • Richard Angelo, Professor of Education Policy Studies at UK
  • Dr Lindsey Apple, Professor of History, Georgetown College, retired
  • Dr John Hardin, Professor of History, Western Kentucky University
  • Linda Blackford, reporter, Herald-Leader
  • Mark Hebert, Director of Communications, UofL and former reporter for WHAS-TV
  • and we are awaiting confirmation from several more panlelists
The forum will utilize three moderator-lead roundtable discussions:
  • P-12 Education: moderated by Bill Goodman, Kentucky Tonight host on KET
  • Higher Education: moderated by David Hawpe, retired editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal
  • Media Panel: moderated by Tom Eblen, columnist with the Lexington Herald-Leader
These lively roundtable discussions will explore the historical issues facing Kentucky schools, many of which are still issues today. 

The registration fee of $70 (plus $3 handling fee) includes a continental breakfast, lunch and a signed copy of Ellis’s book. To register with Visa or MasterCard, call EKU Conferencing and Events at 859-622-1444 and provide name, title, school/business, telephone number and e-mail address.

For more information about the event or to be placed on the forum’s mailing list, contact Marc Whitt, associate vice president for public relations at EKU, at

Teachers Caught Cheating

This audio (46 mins) from On Point with Tom Ashbrook from WBUR Boston:

Teachers Cheating On Students’ Standardized Tests

The huge standardized test cheating scandal in Atlanta — and beyond. Teachers cheating to bump up student scores. Why, and what it says about the state of American education.

Shame and outrage over the Atlanta Public Schools last week, as a big state investigation laid out findings of massive, systemic cheating –- by teachers.

Teachers changing student scores on standardized tests, to make their schools look better than they were.

Not subtle cheating, but gross, flagrant, eraser-on-the-page cheating. Weekend pizza parties where teachers went through stacks of standardized tests, erasing wrong answers, filling in right ones.

And there’s evidence this hasn’t only happened in Atlanta.

This hour On Point: testing, American education, and the message in the cheating.

Tom's guests:

Alan Judd, reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Shawnna Hayes-Tavares, mother of four children, ranging from 9 to 18, all of whom have been in the Atlanta Public Schools system.

Greg Toppo, K-12 education reporter for USA Today.

Daniel Koretz, professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can read an article based on his book Measuring Up here.

Hat tip to Dorie Z