Friday, September 30, 2011

Holliday's NCLB Waiver Update

This from the Commissioner at Dr H's blog:
Last week, I had the honor of participating in the announcement of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver process by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Also, I was honored to participate in a media call after the announcement with Sec. Duncan and Georgia State School Superintendent John Barge.

I applaud President Obama and Sec. Duncan for listening to governors, state superintendents, local superintendents, parents, teachers and students who have asked for NCLB flexibility. While we all would prefer that Congress reauthorize NCLB (currently four years past due), we certainly appreciate the President and Sec. Duncan for allowing states to generate innovation and reform to establish higher levels of performance for students, schools and districts.

For interested readers, the U.S. Department of Education has lots of information concerning the waiver process at The flexibility and waiver do require states to respond to four major areas – college/career ready standards; differentiated accountability and support; improving instruction and leadership; and state review of regulations to allow local districts flexibility from NCLB requirements.

Thanks to 2009’s Senate Bill 1, Kentucky is in a strong position to address these major areas. For over two years, Kentucky has been engaged in developing a differentiated accountability model based on college/career-ready standards and individual student growth. The staff at the Kentucky Department of Education are working overtime to prepare our waiver application, and we believe that Kentucky has an excellent opportunity to meet the requirements for the waiver.

Our timeline for the waiver application is very short; however, we do not anticipate any problems in meeting the deadline. We have to submit by November 14. We will have a statewide webinar on October 19 and meet either face-to-face or through webinars with all advisory groups. Our final draft will be reviewed by our teacher, principal and superintendent advisory groups in late October, and we will provide a public review of our application prior to submission.

I want to assure readers that the waiver process is not an attempt to lower standards or expectations. It is just the opposite. Senate Bill 1 raised expectations to college and career ready for all students AND proficiency for all students. Our waiver request will push for the innovation and flexibility to meet these increased expectations.

As the President stated in his announcement, we cannot wait another generation to get this right. Our children’s future and the economic future of our state and nation are dependent upon our improvement in getting more graduates ready for college and career.

Bridled Learning

Prichard says Kentucky schools improving too slowly

Final "transition index" results
show 100 score out of reach for most 

This from the Prichard Committee (press release):

Most Kentucky schools improved student performance in recent years, but the pace of improvement was not quick enough, according to 2011 "Transition Index" results released today by the Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils, and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.  

If schools continued to improve at the same pace they set from 2007 to 2011, only 43 percent of schools would reach a score of 100 by 2014, equivalent to the average student having met proficiency standards on the Kentucky Core Content Tests.  High schools were much further from that goal, with only 3 percent (a total of 7 schools) at 100 or on track to get there.   
The Transition Index is calculated with a formula similar to the one used in past years by the Kentucky Department of Education to gauge school progress.  2009's Senate Bill 1 ended the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System and required a new system of standards and assessments to be in place by the 2011-12 school year.  That new "Unbridled Learning" system is now in place, so the 2011 Transition Index is the group's final report on progress under the old approach.   
Compared to 2010 results, the 2011 calculations for the state as a whole show that the strongest improvements over the last year came in elementary social studies, middle school social studies and science, and high school writing, reading, and mathematics.  Elementary reading declined slightly, and elementary math, science, and writing results were essentially flat. 
Ronda Harmon, executive director of the school councils group, explained that the report fulfills a promise from the three partner organizations "to help parents, educators, and citizens see the big picture on student results and maintain local accountability during the state's transition to new standards."  She and the other leaders say they are glad to have been able to provide the information, but concerned that the trends do not show strong enough improvement rates. 
"Remember that, for the future, our state has made a commitment to higher standards," said Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton, president of the Council for Better Education. "If last year's improvement was too slow to reach our old standards, we clearly need to do much more to meet the new college-and-career-ready standards that we are now aiming to meet." 
Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee, agreed. "For the coming years, we've raised the bar substantially.  While there is some good news in this final year of Transition Index results, the overall trends show that we need do more for Kentucky's children, and do it more quickly. All of us will need to bring a new level of collaboration and effort to ensure that all students meet the demanding new standards that will prepare them for the future."  
Results for each school and district, as well as the state as a whole, are available at  An additional report on achievement gap trends will be released by the same groups in early October.

Split Kentucky Court of Appeals Strikes Down JCPS Student Assignment Plan

This from the Courier-Journal:
Kentucky's largest school district must revamp how it assigns students to schools before the 2012-13 school term to allow parents to enroll children in the school nearest their homes, a split Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The court, in a 2-1 vote, found that Jefferson County Public Schools were in violation of state law by having a plan that allows parents to register for classes at the nearest school, but doesn't allow all students to enroll in classes at that same facility.  
"When located in proximity to home, the school is the center of a community, inviting parental participation in school events and offering personal connections among the school, students and classmates," Judge Kelly Thompson wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Michael Caperton.
The court, though, didn't require the Louisville-based school district to undo the plan in place for the current school year, saying it understood the "complexity and difficulty" in putting a student assignment plan together.
The school district has vowed to appeal the decision, potentially delaying any changes to the student assignment plan.
The central legal issue is whether Kentucky law, which says parents shall "enroll" a student at the school closest to their home, also entitles that student to attend the same school. Thompson wrote that "enroll" meaning anything other than signing up to attend a certain school "defies logic."
"Busing creates the impediment of distance among parent, child, and school and, therefore, increases the difficulty of family involvement," Thompson wrote.
Judge Sara Combs, in dissent, noted that in 1990, lawmakers removed the phrase "enroll for attendance" from the state law. That change took away a requirement that school systems must allow students to attend the school closest to their home. "No doubt it would be ideal in the utopian sense for children to be able to attend schools nearest their homes," Combs wrote. "Even in remote, rural areas of the state, however, that idyllic preference is often not a reality."
Attorney Teddy Gordon, who represented a group of parents challenging the student assignment plan, was unavailable for comment Friday because of Rosh Hashanah.
In a written statement, Donna Hargens, the Jefferson County schools superintendent, said Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze was correct in upholding the assignment plan and it will be appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
"The law and facts support Judge Maze's decision and we are confident that the Supreme Court will agree," Hargens said. Maze 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 current plan divides the county into attendance zones, with some students having to ride on buses across the county to get to school each day.
During oral arguments, Thompson openly argued that Jefferson County's plan was illegal and said students should be allowed to attend neighborhood schools. Caperton joined him, making similar comments.
In her dissent, Combs took issue with the behavior of her colleagues during arguments, saying given the importance of the issue, it should have gone directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court. "In hindsight, the volatile tenor of the oral argument made this alternative not only feasible, but desirable — if not, indeed, necessary," Combs wrote.
The court case touches 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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Testing. Testing....

This from the Herald-Leader:
Kentucky's school accountability system is in such a state of change it's hard to know what to make of the latest avalanche of test scores. A couple of things do stand out:
■ Kentucky needs to figure out how to teach math and science more effectively, especially at the high-school level.
As usual, the elementary and middle schools outperformed the high schools.
In reading, students performing at proficient or higher statewide dropped 10 points from elementary (76 percent) to high school (66 percent). In math, the drop from elementary to high school was a whopping 27 points (from 73 percent to 46 percent proficient or higher) and in science 30 points (71 percent to 41 percent).
There may be a reasonable explanation, but it appears that students are losing a lot of ground in math and science once they reach high school — even though they will graduate into an economy that demands ever more proficiency in the subjects.
■ The state also must do a better job of educating minorities.
Statewide, just 50 percent of black students scored proficient or higher in reading and math compared with 72 percent of white students.
Poverty is assuredly a factor in the achievement gap. But it's not the whole story. Students who receive free or reduced-price school meals, the common measure of poverty, are performing better than black students. Sixty percent of students receiving free or reduced price meals scored at proficient or higher.
Sixty-three percent of Hispanic students, 80 percent of Asian students and 44 percent of students who have a disability scored proficient or higher in reading and math.
Kentucky can't afford to waste any of its citizens' potential, and education achievement gaps ripple through the economy and society.
A recent study commissioned by the Council on Postsecondary Education found that the gap between white and non-white working-age Kentuckians who have college educations has increased over the past decade, although college graduation rates in both groups rose.
In 2000, 26.3 percent of white Kentuckians, ages 25 to 44, had attained a college degree compared to 16.8 percent of minorities.
By 2009, 34.3 percent of white Kentuckians in that age group had attained college degrees compared to 21.8 percent of minorities.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act succeeded in focusing attention on achievement gaps — and also revealed that developing effective strategies for closing the gaps will take a lot more work.
The test scores released this week are the last ever CATS results. The state tests were given for the final time last spring, to be replaced next spring with different tests based on higher standards.
Also, this seems to be the last year that schools will be declared failures under No Child Left Behind, which was on track to label just about all schools failures by 2014.
Kentucky is one of many states that's expected to receive a waiver from NCLB in exchange for adopting those new, improved standards designed to ensure students leave high school ready for college or a career and that teachers and principals are evaluated by measuring their effectiveness.
This from the Education Commissioner Terry Holliday (via email):
On this week's release of data related to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the Kentucky Core Content Tests, college/career readiness and achievement gaps. 
 “Kentucky’s schools and districts continue to make progress; however, it is apparent that NCLB is broken when 152 school districts fail to meet AYP. This is a signal that the NCLB system is no longer fair, valid or reliable.

“We are excited about President Obama’s support of state waivers on NCLB. This waiver process will allow Kentucky to emphasize student growth and college/career readiness measures articulated in 2009’s Senate Bill 1. This piece of legislation was unanimously passed by both houses of the General Assembly.

“Kentucky will remain committed to proficiency for all students by closing achievement gaps; however, we will now have a more valid and fair measure of student growth and a measure of college/career readiness that prepares our children for the future, rather than prepares them for a yearly test.”
And this from the Courier-Journal:
President Obama is offering to free public schools from many of the requirements of a controversial federal education law. But as states consider whether to take him up on it, they're realizing the offer comes with some costs.
On Friday, Obama said he would give states a pass on much of the 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law — most notably the requirement that students make large annual gains on math and reading tests. He also would waive the requirement that virtually every student be "proficient" in the two subjects by 2014.
Congress is due to reauthorize the law, but progress has stalled.

Critics of the law, including New York University education historian Diane Ravitch, say its steep improvement curve is nearly impossible to meet and time spent on test prep takes away from other subjects and narrows school curricula.

Obama said he would waive the proficiency requirements in exchange for a promise that states adopt several reforms, including higher academic standards, a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores and a promise to intervene in the lowest-performing schools.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel praised Obama's offer. "We needed to do this," he said, adding he hopes it'll help generate "common-sense measures" on school improvement from local districts.

Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy, a think tank, said the move will please teachers. Even though much of the law's structure would remain in place, he said, "some of the draconian nature of NCLB will be eliminated." ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Charlie Bit My Finger

A shout out to Dr Althauser's ELE 491 students, who have been learning to embed videos on their own blogs. Here's an old favorite video from You Tube (with 375+ million hits).

Here are a few notes for embedding your own videos.

1. Identify a new video for your blog
    a. In this case, I’m using a favorite You Tube video

2. Below the video, is a “share” button, click it

3. Look for the “embed” button, and click it.

4. When the new window opens, you will notice some html code already highlighted in blue. This is the code you are looking for.

5. Check below and make sure the 420 X 315 size is selected. If not, select it. (Blogger can’t handle a large video.)

6. To capture the embed code, once it is highlighted, hold down the Ctrl (control) key and press “c” (for copy). Now the embed code is copied to your computer’s clipboard.

7. Go to Blogger and open a “new post”

8. You have two choices for working in blogger: composition and HTML. Choose HTML. (You cannot embed a video from composition.)

9. When the HTML window opens, make sure your cursor is inside the box and paste in the code. You do that by holding the “Ctrl” key, while pressing “v.”

10. Think about how you want your video to appear. if you are going to want some space at the top, above the video, then place you cursor before the code and hit “enter” a couple of times. That will give you a little space above the video to write in.

11. At this point, you can switch back to composition and complete your post – with your video embedded.

12. Enjoy Charlie and his big brother.

Monday, September 26, 2011

State Court Funding Symposium

This from Scott at EdJurist:
I want to announce to our readers an upcoming event at the University of Kentucky College of Law that has implications for education law.  The event, jointly sponsored by the Kentucky Law Journal, the American Bar Association, and the Center for State Courts, is a symposium on the funding of state courts, many of which are currently in what can best be described as a resource crisis.

Now, what does this have to do with education law?  Well, two major things. First, as with almost all categories of law, the majority of education related disputes are resolved in state judicial systems. A funding crisis in those systems will inevitably lead to a crisis in educational dispute resolution. Second, as many of you know, to the extent that "education rights" exist in our system, these rights are primarily state constitutional rights. Where state judicial systems are hampered, the development of these rights is also hampered.  The issue of state court funding is therefore a vital one for those interested in education policy and law.

All the President's Frenemies

A bit off-topic perhaps, but this caught my attention.

In publicly attacking Barack Obama 
are Tavis Smiley and Cornel West 
upholding the prophetic tradition of Martin Luther King 
or acting out of personal pique—or both? 

This from the American Prospect:
A heartless Republican Congress is cutting programs for the needy, assaulting unions, and kowtowing to the rich. A nation that can always find money for war is convinced it must cut Medicare and Social Security.
This sounds like the standard tale of liberal woe. What makes it different, though, is the villain at the heart of the narrative: President Barack Obama. What makes it noteworthy is that his critics are recognizable black progressives, not the usual conservative hired guns. Three years of unceasing economic distress has whittled away at the hope that drew a million revelers to the inauguration of America’s first black president, so it’s a narrative that the black community might be ready to hear. Maybe.

At the podium, Smiley has traded his soothing NPR baritone for the chanting voice of a preacher: “He’s got to stop being afraid of saying the word ‘poor.’ Say it, Mr. President. Say the word ‘poor.’ Say it, Mr. President. Say the word ‘poor.’ Say it, Mr. President.” The [packed house at St. Sabina’s Church on the South Side of Chicago] cheers.

One-on-one, West speaks in a gravelly whisper, as if conferring a secret. Standing in front of the pews, though, in his characteristic three-piece suit, which he calls his “cemetery clothes” (“If you love poor people you better be coffin-ready”), he is electric. His words for Obama are both harsh and personal: “We’ve had so many leaders who have sold out. … Their version of the crack pipe: Just call it success. They want to be a successful leader. You see, Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t into success. He was into greatness. If your success is defined as being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference, we don’t want successful leaders.” The audience erupts.

For all their tough talk, West and Smiley are walking a tightrope, and they know it. “For those that think this is an anti-Obama tour, let me, in love, check you right quick,” Smiley says to murmurs of approval from the audience. “It’s not personal—it’s principle.”...

Smiley and West’s harsh assessment of Obama has exposed them to considerable criticism from within the black community. They have been tarred as hypocrites and haters, self-aggrandizing public figures with a personal beef against the president, eager to point fingers at Obama for being a corporatist sellout while they maintain their own questionable connections to the moneyed elite. Smiley is seen as the aspiring gatekeeper to power in black America and West as a publicity-seeking academic whose role as a civil-rights leader is as much science fiction as his cameos in The Matrix films.

Smiley and West, however, see their role as one rooted in a tradition of black protest, best exemplified by Martin Luther King Jr. “The black prophetic tradition has been the tradition that has renewed American democracy even given its imperial practice,” West says. “And the sadness of the age of Obama is that there’s an attempt to silence the black prophetic tradition.”...

For decades, the leadership of the black community represented the conscience of the United States, the voice articulating the contradictions between the nation’s stated ideals and the present inequality—speaking “truth to power” as King once did. Now, the “power” to whom truth must be spoken is a black man named Barack Obama, and the black-rights movement finds itself facing a complex contradiction in the presidency, in which a black man has ascended to the summit of American power even as the community as a whole remains without the power or influence to demand that its interests be addressed. To be true to that historical legacy, West and Smiley believe that opposition is the only moral course—and that uncritical support for the president is indefensible moral compromise...
“They want Obama to be more defiant, yell, stand up, have courage, but I don’t think anyone thinks that if the president somehow ‘stood up’ against the GOP, they’d do things differently,” [Tulane professor Melissa] Harris-Perry says. “It’s an immaturity of black politics when you’re focused more on the defiance than on the actual policies.”
Smiley and West are right, however, that Obama’s failures have paved the way for a possible defeat in 2012. Absent a substantial economic turnaround, many political scientists see Obama as barely an even bet for a second term...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kentucky education chief takes stage Friday with Obama for announcement about tests

This from the Herald-Leader:
Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday was on the stage with President Barack Obama on Friday morning to announce a new waiver program for the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind law.

The program means, among other things, that states will not have to set targets to have all children reach proficiency on the federal test by 2014.

In exchange, Kentucky and other states will have to make "serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready," Gross said in a news release.

During the announcement, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan said the program is open and states have seven weeks to apply for the waiver...
And this from the Courier-Journal:
Kentucky’s top public education official said Friday the state is ready to reapply for a waiver to parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Terry Holliday, the state education commissioner, told reporters in a teleconference that Kentucky will need to “tweak” its application “but we do not see anything major that we have to do.”  
Holliday and a handful of education leaders from other states joined President Barack Obama when he formally introduced a waiver plan allowing states to ignore some key provisions of the Bush-era law if certain conditions are met...  
Kentucky is already ahead of other states in terms of school reform, said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Frankfort that represents all public school districts in the state. “It would appear that Kentucky has a leg up and maybe even two legs up, first because of the higher standards that are being put into place, the Common Core Standards, but also because of the emphasis that’s being put on college- and career-readiness all across the state,” Hughes said.  
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Assocation, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said the 5,600-member group supported the current waiver request but hoped there aren’t too many new strings attached, such as any requirement that legislators enact legislation allowing charter schools or provisions that would take away local control. McKim said Kentucky’s new assessment guidelines are “a much better system for judging schools than the cut score approach that NCLB uses because it recognizes growth and multiple factors.” ...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Improving Education: What is the Right Approach?

His first Op Ed as Executive Director of the Prichard Committee.

This is what Silberman calls his "first installment" in an ongoing series of pieces he plans to produce about the issues facing public education today, a plan that echoes what Bob Sexton did so well. Silberman writes,  
We think it is important that the Prichard Committee continue its tradition of sharing its citizen’s group perspective on matters that affect the education of Kentucky’s children. I believe the series will generate a large amount of discussion across our Commonwealth, shining a light on what Kentucky needs to move forward in the years ahead. The Prichard Committee’s goal is for our state to be in the top 20 of national education rankings by 2020. We believe this is a very attainable goal, as our future opinion pieces will outline. 
Over at the Prich Blog, new blogger Stu ponders even more questions than those below.

This from Stu Silberman (via email): 
Kentucky has made great strides in education over the past 20 years. This progress is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by teachers, students, parents, advocates, policymakers, administrators and countless other citizens committed to building a better future. It is important that we recognize and celebrate this work and the difference it has made – moving Kentucky from 49th to 33rd among the states in one recognized index that combines national education rankings.

An especially exciting set of data comes from the science scores on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress – often called the nation’s report card. Kentucky’s fourth-
graders ranked 4th among the 46 participating states, and our eighth-graders ranked 15th. Results like that tell us that we have cause for pride in past work even as we realize there is plenty more to be done.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan group of volunteers who have worked since 1983 to improve education, has been at the forefront of this work, a position the committee plans to maintain as it enters the next phase of advocacy and citizen engagement on behalf of Kentucky’s schools. The committee’s goal of Kentucky being in the nation’s top 20 states by 2020 is an ambitious one (Link:, and it is good to know that we are moving in the right direction in some areas. But we continue to come up short in others, and we must acknowledge that we have a long way to go before we see high levels of achievement for all of our students.

It is our intent to continue monitoring Kentucky’s progress closely, to keep Kentuckians updated on successes and continuing challenges, and to point out areas where we believe change is needed. We also think it is important to acknowledge and shed light on the escalating debate about education and what really is best for the future of kids in Kentucky and America. The bottom line is whether we are preparing our children to succeed in their communities, the state and the world. Knowing whether this is actually happening is critical. So is taking the right steps to make sure it does.

But anyone who follows the discussions about education reform or reads any education article or publication knows there is a growing intensity across the country about education policy and practice. Many experts are far apart in their thinking, at best, or diametrically opposed to each other’s proposals, at worst. Understandably, when it comes to our children, we all are very passionate about what we believe is best for them.

The purpose of this writing is to put some of these issues on the table in a broad way, and we’ll follow up with more detailed reviews of each of these issues in the weeks and months ahead.  The goal is to keep Kentuckians up to date as the education agenda for the state and nation is established and programs are put in place. The Prichard Committee’s blog also is a good resource for anyone wanting to know more.

Below is a brief description of the issues and topics that are the focus of current debates in education with more questions in each area on our blog. (Link:

Student Achievement: It is 2011 and we still have significant achievement gaps. How do we address this issue? For example, will high quality pre-school for all students eliminate these gaps in the future?

Curriculum and Standards: What should we be teaching our kids? Forty-four states have adopted what are called the Common Core standards. Should there be a consistent set of standards that guide teaching and learning?

Accountability and Testing: How much should we be testing students? Should standardized testing be used for accountability? How do we measure student progress? Are teachers teaching to the test, and is that good or bad?

Teachers: How should teachers be evaluated? Are salaries and benefits too low or too high? Should teacher pay be linked to student performance? Is tenure good or bad?

Factors Outside the Classroom: How do we address problems we have in our society, like poverty, to ensure all students receive a high quality education? How important is the role of the parent/guardian and what should that look like? Are extra-curricular activities important?

School Choice: Charters, vouchers, private schools, magnet schools, home schools, digital schools, schools of innovation.....Does having choice make a difference?

Funding: Are the current levels of funding for our schools adequate? Is Kentucky's funding formula equitable? Is it time to mobilize citizens around this issue?

Governance/Leadership: Do we need site based councils, boards of education, state departments of education, or are there other governance structures that would work better?

We will address each of these issues in more detail, starting with student achievement, in the weeks and months ahead. Meanwhile, we must celebrate our progress but do it as we continue to speak out as strong advocates with high expectations for our kids, our schools and our future. Time is of the essence. To paraphrase an infamous general: we must stop looking at our calendars and start looking at our watches!

Shelton Releases Entry Plan

This afternoon Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton released his entry plan which outlines his goals and objectives for the first year of his tenure. It is an ambitious effort to be everywhere and meet everyone in Fayette County who will hold still long enough. Maybe it's a good thing his wife and daughter are still out of town. He wouldn't see much of them anyway.

The plan, predictably and appropriately, focuses on student achievement and closing achievement gaps.  But Shelton plans to take a chunk of time up front to do something many other superintendents have been roundly criticized for not doing.  He plans to listen.

This from Tom Shelton (via email):
Contact: 859-381-4104
If, as Plato observed, “the beginning is the most important part of the work,” then in order to effectively lead the Fayette County Public Schools, I must be systematic and systemic about my entry into the school district and community.

Toward that end, I have spent time reflecting upon and crafting a very deliberate entry plan for the first 100 school days of my tenure as superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools. Much of this plan is focused on listening to and learning from the many diverse constituencies in Fayette County in order to build and strengthen the relationships necessary for student success. In essence, I hope to “hit the ground learning.”

In order to fulfill our community mandate to eliminate achievement disparities while raising achievement for all students, it is imperative that the school district continue the initiatives that are working and refocus our efforts in other areas. Building on the strong work to date, we must accelerate our sense of urgency about raising expectations for all students, boosting achievement levels across the board, and recruiting a highly-qualified, diverse workforce.

This formal entry plan will provide me with the time and opportunity to gather critical information quickly about the needs of children, staff, the school system and community. During this process, I will complete a comprehensive review of existing programs, initiatives, services, student performance and fiscal conditions in order to assess the district’s strengths, challenges and opportunities for improvement, identify critical issues and correct weaknesses while honoring the work already in place. It is important to note that the work of entry occurs simultaneously with the operation of the school district.

Through direct conversation, group discussion, observation, surveys and document reviews, I will immerse myself in learning about the Fayette County Public Schools and accelerate my learning curve in order to effectively lead the school district. This effort will also help me make the connections necessary to establish a presence in the community and begin building the critical relationships and networks that will help us continue the advancements our students deserve.

This document outlines the goals, objectives, major activities and timetable for my transition to the role of Fayette County schools superintendent. It is a living document, open to revision. As you read it, please consider ways it can be improved and share those with me. Special consideration has been given to include a diversity of stakeholders in this plan and voices that may not be heard through traditional forms of communication. Please note that the goals and activities are not listed in order of importance or chronology.


The entry plan has three phases:
Phase I: Pre-Entry (prior to first day of work)
June 11, 2011 – August 31, 2011
Phase II: Entry (first 100 school days)
September 1, 2011 – February 13, 2012
Phase III: Development of Next Steps
February 2012 – May 2012

Listening and learning sessions with individuals, small groups, and larger gatherings will dominate Phase I and Phase II. These sessions will consist of numerous meetings with board members, internal leadership groups, direct reports, principals, staff, employee groups, students, parent groups, community organizations, community members, business partners and faith leaders.

Updates and reports about the progress of the entry plan will be provided to the Board of Education and the community, as appropriate.


1. Maintain district focus on students and accelerate existing momentum to eliminate achievement gaps.
2. Build strong, collaborative and trusting relationships with key stakeholders, including students, staff, families, community supporters, business partners, faith leaders, elected officials and media representatives and establish two-way communication channels.
3. Ensure a smooth and orderly transition of leadership.
4. Develop a structure for the Superintendent to listen broadly and learn comprehensively about the Fayette County Public Schools in order to develop a deeper working knowledge and understanding of the school district, its culture, traditions, history and expectations.
5. Provide avenues for diverse perspectives and voices to be heard and engage all segments of our community in authentic communication that builds mutual trust and understanding.
6. Establish an effective and collegial working relationship with the members of the Fayette County Board of Education and solidify a cohesive board-superintendent leadership team focused on improving the achievement levels of all students.
7. Purposely and carefully structure the transition to best support and create instructional improvement and increases in student achievement.
8. Review organizational structure, climate, budget, key work processes, practices, programs and resources to ensure alignment of resources to efficiently and effectively meet the educational, social and emotional needs of all students.
9. Assess the strengths, needs, improvement opportunities and challenges of the Fayette County Public Schools.
10. Recognize the service and accomplishments of students, staff, community leaders and leaders and publicly celebrate attainments of benchmarks and goals.

  • All decisions and actions must be based on what’s best for students.
  • Every child deserves an excellent and equitable education.
  • Everything rises and falls on leadership.
  • Individual differences are to be respected and celebrated.
  • Interactions must be conducted with truth, transparency and collaboration.

Throughout my tenure in Fayette County, I will actively engage in a purposeful effort to listen to the community, learn, discern and develop action plans for the future, in collaboration with all stakeholders. The following activities will be core components of my entry plan. Please note that completion of these activities will occur simultaneously and are of equal importance.
• Cultivation of a strong working relationship with the Fayette County Board of Education.
• Meetings, interviews, community forums and school visits designed to build collaborative and trusting relationships with key stakeholders while gathering their insights on the school district.
• Regular interaction with the public and news media through existing communication channels while exploring new ways of sharing information and receiving feedback.
• Data analysis, information gathering and document review.

Phase I: Pre-entry

During the months of July and August, prior to the start of the start of my contract, I spent about 29 days working in Fayette County toward a smooth transition to officially becoming superintendent effective September 1.

These 29 days included all but one Saturday in both months, plus one Sunday in addition to 20 regular work days. Additionally, I attended all board meetings and some evening activities that were not included in the 29 days and remained available via phone and email for school board members and staff.

While in Fayette County, I took non-contract days from Daviess County and did not receive compensation from the Daviess County school district. The following days were included: July 1, 2, 9, 12, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 30 and 31 August 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 22, 26, 27, and 31

My time during this pre-entry process was spent on the following activities, although this list is not all-inclusive:
• A minimum of a half day meeting with each Board member individually.
• One hour or more introductory meetings with each Cabinet member and other key employees.
• Summer administrator meetings and principal retreats.
• New employee orientations.
• Some scheduled Cabinet meetings.
• Meetings with key community members.
• Back to school events.
• Attending state educational meetings to represent Fayette County.
• Attending training and professional development events with district staff members.

Phase II: Entry

During my first 100 school days as superintendent, my work will revolve around the four core activities. Although this will take place in concert with the day to day functioning of the school district, I will rely heavily on existing senior staff to maintain the daily operations of the district to give me time to focus on accomplishing the entry plan objectives, which will provide a foundation for the future success of our school district. Here are more specifics about how I will approach the core activities in the entry plan.

CORE COMPONENT: Establish an effective and collegial working relationship with the members of the Fayette County Board of Education and solidify a cohesive board-superintendent leadership team focused on improving the achievement levels of all students.
1. Schedule a meeting with board chair (and others, as appropriate) to discuss a format and agenda for board-superintendent retreats.
2. Schedule individual meetings with each board member for one-on-one time to discuss expectations, roles and needs.
3. Hold a series of board retreats to address:

  • “Here’s what, so what and now what.”
  • Clear understandings of roles, responsibilities, expectations, board meeting protocols and systems for the board-superintendent team.
  • Regular and appropriate communication systems with board members in the form of writing, phone calls and/or meetings.
  • Plan and timeline for reviewing, updating or developing district vision, mission and beliefs as needed.
4. Visit various regions with the individual Board member who represents that particular area of the district to get a better understanding of the Board member’s perspective and the constituents he or she represents.
5. Establish individual and district goals that the board can use to evaluate me and agree upon a performance evaluation format.

CORE COMPONENT: Build and enhance meaningful, positive and authentic relationships with all facets of the Fayette County Public Schools community, which includes students, staff, families, staff, community supporters, business partners, faith leaders, elected officials and media representatives. To be successful, relationships must be built in the spirit of transparency, honest and collaboration. To be sustainable, effective channels of two-way communication must be mutually agreed upon and utilized regularly.

A. School and Classroom Visits

Based upon the belief that spending time in schools and classrooms provides the foundation for learning about the district as well as relationship building, I will visit every school in Fayette County by the end of September. Additionally, I may occasionally accompany instructional directors on walk-thrus.

A second round of visits will span October through January and allow me to spend one half day in every elementary school, middle and high school, including vocational technical schools and special programs. I will ask the principal and staff to craft an agenda that will allow me to experience each school as a learner, visit every classroom and interact with staff and students. By the end of my first 100 school days, my goal is to have visited classrooms in every school in the district.

In order to truly see the various operations of the school district, I will visit every renovation project, ride school buses with students, eat in district cafeterias, and attend staff meetings in various departments. I will regularly attend school and community functions, including student performances, recognition events, athletic contests, co-curricular and extracurricular events.

B. Meetings and Interviews

In order to hear from students, staff, families, community supporters, business partners, faith leaders, elected officials and media representatives, I will conduct a series of meetings and key informational interviews centered on the following six topics:

1. Name three things that are going well in FCPS that you do not want to see changed or eliminated.
2. Name three things in FCPS that you think we should consider changing or doing away with.
3. When you first heard that there was going to be a new superintendent in FCPS, you thought, “I certainly hope that he or she does what?”
4. When you first heard that there was going to be a new superintendent in FCPS, you thought, “I certainly hope that he or she doesn’t what?”
5. What existing communication channels are most effective and do you have suggestions of other ways we can maintain a two-way dialogue?
6. What other general advice do you have for me?

The primary goal of these meetings will be to actively listen and gather input from each stakeholder. My hope is that these interactions will be a foundation for authentic relationships and collaborations to benefit students. I need to hear firsthand from our stakeholders to understand the priorities and needs of our community and its schools. Before the close of each meeting, I also hope to have established some routine communications protocols with the different groups and individuals so that the conversation continues beyond our first discussion.

Meetings or informational interviews will include, but are not limited to the following list. The stakeholders mentioned in this plan are in no way a comprehensive list of all community organizations. If a district stakeholder group was inadvertently omitted, please call me at 859-381-4104 or email me at Additionally, I am committed to meeting with any individual who wants to meet.

Educational Stakeholders
  • Students, such as existing student advisory and leadership groups, recent graduates, recent dropouts and students enrolled in traditional and non-traditional programs.
  • Families, such as district and school-level Parent Teacher Association leaders, parents who have children with special needs, booster groups, School-Based Decision Making parent representatives, those already serving on district advisory groups, families with children enrolled in the school district and those who do not have children in the Fayette County Public Schools because the kids are too young, or their families have chosen to home school or send them to private school.
  • Staff, such as existing employee advisory councils, and employees from various departments and job classifications in the school district.
  • Government partners, such as elected officials at the neighborhood, county, state and national levels, local housing and health agencies, safety and emergency management officials, and departments within the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
  • Educational partners, such as those who have been involved with district reform initiatives such as One Community, One Voice and 2020 Vision, retired educators, community groups committed to educational programming, state education leaders, private school and supplemental service providers and higher education officials from area colleges and universities.
  • Business partners, such as the Board of Realtors, Commerce Lexington, Home Builders Association, local utility companies and the medical community.
  • Civic, nonprofit, philanthropic and other local service organization partners, such as agricultural organizations, arts and music groups, community groups that support district families, service clubs, human rights organizations and professional associations.
  • Faith-based organizations, such as BUILD (Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action), Interdenominational Pastoral Fellowship of Lexington & Vicinity, Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass. I will also routinely attend a variety of worship services throughout the community to make connections with residents of all faiths and denominations.
  • Media partners, such as reporters, editors, publishers and general managers of radio, television, print and online new organizations.
  • Take Five Challenge, if there is anyone in the community who has not had the opportunity to meet with me and discuss the six questions in another venue, I extend a standing offer to meet with any group that can gather five people to talk.
C. Listening posts, speaking engagements, and meetings in schools and communities
In addition to the individual and focus group meetings outlined above, I will establish a series of listening posts, where the general public is invited to come and bring questions and concerns, or to simply introduce themselves. These meetings will be held at schools and out in the community in order to provide a convenient and comfortable environment for interested stakeholders.
I will accept as many invitations as possible to speak at school and community gatherings. These might be church events, community workshops, Rotary luncheons or neighborhood association meetings.
At times, I will drop by meetings at schools, including faculty meetings, School-Based Decision Making council meetings, Parent-Teacher Association meetings, grade level meetings, professional development activities and teacher planning sessions. During these visits, I will just be there to observe and learn about issues, activities and efforts throughout the district. My intent will not be to evaluate or interject, but simply to listen.

CORE COMPONENT: Information gathering, document review, and data collection and analysis.
A. Review studies, reports, surveys and audits by outside agencies, such as:
  • Agreement with Children’s Law Center
  • Agreements with Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government
  • Audits
  • Facebook postings
  • Initial Children’s Law Center complaint and Kentucky Department of Education findings
  • Kentucky Department of Education Scholastic Audit
  • Newspaper articles, television news stories, editorials
  • Organizational Health Inventory reports
  • Special education compliance audits
  • TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) survey data

B. Review critical internal documents, such as:

  • 2020 Vision report and recommendations
  • Administrative evaluations
  • Advanced Placement enrollment data
  • Assessment calendars
  • Budget documents
  • Comprehensive District Improvement Plan
  • Confidentiality handbook
  • Core content standards
  • December 1 Child Count
  • District facilities plan
  • Dropout and graduation rate data
  • Employee contracts
  • Employee handbook
  • Equity Council agendas, minutes and committee reports
  • Equity Scorecard
  • Financial projections and budget processes
  • General fund Requests For Proposals
  • Job descriptions
  • Kentucky Continuous Monitoring Plan
  • Legal proceedings
  • Local Educator Assignment Data report
  • Magnet and special program offerings
  • Middle and high school athletic guidelines
  • Minority hiring data
  • Minutes from advisory council meetings for the past few years
  • One Community, One Voice report and recommendations
  • Organizational Chart
  • Personnel procedures
  • Press releases
  • Professional development plans
  • Program evaluations
  • Public/private athletic agreement
  • Professional Staff Data and Classified Staff Data reports
  • Safety and emergency plans
  • Salary schedules
  • Senate Bill 168 goals and plans
  • Sampling of School Based Decision Making council meeting minutes and agendas
  • School board meeting minutes
  • School Board Policy and Procedures manual
  • School Improvement Plans Staff Distribution Report
  • Student assessment results including: Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) score reports, ACT scores, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) scores, PLAN scores, EXPLORE scores, Advanced Placement (AP) scores, Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) data
  • Student code of conduct and student handbooks
  • Super Council agendas
  • Teacher evaluation and supervision process handbooks and manuals
  • Technology plan
  • Technology Requests For Proposals
  • Website feature stories

C. Operational awareness
  • Evaluate key programs and major initiatives.
  • Review major responsibilities and initiatives in each district division or department.
  • Review the operations of department and divisions in context of how they support academic achievement.
Phase III: Development of Next Steps

This Entry Plan will afford me the opportunity to listen, observe and learn from a variety of community members while gaining an understanding of the local context of the city and the school system. Through this process I will begin to formulate ideas and frame strategies to improve our school system so that we increase student achievement for all students while simultaneously closing the achievement gap and ensuring success for every child.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, the information I hear, read and observe during this entry plan process will culminate with the development and presentation of a Summary Report in 2012. I will share my findings, observations and initial thoughts about next steps with our board of education, employees, students, families and community.

Through my interactions with so many stakeholders, I hope to energize our school district and community about the focus and direction of the Fayette County Public Schools. Our first step is to establish a collective commitment and willingness to engage in the change we need to serve our students at the highest levels. Then we can build upon existing excitement and momentum to identify and execute the priority activities for our school district. Collaboration, honest discourse and a focus on students will guide our work.
Through systemic reform, we will raise expectations for ourselves and our students and ensure the elimination of achievement gaps and higher achievement for all students

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quick Hits

I'm a couple of weeks behind on my national some of these stories will have a little dust on them. Let's get caught up.

Debate over Facebook in schools continues in Mo.: Lawmakers in Missouri continue to debate the boundaries of online communication between students and teachers. The state Senate has passed legislation that requires districts to develop policies. That bill is under consideration by the House. However, the uncertainty has some students and teachers questioning whether they will be able to continue online communication regarding schoolwork and academic topics. The Missourian

Broad Prize: How Charlotte-Mecklenburg narrowed achievement gap: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina on Tuesday received this year's Broad Prize for Urban Education to recognize the district's efforts to improve student achievement and narrow the income- and minority-based achievement gap. The district was commended for several strategic practices, including placing top principals and teachers in struggling schools and basing layoffs on performance, as well as seniority. The prestigious prize comes with $550,000 in scholarships for the district's high-school seniors. The Christian Science Monitor, The Charlotte Observer

Some Chicago schools are preparing for longer days: Teachers and administrators at six Chicago schools are preparing to add 90 minutes of instructional time beginning next Monday. Some schools will use the additional time for core subjects, while others are planning to increase enrichment activities such as art. Thirteen schools so far have agreed to the longer days under a plan by district and city officials to boost student achievement. The plan has created divisiveness by offering financial incentives directly to teachers and schools and bypassing the Chicago Teachers Union. Chicago Tribune

Strike continues in Tacoma, Wash., as teachers face sanctions:  A teacher strike in Tacoma, Wash., continued for a sixth day on Tuesday with schools expected to remain closed again today for about 28,700 students. Roughly 1,900 teachers who defied a court order to return to work are expected to receive contempt-of-court notices this week, and many could face sanctions. Meanwhile, contract negotiations are continuing daily with teachers at odds with the district over reassignment policies, class sizes and salaries. Reuters 

Facebook donation to Newark, N.J., schools to go to teachers:  A portion of a $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark, N.J., schools will go directly to public classroom teachers, under a new plan set to be announced today. Under the two-year, $600,000 plan, teachers or groups of teachers could receive $10,000 grants to pay for innovative programs in the classroom. A group of city and state education officials will review other grants being funded by Zuckerberg's gift, which has been used primarily to open new schools, lengthen school days and recruit new teachers. The Wall Street Journal

Schools are eager for cash included in Obama's jobs plan:  Officials in some school districts say they are eager to receive a portion of the $55 billion for K-12 education included in President Barack Obama's jobs plan, in part to repair facilities and avoid teacher layoffs and cuts to programs. However, some say the money will do little to make a dent in the estimated $270 billion backlog of maintenance projects at schools nationwide. "Most places will burn through it quickly, simply getting their schools up to safety standards," said Michael Griffith, senior school finance analyst for the Education Commission of the States. Education Week

Online schools grow in popularity for young students:  A small but increasing number of elementary-school students are enrolled in online public schools, which can provide a more individualized curriculum or offer curriculum options that have been cut because of tight budgets at many traditional schools. "More kids are getting used to the idea of going to school online," said Ron Packard, founder and CEO of education software company K12. "States are beginning to see 20% more kids each year [going online]; still, only a fraction of [students] are doing it." CNBC

Are top students losing ground as they move through school?:  A study released today shows that many top students are losing ground as they transition from elementary to middle school and middle to high school. Researchers with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said the findings raise questions about whether federal education policies aimed at helping low-performing students are harming those who are high achievers. "We've been making good progress for kids at the bottom and for poor and minority kids -- that's important," said Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president. "It just can't be the only thing that we do." Education Week

Boston schools, charters agree to cooperate on raising achievement:  Boston school officials voted to approve an accord to increase cooperation between city schools and independent charters in an effort to improve education. The agreement calls for sharing innovative practices that have been shown to boost student achievement and encourages the district to lease vacant facilities to charters, drawing some concern over whether that would allow rapid charter expansion. Similar agreements are being signed today in Central Falls, R.I., and Sacramento, Calif., as part of a campaign by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is offering to help fund the cooperative efforts. The Boston Globe 

Students, teachers see social media and free speech differently:  As more teens use social media tools such as Facebook and Tumblr, more also are appreciating their rights to free speech, a new study by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation shows. The study, which considered interviews with 12,000 students and 900 high-school teachers, found that many students who regularly use social media support First Amendment rights for expressing unpopular opinions online, while many teachers supported limiting those rights for students. 

S.D. speech pathologists use iPads to supplement therapy:  A South Dakota school district is using iPads to reinforce traditional speech therapy for its students with special needs. Apps such as Proloquo2Go are used to improve communication among students with autism, while therapists also use other apps to help students improve articulation and other skills. Aberdeen American News

Fla. considers stricter standards for state's preschools:  State education officials in Florida are set to vote Tuesday on tougher standards for the state's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program. The change would remove a cap on the number of providers that could receive a "low-performing" label from the state, and would require at least 60% of students to pass a kindergarten-readiness test for providers to receive a passing rating. Some say the new standards would create an unfair burden, because they come at a time when state funding for pre-K has been cut. Orlando Sentinel

Is merit pay losing steam?:  Some states and districts have begun to alter their plans to implement performance pay for teachers, citing inconclusive research on its effectiveness and a lack of funds. Funding for merit pay in Texas -- which had the largest program in the country -- has been depleted, while New York City eliminated its $56 million program after merit pay was found to not impact student achievement. Some districts continue to tie teachers' pay to students' test scores -- in part, because of federal grant funding -- but some experts say the future of merit-pay programs is uncertain. Education Week

Mass. to overhaul ELL training for teachers amid criticism:  Massachusetts education officials are overhauling training for teachers who work with English-language learners after a recent U.S. Justice Department investigation found that 45,000 teachers in 275 districts lack adequate ELL training. Richard Stutman, president of Boston's teachers union, said the union supports new training for teachers. "Children come to school with different needs -- English-language learners in particular -- and we feel it's our obligation and role as teachers to make the road as smooth as possible in closing the achievement gap," he said. The Boston Globe  

Little Rock, Ark., districts back in court over desegregation:  A federal appeals court will hear arguments today over whether Arkansas must continue payments to three Little Rock school districts to desegregate their schools. The districts say they cannot afford to continue their desegregation efforts without the $70 million in state funding, but the state argues that the districts are delaying desegregation while using the money to fund other programs. The payments were the result of a 1989 settlement of a desegregation lawsuit. ABC News/The Associated Press

Federal initiative aims to improve classroom technology:  The U.S. Department of Education will oversee a new research center dedicated to improving the availability and quality of educational technology. The Obama administration announced the venture Friday, known as "Digital Promise," and financial supporters include the Education Department, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The initiative will include a "League of Innovative Schools" that will test new technology in the classroom and keep costs low by purchasing the devices together. USA TODAY, Digital Education blog, The Hill/Hillicon Valley blog  

Wyo. lawmakers consider opting out of common core:  Wyoming lawmakers are considering reversing an earlier decision by the state school board to sign on to the Common Core State Standards, saying there might be too many strings attached. The school board agreed to implement the standards in 2010, and the state was to formally adopt them in November. Lawmakers say the issue needs to be further reviewed before a decision is made to introduce legislation that would strike down the common core. Most states have adopted the standards, and some Wyoming districts have begun transitioning their curriculum. Star-Tribune

Survey shows the impact of state cuts on Pa. classrooms:  About 70% of school districts in Pennsylvania have larger classes this year, while 44% have fewer electives and 35% have reduced tutoring services, according to a new survey on the effect of state budget cuts. The survey, which considered responses from 59% of the state's 500 districts, also showed that many districts drained their reserve funds to balance the 2011-12 budgets. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  

Philadelphia schools ease zero-tolerance discipline policy:  The Philadelphia school system has modified its zero-tolerance discipline policy, allowing more discretion over whether students should be expelled. Under the new policy, a committee will review student-discipline cases and make recommendations on whether expulsion is the right course of action. While some say the district should maintain its zero-tolerance policy, others have criticized it for allowing students to be criminalized at a young age. The Philadelphia Inquirer  

A school board member's experience with bullying:  Dana Smith, a school board member from Waddington, N.Y., writes in this blog post about her experiences being bullied as a student. Realizing how childhood bullying affected her own self-esteem and how prevalent it is in today's schools, Smith reminds educators and school leaders that they must intervene and strive to end the practice, even in its most subtle forms. The Washington Post/The Answer Sheet blog 

Average SAT scores dip nationwide:  Average SAT scores declined this year, primarily because more students are taking the college-entrance exam -- some of whom are unprepared or are not fluent in English, according to the College Board. Among 1.65 million graduating seniors, average scores declined by 3 points in critical reading, 2 points in writing and 1 point in math. The College Board also for the first time released an SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark that found 43% of students had a good chance of achieving at least a B- average in their first year of college. Education Week, The Washington Post  

Managing project-based lessons:  Education consultant Andrew Miller offers 20 tips on managing project-based learning for students. Among other things, educators should take advantage of social media tools to manage projects, continuously reflect on the project's driving question, and carefully group students to build the most successful teams, he writes. Miller's blog 

Fla. teachers union files lawsuit over merit-pay law:  A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Florida by the state's teachers union, claiming the state did not negotiate with teachers before approving a merit-pay law -- a violation of collective bargaining rights. Under the law, passed this year, teachers' evaluations are now tied to students' test scores and those evaluations are used in salary and hiring decisions. Tenure was also eliminated for new teachers. A union attorney said the union is not suing over the merit-pay law itself, but rather the way in which it was passed. Orlando Sentinel

N.J. schools deal with new requirements under anti-bullying law:  New Jersey's new anti-bullying law is expected to help students who previously may have been afraid to go to school, but some school officials are wary of the law's costs, as well as new reporting requirements for schools and teachers. "I think all our educators want to address bullying, but this law is so intricate and detailed and creates so much responsibility for teachers," said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance. "There are so many ways they can make inadvertent or honest mistakes while trying to do the right thing." Education Week

Republican senators unveil proposals to revise portions of NCLB:  A group of Republican senators on Wednesday unveiled a package of four bills aimed at revamping portions of the No Child Left Behind Act. The group is led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former education secretary, who is also expected to introduce a bill that would aim to clarify Education Secretary Arne Duncan's authority to issue waivers on NCLB. The bills introduced Wednesday target changes to the Title I program and the law's "highly qualified teacher" requirements, among other provisions. Other leading senators said they support comprehensive reform of NCLB, rather than doing it piecemeal. Education Week

Charter-expansion bill clears House with bipartisan support: A bill supporting the expansion of charter schools nationwide cleared the House Tuesday with rare bipartisan support. The bill is part of a Republican effort to rewrite portions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. "This is an important first step in our efforts to improve current elementary and secondary education law," said Rep. John Kline, a Republican who heads the House education committee. Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate continue to work on a comprehensive rewrite of the law, though no specifics have been released. The New York Times

Students take ownership of education at NYC charter school:  A new charter middle school in New York City encourages students to take ownership of their schooling and allows students to move through the curriculum at their own pace according to their own academic goals. The school, Innovate Manhattan, is based on a Swedish model focusing on the idea that all students learn differently. "It helps them learn why they can want an education and how to have control over an education," the school's principal Eileen Coppola said. NY1

Opinion: Why Congress should support school repair: Congress should embrace President Barack Obama's jobs bill that would help boost the economy by repairing 35,000 schools across the country, write Steve English, co-director of the nonprofit Advancement Project, and Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund. They contend that the proposal has the potential to reverse some of the neglect to school facilities brought on by ongoing budget cuts, increase job opportunities now and ensure a more educated workforce for the future. Los Angeles Times 

School reforms meet challenges in New Haven, Conn.:  New Haven, Conn., schools are beginning the third year of a plan to improve struggling schools, an effort that has had mixed success. Some teachers have been given raises for teaching in struggling schools, and a new evaluation system has removed some teachers who consistently had poor performance ratings. However, removing struggling teachers from the classroom can be a lengthy process, and student achievement is not improving as quickly as had been hoped. "School reform is about fixing the system, and that takes time and patience," teachers union President David Cicarella said. The Wall Street Journal

Is another congressional hearing on NCLB necessary?:  Education blogger Valerie Strauss questions the necessity of a congressional hearing being held today on the value of the school accountability system under No Child Left Behind. Many hearings and reports over several years have revealed that the Adequate Yearly Progress system -- which requires all students to meet proficiency targets on standardized tests by 2014 -- is flawed and should be fixed or replaced without further delay, she writes. The Washington Post/The Answer Sheet blog  

Duncan supports peer-review over traditional teacher evaluations:  Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday visited Toledo, Ohio, where he said the district's peer-review system should be used to evaluate teachers instead of traditional methods. Under the method, new teachers are known as intern teachers and assigned mentors. The mentors evaluate the intern teachers, and the evaluations are reviewed by a panel that includes teachers and administrators. The program is popular among Toledo teachers, but some critics say minority teachers are more likely to be fired through the system and it does not address struggling veteran teachers. The Blade

Are middle-class public schools falling short?:  Middle-class public schools may be falling short on teacher pay, per-pupil spending and student achievement when compared with poor and well-off schools, according to a new report by Democratic think tank Third Way. "Middle-class schools produce students who are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and they are not performing as well as parents, policy makers and taxpayers think they are," said Tess Stovall, who is co-author of the report and deputy director of Third Way's economic program. "We need a second phase of education reform to ensure these schools get the attention they deserve." The Wall Street Journal