Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teacher effectiveness focus of new Kentucky panel

This from the Herald-Leader:
Five Kentucky teachers told a newly formed advisory panel Friday that student achievement should be part of teacher evaluations in the future, but factors besides test scores should be part of that equation.

The teachers said evaluations should take into account students' individual progress, not just their scores on standardized tests.

"I think it's more about how much you've moved them, not about where you end up at," Buffy Sexton, a middle school science teacher in Jefferson County, told about 50 people attending the debut meeting of the Prichard Committee's Team on Teacher Effectiveness. Sexton was joined by four of her colleagues, all from Jefferson and Fayette counties.

The panel was formed by the nonprofit Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an education advocacy group based in Lexington. Its goal is to make recommendations for the 2014 legislative session.

Kentucky is in the midst of massive public school reforms. Among the areas being examined are new ways to measure teacher effectiveness.

The teachers also urged the panel to examine ways to help pay for getting master's degrees, which are required under Kentucky law for public school teachers. The requirement puts a huge financial burden on teachers new to the profession, they said.

"That would be a great place for Kentucky to start" in looking toward better ways to retain quality teachers, said Alison Crowley, an algebra and calculus teacher at Lexington's Lafayette High School.
The teachers also said that incentive pay aimed at attracting and retaining math and science educators or enticing teachers to work at low-performing schools is a controversial issue that needs further study.

Crowley also addressed the thorny issue of standardized testing, saying she estimated she spent almost 25 percent of her time last year either preparing for or administering a host of different assessments. She added that teachers "want the best for our kids," and urged the panel to examine whether all the standardized tests actually provide valuable data.

The teachers agreed that mentoring programs should be strengthened to help retention rates and said professional development opportunities should be more practical.

Robin Reid, a high school social studies teacher in Fayette County, said professional development should be individualized for each teacher, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that meets district-wide goals but might not be practical.

"If the teachers aren't engaged in the professional development, how can we ask the teachers to engage their students?" added Crowley.

Working conditions were also briefly addressed. The teachers agreed that the top priority is for teachers to feel they are backed by administrators.

Teachers are a "rare breed," said Pat Thurman, a middle school science teacher in Jefferson County. "We will work under terrible conditions ... if we see that we are having an impact."

The teacher effectiveness panel, made up of educators, legislators, advocates and business people, is scheduled to meet again Sept. 11.
In the interest of full disclosure, Ali Crowley is a former Doc student of mine who teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Lafayette High School in Lexington. A National Board-certified teacher with 11 years of experience, she is also a member of the Center for Teaching Quality's Implementing Common Core Standards team. Crowley participates in Ed Week's Teaching Ahead Roundtable.

Don't Forget Ed

This from the College Board:
As we head towards the 2012 Presidential election, the issue of education is underplayed on the campaign trail. The candidates say they care about education, but what seems to be missing from their speeches are real, tangible, effective solutions for turning our education system in the right direction.

Minneapolis Charter Doesn’t Want Special Needs Students

This from Diane Ravitch's blog:
The Minneapolis School Board closed down Cityview, one of its public schools whose test scores were too low, it replaced Cityview with a charter school, Minneapolis School of Science. The charter school has told the families of 40 children with special needs–children with Down Syndrome and autism–that they are not wanted at the school. Clearly the schools is bouncing these children to improve their test scores.
Is this what “no child left behind” means? Does it mean pushing out the most vulnerable children to inflate the school’s scores?
In a half-minute of Googling, I discovered that the Minneapolis School of Science is part of the chain called Concept Schools, which is affiliated with the Gulen charter chain. The Gulen schools are part of the nation’s largest charter chain. Most get high test scores.
Most focus on math and science. They have some sort of association with a Turkish imam named Fethullah Gulen. The New York Times wrote a front-page story about the cleric a few months ago. The Gulen schools have occasionally become involved in controversy having to do with audits and ties to Turkey...

Louisiana Voucher Program Includes Schools That Teach Creationism, Reject Evolution

This from The Huffington Post:
Public dollars in Louisiana's landmark new voucher program will go toward sending children to schools that teach creationism and reject evolution, the Associated Press reports.

Under the new initiative, the most sweeping voucher program in the country, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars will be shifted from public schools to pay private schools, private businesses and private tutors to educate students across Louisiana.

The program is the cornerstone of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's bold effort to reform public education in the state. Critics are concerned about funding and fairness -- vouchers would cover the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools, including small, Bible-based church schools. Jindal says the program will spur school competition and expand parental choice.

Several of those religious schools that will be receiving public funds to take in new students from public schools also teach curricula that question the age of the universe, defying scientific evidence and theory and promote religious doctrine that "challenges the lessons central to public school science classrooms," according to the AP.

"What they're going to be getting financed with public money is phony science. They're going to be getting religion instead of science," Barbara Forrest, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, told AP.

Proponents of vouchers say that the program expands horizons for students stuck in troubled schools. Opponents point out that vouchers erode public schools by pulling funding out of the system and violate the separation of church and state by sending public dollars to patriarchal private schools. Voucher programs also have yet to yield improvements in student test scores.

"Almost all the voucher schools are religious schools," Lance Hill, executive director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research told Reuters. "And many use an evangelical curriculum that teaches that humans walked the earth 6,000 years ago with dinosaurs. Do I, as a taxpayer, want my taxes to support that as a proper education in science?"

One school participating in Louisiana's program notes that its students "will be expected to defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible versus traditional scientific theory." Refusing to teach evolution also isn't grounds for rejecting a school from the voucher program.

In 1987, the Supreme Court struck down a law mandating that "creationism" be taught equally with evolution in public school classrooms, noting that the legislation was an effort to promote religious doctrine.

Louisiana's voucher program passed through the state legislature amid heated debate, particularly as lawmakers objected to funding an Islamic school despite approving of support for Christian schools. Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges also retracted her support for the program this month after realizing the money could be applied to Muslim schools.

The state's teachers' unions, the Louisiana School Boards Association and many school districts have filed lawsuits to block the program.

KET Invites Student Videos of Election 2012

KET School Video Project: Election 2012

KET is inviting Kentucky K-12 students, classes, organizations, and clubs to upload a video and enter a drawing for a video production prize package!

Videos uploaded by October 1 could be featured on "Student Voices, Election 2012." This special edition of Education Matters is scheduled to air on KET October 11 at 8:00/7:00 pm CT, right before live coverage of the vice-presidential debate at Centre College.

"Student Voices" will feature a panel of high school students discussing election-year issues that affect young people. KET says,
We're looking for well-produced videos about one to three minutes in length on topics that address student concerns and opinions related to the election. We hope to use several of these videos in the program.
For example, students might zero in on a single issue, such as college loans or the job market, and share their perspective. The videos could take the form of debates, opinion pieces, video diaries, or ....? Students can use their skill and creativity to make the videos interesting and relevant.
On November 1st, KET will be giving away video production software and equipment including: a copy of Adobe Premiere Elements 10 editing software, a Smith-Victor tripod, a Canon HF-R20 camcorder, a portable greenscreen background, a softbox 3-light kit, a Shure microphone and cable, and an iPad teleprompter! It's a complete video production kit including what you need for greenscreen effects, so send us some video and win a great set of gear!

JCPS ends practice of letting demoted employees keep same pay

This from Toni at The Courier-Journal:
For at least three decades, Jefferson County Public Schools had a practice of allowing employees to keep their higher salaries even after being moved to lower-paying jobs — likely costing millions of dollars.

Now, Superintendent Donna Hargens wants it to stop.


After a recent staffing review uncovered the practice — known as red-lining — Hargens notified 11 employees that they were getting a combined pay cut totaling $106,810, effective July 1.


“This is about being fair and consistent and paying an employee for the job that he or she is actually doing,” Hargens said Friday. “We are accountable for every dollar that we spend and for making sure that our spending is directed toward improving student achievement.”


Three of the 11 employees decided to retire, but three others have appealed to the Jefferson County Board of Education, arguing that the district broke its promise to let them keep their same pay after they were moved to lower-paying jobs.


None of the employees who saw their pay cut wanted to talk publicly.


But Warren Shelton, executive director of the Jefferson County Association of School Administrators, whose organization is paying the legal fees for the appeal, said the district needs to honor its commitment.


“This is not about whether red-lining is appropriate,” Shelton said. “It’s about what was promised to these people.”


Cordelia Hardin, the district’s chief financial officer, said it’s hard to say how much money the district has spent on red-lining, since many of those employees are now retired and because the district recently changed its payroll system. But she said the total could “easily be in the millions.”
District officials say they don’t plan to seek reimbursement because the employees weren’t at fault...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

KDE: There's an App for That

KDE launched a new app for iPhone/iPad this week and it looks pretty good. I give it an A-.
 
The Commish has been pretty tech-savvy and the new app pulls together KDE content effectively.
 
My only complaint is that the KDE website still treats the curriculum like a mystery. If you know where to look - or as my students say, if you are willing to spend too much time searching for them, and being distracted by the old combined curriculum document and crosswalk - they are there. But the app would have been a good opportunity to create ONE TAB where all curriculum resides. 

Instead of using KDE as a resource, many Kentucky educators use the Common Core app. Principals cean carry it into classrooms on their phone during observations.This is fine, I suppose, but not really. Any differences reflected in Kentucky will be missed and that's no way to coordinate a bunch of schools.

The new KDE app is a great opportunity to put Kentucky Standards into the hands of Kentucky principals inside Kentucky classrooms.


KDE says,
A new app for iPhones, iPads and iPods [not for Android, yet] compiles content from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to enhance communications on education-related matters across the state.
The free KDE News app is available through iTunes here. The app is designed to provide users with immediate access to many items housed on the KDE website, including:
  • Kentucky Teacher Magazine
  • Messages to Superintendents and Teachers
  • Headlines
  • Education Commissioner Terry Holliday’s Blog
  • Videos
  • Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) Tech Tips
  • Photo Gallery 
The app is the latest in a line of technology products from KDE to help the agency share information and provide transparency. A Windows Mobile version of the app also is in development.

The Conservative Debate Over Common Core Standards

This from Sol Stern in The City Journal:

The Curriculum Reformation
 
New national standards prod schools to return to content-based education.
The biggest new thing in American public education these days is a two-volume, 230-page, written-by-committee document called the Common Core State Standards. Forty-five states have pledged to the federal government that they will adopt the standards—which specify the math and English skills that students must attain in each grade from kindergarten to the end of high school—within the next several years. Some of these states genuinely believe that doing so will make more of their students ready for college and careers.

Others are on board primarily because the Obama administration has enticed them with billions of dollars from its Race to the Top competition, part of the administration’s economic-stimulus program. Within the school-reform community, the standards have set off a virtual civil war. It pits those who believe that America desperately needs national standards to catch up to its international competitors against those who think that the administration, by imposing the standards on the states, is guilty of an unwise, or even illegal, power grab.

No matter how the debate over national standards plays out—and it may never be resolved—one undeniably positive development has resulted from all this. For the first time in almost half a century, education administrators and policymakers around the country are seriously discussing the role of a content-based curriculum in raising student achievement. And that means long-overdue recognition of the ideas of E. D. Hirsch, one of America’s greatest but also most neglected education reformers.

During the past quarter-century, Hirsch has warned over and over that something is dangerously amiss in the nation’s classrooms. His diagnosis could be summed up with the admonition It’s the curriculum, stupid. For the first 150 years of the republic, according to Hirsch, most schools followed a shared curriculum emphasizing the explicit content knowledge that children had to acquire in order to grow into literate adults and good citizens. As Hirsch writes in his most recent book, The Making of Americans, the country had “no official national curriculum, but it had the equivalent: a benign conspiracy among the writers of schoolbooks to ensure that all students would learn many of the same facts, myths, and values and so would grow to be competent, loyal Americans.” America’s public schools were the envy of the world during this period.

Starting in the 1930s, however, the progressive-education movement began a long march toward taking over the country’s teacher-training schools and professional teacher organizations. One of the progressives’ goals was undermining the idea of a prescribed curriculum, which they regarded as oppressive and out of sync with children’s natural learning styles. This abandonment of a common curriculum by the schools, Hirsch argues, was largely responsible for the precipitous decline in student academic achievement that began in the 1960s. Academic stagnation set in, both absolutely and relative to achievement in the leading industrialized nations...
The Common Core standards haven’t been universally embraced by the nation’s school reformers. While such prominent reform leaders as Klein, the Fordham Foundation’s Chester E. Finn, and former Washington, D.C., school chief Michelle Rhee are on board, many others are either agnostic or actively campaigning against the standards.

Some of the dissenters argue that the Obama administration has overreached by imposing the standards on the states, violating the letter and spirit of federal education law and perhaps even of the Constitution. It’s an unconvincing argument. Unlike the administration’s controversial health-care law, the standards are not mandatory; states are free to reject them, and several, including Texas, have already done so. If the complaint is merely that the Obama administration is seducing states into adopting the standards by offering them billions of dollars in federal funds, why aren’t the critics equally upset with another provision of Race to the Top, which requires states taking federal money to create teacher-evaluation systems based on students’ test scores? Indeed, it might be argued that “federal coercion” began with the 2002 No Child Left Behind act, which required states to test students in grades 3–8 and to impose sanctions on schools whose students didn’t attain minimum levels of proficiency. Despite this, NCLB was strongly supported by most school reformers—initially, at least.
The far more serious criticism of the standards is that they are academically inferior to the existing standards in several states and the even higher standards in many countries whose students outperform ours. Ze’ev Wurman, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education, has offered extremely cogent critiques of the math section of the Common Core standards, pointing out that they fall short of the best international benchmarks and don’t require more than one year of algebra for high school graduates. Sandra Stotsky, a curriculum specialist and one of the drafters of Massachusetts’s important 1993 education-reform act, has similarly noted shortcomings in the English Language Arts section of the standards.
In fact, many of the original Massachusetts reformers have argued correctly that the Common Core standards don’t aim as high as the standards that their state adopted in 1993 (see “The Massachusetts Exception”). The Bay State would have done better by its students if it had said no to the Obama administration and stuck with its already excellent standards—which were also heavily influenced by Hirsch’s work. The sad fact is that even before Massachusetts switched to the Common Core standards, Governor Deval Patrick had embarked on a campaign to dilute the demanding 1993 reform.
Nevertheless, school reformers should not ignore one overriding fact: for most states—which, unlike Massachusetts, have lacked rigorous standards—the Common Core is an enormous step forward. Since the standards call for a content-based curriculum, those states are now having a serious discussion about the specific subject matter that must be taught in the classroom. And that’s a discussion that hasn’t happened in American schools for almost half a century...
On her blog, Diane Ravitch (who must have a dozen Graduate Assistants working for her - or am I thinking too small)  shows the underbelly of Conservative debate in an exchange between Sol Stern and the Pioneer Institute's Jamie Glass. When Stern "chided the Pioneer Institute for not doing more to promote the E.D. Hirsch Core Knowledge curriculum":
Thanks for your confidence that little Pioneer Institute could have outdone over $100 million from the Gates Foundation and persuade the bluest state in the Union (and Deval Patrick in an election year) not to follow the lead of Arne Duncan on $250 million in RTTT money. In truth, an easier task would have been to change the directional flow of the Charles River. That said, we did have two-thirds of the authors of the 1993 law (Gov. Weld and Sen. Birmingham), as well as the president of the AFT-MA, two 2010 MA gubernatorial candidates, Sen. Scott Brown, and nearly every editorial board in the state, on our side against MA adopting CCSSI.
Back in March, George Will may have made the most persuasive against the Department of Education's pressure on states to adopt the Common Core - that it is not just suspect, but it is expressly illegal.
The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — No Child Left Behind is its ninth iteration — intruded the federal government into this traditionally state and local responsibility. It said that “nothing in this act” shall authorize any federal official to “mandate, direct, or control” a state’s, local educational agency’s or school’s curriculum. The General Education Provisions Act of 1970, which supposedly controls federal education programs, stipulates that “no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize” any federal agency or official “to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction” or selection of “instructional materials” by “any educational institution or school system.”
The 1979 law establishing the Education Department forbids it from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum” or “program of instruction” of any school or school system. The ESEA as amended goes further: No funds provided to the Education Department “may be used . . . to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in” kindergarten through 12th grade.
However . . .

What authors Eitel, Talbert and Evers call the Education Department’s “incremental march down the road to a national curriculum” begins with the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS). It is an initiative not of any state legislature but of a governors association, state school officials and private foundations. This push advanced when the Race to the Top Fund (RTTT, part of the 2009 stimulus) said that peer reviewers of applications for money should favor those states that join a majority of states in developing and adopting common standards. The 11 states and the District of Columbia that won Race to the Top funding had adopted or indicated an intention to adopt the CCSS, which will require changes in curricula.
An Education Department synopsis of discussions with members of the public about priorities in competition for RTTT money says “the goal of common K-12 standards is to replace the existing patchwork of state standards.” Progressives celebrate diversity in everything but thought.
The Obama administration is granting conditional waivers to states chafing under No Child Left Behind’s unrealistic accountability requirements. The waivers are contingent on each state adopting certain standards “that are common to a significant number of states,” or the state may adopt standards endorsed by its institutions of higher education — if those standards are consistent with the Education Department’s guidelines.
We have been warned. Joseph Califano, secretary of health, education and welfare in the Carter administration, noted that “in its most extreme form, national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.”

Savannah Dietrich attorney wants Jefferson County attorney's office off case

This from The Courier-Journal:
An attorney for 17-year-old Savannah Dietrich has asked a judge to remove the Jefferson County attorney’s office from her case involving two high school teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her.

Attorney Thomas Clay, who has been hired to represent Dietrich in the juvenile court proceedings, confirmed that he filed the motion Friday to be heard on Monday, but said because of confidentiality rules, he was not allowed to get into specifics of why he is making the request.
 
Dietrich and her family have criticized the county attorney’s office’s handling of the case, saying the prosecution offered the two defendants a lenient plea bargain on charges of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and misdemeanor voyeurism, and that they were unaware of the deal and recommended sentence until just before it was announced in court.


Ordered by District Judge Dee McDonald not to discuss the case, Dietrich angrily tweeted the names of her attackers and criticized the justice system, leading attorneys for the boys to file a motion to hold her in contempt. That motion was dropped Monday after The Courier-Journal ran a story on Dietrich’s case last week and it was picked up around the globe.


Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office, said he could not discuss the case because juvenile court proceedings are confidential.


The Courier-Journal has also filed motions for Monday, asking McDonald to vacate any order prohibiting Dietrich from discussing what happened in the case and to open files of both the sexual assault and the motion to hold the teen in contempt.


However, the county attorney’s office has asked for a delay in Monday’s hearing, according to a letter sent by Courier-Journal attorney Jon Fleischaker to McDonald on Friday.


In the letter, Fleischaker argued that the gag order was infringing on both the newspaper’s and Dietrich’s First Amendment rights and “the damage continues to accrue each day the order is in effect and, as such, this order ought to be vacated immediately.”


The newspaper’s motion argued there were “serious questions” about the way the case has been handled, including the “legitimacy of the agreement reportedly reached between the County Attorney's office and the defendants” and how Dietrich has been treated by the prosecution.


Emily Farrar-Crockett, deputy division chief of the public defender’s juvenile division and one of Dietrich’s attorneys in the contempt case, said her office has also made a motion to set aside the gag order. And she said they would object to postponing the hearing Monday.


“We filed it for that day,” she said. “We plan to argue it that day.”

Michelle Rhee in Britain: A false narrative

This from Diane Ravitch in The Washington Post:
You will not be surprised to learn that when Michelle Rhee went to England recently, she spoke of her great success in improving the D.C. public schools.
The last we heard, Rhee was still under investigation by the US Department of Education's Inspector General in a possible cheating scandal.
Her secret? Finding the best teachers and firing the worst teachers.

The only problem with her narrative is that it is not true.

Her IMPACT teacher evaluation system was imposed in 2009. Since then, the D.C. public schools have made little progress on state or national exams.

The D.C. public schools continue to have the largest black-white achievement gap of any district assessed by the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the gold standard of standardized assessment.

It is not clear whether her method identified the best teachers or the worst teachers, but it is clear that she created a level of turnover among teachers and principals that is staggering.

A recent opinion piece in The Washington Post said:

DCPS has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation. Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania estimates that, “nationally, on average, about 20 percent of new public school teachers leave their district to teach in another district or leave teaching altogether within one year, one-third do so within two years, and 55 percent do so within five years.”

In DCPS, by contrast, 55 percent of new teachers leave in their first two years, according to an analysis by DCPS budget watchdog Mary Levy. Eighty percent are gone by the end of their sixth year. That means that most of the teachers brought in during the past five years are no longer there. By comparison, in Montgomery County just 11.5 percent leave by the end of their second year, and 30 percent by the end of year five. DCPS has become a teacher turnover factory. It has a hard time keeping teachers who are committed to their school and the community it serves.

Most of the principals that Rhee personally hired have left their schools.

If the British follow her suggestions, they too can have churn without improvement.

Rhee received a skeptical welcome from The Independent:

Michelle Rhee: 
'Witchfinder general' of America's classrooms 
flies in to give Gove her gospel 

Richard Garner meets the woman who lives to sack teachers
[British Secretary of State for Education] Michael Gove yesterday endorsed the policies of an American education expert who advocates sacking large numbers of incompetent teachers.
Michelle Rhee has earned a reputation as a "witchfinder general of the classroom" in the US, identifying under-performing teachers and forcing them out of the profession.

She also advocates dramatic pay rises for talented teachers who help pupils obtain good grades.
This week she flew into Britain to pass on her experience to ministers and education officials – and the Education Secretary indicated that her hard-nosed policies could well be adopted here.
"Michelle points out in everything she does that what they [children] need is the most effective teacher who demands the highest standards and is relentless about that," Mr Gove said.

"If we are ever going to achieve something like social justice we need to transform those [disadvantaged] schools.

"The way to do so is to be uncompromising in our standards, to make sure the teachers who are not doing a good job move on and that we support the teachers who are doing a good job by paying them more and giving them freedom to genuinely inspire the next generation."

Ms Rhee's main message is simple. "The main aim is to ensure there is a high-quality teacher in front of every classroom every day," she told The Independent.

"The most highly talented teachers will be recognised and rewarded. The ineffective will either quickly accelerate or – if they don't do that – they're removed from the classroom," Ms Rhee said...

How Will $1 Billion Change the STEM Teaching Workforce?

This from On Performance:
The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama's budget proposal includes $1 billion over the next several years for a STEM "Master Teacher Corps." US News & World Report offers some additional details about the plan's rationale:
The teachers will be chosen by local school officials, and Duncan anticipates that when the program is in full swing, about 5 percent of STEM teachers will be enrolled. Public schools have long faced a shortage of STEM teachers who have degrees in the subjects they teach, and many of the better-qualified teachers leave for jobs as engineers or mathematicians within five years. Duncan says he hopes the master teacher program will help schools maintain their most talented teachers and will also give new teachers something to aspire to.
The money will go mainly toward $20,000 annual bonuses for the selected teachers. While educators tend not to like things that only benefit a few teachers, I think this is a great development.
EdWeek's Erik Robelen reports a few more details, including this quote from President Obama:

"If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible," he said in today's White House press release. "Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support."
Let's examine the President's rationale. How might such a program influence the profession?
Competition for Talent
Shifting the economics of being a STEM teacher is a great place to take bold action. STEM subjects currently suffer from competition for talent with higher-paying fields like medicine and high-tech industries. In other words, if you know your STEM content, you can probably do better financially than teaching. This salary gap is so widely known in our society that the creators of Breaking Bad hardly needed to spell it out to make it a central premise of the show: science teachers are underpaid relative to scientists working outside of education, and the same is probably just as true in other STEM subjects. A billion dollars can start to change this.
(Not) Attracting Brilliance
One benefit that the public will perceive to this program is that we'll be able to get more brilliant domain experts (genius scientists, engineers, and the like) to choose teaching over working in research. I don't think this will actually happen, or if it does, that it will be a benefit. Genius is not necessarily the difference between an OK teacher and an amazing teacher. A lack of content knowledge can ensure that someone is a poor teacher (especially in more advanced and technical subjects at the high school level), but domain expertise is one of those "necessary but not sufficient" conditions. It also has diminishing returns (Walter White may know his chemistry, but I wouldn't want my kid in his class).
I think the Master Teacher Corps program will work, but not by plucking geniuses out of labs and dropping them into high school classrooms.
Indirect Impact
Spending a billion dollars to provide stipends that are essentially retention bonuses is not a terribly direct way to increase student achievement in STEM subjects; as with most policy moves, this is somewhat indirect. But it's not a bad idea, because a talented, professional teaching corps is one of the fundamental building blocks of high student achievement, if the lessons of high-performing nations like Finland are any indication.
Scale
How much impact will this program ultimately have? Enrolling 5% of STEM teachers is a laudable target, but it isn't very many teachers; after all, most secondary schools have fewer than 40 STEM teachers, meaning there would be an average of maybe one or two teachers per school receiving the stipend. But a billion dollars is a healthy chunk of change, so I certainly can't criticize the ambitious scope of the proposal.
The Catalytic Effect
To really have an impact on recruiting and retention, something will need to be done to encourage school districts and states to replicate this program's approach on a more local level. Teacher salaries are set at the district (and sometimes state) level, and it's at this level that we need greater awareness of the need for salary differentials in STEM subjects. While DOE can't force local authorities to pay STEM teachers more, spending a billion dollars sets a precedent that can't be ignored.
Career Ladders
The mere existence of a career ladder can play a substantial motivational role for potential STEM teachers. When a sharp college student is considering his or her career prospects, the one where pay is based only on experience, not on performance, is (all else being equal) going to be less desirable. Having the opportunity to advance on your own merits is important both for recruiting and retention.
What do you think of the President's proposal?

Spellings, Alexander Debate Future of No Child Left Behind Act

This from Politics K-12:
Back in 2001, when Congress was first considering the No Child Left Behind Act, former-U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., were on more-or-less the same page when it came to a strong, federally driven accountability system.
But since then, Alexander (who served as President George H.W. Bush's secretary of education) and the Republican party have been moving farther and farther away from the idea of a federally driven accountability system. Spellings, meanwhile, has stayed true to the law she once compared to "Ivory Soap—it's 99.9 percent pure." UPDATE: To be clear, Alexander wasn't in the Senate at the time NCLB passed, but in the early 2000s he was very positive about the NCLB law, and supported a bill that would have left its accountability system largely intact.

Can these two find common ground? That's what the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank in Washington with long-standing relationships with both Alexander and Spellings, tried to figure out today. If you're an edu-politics nerd, you should absolutely check out the video [below].

The upshot? No big consensus on where the GOP should go when it comes to ed policy—but there was some very interesting back-and-forth.
Both Spellings and Alexander said they generally like the Obama administration's overall strategy of offering states competitive grants in exchange for embracing certain reform priorities. And they are both pretty down on the Title II program, which gives grants to states and districts to improve teacher quality. They both think it's a huge waste of federal resources.

But Alexander strongly supports the nearly $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund, which offers grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs. It got started under Spellings, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has sought to expand it....
The whole event was, of course, total Twitter catnip. For you non-Twitter-savvy folks, Fordham has a great tweet-wrap on its website. Or you can search the hash-tag #NCLB10 to read some of the back-and-forth.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Business Support Essential for Education Reform

Stu Silberman has now posted a couple of pieces on his new Ed Week blog. This one made me recall the Partnership for School Reform and an interesting bit of Prichard Committee history.

Prior to KERA, the reform-minded Prichard Committee was seen as a watch dog for public education. Cindy Heine and others were seen as "troublemakers" in their children's schools because they dared to openly challenge the system. Bob Sexton not only challenged the Superintendent of Public Instruction but he engaged in tough negotiations with the governor, famously NOT giving Wallace Wilkinson the support he demanded. They battled and battled, and all the while, built a grassroots fire under a system of schools that was underfunded and lackluster in performance. They had a vision in mind.

But once KERA passed the Kentucky legislature, in 1990, the Committee evolved from its critical role into a mainstream support group for the Commissioners who would follow - reluctant to question any of KERA's central elements for fear the whole thing could topple. Today, the Prichard Committee acts almost as though it is the public engagement division of KDE...very much in the house, supporting professional development efforts, and rarely critical. Members still raise important questions at Committee meetings, but it is clear the old days are gone.

What is not clear is whether the group has found its footing or its voice in this new era of reform. One hears a lot of good questions being asked. But that critical friend seems to be missing.

At any rate, this piece focuses on the importance of the business community in effecting change. The business community is a critical part of sustaining any education reform and the Kentucky Chamber has developed a game plan for the various efforts they support.


This from Public Engagement & Ed Reform:
One of the lessons learned in the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) was the importance of strong support from the business community to push for positive change and to sustain those changes. In particular, the CEO's of Ashland Inc.(John Hall), Humana Inc. (David A. Jones, Sr.), and UPS (Oz Nelson) were very vocal in leading the business community to spur the reform effort and then to keep the pressure on elected officials to stay the course... It is hard to imagine KERA's passage and implementation without the support of these leaders.
Education's need for strong business support has never diminished, but it is particularly critical today as we face the next major reform effort with new standards and accountability systems. We have an education champion at the national level in the State Farm Chairman and CEO Ed Rust, Jr., a role model who sets a very high standard for business leaders around the country to engage in education improvement efforts. He and other leaders on the state and national level recognize the reasons to support public education and the important role business must play if we are to succeed.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a sharp focus on preparing students for college and career. Its website features promising practices from across the country to achieve these goals. One Chamber initiative, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly hosts a map that provides a state-level look at education performance in several areas. It can be an eye-opening experience to scroll across the country to see how each state is performing. This initiative is a great example, and it reflects the bottom line that the U.S. Chamber is pushing for high-quality reforms.

Closer to home, we must all find ways to enlist the support of employers at the local and state level. There are examples everywhere. The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education has developed a toolbox to inform legislators and other education stakeholders on education policy. Another emerged recently in Kentucky, where the Prichard Committee and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently established a coalition called Business Leader Champions for Education. This group of business men and women, chaired by Hilliard Lyons' CE0 Jim Allen, plan to be outspoken about their support of high quality education reform that will move our system forward. To spread the word further, the Chamber, as part of the ReadyKentucky initiative, has produced an employers' toolkit to help explain and build support for the state's rigorous new academic standards.

These kinds of efforts, that can be replicated anywhere, are important tools we must have to build a solid future for our kids. We must find ways to encourage our business leaders to be vocal supporters of education in order to be successful in our reform efforts.

Ohio Auditor examining Ed. Dept. complicity in data cheating

This from The Columbus Dispatch:
Saying that student attendance-data fraud in Ohio appears to be systemic, the state auditor will grow his Columbus schools investigation into a statewide one that questions whether the Ohio Department of Education was complicit.

Every school district, charter school and the department will be scrutinized by state auditors, said Carrie Bartunek, spokeswoman for State Auditor Dave Yost.

“In short, it appears that attendance report rigging is not a localized problem with Columbus Public Schools, but that it may be more systemic — and that raises the question of what role ODE played during the time that false reports were made by multiple schools,” Yost said in letter to Debe Terhar, president of the State Board of Education.

Yost asks Terhar to direct department staff to preserve any records that might be related to the matter and to help auditors access the department’s data systems.

The need to expand the probe became clear, Yost’s letter says, when what began as allegations of cheating in Columbus were repeated in Toledo and then verified in Lockland schools near Cincinnati.

State auditors and special investigators recently began a probe in Columbus schools after The Dispatch reported allegations of widespread data tampering by district and school officials.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zumba instructor, ex-FCPS employee pleads not guilty to sex charges

This from H-L:
A well-known Zumba instructor and former Fayette County school employee pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he had sexual contact with a 13-year-old boy.

Jason Thompson, 31, was arraigned on charges of first-degree sexual abuse and second-degree sodomy for allegedly performing oral sex on the boy and fondling him in a separate incident, according to court documents. The incidents occurred in 2009, the documents said.

Thompson has not been arrested. He smiled as he walked into the courthouse with his attorney, Jerry Wright, but appeared expressionless throughout the hearing.

Thompson did not speak to reporters outside the courtroom. Wright declined to comment while the case is ongoing.

Thompson worked for the school system from 2006 until he resigned at the end of the 2010-11 school year. He last worked at Leestown Middle School, where he was a special education instructional assistant and coached the school's dance team.
And this:
[Fayette schools Superintendent Tom] Shelton said that in June 2011 the Leestown principal received "second-hand information" alleging "inappropriate contact" between Thompson and an unnamed minor who was not a student. Later that month, the principal, following state law and school district policy, reported the matter to the Fayette Schools Central Office and to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Shelton said.

Shelton said district officials then called Thompson in to discuss the allegations. At that point Thompson resigned, and the school system reported the case to the state Education Professional Standards Board, Shelton said.

"In August of 2011, after Mr. Thompson had left us, we received a second allegation, and we followed the same steps in reporting to the state cabinet and the professional standards board," Shelton said. "We have been cooperating with law enforcement since then." ...
And this:

According to information posted on various Web sites, Jason Thompson is a certified instructor of Zumba, a dance-fitness program inspired by Latin dance music.

Thompson has appeared in a Zumba game video, can be seen dancing in some Zumba videos on YouTube, and has traveled internationally to participate in Zumba master classes. He taught in Japan in December and has appeared since then at classes in Washington state, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Florida. Online, he has been called an "internationally renowned Zumba Fitness instructor" and one of "Zumba's elite instructors."

Cathya Beard, a Lexington-based Zumba teacher, said Wednesday that Thompson also once taught hip-hop at a Lexington athletic club. He has become widely known as a Zumba teacher during the past few years, she said. Beard said she had been getting text messages about the case from other Zumba instructors in the area.

"He definitely is well-known in the Zumba world," Beard said of Thompson. "We all kind of know who he is, especially for the achievement he's gotten over the past year or so with Zumba."
Beard said she had considered Thompson to be "a good person" and was shocked to hear about the charges.

"I knew him and have had some conversations with him," she said. "I have mixed emotions about the whole thing; when you know someone it makes a difference. I just pray that the truth will come out." ...
ad more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/25/2270889/lexington-police-continue-to-investigate.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/24/2269680/former-fayette-schools-employee.html#storylink=cpy


Shelton said that in June 2011 the Leestown principal received "second-hand information" alleging "inappropriate contact" between Thompson and an unnamed minor who was not a student. Later that month, the principal, following state law and school district policy, reported the matter to the Fayette Schools Central Office and to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Shelton said.
Shelton said district officials then called Thompson in to discuss the allegations. At that point Thompson resigned, and the school system reported the case to the state Education Professional Standards Board, Shelton said.
"In August of 2011, after Mr. Thompson had left us, we received a second allegation, and we followed the same steps in reporting to the state cabinet and the professional standards board," Shelton said. "We have been cooperating with law enforcement since then."

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/24/2269680/former-fayette-schools-employee.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/26/2272145/zumba-instructor-ex-fayette-schools.html#storylink=cpy

17 Year Old Wins Google Science Fair Grand Prize For Breast Cancer Diagnosis App

This from The Huffington Post:
Have you ever helped the hard-of-hearing listen to music? Or built a computer program to diagnose breast cancer? These kids have.
The five teenage winners of the second annual Google Science Fair were announced on Monday, according to Scientific American. Each of these brainy teens were chosen from among 30 finalists from around the world and were treated (along with the runners-up) to a gala held in an airplane hanger near the company's Palo Alto headquarters in California. (This is Google, after all.)
But the winners, of course, were awarded the best swag: Prizes included a college scholarships from Google for $25,000 or $50,000, trips to scientific hotspots like CERN and Fermilab, and (perhaps best of all), trophies made out of Lego bricks.
What did these brainiacs do to win the admiration of one of the best tech companies in the world?
The Grand Prize winner of the science fair, for good reason, was a 17-year-old from Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Combining the fields of biology and computer science, Wenger wrote an app that helps doctors diagnose breast cancer, according to the description of her project on Google.

The type of computer program, called a "neural network," was designed by Wenger to mimic the human brain: Give it a massive amount of information (in this case, 7.6 million trials), and the artificial "brain" will learn to detect complex patterns and make diagnostic calls on breast cancer. Her program used data from "fine needle aspirates," a minimally invasive procedure that, unfortunately, is often one of the least precise diagnosis processes, according to Fox News. But Wenger is helping change that, as her program correctly identifies 99 percent of malignant tumors.

“I think it might be hospital ready," she told WWSB. "I'd love to get different data from doctors. Right now, I have 700 test samples.”

Visit her app at Cloud4Cancer Breast Cancer Detection (here) to see how it works.

For this eight grader from San Diego, who won the 13- to 14-year-old category, it all started with a bite on his guitar. "Last year, when I wanted to play guitar with one of my friends, I realized it was much too loud in the classroom to hear the guitar," Kohn said in a YouTube video. "But if you put your teeth on the top of the guitar, then you can hear it no matter how loud it is around you."

Kohn saw implications for the hearing-impaired. For his science-fair project, he wanted to show that the experience of music could be improved for the hard-of-hearing through tactile sound.

Filtering songs down to different frequency ranges and applying those vibrations to different parts of the body (such as fingertips), Kohn showed that the listening experience of people with cochlear implants could be improved by 95 percent, based on tests of 12 individuals with hearing loss.

"I thought it was a very inspiring idea," Kohn told KPBS. "I thought it could help a massive amount of people."
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For the winning project in the 15- to 16-year-old category, this trio of young scientists (Ivan Hervias Rodriguez, Marcos Ochoa, and Sergio Pascual from LogroƱo, Spain) documented the microbes and other nasty things living in the fresh water on northeaster Spain.
Collecting hundreds of samples over more than three years, according to their project description, they documented the presence of microbes found in over 60 fresh water sites, establishing fresh water quality for the entire valley of the Ebro River, mapped out below. (Watch them describe their project in Spanish in a YouTube video here.)

"They went back to a very ancient tradition in natural sciences, which is sampling the real world, cataloguing what you find, and then analyzing it to try to interpret what the implications are,” Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist, told Scientific American of their project.
Read about last year's winners here.

Open juvenile court

This from the Courier-Journal:
So, two teenage boys admit to sexually assaulting a girl and circulating photos of the attack and who winds up in trouble?

Why, the victim of course — a 17-year-old Louisville girl who until Monday faced possible jail time for contempt of court.
Her offense?
Speaking out on Twitter about her case, in violation of the excessive secrecy that envelops Kentucky’s juvenile court system.
Lawyers for the boys had the sense this week to drop their ill-advised efforts to hold Savannah Dietrich in contempt of court after she went public with her dissatisfaction, including what she believed to be lenient treatment of the boys who await sentencing.
Now Kentucky needs to do what most states already have done and drop the rigid confidentiality laws that govern juvenile court proceedings.
Kentucky is one of only 11 states that bar any access to juvenile proceedings — the rest, including Indiana and Tennessee allow full or partial access, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Without such access, how is the public to know how the courts function and how effective they are at handling juvenile criminal cases? In this case, troubling questions have surfaced that demand answers.
For example, Miss Dietrich claims she had no say in the resolution of the case or the plea deal the Jefferson County Attorney’s office struck with the two young men. Is this true?
Who knows? Because of the confidentiality of records and closed court proceedings, we can’t tell and no one else involved is talking.
She also believes the proposed sentence is a “very, very light deal.”
Was it? Again, there’s no way to judge without access to the proceedings, an understanding of the offense and details of the sentence the teens are facing.
Efforts by the boys’ lawyers to keep a lid on the case clearly backfired.
After Courier-Journal reporter Jason Riley broke the story about the contempt proceedings, it went viral on websites and news outlets around the world, attracting many comments of outrage about Miss Dietrich’s treatment.
David Mejia, a lawyer for one of the boys, complained about the publicity, saying the confidentiality of juvenile court in part is meant to protect the victim.
No, it’s not, Mr. Mejia.
It’s about protecting the system.
The victim in this case came forward, agreeing to be identified, even though this newspaper and most news outlets routinely don’t identify sexual assault victims.
Kentucky needs to join most other states and open this secret system.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Former Breathitt schools chief pleads guilty in vote-buying case

This from the Herald-Leader:
Former Breathitt County superintendent Arch Turner pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to vote-buying conspiracy.

Turner admitted taking money from one person and distributing it to others in the interest of buying votes in local races. Prosecutors said Turner was the ringleader in a vote-buying ring in the May 2010 primary election in Breathitt County.

Turner, who appeared in U.S. District Court in Lexington, was released on bond under strict conditions. He must not return to Breathitt County and he will be under electronic monitoring in Fayette County until his sentencing in October.

Turner was charged in March. He had been free on bond but resigned in May after a federal judge ordered him jailed until trial for having improper contact with John L. Turner, a former Breathitt County sheriff who has pleaded guilty in a vote-buying scheme. John L. Turner admitted to distributing money to be used in buying votes in the May 2010 primary, according to his plea agreement.

Arch Turner's trial had been scheduled to begin July 30. Several people have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in related vote-fraud cases.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/24/2268970/former-breathitt-co-superintendent.html#storylink=cpy

Ed. Dept.: Most Automatic Cuts Wouldn't Affect Coming School Year

This from Politics K-12:
Districts and state officials who have lost sleep worrying that key federal education progams might be cut smack in the middle of the coming school year can calm down, at least according to a letter the U.S. Department of Education sent out to chief state school officers late Friday.

Title I grants to districts, special education state grants, career and technical education, and Title II grants for teacher quality wouldn't be cut in the middle of the school year even if the automatic federal spending cuts triggered by last year's deficit-reduction deal take place, Anthony Miller, the deputy secretary of education at the department, wrote.

"There is no reason to believe that a sequestration would affect funding for the 2012-13 school year," he wrote...

Advocates had been pressing the administration for details on how all this would shake out, and getting no clear response.

In fact, more than half the 1,060 school administrators surveyed by the American Association of School Administrators earlier this month built the cuts into their budgets. And some state chiefs were trying to get their districts to plan for a big cut in the middle of the year. Texas, for example, was planning to withhold up to 10 percent of districts' federal funds in preparation, according to this memo.

So does this mean that education advocates who had been planning to spend the summer fighting the trigger cuts can quit organizing rallies and signing onto coalition letters, and go sip margaritas on the beach?

Not so much, says Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, and all-around smarty pants when it comes to the federal education budget.

If Congress can't figure out a solution, the cuts will still happen, Packer said. They just won't take effect until the 2013-14 school year. Of course, the extra time gives school districts and states a much bigger planning window, he said. Still, cuts of roughly 8 percent while districts are still recovering from the recession isn't anything to sneeze at.

Advocates will get a chance to learn more about the trigger cuts and their effect on education at a Senate hearing this Wednesday, chaired by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who oversees the panels that deal with K-12 funding and policy. The hearing will star U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, plus June Atkinson, the state chief in North Carolina, and Billy Walker, the superintendent of Randolph Field Independent School District in University City, Texas.

Of course, the presidential—and congressional elections—are going to be big determining factors in just how domestic spending (including education) is affected in any final deal, which most folks expect will get hammered out during the "lame-duck" session of Congress after the election.
For now, President Barack Obama has put out a budget blueprint that would spare education programs in part by raising taxes (or not extending tax cuts put in place under President George W. Bush) on folks making over $250,000 a year.

Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, doesn't support that plan. He hasn't been too specific about exactly what he'd cut and how education would fare. But, if he wins, he has said he'd like Congress to come up with a short-term solution in the lame-duck, so that he can lead negotiations on a sweeping, longer term deal once he takes office.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Panel of Scholars Define '21st-Century Skills'

Top scholars say students need mix of abilities

This from Education Week:
The modern workplace and lifestyle demand that students balance cognitive, personal, and interpersonal abilities, but education policy discussions have not defined those skills well, says a report released last week by scholars from the National Research Council.

A "who's who" team of experts from the National Academies of Sciences collaborated for more than a year on the report intended to define what researchers, educators, and policymakers mean when they talk about "deeper learning" and "21st-century skills." (The report was sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which supports Education Week's coverage of "deeper learning" issues.)

"Staying in school and completing degrees clearly have very strong effects," said James W. Pellegrino, a co-editor of the report and a co-director of the Interdisciplinary Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Americans get about a 7 percent to 11 percent return in higher career earnings based on their years of schooling, he said, "and cognitive skills"—the kind most associated with academic aptitude—"don't explain all the effects of schooling. Schooling is probably a proxy for some combination of different clusters of skills."

The committee found the skills considered necessary for the 21st-century workplace generally fall into three categories: cognitive, such as critical thinking and analytic reasoning to learn "deeply"; interpersonal, such as teamwork and complex communication; and intrapersonal, such as resiliency and conscientiousness.
Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who was not part of the report committee, said developing common definitions of 21st-century skills is critical to current education policy discussions, such as those going on around the Common Core State Standards. She was pleased with the report's recommendation to focus more research and resources on nonacademic skills. "Those are the things that determine whether you make it through college, as much as your GPA or your skill level when you start college," she said. "We have tended to de-emphasize those skills in an era in which we are focusing almost exclusively on testing, and a narrow area of testing."

The skill that may be the trickiest to teach and test may be the one that underlies and connects skills in all three areas: a student's ability to transfer and apply existing knowledge to a problem in a new context. "Transfer is the sort of Holy Grail in this whole thing," Mr. Pellegrino said. "We'd like to believe we can create Renaissance men who are experts in a wide array of disciplines and can blithely transfer skills from one to the other, but it just doesn't happen that way."

The committee found students develop the best ways to solve new problems by learning procedures and conceptual models within a specific subject area, and it notes that even expertsRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader often fail to apply their existing knowledge when a problem is presented in a totally new context....

New Fayette schools policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation

This from Jim Warren at the Herald Leader:
The Fayette County Board of Education unanimously approved new policy language Monday night to protect students, teachers and school district employees from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Fayette County joins about half a dozen other Kentucky public school districts that specifically prohibit such discrimination. All of Kentucky's 174 public school districts ban discrimination based on gender.

Fayette's new policy goes into effect immediately.

Superintendent Tom Shelton said the new provision was added as a part of the district's regular annual policy review, after some community groups requested the change.

"We received requests last year from some of our community partners, including the Fayette County Education Association and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, to take a look at it," he said.

Shelton said the groups requested the change because they had heard of some reports of bullying or harassment of people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Fayette Schools already prohibit harassment or discrimination based on race, creed, color or religion. The update adds gender identity and sexual orientation to that list.

It covers students and certified and classified employees.

"Technically, these groups always have been covered by law, so we aren't adding anyone who has not been there already," Shelton said. "We don't tolerate harassment toward any student or employee. But we just felt this new language makes a stronger statement so that people understand what our stance is."

Brad Hughes, a spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said the U.S. Department of Education holds that Kentucky school districts' general prohibition against discrimination based on sexual discrimination covers all discrimination involving gender.

"But about half a dozen boards wanted more specific language, and have added sexual orientation or gender identity," he said.

Also Monday night, board members gave Shelton glowing grades on his first annual evaluation since becoming school superintendent last year. They said he met or exceeded expectations in eight different measures ranging from leadership to community relations and professional standards.

Shelton was paid about $244,000 in his first year on the job. He will receive a basic 2-percent raise in the coming year, the same as other district employees.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/23/2268335/new-fayette-schools-policy-prohibits.html#storylink=rss?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy

Task Force to Study Teacher Retention

This from WFPL:
A task force created by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence will meet at the end of this week to begin a year-and-a-half effort to address how to retain an effective teaching workforce in Kentucky.

The Pritchard [sic, throughout] Committee Team on Teacher Effectiveness will include nearly 30 members made up of legislators, education professionals and other advisors.

The panel will look more broadly at policy issues preventing retention of strong teachers, said Cindy Heine, Pritchard’s associate director.

“Some people think if you just solved one problem you could fix teaching. You’ve got to look at the broad spectrum. How do you recruit highly skilled people? How do you prepare them?” she said.

Representatives from North Carolina’s Center on Teaching Quality will advise the task force on speakers and resources that can be used to research the issue, said Heine.

“We aren’t going to be able to dig real deeply into each issue, but we’re going to try to look at what we’re doing in Kentucky, what seems to be working, where are the gaps, what are other states doing,” she said.

Heine said there have been improvements in teacher training in Kentucky’s higher education programs including the selection process some colleges are using to admit new teachers.

The group will be draw on data from Kentucky and nationwide.

The meeting will be Friday at the Kentucky History Center.

Chamber report cites drawbacks, strengths in state quest for economic growth


This from the Kentucky Chamber Blog:
Kentucky has serious work to do to become a more competitive place to do business and achieve economic prosperity, according to a new report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Ready for Jobs? examines how Kentucky compares to other states on key indicators of a competitive business environment and finds the state coming up short in such areas as health, education and tort liability but performing relatively well in business taxation and the cost of doing business.

The report, which includes recommendations for improvement, also addresses the importance of protecting and promoting such key sectors as coal, bourbon, manufacturing and the equine industry...
Under the heading Education:
Strengths:
  • Significant progress in increasing college enrollment and the number of degrees awarded
  • Dramatic improvement in national ranking on key education indicators, including K-12 achievement
Weaknesses:
  • Low overall education attainment
  • ACT scores trail national average

Sign At Former Duncan School Raises Eyebrows

This from This Week In Education:

This is a picture taken of the marquee at Chicago's Ray Elementary School, where Arne Duncan sent his children for many years, sent to Alexander Russo by "one of many Hyde Park smartypants."  It features an informal version of the Aeschylus quote about fear, "I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship." The correct version is on the other side.

Can Twitter Help Rape Victims Find Justice?

This from Slate:
Last summer, 16-year-old Savannah Dietrich went to a party, had some drinks, and passed out. Then, two acquaintances sexually assaulted her, took pictures, and forwarded them to their friends. News of the public assault tore through Dietrich’s Louisville high school. Dietrich was forced to “just sit there and wonder, who saw, who knows?” The public humiliation culminated this June, when her assailants struck a plea deal on charges of felony sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism that Dietrich felt amounted to a “slap on the wrist.” And the court had an order for Dietrich, too: Don’t talk about it, or risk 180 days in prison and a $500 fine.
First, Dietrich cried. Then, she logged online. "There you go, lock me up," she tweeted to a couple hundred Twitter followers, outing her assailants by name. "I'm not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.” These men had made their assault on her public. Now, they had convinced a court to keep it all under wraps. “If reporting a rape only got me to the point that I'm not allowed to talk about it, then I regret it,” she wrote in a note on her Facebook wall. “I regret reporting it.”

Public officials and victim’s advocates have long grappled with the question of why more than one-half of rape victims do not report the crime to police. Rape trials can be long, grueling, humiliating, stigmatizing, alienating, and ultimately difficult to prove. But as Dietrich's case shows, the criminal justice process can also rob the victim of control over her own narrative. Reporting to official channels often means keeping quiet in social ones. Even when the story hits the press—as is the case of the local Louisville report on Dietrich, now 17—the accused rapists’ names often remain unpublished.

Now, young victims like Dietrich are "reporting" the assault directly to the people who need the information most—other women living in these rapists' communities. And they’re risking their own names and reputations in order to bring their assailants out into the open. In 2010, 19-year-old American University student Chloe Rubenstein took to Facebook and Twitter to out two men on campus she said had victimized several of her friends (“ATTENTION WOMEN,” she wrote. “They are predators and will show no remorse for anyone.”) In 2007, a group of women at Portland’s Lewis & Clark College, led by sophomore Helen Hunter, created a Facebook group calling one of their classmates a “Piece of Shit Rapist.” When the administration caught wind, it suspended the man for just a semester. But five years later? Google his name, and the online rape allegations still register as the fourth hit.

The tactic has its risks. Women who report rapes through unofficial channels can be shamed for making public claims that have not been proven in a court of law—or else for ruining the reputations of “boys” who have made "mistakes." Dietrich faces jail time. Rubenstein fielded late-night threatening phone calls from her rapists’ friends. Victims with even less social clout—Dietrich is white and middle-class, and is speaking out with the help of her family and legal counsel—can expect even less support. But the costs of staying silent are high. In her Facebook note, Dietrich said that her attackers gave “people the impression that it’s okay to do that to me … making me look like a whore and increasing my chances of getting raped again.” We know that the majority of acquaintance rapists are repeat offenders. When campus and criminal processes fail to catch these predators, social media can provide a powerful patch.

Last night, Dietrich unlocked her Facebook page to the hundreds of strangers—myself included—who have requested to make her a “friend.” They have flooded her wall with offers of financial support and links to Change.org petitions calling for justice in her case. Of course, Dietrich is also fielding spammy notes from strangers with dogs for avatars (“since they took pictures isn’t this child pornography?”) and all-caps rants about the sex offender registry.
But here, Dietrich is the editor of her own story. She has the power to delete the comments she doesn’t like and promote the ones she does. Thanks to a few brave tweets, a 17-year-old rape victim is now curating an international conversation about sexual assault in America. She’s created a public Twitter account to represent her new online role. And she’s speaking out not only about the details of her own assault, but the ways that the justice system is failing others like her. “All I am hoping for out of this is to get not only justice for myself but to future victims,” she wrote in response to one commenter offering of financial support. “The laws that protect criminals shouldn’t cross over and take away victims rights. Victims rights should come first. And thank you.”