Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This from John Thompson at Schools Matter:
Assumptions that 'Just Seem Obvious' to Steve Brill
There is a long line of education experts exposing the factual errors in Steve Brill's Class Warfare so, instead, I set out to illuminate the assumptions underneath his brand of "reform." I was overwhelmed, however, by the number of times that Brill, and the non-educators he fawned over, discovered findings that "just seemed obvious." So, I only want to recount Brill's tale of the naive assumptions, opinions, and assertions, based on numbers from one district, that supposedly propelled Bill Gates into the experiment that Gates said was, "the riskiest thing we have ever done."

Brill begins with "Identifying Effective Teaching Using Performance on the Job," by Tom Kane, Robert Gordon, and Douglas Staiger. Kane et. al wrote, "the current credential-centered regime is built upon two questionable premises ..." They then presented evidence that was solid enough to contribute to the minor league debate over teacher certification. But then these economists made another leap, "the second premise is that school districts learn nothing more about teacher effectiveness." Without making any effort to link their data (and that assertion) to reality, Kane and company called for dangerous and revolutionary changes to the entire nation's educational systems. When I first read their opinions, I chalked them up to being academic theory.

If Brill's account is trustworthy, though, I was naive. Either Brill was loose with his words, or he was celebrating a classic "bait and switch." According to Brill, the authors asserted that the need for "paper qualifications" is a "bedrock of public education." Worse, Kane et. al supposedly claimed that the second core assumption of our system is that "districts can learn nothing more of teaching effectiveness after the initial hire," and "this was why almost all teachers initially receive satisfactory evaluations." (emphasis mine.) Even worse, they successfully convinced Bill Gates that a "surprising" lack of volatility in teachers' performances, measured by standardized tests, was grounds for overturning decades of social science research on teaching and learning, and the way that organizations change.

Rereading the paper, I fear that Brill accurately reported the authors' true intentions. Now I see the report as a grab bag of political soundbites. Kane et. al predicted an impending shortage of teachers, which would be most damaging for high-poverty schools. Their solution - based on the presumption that the lowest scoring teachers should be fired using a methodology that is systematically biased against teachers in high-poverty schools - would supposedly attract talent to those schools!?!?! To their credit, Kane and company recognized the need to adjust for circumstances beyond the teachers' control. For example, if construction was going on outside the window on testing day... But, they argued that test score growth models that would be used for evaluations should not be controlled for poverty.

Fortunately, the Gates team has subsequently distanced themselves from their initial overreach, but it still raises a huge question. What did they not know about peer effects and when did they not know it? ...

The Shelton Administration Begins

This from the Herald-Leader:

Fayette's new school superintendent 
brings tech-savvy approach
Tom Shelton takes over as the new superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools Thursday, replacing, coincidentally, the same man he succeeded in his last job. Shelton, 47, follows Stu Silberman, who recruited him into the Daviess Schools and mentored him in the mid 1990s when Silberman was running that school district.

Shelton learned the ropes so quickly that when Silberman came to Lexington in 2004 to become superintendent, Daviess County named Shelton as his successor. The 2011 Kentucky School Superintendent of the Year, Shelton is taking a big step as he arrives in Lexington. He's assuming responsibility for 56 schools and more than 37,000 students —more than triple Daviess County's enrollment —in an urban community where educational expectations are high and getting higher, and any decision a superintendent makes is likely to be closely scrutinized and analyzed, and possibly criticized...

Steven Brill's Class Warfare: What's wrong with the education reformers' diagnosis and cures.

This from Richard Rothstein in Slate Magazine:

Steven Brill's Class Warfare:  
What's wrong with the education reformers' diagnosis and cures.  
If you saw Waiting for "Superman," Steven Brill's tale in Class Warfare will be familiar. The founder of Court TV offers another polemic against teacher unions and a paean to self-styled "education reformers." But even for those who follow education policy, he offers an eye-opening read that should not be missed. Where the movie evoked valiant underdogs waging an uphill battle against an ossified behemoth, Brill's briskly written book exposes what critics of the reformers have long suspected but could never before prove: just how insular, coordinated, well-connected, and well-financed the reformers are. Class Warfare reveals their single-minded efforts to suppress any evidence that might challenge their mission to undermine the esteem in which most Americans held their public schools and teachers. These crusaders now are the establishment, as arrogant as any that preceded them.

Brill's heroes make a high-profile gallery. They are public-school critics like former New York and Washington, D.C. schools chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. They also include charter school operators David Levin (KIPP) and Eva Moskowitz (Harlem Success Academies), as well as alternative teacher and principal recruiters Wendy Kopp (Teach for America) and Jon Schnur (New Leaders for New Schools). Their ranks boast billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama himself. And they don't lack for savvy, richly endowed representation. Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying, political action, and communications campaign rolled into one, has brought them all together. Lavishly supported by the newfound wealth of young Wall Street hedge fund managers answerable to no one, DFER's troops have been working overtime to radically transform American public education.

The case they make for their cause by now enjoys the status of conventional wisdom. Student achievement has been stagnant or declining for decades, even as money poured into public schools to improve teacher salaries, pensions, and working conditions (reducing class sizes, or hiring aides to give teachers more free time). Teachers typically have abysmally low standards, especially for minorities and other disadvantaged students, who predictably fall to the level of their teachers' expectations. Although teachers' quality can be estimated by the annual growth of their students' scores on standardized tests of basic math and reading skills, teachers have not been held accountable for performance. Instead, they get lifetime job security even if students don't learn. Brill observes a union-protected teacher in a Harlem public school bellowing "how many days in a week?," caring little that students pay him no heed and wrestle on the floor instead.

Protecting this incompetence are teacher unions, whose contracts prevent principals from firing inadequate (and worse) teachers. The contracts also permit senior teachers to choose their schools, which further undermines principals' authority. Union negotiations have produced perpetually rising salaries, guaranteed even to teachers who sleep through their careers. Breaking unions' grip on public education is "the civil rights issue of this generation," and some hard-working, idealistic Ivy Leaguers and their allies have shown how.

The embodiment of Brill's dream is a non-union charter school teacher named Jessica Reid. A Teach for America recruit, she engages each of her Harlem fifth-graders in Shakespeare, phones parents about missed assignments, and works into the night tutoring students, meeting parents, and creating ingenious displays for the following day's lessons. It's teachers like her who propel the most-disadvantaged children on to college. But such teachers can work their wonders only in non-union charter schools that are free to fire summarily those who, though well-meaning, are less than extraordinary.

Given the perpetually discouraging landscape of education debates, a comparatively optimistic narrative like this one holds obvious appeal, and Brill's anecdotal vignettes are stirring. Without doubt, today's public schools tolerate too much incompetence and preserve some spending priorities that make no sense. But you might expect a veteran of Court TV, never mind an advocate of rigorous education, to appreciate the need to fairly present opposing arguments and evidence, even if only to show how they might be refuted. Brill's failure to do just that is all too symptomatic of the reformers' campaign more generally, a campaign that got its own start by calling for critical scrutiny of conventional assumptions.

The possibility that teachers unions are far from the biggest problem facing disadvantaged students is not one Brill or DFER want to broach. You wouldn't know from Class Warfare that students don't do any better where teacher collective bargaining is prohibited. In non-union Texas, for example, students perform about the same as socioeconomically similar students in union-dominated New York. This is no secret, noted frequently by skeptics of the reformers' agenda. I would have welcomed Brill's thoughts about how it can be reconciled with his story.

The complex answer might lie in the social and economic conditions that bring many children to schools, regular and charter, unprepared to take sufficient advantage of what even the most dedicated and inspired teachers can offer. Brill and his heroes have no patience for discussions of, say, children with barely literate parents who rarely read aloud to them, or with unemployed parents too stressed themselves to offer real support, or with untreated asthma that kept them up the night before, or with no place to study because they are now homeless or doubled up with relatives. For the reformers, these are union-inspired excuses, so addressing America's vast and growing inequalities has no place on their agenda. It's clear that more flexible union contracts would indeed be a good step, but unless other obstacles to high achievement are addressed, it isn't likely to make the difference Brill hopes.

Alas, the reformers' claim that non-union charter schools demonstrate that teacher idealism and dedication alone can prepare the most disadvantaged children for college success doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Given the charter school hype in Waiting for Superman and Class Warfare, it may seem hard to believe that students in charter schools do not, on average, outperform those in comparable regular schools. But abundant data show just that, and the most careful studies have confirmed it, most recently one by a Hoover Institution researcher who was predisposed to credit charter school success.

Neither Brill's text nor his notes identify the studies he relies on for his evidence to the contrary, but I can imagine what two might be. One, by Stanford professor Caroline Hoxby, looked at New York charter schools; Gates Foundation researcher (and Harvard professor) Tom Kane conducted the other, examining Boston charter schools.* But both the New York and Boston conclusions have been undermined by methodological difficulties, and most academic researchers agree that they fail to refute the frequently replicated conclusion that charter schools overall have not demonstrated paths to superior performance. Evidently Brill is not persuaded by this consensus, but he never explains why.

Instead, Brill invokes "the central evidentiary value of charters like KIPP or Harlem Success: They proved that intense, effective teaching could overcome poverty and other obstacles and that, as Klein liked to say, demography does not have to be destiny." Again, Brill provides no sources. In fact, there is nothing but anecdotal evidence of KIPP's purported success. Its results may well be impressive. But KIPP's promoters have never sought the kind of careful study that could establish whether its students have the long term success that education aims for. And that means not just better passing rates on low-quality standardized tests of basic math and reading, but college completion, steady employment, and low crime rates. KIPP charter schools have existed for more than 15 years now; there have been, and continue to be, many lost opportunities to track such data.

In any case, KIPP and Harlem Success Academies are selective, making comparisons with regular schools challenging. Brill asserts that because charter schools accept students by lottery, their enrollment is representative of the neighborhoods where they locate. This is demonstrably untrue. Parents who choose to enter such lotteries, agree to monitor homework, enforce school rules, and attend parent conferences are representative of some, but not most, parents in inner-city neighborhoods. Some years ago, I asked a research assistant to interview teachers in neighboring regular schools who had urged parents to enroll their children in the Bronx KIPP lottery. The teachers consistently reported that they encouraged only parents who were most sophisticated about education and most likely to support children in an exacting school like KIPP.

Such parents are certainly more disadvantaged than suburban parents, but that's not the point: To be demonstrably superior, selective charter school students should outperform comparable students in regular schools. Perhaps they do, but that has yet to be shown. And there is now considerable evidence that both KIPP and the Success Academies have high attrition rates. Students who don't succeed are encouraged or required to return to regular schools. For selective charter schools, this may not be bad policy, but it vitiates comparisons with regular neighborhood schools that must take all comers, including students who rebel against learning, those with expensive and difficult-to-treat disabilities, and those who flunk out of charters.

KIPP's David Levin acknowledges to Brill that only 40 percent of KIPP graduates actually complete college. After adjusting for KIPP's selectivity at the front (lottery participation) and back (attrition of less successful students), this could still be better than graduation rates for students from regular neighborhood schools. But it may not be enough better to justify the absolutism of the reformers' crusade. I wish Brill had examined just a little data to better estimate KIPP's comparative record on this front.

Central to the reformers' argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago. (There has also been progress for middle schoolers, and in reading; and less, but not insubstantial, progress for high schoolers.) The reason test score gaps have barely narrowed is that white students have also improved, at least at the elementary and middle school levels. The causes of these truly spectacular gains are unknown, but they are probably inconsistent with the idea that typical inner-city teachers are content to watch students wrestle on the classroom floor instead of learning.

And the data might raise some questions about one of the reformist moves of which Brill is most proud: the Obama Administration's use of a little-noticed $5 billion provision of the 2009 stimulus bill to induce states to adopt the reformers' program of rapidly multiplying charter schools and evaluating teachers, in large part, on the basis of their students' test score growth. Brill is notably uninterested in exploring the validity of this approach to teacher assessment. Impartial policymakers and nationally renowned educational statisticians have almost uniformly weighed in against the practice. As they point out, the same teachers, using the same instructional methods with similar students, can be deemed effective one year and ineffective the next, because so much more enters into student performance than teacher skill. Scholars also observe that even if test scores were accurate, holding teachers accountable for math and reading scores creates incentives to minimize attention to the sciences, history, civics, the arts and music, physical education, and character development.

In the final pages of Class Warfare, Brill reports that this January, his chief exhibit, Jessica Reid, quit her charter school job. She had worked days, nights, and weekends in a superhuman, often frustrating effort to prove that effective teaching alone could overcome the obstacles of child poverty. At 26, she found her role in the fanatical charter school crusade was taking too high a toll on her marriage and her own sense of balance. She signed up to work instead in a regular public school where, protected by union contract, her working hours and duties are now limited—perhaps too limited, but Brill's heroine saw no other choice.

Reid's decision apparently caught Brill by surprise, when he was too close to completing his manuscript, too committed to his story line, to step back and seriously consider its implications. But at least Brill, so disinclined to explore challenges to the education reformers' clichés, reported the denouement. With this sobering spoiler in mind, readers will be in a better position to evaluate the self-righteous certainty that pervades the previous pages of Class Warfare.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Superintendent Takes $800,000 Pay Cut

This from the Huffington Post:

Larry Powell, Fresno School Superintendent,
Takes $800,000 Pay Cut
Some people give back to their community. Then there's Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who's really giving back. As in $800,000 – what would have been his compensation for the next three years.
Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.

"How much do we need to keep accumulating?" asks Powell, 63. "There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money."

Powell's generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation's highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book review: Ellis does good job of chronicling erratic path of education in state

This Book Review by Carlton Jackson (Butler County) in the Bowling Green Daily News:
Let’s say that it’s the early 20th century, and you aspire to be a teacher in the Kentucky school system; therefore, you need a certificate. You have to travel to Frankfort and take a two-day test, which requires an average of 90 to pass. Included are questions such as “your remedy for whispering,” “locating three principal rivers and five cities” of the commonwealth (p. 149), and how do you get the general public interested in the “work of the school”?

Let’s say further that either you are afraid to take this test or that, after you do, you have misgivings about whether you passed. One remedy for this dilemma is to obtain the services of a “Question Peddler” (p. 150). He or she would make the rounds of candidates on the night before the test and offer them the answers to stolen questions (p. l50).

Such a system had not been practiced before, and after some important changes, they were not used in the future. This process, among others, is ably described and explained in William E. Ellis’ “A History of Education in Kentucky,” published by the University Press of Kentucky. Ellis, a Foundation Professor Emeritus of History at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, has done a most creditable job of chronicling the erratic path of Kentucky’s educational systems.

He starts with a lengthy segment, “1775 to the Beginning of the Civil War,” and alternates between discussions of elementary and secondary educational systems and higher education, which, like its junior counterparts, developed in “ups and downs,” largely depending on which political party was ascendant. Kentucky politicians proved over and over that yes, they were in favor of an educated citizenry, just as long as it meshed with their own ideologies. To an uncomfortable degree, this situation is still true today. The present-day Kentucky public education system began with the fourth Constitution of the State in 1891 (pp. 97-98). The only state behind Kentucky in creating such a system was Mississippi. There were all kinds of schools established or continued by this constitution. “Blab” schools were popular and denominational schools were added to the system, as well as vocational “academies.”

Unfortunately, the long arm of politics intruded into the newly created school system. The election of school superintendents brought into power some officials who had not been in a classroom in their entire lives. Also, it encouraged nepotism and, along with the “trustee ship,” catered to local ideologies, causing teachers’ jobs to be in constant jeopardy. The author points out that “as the trustee system entrenched itself into the county systems, it became one of the leading causes for the inefficiency of education” (p. 23). The author hints more than once that if the Kentucky school system had separated from money-grubbing politicians, it could have been one of the best in the country.

With elementary and secondary education systems, Ellis continues his narrative to the creation of the Kentucky Educational Reform Act. In l988, Judge Roy Corns of the Circuit Court in Frankfort found that Section l83 of the Kentucky Constitution was grievously violated. The section required the legislature to treat all school districts equally in administering budgets. The discrepancies were especially glaring between urban and rural, and black and white. Most people, including President George H.W. Bush, believed that with this court ruling, “Kentucky had arrived again at an important crossroads in the history of public school education” (p. 403). Renowned historian Thomas D. Clark called it “Sunrise in Kentucky” (p. 403).

KERA had great promise when it was activated in l990. There would be new cooperation between parents and teachers (site-based decisions), anti-nepotism rules, taxing of property at its full value and, above all, accountability. (It soon appeared, however, that the only “accountability” the public wanted was that of the teacher - hardly ever that of the principal and superintendent, the parent, or even the pupil).

KERA soon became inundated with “test results,” which made critics argue that it “taught to the test.” This was especially true when President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind entered the scene. Portfolios, it has been said, led more than one good Kentucky teacher into early retirement. While KERA still has its advocates, especially among administrators and colleges of education, many teachers are averse, even hostile, to it. Ellis quotes a Kentucky teacher: “What has happened in the 18 years since KERA was introduced has moved beyond a paradigm shift into a full-blown paranoid slide into a sludge pit of indexes, calculations, punitive measures, debilitating demands on time and energy, threats, empty promises and above all, assessment, assessment, and more assessment - assessment that has to be calculated, measured, graphed, analyzed and adjusted, looked at, shared, discussed, celebrated and wept over” (p. 409).

As one can easily see, the judgment on KERA is far from complete.

In reference to higher education in Kentucky, the author gives full discussion of Transylvania, the first college west of the Appalachians, as well as to denominational schools, such as Georgetown, Bellarmine, Brescia and Centre. He devotes most of his space on higher education to State College, funded by the federal Morrill Act in 1862, later called “State University,” which in 1916 became the University of Kentucky. Other publicly funded schools were the “Normals,” which ultimately became “State Teachers Colleges,” and still later, simply “State Colleges.” Included were Eastern Kentucky in Richmond, Morehead, Murray, Kentucky State in Frankfort and Western Kentucky in Bowling Green. As might be imagined, great wrangling occurred between UK and the “regionals” for public monies. Budget battles became even more complicated with the University of Louisville’s entry into state support.

In the picture section of this book is a photograph of Gov. Ned Breathitt signing a bill in 1966 creating universities out of the “regionals.” As the saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words. The visage of UK President John W. Oswald is anything but serene, while the newly minted university presidents (Carl M. Hill of Kentucky State, Robert R. Martin of EKU, Kelly Thompson of WKU, Ralph H. Woods of Murray and Adron Doran of Morehead), look upon the event with satisfaction.

One quibble with this book is that Ellis constantly refers to EKU, WKU, et al, as “regional universities.” These institutions may have been “regional” while normal schools or teachers’ colleges, but once they attained university status they were not regional. In a way, if you’re regional, you’re not a university; if you’re a university, you’re not regional. The operative word here is “comprehensive.”

This book will long be the definitive account of education at all levels in the commonwealth. Professor Ellis is to be congratulated for bringing together such disparate parts - and in such a readable fashion - of this important and fascinating subject. He has a lengthy bibliography and a workable index. This book is highly recommended.

"Learning Styles" Debunked (Again)

This from Curriculum Matters:
The idea that teachers should present material to children in modes that best fit their "learning styles" is being disputed. As Yogi Berra famously said: It's déjà vu all over again.

The debunking is hardly new. A 2009 study from the University of South Florida found that there is no scientific evidence to support the popular idea that teaching should be differentiated according to whether a child is a visual or auditory learner, or absorbs ideas best when she's up and moving around while learning. (There are other learning styles, too, of course.)

The fact that the study is two years old didn't stop National Public Radio from airing a story about it today, though. They bring in cognitive psychologist Dan Willingham, who suggests that teachers are far better off learning about the cognitive processes human brains have in common rather than focusing on how they might be different.

It's not entirely clear to me what prompted NPR to call attention to the study now, but the "learning styles" theory, and what teachers do with it, is interesting and potentially significant enough to be worthy of a go-round whenever it crops up.

It certainly sparked some strong feelings when we wrote about the study in 2009. See here for a piece by a teacher who argues that the study contradicts all her classroom experience, and here for a spirited rejoinder to that.

Bell Co Schools Knowingly Defied Prayer Ban for Years

Complaint forces school district to pull pre-game prayer

Another "last week" story I thought I'd posted.

Clarification on End of Course Exam Confusion

Apparently some school district websites have incorrectly reported how End of Course exams will be structured in Kentucky.

This from ReadyKentucky:
URGENT: Some of you have misinformation. End of Course tests are 3 sections each that count toward accountability: 2 mult choice sections (45 minutes each; 35-38 questions each) and one Constructed Response section of 1-3 questions requiring short or extended responses depending on subject. ACT typical Quality Core is DIFFERENT than KY.

Pass the word!!
My thanks and apologies to Robin. I thought I posted this last week but apparently haven't learned all of the mysteries of my fancy new phone.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


"I do solemnly swear that I will support
the Constitution of the United States
and the Constitution of this Commonwealth,
and be faithful and true to
the Commonwealth of Kentucky
so long as I continue to be a citizen thereof..."

This is the first part of an oath of office required of the Governor of Kentucky, and yesterday, Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams went a long way toward flaunting it. As President of the Senate and a Constitutional officer himself, one assumes Williams took this same oath. As an attorney, and officer of the court, Williams is honor-bound to uphold the law. But down in the polls, his campaign manager recently departed, and seemingly desperate to try anything, the Bully from Burkesville has apparently stooped to a new low - blaming the department of education (and Governor Steve Beshear, of course) for keeping the faith, following the law, and upholding every citizen's right to be free to worship as they please by not allowing the majority to establish a religion to which all must be beholden.

Perhaps Williams has forgotten that Kentucky was first settled by Virginia Baptists, among others, who were seeking religious freedom in Kentucky because the established Anglican church in Virginia jailed their ministers for preaching without a license. And, of course, the Baptists could not get a license, because they were not Anglican. To be free from that religion, whole congregations of Baptists moved to Kentucky where they earned a reputation for religious tolerance.

This from the Herald-Leader:
Williams blames Beshear
for end of Bell Co. prayer at games

A state lawyer's recommendation that the Bell County school district stop allowing prayer over the public-address system at football games has sparked controversy in Kentucky's gubernatorial election.

Republican David Williams, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in the Nov. 8 election, urged Beshear in a news release Friday "to denounce this attack on prayer at public functions and lead the efforts of state government to defend our citizens' right to voluntarily pray anywhere they choose."

Williams' campaign on Friday released an email from the state Department of Education to the Bell County school district that said praying before a football game is unconstitutional and the district should "cease this activity immediately."

The email, which cited several court decisions regarding prayer and schools, was written by assistant general counsel Amy Peabody on Aug. 16.

"Even beyond the fact that I believe that the alleged activity actually does constitute unconstitutional endorsement of religion, the effort and expenditure of funds required to defend this practice in litigation will greatly outweigh, and not serve the students of the school district, any perceived constitutional purpose in this activity," Peabody wrote.
Williams responded with typical bluster. But that is not to infer that he doesn't mean it.
"It is a travesty that Gov. Beshear will not stand up for freedom of religion in Kentucky, and instead sides with an organization called 'Freedom From Religion Foundation,' " Williams said. "As governor, I will stand up against out-of-state liberal organizations who want to stomp on our freedom to voluntarily pray in public places."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Forum on the History of Education in Kentucky

September 8, 20011
8:30 AM – 4 PM
Eastern Kentucky University
Perkins Building
(Free parking at Perkins)
Schedule below
Before the Forum
Book Chat with Bill Ellis
September 7th, 4:30 PM
John Grant Crabbe Library
Grand Reading Room
A book signing will follow
until 6:30 PM
Cost: $70 + $3 for credit card processing
Credit card reservations may be made
by phone at (859) 622-1444
Education in Kentucky, the first state west of the Appalachian Mountains, got off to a poor start. An incongruous land system created a society dominated by the wealthy who had little interest in educating the masses, and thus, until the advent of the 20th century, no taxing system approaching “adequate” supported a democratic common school system. Like citizens in other slave states, early Kentuckians did not highly value public common school education.

Emeritus EKU History Professor Bill Ellis argues in his new book A History of Education in Kentucky that the Commonwealth more closely followed the old English system of education rather than the more democratic system found in New England. 

Ellis’s book is the first single-volume history of schooling in the state and the first of any kind since 1964. Much has changed since the 60’s, and it’s time to talk about it.

To celebrate the book’s release, EKU and WEKU radio have partnered with the University Press of Kentucky, and Kentucky Educational Television to present a forum on education in the state on September 8th at the Perkins Building on the south side of the EKU campus. The Forum will run from 8:30 AM until 4 PM. The response from the education community has been very positive and I believe we can promise attendees a good cross-section of educators, scholars and writers who will examine our past and forecast the future of schooling in Kentucky.

From the beginning the educational system in Kentucky has been fraught with inefficiency, politicization, and localism. The efforts of Robert J. Breckinridge to develop a common school system in Kentucky highlighted the reformism of the late antebellum period. Throughout the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century, taxation laws to fund and improve the public schools were often ill-conceived, haphazardly collected, and the funds were even raided by the legislature. Poorer counties found themselves incapable of adequately funding needed education improvements. When reform came it was often negated by a tight-fisted General Assembly and localism that thwarted needed change. Ellis points to the Sullivan Law, the Normal School law, the Minimum Foundation Program, the Kentucky Education Reform Act, and reorganization of higher education during the Patton administration as improvements to both public school and higher education in the state, but says “the Commonwealth of Kentucky remains, by most standards, among the average to lowest states in the nation in funding, literacy, school dropouts and other areas of educational attainment."

Ellis says he wrote the book to “educate Kentuckians about our educational history and heritage and then [to] encourage us to push for even greater sacrifice and change. We must do better in the 21st century,” he says.

The development of institutions of higher education is also treated in the history. Ellis describes how colleges, most of which were little more than high schools, abounded but many lasted only for a short time. The highlight of early Kentucky higher education history was the administration of Horace Holley at Transylvania. Ultimately sectarian controversy led to his resignation and the development of other colleges, including Centre and Georgetown, until the Civil War devastated education in the state. Following the Civil War higher education actually recovered quite quickly as numerous private colleges were formed including Asbury College and Seminary, Central University, Union College, Thomas More, Cumberland, Campbellsville and Nazareth Colleges. From its origins as a normal school for blacks in Frankfort, Kentucky State Normal and Industrial Institute became the under-funded, politically sensitive, land grant school for African Americans. What would become the University of Kentucky in 1916 evolved from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky University (1865-78), the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky (1878-1908), and State University (1908-1916).

While the majority of college students were attending private colleges at the turn of the 20th Century, a major change came with the founding of the Eastern and Western normal schools in 1906. Morehead and Murray would follow in 1922. All four schools evolved into four year colleges and by World War II public higher education began to outpace private colleges. Later Governor Paul Patton confronted the issue of governance of the commonwealth’s system of higher education in House Bill 1 which created a new Council on Postsecondary Education, removed UK’s hold on community colleges, and redefined the goals of UL, Kentucky State, and the regional universities.

After a campaign led by State Superintendent Wendell Butler, the legislature passed the Minimum Foundation Program in 1954, a further attempt to equalize state funding of the public schools according to need based on a per capita basis with an equalization fund. The passage of a sales tax in 1960 under the leadership of Governor Bert T. Combs improved school funding. For the first time, teacher retirement became a priority. Two years later the legislature authorized the beginning of Kentucky Educational Television. Kentucky education followed national trends in reaction to numerous federal mandates, including Title I, Title IX and civil rights legislation. The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence was formed in 1983 to study education and seek needed changes.

An attempt to rectify the continued inequities between poor and more affluent school districts finally began to bear fruit with a 1985 lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court. “Sixty-six” school districts and twenty-two students (through their parents) filed a law suit claiming that the General Assembly failed in their duty to uphold Sections 183 and 186 of the Kentucky Constitution by not treating school districts equitably. The state Supreme Court unanimously concurred and ruled the education system of Kentucky to be unconstitutional. After an extensive study by a legislative task force, the General Assembly passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990, radically reconstructing public education.

To assure a stimulating treatment of the issues surrounding education in the state, we are assembling an impressive group of practitioners, scholars, writers, and remarkably few politicians. And we are using a roundtable format which I will describe below… and here’s the tentative schedule:

The Forum
September 8, 2011

• 8:30 AM: Refreshments
• 9 AM: Opening Comments and Introductions, Richard Day

• 9:15 AM: Bill Ellis: Reflections on the history and future of education in Kentucky

• 10 AM – 11:30 AM: P-12 Forum
• Bill Goodman, KET, Moderator. Confirmed panelists include…
  • o P. G. Peeples, Lexington Fayette County Urban League
  • o Stu Silberman, Prichard Committee for academic Excellence
  • o Elaine Farris, Clark Co Superintendent
  • o Ruthanne Palumbo, Fayette County legislator
  • o Kevin Noland, KDE/UofL
  • o Richard Angelo, UK Education Policy
  • o Terry Holliday, Kentucky Education Commissioner
  • o Sharron Oxendine, KEA President
  • o Erik Myrup, History, UK/FayetteABC
• 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM: Lunch
o Former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, President of UPike

• 1 PM – 2:30 PM: Higher Education Forum
• David Hawpe, Courier-Journal, retired, Moderator. Confirmed panelists include…
  • o Doug Whitlock, President, EKU
  • o Lindsey Apple, History, Georgetown
  • o Bob King, President Council on Postsecondary Education
  • o John Hardin, History, WKU
  • o Gary Cox, President, Assn of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities
  • o Peg Pitman Munke, Murray, COSFL
  • o David Atkisson, Ky Chamber of Commerce
• 2:45 PM – 4 PM: Media Forum
• Tom Eblen, Herald-Leader, Moderator. Confirmed panelists include…
  • o Linda Blackford, H-L
  • o Mark Neikirk, NKU
  • o Mark Hebert, WHAS/UofL
  • o Ronnie Ellis, CNHI News
  • o Richard Wilson, C-J/Independent Colleges
• 4 PM: Adjourn

The Idea:

When Bill Ellis asked me to plan a symposium that would deal with the issues raised in his new book, A History of Education in Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 2011), I was both honored and challenged.

I have attended a few symposia in my day, but they all featured three or four professors reading their own papers, and a few speeches, typically delivered by deans or politicians. That didn’t seem quite right for a topic as wide-ranging as the history of schooling in the Commonwealth. It seemed to me that we needed more voices.

As I thought about the problem, my mind traveled back to my youth and a program I used to watch on KET. The program was a moderated debate that was conducted in the round. The moderator would raise issues around the theme of that week’s debate and pose questions of policy to smart advocates who came from a variety of backgrounds and who looked at issues from different perspectives. It led to many lively discussions.

The program I was recalling may have been “The Advocates,” which originated from Vanderbilt University (and was produced by KCET, Los Angeles and WGBH, Boston; not Harvard Law, as I originally thought), ran from 1969 to 1979, and featured some of the leading thinkers of the day, including several Harvard Law professors.

It is – roughly - this design we are hoping to replicate in three panel discussions related to education in Kentucky – its past, present, and future. What began as an idea for a symposium has become more of a Forum. Because of the quality of panelists who have agreed to participate, I believe it may end up as a Master Class for those who attend. There will also be an opportunity for questions from the audience.

The moderators play a key role and are free to guide the discussion in whatever direction they (and the panelists) determine to be most interesting. Along the way, panelists are sure to engage key topics.
• Who is it that has access to an excellent education?
  • • Has Kentucky overcome its history of educational inequities?
  • • What constitutes an adequate education?
  • • Does “all” really mean all?
  • • How has (and will) technology change schooling?
  • • Is the need for higher education changing?
  • • What is the likely result of increased privatization of educational opportunity and for-profit education in Kentucky?  
I also hope panelists will touch upon some of the stories that help us understand how students have experienced our schools and what schools mean to the communities they serve.

Our third panel (Media) is a little different. Here we are hoping our media panelists will do what the press does – reflect on our past, question the popular narratives, and opine on the direction schools should go. Media panelists may also reflect on stories they have covered.

It should be a great day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

White House announces waivers for No Child Left Behind law

Duncan: Get This Law Off of People's Backs

Will Announce Final Waiver Decisions After Labor Day

This from CNN:
About half the schools in Tennessee didn't meet the annual yearly progress requirements of the No Child Left Behind law last year. Tennessee is not alone.

Saying schools are struggling to meet the student progress requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, the White House announced Monday it would be signing waivers that will relieve schools of some of the key provisions of the law.

"The law -- No Child Left Behind -- as it currently stands is four years overdue for being rewritten. It is far too punitive, it is far too prescriptive, lead to a dummying down of standards, lead to a narrowing of the curriculum," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said at a White House press briefing on Monday. "We can't afford to have the law of the land be one that has so many perverse incentives or disincentives to the kind of progress that we want to see."

The law requires that all students meet reading and math adequacy by 2014. If they don't, the schools are subject to reforms. As the standards have increased annually, schools are finding it increasingly difficult to meet them.

"We hope that this is simply a transition or bridge to fixing the law," Duncan said of the waiver plans...

Kentucky on iTunes U

Kentucky’s teachers, students, parents and communities now have access to free, state-specific academic content available through Kentucky on iTunes U. iTunes U is a dedicated area within the iTunes Store giving users public access to thousands of free lectures, videos, books and podcasts from learning institutions all over the world.
The Kentucky on iTunes U platform was announced at Woodford County High School, in conjunction with the unveiling of the school’s iPad program, which will provide every student with access to an iPad for their learning needs.
Kentucky on iTunes U provides free curriculum and instruction resources for users, including school districts and other Kentucky providers, to download and enjoy on a Mac or PC, iPad, iPhone or iPod. Content includes videos produced by school districts, instructional resources and more.
“This is the technology generation – what better way to provide learning opportunities than through the electronic devices and formats our children use almost every hour of the day,” said Gov Steve Beshear. “Kentucky on iTunes U is a great example of how our schools can employ technology to prepare our students for the highly sophisticated and competitive world that awaits them.”
“Kentucky on iTunes U provides our P-20 education community with an incredible variety of resources and information,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “This cooperative effort between the University of Kentucky, KET and the Kentucky Department of Education gives our students access to content through iTunes, a format they are already familiar with -- and with iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, learning anywhere and anytime is as easy as listening to music.”
“UK is proud to partner with Kentucky Educational Television and the Kentucky Department of Education to increase access to interactive learning tools that enhance our academic missions,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “This program, Kentucky on iTunes U, and others like the College of Education’s P-20 lab and CASTLE are bringing innovative teaching techniques to a generation rapidly integrating mobile communications into their everyday lives.”
“KET has a long history of harnessing technology to enhance and extend the learning experience,” said KET Executive Director Shae Hopkins. “Kentucky on iTunes U is a natural extension of that effort, and we’re excited to see Kentucky’s students and teachers benefit from this new partnership.”
Kentucky on iTunes U is a collaborative project with the University of Kentucky's College of Education, Kentucky Educational Television (KET) and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), along with school districts, government agencies and their affiliates that provide access to quality digital content resources.
Kentucky on iTunes U offers resources such as:
·         Kentucky Core Academic Standards
·         UK College of Education
·         KET’s News Quiz, Scale City, Everyday Science, Education Matters and Kentucky Life
·         Highly Effective Teaching & Learning
·         Balanced Assessment from the Leadership Networks
·         STLP | Student Technology Leadership Program
 New content will be posted frequently in categories such as curriculum, teaching and learning, educational leadership, learning resources and more.
Visit Kentucky on iTunes U at

SOURCE: KDE Press release

Judicial Activism

Ky. judge pushes for neighborhood schools

This from the Houston Chronicle:
A Kentucky appeals court judge called Wednesday for the state's largest school district to end the "social experiment" of busing students for desegregation purposes and revert to neighborhood schools, stepping into what has become a high-profile political issue.

Judge Kelly Thompson said Jefferson County Public Schools should "get out of the courtroom" and abandon any plans that include having students ride school buses across the county.

"I'd like to ask that you concentrate on neighborhood schools and get out of the courtroom," Thompson said at the end of two hours of oral arguments over how the Louisville-based school district assigns students to schools. "You've got more litigation than any school district in the country."

Although Thompson made his opinion clear, the court did not rule Wednesday.

The hearing was an appeal of a 2010 decision by Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze, who dismissed a lawsuit brought by parents who contend the school district must allow their children to attend the school nearest their home. Maze said state law clearly reserves for school boards the right to "determine what schools the students within the district attend."

The appeals court arguments are the latest volley in a long-running battle over how students in Louisville are assigned to schools. The school district voluntarily continued busing students to maintain diversity in the classroom after a judge lifted a mandatory busing order in 2000 after 25 years.

The court case and Thompson's comments also touch on a current political issue. State Senate President David Williams, a Republican running for governor against incumbent Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear, has pushed legislation to allow Louisville public school students attend the school closest to their homes. Williams has said the bill would empower parents frustrated by school assignment plans.

Opponents say the measure would erode local control of schools and would relegate many poor and minority students to underperforming schools.

The central legal issue is whether Kentucky's law, which says parents may "enroll" a student at the school closest to their home, also entitles that student to attend the same school.

Sheila Hiestand, one of three attorneys for the parents challenging the student assignment plan, told the judges that there's no practical difference between "enroll" and "attend" when it comes to the law.

"What we need to do is use our common sense and allow our children to grow in their communities," Hiestand said.

During arguments, there was little question which way Thompson and Judge Thomas Caperton were leaning. Judge Sara Combs, the widow of former Gov. Bert T. Combs, did not reveal her own opinion, but did not object when Thompson told Teddy Gordon, another of the attorneys for the parents, he could take the rare step and skip a rebuttal argument.

Thompson and Caperton repeatedly grilled the attorney for the school board, Byron Leet, about the necessity of putting students on buses for 90 minutes or more each day. Thompson noted that the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2007, struck down Jefferson County's student assignment plan because it called for each school to have between 15 and 50 percent minority students.

Since then, the board has adopted a plan aimed at diversity that keeps the 15 to 50 percent requirement, but no longer bases it strictly on the race of the students. It now also looks at factors such as economics and academic achievement.

"I'm concerned about an attitude ... of a school board that gives lip service to the courts," Thompson said. "You keep coming back with a 50 percent plan of quotas."

Leet told the judges that the high court decision dealt with placing students primarily on the basis of race, something the school board no longer does.

"No individual students are being treated differently based on their race under this plan," Leet said.

Caperton questioned the wisdom of taking students from areas of the city noted for low academic achievement and sending them across town to go to school.

"Rather than hire a teacher ... it's better to put them on a bus and ride them around for a few hours," Caperton said.

"Merely pouring money into a school will not achieve the desired result," Leet said.

After the hearing, Leet was hesitant to call the case a loss.

"I've been at this a little while," said Leet. "I think it's perilous business to predict what a judge will do in a particular case."

Gordon said he saw the judges' comments as good for his side.

"It was exactly what I've been saying for the last 11 years," Gordon said.

Advocating from the School Board Bench

This from Eduflack:
In the era of No Child Left Behind, we've heard a great deal about how local school boards have no productive role in 21st century education.  Some see the power shifting toward the states and the federal government, with school boards simply left to rubber stamp what comes from on high.  Others, like the Fordham Institute's Checker Finn, seem to think such boards are just a breeding ground for political wannabes or former district employees with an axe to grind.

But as someone who actually serves on one of those local school boards, Eduflack can say there is a real role for local school boards to play in advocating for policies that can improve opportunity and success for all students.  There is a place to champion effective instruction and learning.  And there is a way to help build a better mousetrap to to address those directives coming from the feds or the state.

Don't believe me?  I'm ok with that.  But you should believe Fred Deutsch.  Mr. Deutsch is a member of the Watertown School Board in South Dakota.  We actually became friends over this blog years ago, as he would provide insights on how my national opining here was playing out on the ground in his community in South Dakota.  And as I've learned over the years, he really is dealing with the very best and the very worst in local public education, with the latest being plans to cut back to a four-day school week in South Dakota due to budget shortfalls.

Despite those challenges, Fred has been a passionate advocate for school board member advocacy.  His work has been featured nationally, and he has led presentations to help local school board members find their advocacy voice.  And since I posed a question to EdSec Arne Duncan for his Twitter town hall today on what the role of local school boards should be in our post-NCLB, waiver environment, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the recommendations offered by Fred:

* At the heart of school board advocacy is the belief that people that know best are those closest to the child
* Part of the job of school board members is to represent the best interests of our children to those that make the laws
* We must share our stories.  Legislators must understand how the decisions they make impact our children at the local level
* The "Foundation of Effective Advocacy" is to develop one's "relationships, facts, and passion"
* Invest yourself into development relationships with lawmakers — but not just during session.  To win the advocacy game, we need to develop and nurture relationships throughout the year
* Understand the data

Deutsch also focuses a great deal on passion.  Passion: It's what drives us.  It is what stirs us to action.  It overcomes roadblocks.  It persists through failure.  And it persists through crap...

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Defense of Charter Schools

Over at Education Policy Matters blog, UK's Dr. Wayne Lewis has launched a defense of charter schools for Kentucky. Lewis began by simply laying out some charter basics, which he follows with his opening argument: Choice.
Charter schools provide additional school options for parents. I firmly believe that every parent should have public school options when deciding on a school for his/her child. No parent should be forced to send his or her child to a school that cannot adequately serve his/her child's needs; yet hundreds of thousands of parents across the country and tens of thousands of parents right here in Kentucky are forced to do just that. Parental options in the form of magnet schools, intradistrict and interdistrict public school choice, and charter schools all provide public school options for parents. I believe that as we work to improve our traditional public school systems we must also work to increase the availability of options for Kentucky parents both inside our traditional systems and outside. All parents deserve school options; regardless of their zip code, education level, income, or social capital. Quality public charter schools can be instrumental in giving parents across Kentucky access to public school options.
We'll keep an eye out as his rationale develops.

Lewis is an Outreach Coordinator for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). BAEO is a national pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-tuition tax credit group that has recently targeted Kentucky for activism.

Teacher Can't Be Sued Over Alleged Hostility to Religion, Court Says

This from the School Law blog:
A California teacher is immune from a student's lawsuit claiming that the teacher's classroom comments were hostile to religion, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, declined to decide whether any of the teacher's comments were actually hostile to religion to the point of violating the student's First Amendment right to be free from government establishment of religion.

Instead, the panel held unanimously that it was not clearly established that a teacher could violate the establishment clause by appearing hostile to religion during class lectures. Thus, the teacher in this case was entitled to qualified immunity from the student's lawsuit.

The Aug. 19 decision in C.F. v. Capistrano Unified School District involves a suit brought on behalf of a student who was a sophomore at Capistrano Valley High School in 2007 when he began the Advanced Placement European History course taught by James Corbett.

According to court papers, the teacher had told students in a letter that the course would be provocative and would prompt them to develop their critical-thinking skills. Students would be encouraged to disagree with the teacher as long as they could back up their arguments, the letter said.

The student, a Christian who believes in creationism, objected to numerous comments made by Corbett during the course, For example, Corbett said the strong religious beliefs of European peasants helped keep them from improving their position in society.

"When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth," Corbett said in class. (The student surreptitiously recorded Corbett's lectures, which the teacher claims violated the state education code, but that issue wasn't before the court.)

The suit said Corbett also belittled creationism, and criticized a teacher at Capistrano Valley High who some 20 years ago had been involved in a controversy over his promotion of creation science. (According to court papers, Corbett is also Christian, and prays and attends church regularly.)
A federal district judge had granted summary judgment to the teacher on the basis of qualified-immunity over most of the suit's claims, although the judge ruled for the student over Corbett's criticism of the other Capistrano High teacher.
The 9th Circuit panel held that Corbett was entitled to qualified immunity on all of the suit's claims.

"We are aware of no prior case holding that a teacher violated the establishment clause by appearing critical of religion during class lectures, nor any case with sufficiently similar facts to give a teacher fair warning that such conduct was unlawful," said the opinion by U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond C. Fisher.

Both parties agreed that AP European History could not be taught without discussing religion, the court said, and "we have no doubt that the freedom to have a frank discussion about the role of religion in history is an integral part of any advanced history course."
In addressing religion in a public school classroom, teachers should be sensitive to students' personal beliefs and not abuse their authority, the court said, but teachers must also foster students' critical-thinking skills and develop their analytic abilities.
"This balance is hard to achieve, and we must be careful not to curb intellectual freedom by imposing dogmatic restrictions that chill teachers from adopting the pedagogical methods they believe are most effective," Judge Fisher said.

Faculty Work Stoppage Hits Central Michigan U

This from Central Michigan Life:

EDITORIAL: Work stoppage
by faculty an answer to university inaction
“The combination of salary plus the benefit-package compensation is going to be as attractive as we can make it.”

Robert Martin, associate vice provost of Faculty and Personnel Services, said this to CM Life on April 20 when talking about administrative pay packages and how Central Michigan University is attempting to join the upper echelon of Michigan universities.

Martin, who is on the CMU bargaining team meeting with the Faculty Association’s, illuminates a powerful point: CMU is clearly looking to move up as a place of higher education.

However, if they wish to make that leap, CMU officials must acknowledge the work of the faculty — something that clearly isn’t happening in current negotiations.

As of Monday, the FA will be on a work stoppage and many classes are canceled for the time being. FA members have ample reason to do so because CMU administrators were given several easy outs to prevent this sorry state.

During ongoing negotiations, CMU has not answered the basic question of why it chose to not extend the contract of the faculty for this semester. The FA has alleged the university did not bargain in good faith since the FA contract expired on June 30.

The university has said the current proposal by the FA would cost CMU about $10 million over three years.

University officials have said that is too much, but with the Board of Trustees approving a $429 million operating budget for this year, the FA contract would amount to less than 2.5 percent of the annual budget that is paid for by students and funding from the state.

If CMU is going to commit to building a better university, then the focus should be on its academia.

CMU is permanently scarring its relationship with one of its most important assets. When students come to a university, they come for higher learning — faculty provide that education, not administrators.

While paying competitively for administrators is a great thing, faculty deserve to be compensated equally well, instead of allegedly making among the lowest salaries in the Mid-American Conference.

Doling out progressively larger salaries to administrators while leaving faculty with less and less competitive compensation could leave the school’s well-paid staff with little to administer.
Hat tip to EdJurist

Ravitch Face-Off with Brill

Steven Brill, the author of Class Warfare and the founder of The American Lawyer magazine and Court TV finds himself in a contentious debate on C-SPAN.

His book tells the story of a coalition of unlikely allies in the fight to change a school system that many parents believe is failing the nation's children.

This story is contested by former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quick Hits

NYC schools look to principals to balance budgets: When New York City gave principals more authority over their schools in 2007, they also inherited more responsibility to cut budgets. The Department of Education's overall budget has increased since 2007, but required expenses for programs such as special-education services also have gone up, forcing schools to cut an average of 13.7% during that time. This New York Times article tells the story of five New York City schools and the sacrifices they have made to stay afloat. (The New York Times)

Are D.C. schools moving toward a charter-dominated system?: Education writer Valerie Strauss in this blog post considers whether Washington, D.C., schools are being transitioned into a charter-dominated school system, much like that of New Orleans. Despite the notion that charters have more freedom to innovate, studies show they produce mixed results in student achievement. In addition, they may be counseling out lower-achieving students and those with special needs, leading to the creation of a two-tiered educational system, Strauss warns. (The Answer Sheet)

New Race to Top Spurs Concerns About Testing Preschoolers: The proposed assessment requirements for the new Race to the Top early-learning competition are sparking concerns from some preschool advocates, who fear the provisions could lead to high-stakes testing of young children and unfair accountability measures imposed on educators. At the same time, other observers suggest the federal competition could generate national models for early assessment. (Education Week)

Are Perry's funding cuts harming Texas students?: Education Secretary Arne Duncan has criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his approach to education, particularly for $4 billion in school-funding cuts that he says are harming students. "It doesn't serve the children well. It doesn't serve the state well. It doesn't serve the state's economy well. And ultimately it hurts the country," Duncan said. (Washington Wire)

Should teachers avoid social media altogether?: It is too risky for teachers to have a presence on social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, says Kim Piekut, a Pennsylvania high-school teacher and teachers union official. She recommends teachers avoid the sites altogether, and that they not communicate with students online. Her warning comes as the state considers a policy that would spell out what online behavior is appropriate for teachers. "[W]e don't advise social networking with kids outside of school," Piekut said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Creating questions that drive learning: For many teachers, coming up with driving questions can be the hardest part of project-based learning. Andrew Miller, a consultant for the Buck Institute for Education, explains that driving questions are vital for initiating and focusing inquiry, as well as creating interest and a challenge for students. To help in refining driving questions, Miller includes a video about how to make a Tubric, a tool teachers can use when creating and refining driving questions. (Edutopia)

Poll reveals mixed public support for technology use in schools: Approval and support for technology in education is growing, according to a poll by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa. However, an analysis of the results shows a preference for integrating technology into "old-world" educational structures rather than creating new uses that personalize instruction or allow students to learn outside brick-and-mortar schools. (Digital Education)

Report ranks states in child well-being measures: A national ranking of states on child well-being put New Hampshire at the top and Mississippi at the bottom and found that poverty rates increased in 38 states from 2000 to 2009. The Annie E. Casey Foundation report found that infant mortalities, child and teen deaths, and high school dropout rates have declined in the past 20 years, but the number of unhealthy babies has increased and more children are living in low-income families. (York Dispatch) (Reuters) (The Boston Globe)

Should teachers visit students at home?: The issue of teachers visiting their students' homes generates debate among educators, writes Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews. While some may see it as intrusive or dangerous, others say it provides invaluable insight into the lives of students. "Home visits by themselves do not correlate into academic achievement. However, if done with academic goals and targets as the objectives, they do work," said David L. Heiber, executive director of Concentric Educational Solutions, which has been visiting the homes of truant students for the past year. (The Washington Post)

Teaching students to be comfortable with uncertainty in lessons: Educators should integrate an element of uncertainty into their daily lessons, suggests technology-integration consultant Ben Johnson. Uncertainty prompts students to think about what they know and what they do not, and requires them to make decisions about what to do next -- important components for studying many subjects, such as statistics, math and science, Johnson writes. (Ben Johnson)

Live simulations provide training opportunity for educators: A Syracuse University training program for school leaders uses live simulations to help teachers and principals learn to address and manage difficult situations with students, parents and colleagues. The approach is modeled after "standardized patients" used to train students to diagnose symptoms in medical schools and, unlike computer simulations, has trained actors playing the roles of students and parents to help leaders learn to respond to real people. (Education Week)

New teacher hires draw criticism in Memphis: The hiring of 190 new teachers with no classroom experience for Memphis, Tenn., schools is the focus of debate among those who are questioning why roughly 100 experienced district teachers were not among those offered jobs. As part of its bid for $90 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness, the district agreed to hire between 30% and 35% of its teachers from high-quality, alternative programs such as Teach for America. District officials have pledged to find placements for any highly qualified teachers not offered positions. (The Commercial Appeal)

Increasing number of Okla. students log on for school: The number of Oklahoma students doing schoolwork online has increased 400% to more than 5,400 over the past three years, according to a Tulsa World analysis of state data. School officials are in favor of virtual schooling but not without caution. "While this is something we think education as a whole should embrace, like anything else, it is something we should be taking a close look at in terms of quality and consistency," said Damon Gardenhire, communications director for the state's education department. (Tulsa World)

Ariz. program to focus on competency rather than age: Students at 14 Arizona schools will have the opportunity to graduate high school two years early under the Move on When Ready Initiative. The program will allow students who pass certain exams to graduate and enroll in community college. Supporters believe the initiative will help move from traditional education to a competency-based educational model, while critics cite the cost for training teachers in the more intense curriculum and question the addition of standardized tests. (The Arizona Republic)

Chicago undertakes effort to improve principal leadership: Chicago officials are launching wide-ranging efforts to overhaul and improve the recruitment, training and evaluation of school principals. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has secured $5 million in private money to fund a new merit-pay system for principals, and a $10 million initiative is aimed at training and mentoring new leaders from within the district. "I want every principal succeeding, because if they're succeeding, it means the students are succeeding and the teachers are succeeding," Emanuel said. (Chicago Tribune)

Can Maryland's only public boarding school succeed?: The SEED School, a public boarding school for at-risk students in Baltimore, has yet to produce the academic success expected when the school was created in 2006. This year, however, the school is under new leadership and has made some changes, including analyzing testing data, providing more training for teachers on working with struggling students and those in special education, and implementing campus improvements designed to retain more students. (The Sun)

N.Y. state makes changes with new standardized tests: Standardized tests in New York state will not include answer choices thought to easily trip up students with phrases such as "none of the above," under a new contract with test developers. The effort to make the questions and answers clearer mirrors a national trend and follows the state's 2010 move to make the tests more difficult, which caused a drop in student scores. The tests also will phase in new content reflecting national standards, including more challenging reading passages, open-ended math problems and writing exercises in which students interpret texts. (The New York Times)

Districts consider social media connections between students, teachers: School districts throughout the country have widely varying policies regulating social media connections between students and teachers. Some districts and the state of Missouri have enacted strict bans on such communications, while other states' policies are more vague. Some educators and parents feel it's safer for teachers not to "friend" students online, but others say such connections can be appropriate and have educational merit. (The Arizona Republic)

Will the federal government reduce its role in education?: The federal role in education may be weakening, say observers who note the recently announced No Child Left Behind waivers give states more power. They point to Montana, where officials refused to adhere to the federal education law. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to announce today that the state will be allowed to keep testing targets steady. "Secretary Duncan is disassembling what was a very strong federal role, and some states' rights officials and governors smell blood," said Bruce Fuller, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. (The New York Times)

Voucher program in suburban Colo. district is rejected by judge: A Colorado judge on Friday rejected a school-voucher program that would have allowed students in a suburban Denver county to use public funding to attend private schools. The judge ruled the program violated the state constitution by allowing public money to be used to support religious schools, a decision the Douglas County School District is expected to appeal. The case has drawn national attention as it involves the first voucher program designed for an affluent community with high-performing public schools. (The Wall Street Journal)

Consortia consider computerized accommodations for common core: Testing experts are advising groups developing new common core assessments on technology that can help make the tests accessible to students who are learning English or who have special needs. The open-source Accessible Portable Item Profile Standards allow certain features, such as language translation or read-aloud text to be turned on and off according to individual students' profiles. Some experts stressed the importance of building accommodations into the tests up front, while other officials expressed concerns about potential issues with the computerized accommodations. (Learning the Language)

Projectors may be in Apple's future: A patent application filed by Apple shows detailed plans for projection-capable computers, smartphones and tablets that could project their screen's contents onto a nearby surface. (CNET)

Should proficiency-based learning replace seat time?: Some districts have replaced seat-time requirements for students with proficiency-based learning standards -- allowing students to advance only after they have mastered a subject or grade level. Supporters say the method allows top students to move more quickly, while giving struggling students additional support. In this interview, Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, explains how such a system works, how students are assessed and the role that technology plays. (T.H.E. Journal)

N.C. charter school expands its leadership program: A charter elementary school in North Carolina is hoping to build on its success by implementing "The Leader in Me" program, a curriculum based on "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. The school credits its use of some program components with a boost in student achievement last year, as well as increased student engagement and a positive school environment. Teachers attended summer classes to learn more about the program, and students will spend the first week of school immersed in its teachings. (The Pilot)

Baltimore schools struggle with high principal turnover: Baltimore is facing a high turnover rate in school leadership, with little more than 25% of principals remaining in their posts since 2007. The district still must fill nine of 42 vacancies caused by retirements and resignations. Experts say it is common for urban districts to experience turnover when undertaking reform strategies, but some are concerned that frequent leadership changes will affect the district's progress. (The Sun)

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion

A big thank you to my colleagues in the EKU College of Education, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Dean Bill Phillips, Assoc Dean Kim Naugle, Asst Dean Sherwood Thompson, and Dr Dorie Combs for the new hardware yesterday. I really appreaciate it.

A special thanks to my research partner Dr J. Jeannette Lovern for her kind nomination, and for proclaiming me "the hardest working scholar in rock and roll."

As one who is still new to this tenure-track thing, I have to say it's been a busy year and there are a lot of folks to thank.

International presentation and paper – Invited to present “ Each Child, Every Child” to the International Symposium on School Reform (ISER) at the University of Pretoria, in July. The paper on that presentation, Day, Richard, “The Council for Better Education and Education Reform in Kentucky,” was peer-reviewed and has been accepted for inclusion in the ISER 2010 Proceedings (2011). Thanks to UK Drs Lars Bjork and Justin Bathon for their encouragement and the University of Pretoria's Dr Johann Beckmann and School of Excellence Principal Tinus Duprez for their assistance.

National Book Chapter -  “Presenting Live in South Africa: From my Family Room,“ in Blythe and Sweet, It Works For Me: Becoming a Publishing Scholar/Researcher, 2011.  Thanks to EKU Drs Charlie Sweet and Hal Blythe.

State Article – Day, Richard,Bert Combs and the Council for Better Education: Catalysts for School Reform,” in press. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Winter 2011. Thanks to Register editor Nelson Dawson.
State Oral History Interview – Day, Richard, “An interview with Robert F. Sexton,” Accepted by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky, (not peer reviewed) Available August 2011. Thanks to Doug Boyd in the UK archives. For Bob.

State Presentation – Day, Richard, “EduBlogging: Voice and Authority,” Kentucky Association of Teachers of Educators Annual Conference, Georgetown College, September, 2010.

State Presentation – “Teachers Standing Against Bullying,” Kentucky Education Association - Student Program, Student Assembly, Eastern Kentucky University, April 2011.

Local Presentation – Keynote address, “M A Cassidy: A Man and His School,“ Fayette County Public Schools, Cassidy School, on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary and Rededication of M A Cassidy School, Nov 2010. Thanks to Stu, Rhonda and the hardest working PTA in rock and roll for a wonderful evening.

National Article – Lovern, J Jeannette and Richard Day, Do the Kentucky Learning Goals Established in the 1990s Provide Students with the Education They Purport: A Study of Graduates’ Perceptions” The Researcher, April (2nd Quarter/Spring) 2011.

National Book Chapter – Lovern, J Jeannette and Richard Day, Why Is It So Darn Hard to Get That Article Pushed Out the Door” in Blythe and Sweet, It Works For Me: Becoming a Publishing Scholar/Researcher, 2011.

State Book Chapter – Day, Richard and Joann Ewalt, “Education Reform in Kentucky: Just What the Court Ordered,” In Clinger, James C., and Michael Hall, Taking Kentucky Politics Seriously: Government, Politics, and Policymaking in the Bluegrass, University Press of Kentucky, Submitted, revised, awaiting acceptance, nd.

State Presentation – Daniels, Chris, Jayne Violette, Dorie Combs, Richard Day, Sorocco Zaragosa, “The LEAF Fellows Program: Multidisciplinary Seeds Enhance Teaching and Learning and Engage P-12 Teachers,” AdvancED Conference, Lexington, KY, Dec  2010.

Coming soon:
"Berea College - Coeducationally and racially Integrated: An UnlikelyContingency in the 1850's," Day, Richard, Roger Cleveland and June Hyndman, In revision, Journal of Negro Education.
"M. A Cassidy" Progressive Schoolman," Day Richard and Lindsey DeVries, Presentation and paper to the Organization of Educational Historians in Chicago, October 2011.

"The Kentucky Case: A Transition Point in the National Struggle for Equitable and Adequate Schools," Day, Richard, Presentation and paper to the Organization of Educational Historians in Chicago, October 2011.

The Rural School Improvement Project, Day, Richard, Lindsey DeVries and Amanda Hoover, Working paper, probably destined for submission to the Register this fall.

"By Ohio's Sparkling Waters: An Early History of Schooling in Ludlow, Kentucky." Working paper...looking like 2012.

Thanks also to our departmental scholars support group: J'nette, Angie Madden, Karen Mololey, Ginni Fair, Margaret Moore, and Diana Porter.