Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pop Quiz: Education Policy in 2011

Test yourself

This from The Answer Sheet:
The year 2011 was monumental in education — monumentally good or monumentally bad, depending on your view.

School reformers who believe in using business principles to run public schools had a banner year. More states expanded the number of charter schools, promoted vouchers and moved toward using student test scores to evaluate teachers.

It was a tough year for those who believe that school reform cannot happen without taking into account the social context in which students live. Yet, toward the end of 2011 there were real signs that educators, parents and even students were pushing back.

Test yourself on 2011 issues 
that will continue to play out in 2012.

1) “Corporate education reform” refers to a set of proposals currently driving education policy at the state and federal level. What is not one of those proposals:

     a) increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools of education

     b) eliminating or weakening teacher tenure

     c) paying teachers for experience and advanced degrees

     d) replacing governance by local school boards with various forms of mayoral and state takeover or private management


2) Teach for America recruits top college graduates, trains them and then places them in high-poverty schools. How much training do the recruits get before they start teaching on their own?

     a) one year as a student teacher while earning a masters

     b) six months as a student teacher

     c) three months in a summer institute

     d) five weeks in a summer institute


3) Because Congress failed to rewrite No Child Left Behind, what did the Obama administration say it would do to help schools dealing with the law’s onerous requirements?

     a) issue waivers that would release all public schools from the onerous requirements

     b) issue waivers to states that promised to institute approved school reforms

     c) put pressure on congressional Republicans to reach an NCLB deal in 2012

     d) nothing


4) Why did the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District field-test on students 52 different standardized tests?

     a) to detect patterns of cheating

     b) to find the single best test for the district’s new accountability program

     c) to pick standardized tests in every subject so teachers can be evaluated by the scores

     d) it didn’t field-test that many exams because that would be preposterous


5) What percentage of American children live in poverty, according to new Census Bureau data?

     a) 22 percent

     b) 18 percent

     c) 13 percent

     d) 9 percent


6) Who said this: “We’ve lost our competitive spirit. We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things.”

     a) Bill Gates

     b) Steve Jobs

     c) Michelle Rhee, former D.C. schools chancellor

     d) Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”


7) What did President Obama do on Friday, March 4?

     a) went to Wisconsin to support teachers protesting efforts to restrict collective-bargaining rights

     b) went to Ohio to support teachers protesting efforts to restrict bargaining rights

     c) started a three-day weekend

     d) appeared in Miami with Jeb Bush, a leader of corporate education reform


8) President Obama disagrees with Republicans on:

     a) the importance of increasing charter schools

     b) whether students should get taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for private school

     c) evaluating educators by student test scores

     d) encouraging private sector help for public schools


9) Who said, “I’m beginning to think we are living in a moment of national insanity?”

     a) Rep. Ron Paul

     b) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

     c) education historian Diane Ravitch

     d) Bill Gates


10) What is the Opt-Out Movement?

     a) opting out of high-stakes standardized tests

     b) opting out of sex education classes

     c) opting out of physical education classes

     d) opting out of school-required vaccines


BONUS QUESTIONS:

11) True or false: In July actor and social activist Matt Damon addressed a rally in Washington D.C. to oppose the Obama administration education policies. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wanted to meet with Damon before the rally so much that he offered to pick him up at the airport and speak with him en route to the protest.


12) The Obama administration’s key education initiative, Race to the Top, had a competition for states to compete for federal dollars for early learning initiatives. What was not included as a top priority listed in the Education Department’s criteria for applicants?

     a) making sure kids have ample opportunity to learn through play

     b) encouraging private sector support

     c) using kindergarten entry assessments to promote school readiness


ANSWERS: 1) c; 2) d; 3) b; 4) c; 5) a; 6) c; 7) d; 8) b; 9) c; 10) a; BONUS: 11) True; 12) a.

Will NCLB Waivers Reverse Narrowing of the Curriculum?

This from Curriculum Matters:

The waiver plans some states have developed to gain relief from core provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act contain a dimension that may be of keen interest to those who worry that the federal law has narrowed the curriculum.

Seven of the 11 states propose to include tests in subjects beyond reading and mathematics as part of their reconfigured accountability systems, with the most popular being science assessments, but social studies and writing also are included in some cases.

These waiver plans are a very big deal, as they essentially rewrite the map for accountability in the No Child Left Behind era. Most readers are only too well aware that the federal law currently relies mainly on test scores in reading and mathematics to drive accountability.

For the big picture on the state waiver plans, check out this recent EdWeek story. In it, my colleague Michele McNeil explains that states seeking waivers from the U.S. Department of Education would "replace what is widely considered an outdated, but consistent, school accountability regime with a hodgepodge of complex school grading systems that are as diverse as the states themselves."

The very idea that states who win waivers will be permitted far greater leeway in how they approach school accountability could well have important implications for the curriculum. (In fact, they would have a lot of flexibility in both how they identify school as low performing and what consequences would kick in.) As we reported here just recently, most educators believe the strong emphasis on improving reading and math scores since the enactment of NCLB has meant less time and attention to science, social studies, the arts, and a variety of other subjects.

Seven of the 11 states who so far have applied for waivers (many more are expected to do so soon) say they would include assessments in one or more additional subjects as part of their revamped accountability systems. Of those, three states, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma would include assessments in writing, science, and social studies. (It's important to say here that in certain cases, these states may well have parallel state accountability systems in which such tests already are factored into making judgments on schools. I haven't done that analysis, but it would be interesting to see.)

Here's a rundown for all 11 states highlighting which, if any, additional assessments they will include in their accountability systems, as described in their waiver proposals. (This is based on an EdWeek analysis of those plans.)

• Colorado: Writing, Science, English language proficiency
• Florida: Writing, Science
• Georgia: Writing, Science, Social Studies, high school end-of-course exams
• Indiana: No additional subjects
• Kentucky: Writing, Science Social Studies
• Massachusetts: Science
• Minnesota: No additional subjects
• New Jersey: No additional subjects
• New Mexico: No additional subjects
• Oklahoma: Writing, Science, Social Studies
• Tennessee: Science

Of course, some key questions remain. First, will these states win the waivers? Second, if they do, to what extent will the use of these tests reflect a change from current practice under the state accountability system?...

New effort to make kids college-ready

This from The Columbus Dispatch

Teachers in elementary, middle and high school often team up to help students prepare for the next level.

In a new twist, some high-school teachers in Columbus City Schools will be paired with local college professors to ensure that more students are college-ready.

“Over the long term, we hope to reduce the number of our graduates who start college but don’t finish because they weren’t prepared,” Superintendent Gene Harris said.

Starting in January, 10 teachers from East, Eastmoor and North high schools will begin working with professors from Columbus State Community College, DeVry University and Ohio State University.

Together, they will plan and co-teach about 200 sophomores and juniors in English and math, two subjects that give many students trouble. The focus, at least initially, will be on standard English and math classes in those grades.

Students would not receive college credit, but they would be spared the cost and time of remedial classes after high school.

By partnering, the college professors will get a better idea of what is being taught in the high schools. The teachers will gain a better understanding of what is expected of college freshmen...

Mason Co 7th Graders Tweet

Mason County Middle School classroom 
uses social network in classroom

This from the Ledger Independent:
Ella Bowling's seventh grade science class has something to tweet about. It's their use of the popular social networking site, Twitter, in the classroom.

Bowling, who teaches at Mason County Middle School, said she had heard about colleges and even the Kentucky Department of Education using Twitter in order to share information. Most of Bowling's students have cell phones and use Twitter or other sites regularly.

"I know in the past we have been so afraid of using social media and have discouraged it," Bowling said in an email sent to MCMS coworkers. "But, it's like they always say, if you can't beat them, join them! Students are going to use social media so why not find a way to get them to use it for an educational purpose!"

Bowling's first use of Twitter came in the format of a review she had Dec. 14 for a unit test. Approximately 40 students from two "teams" logged on to take part. Bowling put out questions and tweeted pictures of graphs the students might see on the test.

"The kids had to answer the questions," she said. "They loved it. They thought it was the best thing ever for a review."

Students participated by using the hash tag #mcmsscience in their tweets, Bowling said.

Bowling said several students told her they would likely not have studied if it had not been for the Twitter review.

The average grade for the test was 87 percent, Bowling said.

"I was pretty pleased with that," she said...

Mcmsscience MCMS Science
Bring your iPods, iPads, and phones to class on Jan. 4! 
You can tweet live pics and videos of the
awesome demos I'll be doing! 
#mcmsscience
27 Dec 

Flipped Class Method Gaining Ground

This from District Administration Magazine:

Community Schools’ high school has turned the traditional school day upside-down by asking teachers to assign short video lectures as homework and have students do activities, participate in discussions and complete assignments in class, with their teacher at hand to answer questions.
Clintondale High School applied the flipped model gradually, beginning with just a couple of classes in the 2009-2010 school year. In the fall of 2010, all freshmen classes were taught using this model. After seeing an increase in student achievement and a decrease in the failure rate, administrators decided to flip the entire school this year.

The flipped class is a type of blended learning, which combines online and traditional face-to-face methods. Students can review videos at their own pace, pausing to take notes or review a point. While the number of educators using this method is tough to calculate, 2,500 have joined the Flipped Class Network, a learning community for teachers using vodcasting (video podcasting) in class...

Kindergarten kids: A pencil, eraser and an iPad

This from ZDNet:

K-12 learners studying at the Burris Laboratory School have been using iPads as a learning tool this year.

Thanks to a grant of $200,000 by the Indiana Department of Education, the school’s kindergarten through to fifth grade students and their teachers have been equipped with their own iPads.

Stefanie Onieal, first-grade teacher at Burris, considers it a wonderful experience. However, the teachers make sure iPad use does not dominate classroom learning.

At most, the Apple devices are used for 40 minutes per day. School curriculum content takes priority, and according to Onieal: “We are just trying to come up with new ways that enhance that curriculum with technology.”

The teachers at the Burris Laboratory School also make use of Twitter; posting photos and status updates on a regular basis...

The Apple products have been used to promote interactivity in conjunction with technology use in the classroom. From using their tablets to take pictures in scavenger hunts to producing public safety announcements, students are able to upload their projects to a classroom blog.

The blog can be accessed publicly, and parents are able to receive email notifications when new items are posted...

Wyoming's journey to finding common education standards slows down

This from the Trib.com:
One year ago, many people assumed Wyoming and most of the nation would adopt national standards in language arts and math.

The State Board of Education first approved them in June 2010. Committees of educators reviewed the common core standards, as they are called, compared them to Wyoming standards, recommended adoption and drafted new state standards.

Public comment was held in late spring of this year. The process seemed to be chugging along until September, when lawmakers questioned the standards and how Wyoming came to adopt them without legislative input.

The decision rests with the State Board of Education, which sets standards — not curriculum — according to state law. A final decision is expected in the spring of 2012 — a little more than two years from the time the discussion began.

Once the common core standards were released, committees comprised of Wyoming educators, students, parents and other citizens reviewed the Wyoming standards and compared them to the common core. The language arts committee overwhelmingly recommended the board adopt common core standards.

The math committee split, and many commented the common core would increase the rigor in math. About one-third said they couldn’t recommend the common core because the standards might be too difficult for recommended grades and don’t clearly align from grade to grade.

Educators have said the Wyoming standards align well for language arts but the math standards are, generally, tougher and expect mastery of certain skills in earlier grades. For example, Wyoming students were expected to know multiplication in fourth grade. The common core places that benchmark in third grade...

In 2011: 
Common Core State Standards were incorporated into Wyoming content standards
for language arts and math. 
Public comment was accepted in the spring.
Lawmakers questioned the process in the fall 
and considered repealing the state Board of Education's authority to set standards.

The state board approved revised standards in September 
and began the formal rules-making process.

Coming in 2012: 
Public comment will be collected online through Jan. 25 
and during several public hearings held across the state. 
The board will respond to every comment before making a final decision in early spring.

Sandra Day O'Connor promotes civics education

Retired U.S. Supreme Court justice
helped initiate an online program
called iCivics because
not enough Americans know how government works.

This from the L A Times:
"It's very disturbing," said O'Connor, 81, the first woman to serve on the nation's highest court. "I want to educate several generations of young people so we won't have the lack of public knowledge we have today."

Nationwide, her work has influenced a new civics education law in Florida and pending legislation in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Civics education involves explaining the structure of U.S. government, including the meaning and influence of the Constitution and its evolution over time. Advocates also emphasize the importance of getting students to engage in the democratic process, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Philadelphia-based Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Limited knowledge about the three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — emerges starkly in Annenberg surveys, which also found that 15% of adults correctly named John Roberts as United States chief justice, but almost twice as many (27%) could identify Randy Jackson as a judge on the television show "American Idol."

Poor understanding of civics has persisted for decades despite increased college attendance, Jamieson said...

The English Approach: Getting Students Through College

Free online courses has been so successful
in Britain, it is being
imported to the United States
to confront one of the biggest challenges
in American higher education:
helping ill-prepared, self-conscious students
adapt to and succeed in college.

This from the Hechinger Report:
When he was 14, Daniel Conn was part of a circle of friends so bright they programmed computer code for fun. One of his classmates went on to work in financial services, while another opened his own business.

But when Conn tried college, he said, “I lost confidence in myself. The exams came and I just freaked out. So I stopped the whole lot.” Every year, he said, he would write to universities for a prospectus, “get completely daunted, and throw it away.”

It was by accident that Conn, now 28, stumbled across free courses offered over the Internet as an experiment by Open University, a British online public university. Not having to pay to try them removed one major obstacle for him; after all, he said, “You’re not going to lose any money.” He could also study where and when he wanted, which helped, too, since he works full time at a car dealership in his English seaside hometown.

Most important of all, Conn found, he was no longer worried he might fail.

“No one would even know that I was looking at the page,” he said over a pint in a Brighton pub. “After a few months, it was, I can actually do this.”...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting Serious About Bullying in Iowa

Online reports: bullying suspicions sent to school districts

This from ZDNet:

A new website has been launched this month by the Eychaner Foundation, in the hopes that it will become a valuable tool to help tackle the problem of bullying.

ReportbullyingIowa.com takes reports submitted by students, parents and staff, and sends them to an ‘appropriate person in your school district’. The information is sent via email and US Postal mail, with an additional copy sent to the email inbox of the one reporting the incident.

By filling in the incident form on the website, you are able to specify the school and its district, the date and type of incident — for example, student to student or student to staff — and input information on the complainants.

You are also able to specify what factors the incident was based on, such as age, colour, sex, disabilities or socioeconomic status.

After describing the incident, the reporter is required to input their status, whether student, teacher or parent, contact details and address.

The website’s privacy policy is designed to ensure reports remain anonymous. According to the policy, no personal identifiable information is revealed in either the preliminary reports sent to school districts, or the annual reports that are sent to the Iowa legislature.

The Des Moines non-profit group that is sponsoring the website launch said that its goal is to ‘promote tolerance and nondiscrimination’...

Arizona Schools' Ethnic Studies Program Ruled Illegal

This from The Huffington Post:

An administrative law judge ruled Tuesday that a Tucson school district's ethnic studies program violates state law, agreeing with the findings of Arizona's public schools chief.

Judge Lewis Kowal's ruling marked a defeat for the Tucson Unified School District, which appealed the findings issued in June by Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal.

Kowal's ruling, first reported by The Arizona Daily Star, said the district's Mexican-American Studies program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.

The judge, who found grounds to withhold 10 percent of the district's monthly state aid until it comes into compliance, said the law permits the objective instruction about the oppression of people that may result in racial resentment or ethnic solidarity.

"However, teaching oppression objectively is quite different than actively presenting material in a biased, political and emotionally charged manner, which is what occurred in (Mexican-American Studies) classes," Kowal wrote.

The judge said such teaching promotes activism against white people, promotes racial resentment and advocates ethnic solidarity...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Duncan Tosses Kentucky a Bone

7 Runners-Up Finally Share (a Much Smaller) Race to Top Prize

Unfunded by the State
Holliday Gets a Pittance Toward SB 1 Implementation 
from the Feds

Kentucky has been positioning itself as the nation's first and foremost supporter of "school reform." Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has stood with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to tout the Obama administration's approach to education. But while Kentucky was the first to sign up for national standards (and the national testing that will follow), the federal government has done little to return the love. Some KSN&C readers wonder if the toxic relationship between Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and the White House has cost the state the recognition it deserved, and might have otherwise received. Others wonder if Kentucky's application was really all the department of education would have us believe. Still others wonder if Senate Bill 1 and the whole Race to the Top thing is even a good idea and worth the effort. Go figure.

This from Politics K-12:
Seven states that were runners-up in last year's $4 billion Race to the Top competition will share a $200 million consolation prize that will fund small pieces of their original plans, with many choosing to focus on implementing common standards and improving teacher evaluation systems.

The seven winners are: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Their grants range in size, based on each state's student population, from $17 million for Colorado, Kentucky, and Louisiana to nearly $43 million for Illinois.

"These states are absolutely ready to do great things," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a conference call with reporters yesterday evening.

The announcement comes as the U.S. Department of Education has begun to raise the pressure on the 12 winners of last year's competition...

The announcement of the latest, $200 million in awards was surrounded by little suspense. The department made all nine runners-up from last year eligible to win this time around so long as they agreed to stick to the reform agenda they pitched last year, and demonstrated how the piece of their plan that they chose to highlight also benefited the STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math, subjects...

With just $200 million to be split this time around—far less than the $4 billion up for grabs last year—the fact that two states did not participate bumped up everyone else's prize.

The department has now awarded all of its fiscal 2011 Race to the Top money, and can turn to figuring out what to do with the nearly $550 million Congress set aside to extend the brand during fiscal 2012. Duncan has said no decisions have been made on how that money will be awarded. However, during last night's call, he made clear that he does want to use at least some of the money for districts, saying that Congress' decision to open up Race to the Top to the local level was a "great opportunity." He also said the money is an opportunity to focus more on early learning and STEM...
And this KDE press release:

KENTUCKY AWARDED 
RACE TO THE TOP ROUND 3 FUNDING
Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Kentucky will receive a Race to the Top grant of $17 million to advance targeted K-12 reforms aimed at improving student achievement.

Kentucky and six other states -- Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- will each receive a share of the $200 million in Race to the Top Round 3 (RTT3) fund.

“While the grant amount is significantly less than the original $175 million request, we are very excited about being able to gain funds to implement Senate Bill 1 initiatives and expand AdvanceKentucky sites,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Within the budget of $17 million, we will use state and district allocations to implement professional development and resources for Senate Bill 1.”

Senate Bill 1, passed in the 2009 session of the General Assembly, calls for a new assessment and accountability system for the state’s public schools, along with more rigorous academic standards, intensive teacher and administrator training, and strengthened collaboration among higher education, teacher/administrator certification and P-12 education sectors.

AdvanceKentucky is a statewide math-science initiative and partnership between Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) and the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). AdvanceKentucky expands access to, preparation for and participation in academically rigorous coursework, specifically the Advanced Placement (AP) Program.

As runners-up in the last year’s Race to the Top competitions, Kentucky and eight other states were eligible for Round Three awards to invest in a portion of their Round Two plans. However, South Carolina opted out, and California submitted an incomplete application.

RTT3 focuses on supporting efforts to leverage comprehensive statewide reform, while also improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Audit calls for overhaul of JCPS central office

Outside experts' report assails favoritism, 
biased hiring, unqualified personnel

This from the The Courier-Journal:
Jefferson County Public Schools’ administration is riddled with favoritism, biased hiring and unqualified personnel and should be overhauled, according to a disparaging report released Tuesday by two outside experts hired to examine the district’s central office.

The 70-page report — the result of an organizational review ordered by the school board this summer — also states that in some cases, administrators are overpaid based on the current marketplace and when compared to other school districts.

“We see this report as a start of a conversation that the superintendent will need to have with the school board and the community in Jefferson County about the future of the central-office staffing,” said the report’s co-author, Fenwick English, a professor of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The bottom line, English said, is that JCPS must realign its central office — retooling 31 positions to establish better support to its 155 schools and eliminating five other positions that the auditors say are unnecessary...

Kovacs: Teach For America Research Fails the Test

This from Phillip Kovacs at Living in Dialogue

In the lengthy piece that follows this introduction Kovacs is reacting to a decision by the Huntsville, Alabama Board of Education to spend $1.7 million to bring Teach For America interns to district classrooms. He debunks TFA claims using only their own research.

On the web page where Teach For America shares research, they boldly state: "A large and growing body of independent research shows that Teach For America corps members make as much of an impact on student achievement as veteran teachers." I will show this is an absurd claim simply by analyzing the reports made public on their "research" page. I will not look at or include other research which shows that TFA has negative effects on student test scores in some places, as others have already done so.

However, it pains me to engage in this analysis because it forces me to enter a conversation that I don't believe we should be having, a conversation that is undergirded by the belief that the best way to evaluate teachers is to look at student scores on tests that have been shown to be invalid, unreliable and flat out ridiculous.

When we reduce children to numbers and teachers to spreadsheet-managers we undermine education by dehumanizing the process. In our test-driven world, teachers have become bureaucrats; we've reduced "learning" to scoring, and, shamefully, we've reduced schooling to sorting, equating a slight change in a test score with "achievement." ...

Indiana Schools Grapple With Voucher Law's Impact

This from Education Week:
As the 3,919 students who participated in the first year of Indiana’s new, wide-reaching school voucher program near the end of the first semester in their new schools, the program faces up to its next challenge: A state court hearing opens today on a lawsuit arguing the program violates Indiana’s constitution.

The Choice Scholarship program, one of a number of education reforms passed and signed into law by Indiana’s Republican-dominated state government during this year’s legislative session, has drawn national attention for a number of bold components. It is the only active state voucher program in the country that is not limited to low-income students or students who have attended a low-performing school, and the only active voucher program with no eventual cap on enrollment.

With the program moving into full gear, public schools across the state are bracing for an outflow of funds from already-tight budgets while private schools prepare for an increased demand for spaces in their classrooms. Meanwhile, debate still rages over the initiative as schools and families consider the financial, educational, and social consequences of a program that is projected to grow substantially. Advocates say the voucher program allows all families to make a choice once limited to the well-off; opponents question its constitutionality and wonder if the program is really serving who it’s intended to serve.

Billionaire Education Policy

This from  Education Optimists:
A lot of people who work in education, philanthropy, and government are wary of the rise in billionaire policymaking, but are reticent in voicing their concerns. Perhaps this is fear of retaliation -- what Edward Skloot calls the “Brass-Knuckles philanthropy”of the Gates Foundation. But I see another, more heartening piece to this puzzle. People in the philanthropic and advocacy communities don’t want to harm the mission of philanthropy. We fear that revealing the pitfalls of billionaire philanthropy might have some unforeseen effect on the good work that these foundations support.

Billionaire policymaking is the elephant in the room, but nobody seems sure how to approach it. I say that we should name the elephant, but we don’t have to shoot him. There is a middle road.

We’ve named the elephant – it is philanthro-policymaking. It is here to stay. A small, well-networked group of the super-rich will make and fund social policy globally. We don’t have to shoot the elephant, but we need to understand its nature and learn to live happily with it. Like any powerful institution, billionaire philanthropy needs checks and balances. Our task is to develop them.

Now, to education policy. If you’re not a policy wonk, wonkette, or even a wink, as my more politically savvy friends called me in college, stay with me. Once you get past the odd language of experimentation and evaluation, it’s all politics and human folly.

Testing new policy ideas is appealing. Why have a political battle over education reform, when you can experiment with a bunch on a small scale, and then pick the one that works best? In my last post, I mentioned the recent New York Times article “Policy-Making Billionaires” by Nicholas Confessore. In his coverage of Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial 100 million dollar donation to the Newark, NJ school system, Confessore wrote that NJ officials now plan use the money to “experiment” with education policy and find “what works” and then replicate the best programs with public money: “Whatever proves most effective [in the experiments] can then be rolled out on a larger scale.”

This approach to policy reform is not new. It was a central part of welfare reform in the 1990s. Testing and measuring are particlulary attractive to super-wealthy business oriented philanthropists – philanthrocapitalists. Philanthrocapitalist apply business models to philanthropy. They want to measure everything like money.

Social good is harder to measure than money. The official U.S. poverty line was changed this year after years of debate and controversy. We are struggling to even measure poverty. How do we measure student performance? Teacher quality? Our measurements are imprecise at best and meaningless and misleading at worst. Most educators, advocates, researchers, philanthropists, and policymakers are well aware of the problem of measuring complex outcomes. That awareness disappears when we talk about policy experiments. We act as if testing these programs will lead to some empirical, objective truth about what work bests...

What does Kentucky’s business community want out of the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly?

This from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce:
This year, the Kentucky Chamber’s policy councils have placed special emphasis on policies that warrant immediate action and yield long-term benefits for the Kentucky business community. It’s time to get Kentuckians back to work with policies that will promote economic growth, because growth cannot be sustained without proper policies to support it.
On January 3, as the 2012 General Assembly begins, Kentucky Chamber policy advocates will work directly with legislators to create policies that will:
  • support career and technical training.
  • raise the high school drop-out age from 16 to 18.
  • uphold new, tougher academic standards.
  • promote quality teaching – reward great teachers, remove bad teachers.
  • implement performance funding for new investment in higher education.
  • promote sound budgeting – adhere to the Chamber’s spending principles.
  • reform public pension systems to put them on sound financial footing.
  • stop prescription drug abuse.
  • reduce smoking and improve health and productivity.
  • promote a competitive tax climate – reform taxes that hinder job growth.
  • allow our horse industry to compete through expanded gaming.
  • encourage business investment through angel investment and economic development plans.
  • address unemployment interest payments in an employer-friendly manner.
  • promote cleaner coal as a key source of reliable energy.
  • support low-cost energy by protecting the current Public Service Commission structure.
Download the Chamber’s 2012 Legislative Agenda for a detailed look at the business community’s 2012 priorities.

The New Stupid

This from Straight Up:

A while back Rick Hess published a piece titled "The New Stupid" in Educational Leadership. He has revisited the piece at his blog, Straight Up. In part one, Hess wrote, "It is hard to attend an education conference or read an education magazine without encountering broad claims for data-based decision making and research-based practice. Yet these phrases can too readily morph into convenient buzzwords that obscure rather than clarify." ...and he sets off to provide examples of how misused data can lead to unintended consequences.
The first element of the new stupid is Using Data in Half-Baked Ways. I first encountered the inclination to energetically misuse data a few years ago, while giving a presentation to a group of aspiring superintendents. They were passionate, eager to make data-driven decisions and employ research, and committed to leaving no child behind. We had clearly left the old stupid in the rearview mirror. New grounds for concern emerged, however, as we discussed value-added assessment and teacher assignments.

The group had recently read a research brief high-lighting the effect of teachers on student achievement as well as the inequitable distribution of teachers within districts, with higher-income, higher-performing schools getting the pick of the litter. The aspirants were fired up and ready to put this knowledge to use. To a roomful of nods, one declared, "Day one, we're going to start identifying those high value-added teachers and moving them to the schools that aren't making AYP."

Now, although I was generally sympathetic to the premise, the certainty of the stance provoked me to ask a series of questions: Can we be confident that teachers who are effective in their current classrooms would be equally effective elsewhere? What effect would shifting teachers to different schools have on the likelihood that teachers would remain in the district? Are the measures in question good proxies for teacher quality? What steps might either encourage teachers to accept reassignment or improve recruiting for underserved schools?

My concern was not that the would-be superintendents lacked firm answers to these questions--that's natural even for veteran big-district superintendents who are able to lean on research and assessment departments. It was that they seemingly regarded such questions as distractions.

In part two, Hess takes on those who oversimplify the meaning behind the data, and who underestimate the value of a well-run school.
The second element of the new stupid is Translating Research Simplistically. For two decades, advocates of class-size reduction have referenced the findings from the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project, a class-size experiment conducted in Tennessee in the late 1980s. Researchers found significant achievement gains for students in small kindergarten classes and additional gains in 1st grade, especially for black students. The results seemed to validate a crowd-pleasing reform and were famously embraced in California, where in 1996 legislators adopted a program to reduce class sizes that cost nearly $800 million in its first year and billions in its first decade. The dollars ultimately yielded disappointing results, however, with the only major evaluation (a joint American Institutes for Research and RAND study) finding no effect on student achievement.

What happened? Policymakers ignored nuance and context. California encouraged districts to place students in classes of no more than 20--but that class size was substantially larger than those for which STAR found benefits. Moreover, STAR was a pilot program serving a limited population, which minimized the need for new teachers. California's statewide effort created a voracious appetite for new educators, diluting teacher quality and encouraging well-off districts to strip-mine teachers from less affluent communities. The moral is that even policies or practices informed by rigorous research can prove ineffective if the translation is clumsy or ill considered.

When it comes to "research-based practice," the most vexing problem may be the failure to recognize the limits of what even rigorous scientific research can tell us...

A third and final element of the new stupid is Giving Short Shrift to Management Data. School and district leaders have embraced student achievement data but have paid scant attention to collecting or using data that are more relevant to improving the performance of schools and school systems. The result is "data-driven" systems in which leaders give short shrift to the operations, hiring, and financial practices that are the backbone of any well-run organization and that are crucial to supporting educators.

Existing achievement data are of limited utility for management purposes. State tests tend to provide results that are too coarse to offer more than a snapshot of student and school performance, and few district data systems link student achievement metrics to teachers, practices, or programs in a way that can help determine what is working. More significant, successful public and private organizations monitor their operations extensively and intensively. FedEx and UPS know at any given time where millions of packages are across the United States and around the globe. Yet few districts know how long it takes to respond to a teaching applicant, how frequently teachers use formative assessments, or how rapidly school requests for supplies are processed and fulfilled.

For all of our attention to testing and assessment, student achievement measures are largely irrelevant to judging the performance of many school district employees...

Three Ways to Improve America's Teachers

Wendy Kopp is the founder and CEO of Teach For America and Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association. They got together to write this in USA Today:
Teaching is one of the most challenging jobs in the USA— and one of the most vital. According to the Census Bureau, about one in five American children live in poverty, and they face enormous obstacles as they journey through the public school system. Despite these challenges, skilled teachers manage every day to change the trajectory of students' lives.

As the leaders of the National Education Association and Teach For America, we know from experience that great teachers are made, not born. Continuous learning, reflection and improvement are the building blocks of a successful teaching career. Unfortunately, not all teachers are getting the high-quality preparation they need to excel with students in the classroom.

In recent years we have seen increased emphasis on teacher quality and evaluating teacher performance. As a logical next step, we must measure the effectiveness of the programs that prepare teachers. That's why we're glad to see that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Department of Education are tackling this issue head-on with a recent blueprint for teacher education reform.

As the architects of school policy begin implementing this blueprint, we urge them to keep the following in mind:

•Use data to improve teacher preparation.
In Louisiana, a state aggressively tackling the question of teacher quality, studies have found significant differences in student outcomes based on where their teachers trained. As described in the Education Department's blueprint, Louisiana is using a three-tiered system to assess whether a teacher preparation program's graduates perform at, above or below the level of the average new teacher. States such as California and Maryland are evaluating programs based on multiple measures, including student, principal and alumni surveys. The common thread is a system for evaluating training programs that prepare teachers for today's classrooms and students for today's information age.

•Bring new talent to the teaching profession.
There is an increasing breadth of talent and experience among new teachers — from recent college grads to career-changing professionals — and it is critical that they all have access to high-quality training for a smooth transition into the classroom. One viable path is the proposed Presidential Teaching Fellows, a federal program that would give funding to states that commit to improving teacher training, as well as provide merit-based scholarships for candidates entering teaching through traditional or alternate routes. The Presidential Teaching Fellows places a priority on scholarships for candidates from low-income backgrounds, and also helps recruit and train more teachers of color.

•Give teachers opportunities for continuous professional development.
Even after teachers reach the classroom, they need a strong support network and continuing opportunities to hone their skills. The most successful teacher preparation programs recognize this by helping facilitate mentoring relationships with veteran teachers during student teaching and encouraging ongoing professional development opportunities for their graduates. High-quality programs also offer leadership opportunities to their teachers, allowing them to build their skills in areas like curriculum development and peer mentoring. If we expand professional development, new teachers will be much more likely to stick it out past the first challenging years.

One in three K-12 students will be assigned a teacher who is in the first three years of his or her career. As a new generation embarks on a career in teaching, we must commit to giving them the best preparation possible. Secretary Duncan's blueprint is a much-needed catalyst for change. Now schools of education and other teacher education programs must band together and reform practices to better prepare educators for classroom success.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Variations on a Theme of Hallelujah

To celebrate the holidays enjoy this... well actually, theatrical Easter music. But we'll just say Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a nice winter break. It's so confusing.

This from the Alaskan village of Quinhagak, Alaska.



Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus



Random Acts of Culture - Handel's Messiah at Macy's in Philly with the Wanamaker Organ.



Silent Monks Singing Hallelujah



This from the West Side Market Cleveland, Ohio - Hallelujah Chorus Flash Mob



Orlando International Airport Hallelujah Chorus Christmas Flash Mob



The Santa Rosa Symphonic Choir and friends flash Mob at the Mall



Saint Severin Choir at Church Saint Jean-Baptiste de Grenelle (Paris)



Hallelujah Handel's Messiah - Mormon Tabernacle Choir



Seattle Symphony's Hallelujah Chorus flash mob at Nordstrom



Hallelujah Flash Mob, Scottsdale Fashion Square, Arizona



Hallelujah Chorus Flash Mob at Brent Cross Shopping Centre, England



The Andre Rieu Orchestra at The Vrijthof, Maastricht, Netherland



Chicago Gay Men's Chorus: The Hallelujah Chorus

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ky Fails to Win Another RTTT Grant: early childhood

9 States Win Race to Top Early Learning Grants 

This from Politics K-12:

Nine states will share $500 million in Race to the Top early learning grants, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed this morning.

They are: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington. They will get grants ranging from $50 million to $100 million, based on the state's student population, to significantly improve early-education programs in their states. North Carolina was ranked No. 1 by the outside peer reviewers who judged the competition. California, by at least one account, was the surprise dark-horse winner. A must-read New America Foundation blog post also agrees that California—and even North Carolina—were surprises.

"Investing in early learning is one of the smartest things we can do," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during the White House announcement of the winners this morning. "I'm confident these nine states will lead the transformation."

Duncan added that there were far more stellar applications than he could fund, and he and others in the Obama administration indicated they would like to fund more states if they can. And indeed, it seems the Education Department will get another $550 million in Race to the Top money in fiscal 2012, according to a budget deal just reached by congressional negotiators. However, later in a conference call with reporters, Duncan would not commit to using that money for early learning, saying he didn't know yet what the focus of future competitions would be....

The Corporate Assault on Public Education

This from the Horace Mann League:
The Assault on Public Education: Confronting the Politics of Corporate School Reform, edited by William H. Watkins, interrogates the ways in which neoliberalism and corporate school reform have become tools to attack American public education. Drawn from the “critical studies” tradition—that is, a broader application of critical theory to capitalist hegemony—this collection of essays by nine authors addresses “Who benefits?” and “Who loses?” (p. 3) in a time when neoliberalism widens, not narrows, the economic, political, and cultural inequity in American public education. The book aims to “re-imagine” and “create” public spaces to educate students who value democratic dialogues, collaboration, and equity.

Major contributions of the essays are the powerful case studies that elaborate the causes and the consequences of the privatization of education. Readers can investigate the outcomes of corporate school reform in Oakland, Chicago, and New Orleans public schools, such as raising costs on education, using tax dollars to realize profits for corporations, and implementing outcome-oriented goals in education. This book debunks the myths that elites, the rich, or outside experts can “save” the lives of the underprivileged through competition-based school reform. Rather, under the guise of equality, choice, and accountability, current corporate-oriented school reform supports meritocracy, for-profits in education, and survival of the fittest. The real lessons of Neoliberalism are that “the poor subsidize the rich” (p. 99) and that “one group’s reform can be another group’s calamity” (p. 100). The nine chapters of this book provide concrete examples of social inequity resulting from neoliberal, corporate-model, and venture philanthropy-initiated educational reform...

Hat tip to Tom.

Test Scores Often Misused in Policy Decisions

This from the Huffington Post:

Education policies that affect millions of students have long been tied to test scores, but a new paper suggests those scores are regularly misinterpreted.
According to the new research out of Mathematica, a statistical research group, the comparisons sometimes used to judge school performance are more indicative of demographic change than actual learning.

For example: Last week's release of National Assessment of Educational Progress scores led to much finger-pointing about what's working and what isn't in education reform. But according to Mathematica, policy assessments based on raw test data is extremely misleading -- especially because year-to-year comparisons measure different groups of students.

"Every time the NAEP results come out, you see a whole slew of headlines that make you slap your forehead," said Steven Glazerman, an author of the paper and a senior fellow at Mathematica. "You draw all the wrong conclusions over whether some school or district was effective or ineffective based on comparisons that can't be indicators of those changes."

"We had a lot of big changes in DC in 2007," Glazerman continued. "People are trying to render judgments of Michelle Rhee based on the NAEP. That's comparing people who are in the eighth grade in 2010 vs. kids who were in the eighth grade a few years ago. The argument is that this tells you nothing about whether the DC Public Schools were more or less effective. It tells you about the demographic."
Those faulty comparisons, Glazerman said, were obvious to him back in 2001, when he originally wrote the paper. But Glazerman shelved it then because he thought the upcoming implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind act would make it obsolete.

That expectation turned out to be wrong. NCLB, the country's sweeping education law which has been up for authorization since 2007, mandated regular standardized testing in reading and math and punished schools based on those scores. As Glazerman and his coauthor Liz Potamites wrote, severe and correctable errors in the measurement of student performance are often used to make critical education policy decisions associated with the law.

"It made me realize somebody still needs to make these arguments against successive cohort indicators," Glazerman said, referring to the measurement of growth derived from changes in score averages or proficiency rates in the same grade over time. "That's what brought this about." So he picked up the paper again.

NCLB requires states to report on school status through a method known as "Adequate Yearly Progress." It is widely acknowledged that AYP is so ill-defined that it has depicted an overly broad swath of schools as "failing," making it difficult for states to distinguish truly underperforming schools. Glazerman's paper argues NCLB's methods for targeting failing schools are prone to error.

"Don't compare this year's fifth graders with last year's," Glazerman said. "Don't use the NAEP to measure short-term impacts of policies or schools."

The errors primarily stem from looking at the percentage of students proficient in a given subject from one year to the next -- but it measures different groups of students from year to year, leading to false impressions of growth or loss.

Hat tip to the Commish.

House Republicans Take On NCLB

This from Politics K-12:

A partisan ESEA bill in the House would be a big deal, because it would dim the chances that reauthorization would get done before the end of President Barack Obama's first term.

For one thing, further Senate action may depend on the House. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, which passed its own version of the ESEA renewal earlier this year with some Republican support, has said he won't seek to advance the bill until the House approves a bipartisan product.

In fact, here's what Harkin had to say about the House's inclination to do a GOP bill:
Given that the HELP Committee was able to come to bipartisan agreement on a strong bill to reauthorize ESEA, I sincerely hope Chairman Kline will reconsider his decision to not pursue a bipartisan bill. There is widespread agreement that No Child Left Behind needs to be fixed for the sake of our nation's children, and I hope we will not abandon the longstanding tradition of bipartisanship when it comes to the education of our kids. Without a bipartisan bill coming out of the House, I believe it would be difficult to find a path forward that will draw the support we need from both sides of the aisle to be able to send a final bill to the President that advances education for America's students.

For another thing, at least until after the election, the finished ESEA product will need to get through the Republican House, the Democratic Senate, and be signed by President Obama to become law.

If Congress can't get its act together, the administration's waivers will become the main vehicle for fixing the controversial law. And the waivers themselves have faced a lot of pushback on Capitol Hill...

Sig Eps Shut Down Following "rape survey"

This from USA TODAY:

A University of Vermont fraternity whose members are accused of circulating a survey that asked who they would like to rape has been closed indefinitely.

The national Sigma Phi Epsilon made the announcement Friday after an internal investigation and lengthy discussions with the university in Burlington.

"Without suggesting that every member had knowledge of this questionnaire, the questions asked in the document are deplorable and absolutely inconsistent with our values," said Brian Warren, executive director of the national fraternity organization based in Richmond, Va.

The national organization has said there's no indication the questionnaire was sanctioned by the fraternity or distributed to the more than 50 members of the Vermont chapter.

A student reported the questionnaire to university officials over the weekend, which led the school and the national organization to suspend the chapter temporarily, pending the investigation.

The school is investigating how widely the survey was circulated, and campus police are trying to determine if any crimes were committed.

Fraternity members say it was a select few individuals who came up with the question, not an act of the chapter as a whole, former Sigma Phi Epsilon member Wes Lewis says.

"We do not endorse that in any way," Lewis says. "We did not send it out to our members." ...

More Cheating Substantiated in NY

This from the NY Daily News:

Brooklyn's Metropolitan Diploma Plus High School investigated over test scores - NY Daily News http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn-metropolitan-diploma-high-school-investigated-test-scores-article-1.993195

Mercer Co: Medieval Response to Autistic Child

9 year old tied inside large gym bag

Mom Upset Over Punishment

LEX18.com Mobile Friendly Website http://www.lex18.com/mobile/news/mercer-co-mother-upset-over-son-s-punishment?fb_comment_id=fbc_10150471052064725_20210396_10150472154564725

Hat tip to Susan

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Policy Brief: The Evidence on Charter Schools and Test Scores

This from the Albert Shanker Institute:

Charter schools are among the most controversial issues in education today, with much of the debate focused on whether they produce better testing results than comparable regular public schools. Too often, these discussions either rely on a tiny handful of studies, or on raw, cross-sectional testing results, which are not valid measures of school effects.

This policy brief provides an accessible review of the research on charter schools’ testing effects, how their varying impacts might be explained and what this evidence suggests about the ongoing proliferation of these schools.

The public debate about the success and expansion of charter schools often seems to gravitate toward a tiny handful of empirical studies, when there is, in fact, a relatively well-developed literature focused on whether these schools generate larger testing gains among their students relative to their counterparts in comparable regular public schools. This brief reviews this body of evidence, with a focus on high-quality state- and district-level analyses that address, directly or indirectly, three questions:
  • Do charter schools produce larger testing gains overall?
  • What policies and practices seem to be associated with better performance?
  • Can charter schools expand successfully within the same location?
The available research suggests that charter schools’ effects on test score gains vary by location, school/student characteristics and other factors. When there are differences, they tend to be modest. There is tentative evidence suggesting that high-performing charter schools share certain key features, especially private donations, large expansions of school time, tutoring programs and strong discipline policies. Finally, while there may be a role for state/local policies in ensuring quality as charters proliferate, scaling up proven approaches is constrained by the lack of adequate funding, and the few places where charter sectors as a whole have been shown to get very strong results seem to be those in which their presence is more limited. Overall, after more than 20 years of proliferation, charter schools face the same challenges as regular public schools in boosting student achievement, and future research should continue to focus on identifying the policies, practices and other characteristics that help explain the wide variation in their results.

A superintendent calls school reformers’ bluff

This from John Kuhn, (the superintendent of a small public school district in Texas) The Answer Sheet:

As a public school administrator, I have been a steadfast critic of the legacy of No Child Left Behind. But I’ve recently figured out a way that school reformers can get me on their side. It’s very simple.

My concern has long been that the test-based focus of NCLB and the insistence on assigning labels to struggling schools has really been about convincing Americans that public schools are failing in order to justify privatizing the system — to the benefit, of course, of investors, not children. Why think anything else, when “higher standards” are accompanied by slashed education budgets, continuing inequities in school funding, and continued efforts to roll back public sector employee rights?

But reformers such as former Washington D.C. Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and Sandy Kress — a lawyer who was a principal architect of the school accountability system in Texas (during the administration of then gov. George W. Bush) which served as the basis for NCLB — assure us that all their reforms are really about the children.

They repeatedly call on get teachers and administrators to quit making excuses and hold themselves accountable for the educational outcomes of poor and minority students. Who could be against that?

Well, I’m calling their bluff. Let’s see if it really is all about the children.

NCLB has done one important thing: By disaggregating data, it has forced teachers and administrators like me to agonize over the outcomes of our neediest students.

But after 10 years, it is clear that NCLB’s reforms haven’t spurred miracles, and it is time that the profound problem of inequality is addressed. The deck is stacked against kids who live in poverty not just because their schools are on average worse than others, but also because of the circumstances of their lives when they leave campus.

Itt’s time that we admit that it isn’t just teachers holding back poor and minority students back. The problems are societal.

So I’m calling on reformers — Kress and Rhee included — to lend support for a new kind of reform, one that steps outside the schoolhouse and shares the onus for achievement with more than just teachers.

I’m calling for data-driven equality, modeled on Kress’s work, expanding it to force greater societal changes that will help teachers bridge the achievement gap.

Let the 50 states disaggregate equality-related data by ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, and let us rank the states and reward them for closing all the societal inequalities that are truly at the heart of our achievement gap. There should be an incentive for voters to elect lawmakers who will craft policies that minimize inequalities.

Let’s have national benchmarks for equality in incarceration, equality in college enrollment, equality in health coverage, equality in income levels, employment rates, rates of drug addiction and child abuse.

Let the states figure out how to close their gaps, but reward results. Citizens in states whose data shows progress toward equality benchmarks should be rewarded with a lower federal income tax rate.

Note that the states can figure out how to get there, so no one can accuse me of urging socialist fixes to inequality. I don’t care how you fix it, just fix it. As a teacher I am calling on society to do its part to save these kids! The kind of plan I am describing leaves mechanisms to the states — it merely incentivizes equality.

We should all insist that our leaders build a system that guarantees the demise of inequity on these shores. Let’s move together toward a broader social accountability, driven by data and gauged by progress toward statistical, measurable, social equality.

Here’s an incentive: As a state moves closer to demonstrable equality according to data, then Washington could reduce the federal income tax rates charged to citizens in that state. Let citizens who opt for equality in so doing opt for lower taxes and more individual liberties. Incentivize equality, and see if kids don’t do better in school.

Let’s publish the data in newspapers. Let’s label all 50 states once a year. Let the states stand on their records and compare their progress. Let’s ensure that no more American Dreams get deferred because of unequal opportunity.

Today some 22 percent of American children live in poverty. Are we going to pretend forever that it is acceptable to ignore the needs of children outside the schoolhouse and blame teachers and principals for everything that happens inside?

As soon as the data shows that the average black student has the same opportunity to live and learn and hope and dream in America as the average white student, and as soon as the data shows that the average poor kid drinks water just as clean and breathes air just as pure as the average rich kid, then educators like me will no longer cry foul when this society sends us children and says: Get them all over the same hurdle.

And so I as an educator now say to a nation exactly what it has said to me for years: No excuses! Just get results.

Disaggregating data forced me to pay attention to minority students. Let’s force society to agonize over equality like teachers now agonize over test scores!

Give me equal children, and I guarantee you that my fellow public school teachers and I will produce graduates who will create a brighter future for this nation than you or I ever dreamed possible.

A KSN&C Wordle

Thanks to Jennifer

The Facts on EKU Aviation

Recently a KSN&C commenter took on EKU's new aviation program suggesting that it was a bad idea and that we'd all be better off if we took those wasted dollars and bought more periodical subscriptions...or something like that. Why should a program of less than 100 flight students exist in the small backwater town of Richmond? What possible benefit does aviation provide such Kentucky towns?

Given the "facts" suggested by the writer, I began to wonder. Why indeed?

So I asked the folks on the fashionable north side of campus if they could provide KSN&C with a response to these allegations. Turns out, Professor Tim Ross, the Chair of Applied Engineering and Technology/Aviation, could do just that. He was reluctant at first, but ultimately decided that misinformation about the new program needed to be corrected. Good for him.

Ross told KSN&C, "EKU has over a dozen planes at the Madison County airport for their aviation program, freshly painted with EKU logo no less."

But it would seem our commenter was mistaken about...almost all of the rest of it.

Eastern Kentucky University does not own any aircraft; they are leased on a year-to-year basis,Ross said.
As per our contract requirements, the aircraft we receive are painted in EKU colors at NO additional cost to the program. Currently, we lease eight aircraft: a Cessna 150, five - Cessna 172’s, a Cessna 172RG and a Piper Seneca III. As the program continues to grow, we will acquire additional aircraft as needed to satisfy the demand. Based on recruitment activities and current trends, it is likely we will need 12 aircraft by July 2012.
So how can the EKU Aviation program be self-sustaining with barely 100 students?
The cost of the flight program is paid for by student flight fees. The Professional Flight program is a cost above and beyond tuition, residence hall, meal plans, etc. Students pay a flight fee for each rating, plus an additional fee for insurance.
So, how did EKU get money for a fleet of planes when the governor is selling the two planes the state owns? Ross, who just may know what he's talking about, corrects the record saying,
The State actually owned seven aircraft. The five that are still owned by the State are: a PA-31_350 Navajo Chieftain, Cessna 182, Cessna 172E, Bell 206L Long Ranger and a Bell 206 Jet Ranger. The Governor did sell two aircraft that were not being used. These aircraft had flown very few hours over the past couple of years and he made a wise decision to sell the aircraft while they still had value. The two aircraft sold by the State were a 1975 Piper Navajo and a single-engine 1967 Cessna Skyhawk.
Our commenter wondered, "how many scholarships, online periodical subscriptions, professional development opportunities this university could have afforded its community instead of paying for airplanes that spend most of their time sitting unused in some hanger at a rural airport which offers almost no navigation, communication, diverse traffic, environmental variance or other high level aviation interaction or experience?

Apparently the answer is none.
The Aviation Professional Flight program has no effect on the number of scholarships, professional development opportunities or online periodical subscriptions. The program is paid for by student flight fees that are in ADDITION to tuition and other university costs and/or fees. As for the aircraft sitting in hangars, most EKU aircraft are tied-down on the ramp to allow local and transient aircraft to utilize the hangar facilities and to reduce the cost to students. The current fleet of aircraft fly approximately 4000 hours per year.

The Madison Airport serves as a crucial component to many local businesses by allowing out of town corporate personnel to visit their Madison County locations. Further, the airport serves as a gateway to future businesses allowing companies to visit and assess the local area. By virtue of this service to various local employers the Madison Airport supports and aids hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in the Madison County area.

The airport provides pilots with two advanced GPS approaches and is home to 40 Aircraft including a corporate jet. Requests have been made to hangar additional corporate jets, but at this time, the facility is at full capacity. It maintains a monthly average of 30 transient aircraft operations as well as infinite local aviation operations.
To learn more about the Madison Airport facilities and level of technology, Ross suggests visiting the Madison Airport website, AirNav, or Flight Plan.

The commenter, obviously an EKU colleague of mine says, it "Makes you wonder why we are suppose to worry about turning off electronics during winter break when God only knows how much we are paying for airplane maintenance annuals, increased insurance and fuel.”

Well, happily, God is not the only one who knows. Ross did some digging and learned that,
Leaving a computer on overnight consumes approximately .20 cents of electricity per computer. With the number of computers on campus, turning them off over break saves thousands of dollars, not to mention the lights, copiers and other devices all over the EKU campus. In terms of the maintenance, insurance and fuel cost, it is all covered by the student flight fees.
Feeling a bit spunky, perhaps, Ross added that the commenter, "forgot to mention the Flight Instructor’s salary - which is also covered by the flight fees."

Visit the EKU Aviation program webpage to better understand the program operation and flight fees.

Thanks to the commenter for raising the issues, and to Tim Ross for his detailed response.

Why Are the Rich So Interested in Public-School Reform?

They want to remake America's students in their own high-achieving image, but they're overlooking socioeconomics

This from Judith Warner in Time:

It was perhaps inevitable that the political moment that has given birth to the Occupy movement, pitting Main Street against Wall Street and the 99% against the financial elite, would eventually succeed in making some chinks in the armor of the 1%’s favorite feel-good hobby: the school reform movement.

It’s been a good decade now that the direction of school reform has been greatly influenced by a number of highly effective Master (and Mistress) of the Universe types: men and women like Princeton grad Wendy Kopp, the founder of the Teach for America program, her husband, Harvard graduate Richard Barth, who heads up the charter school Knowledge Is Power Program, the hard-charging former D.C. schools chancellor (and Cornell and Harvard grad) Michelle Rhee and the many hedge fund founders who are now investing significant resources in the cause of expanding charter schools. Excoriating the state of America’s union-protected teaching profession and allegedly ossified education schools, they’ve prided themselves upon attracting “the best and the brightest” to the education reform cause, whether by luring recent top college graduates into challenging classrooms or by seducing Harvard Business School or McKinsey-trained numbers-crunchers away from Wall Street to newly lucrative executive positions in educationally themed social entrepreneurship.

The chief promise of their brand of reform — the results of which have been mixed, at best — seems to be that they can remake America’s students in their own high-achieving image. By evaluating all students according to the same sort of testable rubrics that, when aced, propelled the reformers into the Ivy League and beyond, society’s winners seem to believe they can inspire and guide society’s losers, inoculating them against failure with their own habits of success, and forever disproving the depressingly fatalistic ’70s-style liberal idea that things like poverty and poor health care and hunger and a chaotic family life can, indeed, condemn children to school failure.

And yet as schools scramble to keep up with these narrow demands, voices are emerging to suggest that perhaps the rubric-obsessed school reform game, as it’s been played in the Bush and Obama years and funded and dressed-up by the well-heeled Organization Kids, is itself perhaps due for a philosophical shake-up.

Earlier this year, S. Paul Reville, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, blogged in Education Week that reformers need now to think beyond the numbers and “admit that closing achievement gaps is not as simple as adopting a set of standards, accountability and instructional improvement strategies.” In Massachusetts, he wrote, “We have set the nation’s highest standards, been tough on accountability and invested billions in building school capacity, yet we still see a very strong correlation between socioeconomic background and educational achievement and attainment. It is now clear that unless and until we make a more active effort to mitigate the impediments to learning that are commonly associated with poverty, we will still be faced with large numbers of children who are either unable to come to school or so distracted as not to be able to be attentive and supply effort when they get there.” Reville called for “wraparound services” that would allow schools to provide students with a “healthy platform” from which they could begin to work on learning...

Thousands of JCPS students' test scores go to wrong addresses

This from the Courier-Journal:

Test scores for thousands of Jefferson County Public Schools students were delivered to the wrong addresses and the district is urging parents who received an incorrect report in the mail to return it to the sender or destroy it.

The error involved the eighth-grade EXPLORE test, which was administered this fall to all of the district’s eighth graders, said Lauren Roberts, a JCPS spokeswoman.

The district learned about the error late Wednesday, when parents began calling the district to say they had received test scores for a child other than their own.

Roberts said 6,500 to 7,000 student scores may have been involved. “We regret the inconvenience this has caused to parents,” she said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bryan Station Middle School Principal, 2 Teachers, Out Over Student-related Incident

Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton is investigating allegations made against Bryan Station Middle School Principal Fred Snodgrass and two teachers, according to WTVQ.

The allegations are reportedly of bullying-type "behavior toward a student."

Snodgrass and the teachers three were put on paid leave, but were not suspended.



Hat tip to Lance

Friday, December 09, 2011

Is Gingrich an Edu-Flip-Flopper?

This from Politics K-12:
The GOP's presidential frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, has one of the longest records on K-12 policy in the Republican field. His views on education have gotten a lot of attention lately. But they have been—and seem to still be—all over the map.

For instance, Gingrich said in a recent debate that he likes Race to the Top, the grant competition run by the feds that rewards states for embracing certain reform priorities, including the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

But he's also said he'd like to "shrink" the Education Department. And in 1995, as Speaker of the House, he backed an effort to scrap the department altogether.

Back in 2008, Gingrich, and then GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona,endorsed the mission statement of the Education Equality Project, which calls for strong accountability at all levels, including the school and district level.

Gingrich even appeared with Rev. Al Sharpton—and then-incoming Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—at a school in Washington, D.C., during President Barack Obama's inauguration to push the Education Equality Project's mission...
...which frames education as a civil right, supports charter schools, promotes accountability and professional pay for teachers...

Signatories of the EEP's manifesto, including Gingrich must,
Insist that our elected officials confront and address head-on crucial issues that created this crisis: teachers' contracts and state policies that keep ineffective teachers in classrooms and too often make it nearly impossible to get our best teachers paired up with the students who most need them; school funding mechanisms that ignore the reality that students are supposed to be the primary focus of schools; and enrollment policies that consign poor, minority students to our lowest-performing schools.

That sounds like a tall order, particularly the part about confronting "state policies." It doesn't seem to be in line with where many Republicans on Capitol Hill are today when it comes to K-12. So, do these ideas square with a significantly slimmed-down Education Department? And does Gingrich's record on K-12 make him an education-flip-flopper...or someone with nuanced, evolving positions?
 
This from the Daily Koz:

A Snapshot of Republican Candidates' Positions on Education

Do the Republican presidential hopefuls have a plan that is likely to improve education in America, or are they dealing with irrelevant side issues that are not likely to make much impact at your child's school?

This from The Huffington Post:

On EDUCATION:
Bachmann: Abolish Education Department. Says federal government doesn't have a role in education; jurisdiction is with state and local governments.

Gingrich: Shrink Education Department. But supported Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition for states.

Huntsman: "No Child Left Behind hasn't worked for this country. It ought to be done away with." Favors more school choice.

Paul: Abolish the Education Department and end the federal role in education.

Perry: Turned down federal education aid to Texas worth up to $700 million because he saw it as imposing national standards on Texas schools. Opposed No Child Left Behind law.

Romney: Supported No Child Left Behind law. Once favored shutting Education Department, later saw its value in "holding down the interests of the teachers' unions."

Santorum: Voted for No Child Left Behind law. Wants "significantly" smaller Education Department but not its elimination.