Wednesday, June 25, 2014

College Readiness Needs to Go Beyond Content to Skill Sets

This from College Bound:
Colleges need more information about incoming students to get a better sense of whether they are truly ready for higher education—not just to be admitted, but also have the skills to successfully complete a degree.

That's the argument that education professor David Conley makes in a new article published in the spring issue of the Journal of College Admission. Colleges, as well as students and teachers, would benefit from more and deeper measures of students' ability to learn new skills before they enter college, writes Conley, a professor at the University of Oregon and the CEO of the Educational Policy Improvement Center.

Conley calls for a "profile-based approach" to readiness that would include assessments of students' cognitive strategies, learning skills, and techniques, in addition to content. Students would submit ACT or SAT scores, along with ratings by teachers of their speaking, listening, research, and study skills, as well as their proficiency with technology, their persistence, and focus on goals.

"No capability or knowledge set is going to trump the ability to learn new skills" writes Conley. "Getting students ready to be true lifelong learners requires several components. Students will always need foundational knowledge, but they will increasingly need to develop tools for learning."

The current method of admissions review fails to connect students with the supports and resources students need to make a successful transition, Conley says. The new common-core assessments being developed by PARCC (the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium hold some potential as a starting point, they are not sufficient, he writes.

A Tough Sell?

Conley acknowledges a comprehensive approach would require more data and work, making it a tough sell. To help colleges cope with the complex information, the scores from the various sources would be placed on a common scale. The profile could also provide feedback with "actionable information" that points out improvement needs that could be addressed in high school, he writes. The hope is that the information might help students master the necessary skills before making the investment of time and money in college.

So important are these skills that Conley advocates they be called "metacognitive learning skills," rather than "noncognitive" skills in a commentary piece in Education Week earlier this year.

The current measures of college readiness have been virtually unchanged for 100 years, Conley argues, and schools should leverage the increasing the amount of information available help better prepare students, writes Conley.

Lacking Leaders

This from the Fordham Foundation:

A school’s leader matters enormously to its success and that of its students and teachers. But how well are U.S. districts identifying, recruiting, selecting, and placing the best possible candidates in principals’ offices? To what extent do their practices enable them to find and hire great school leaders? To what degree is the principal’s job itself designed to attract outstanding candidates?

In Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement, authors Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke examine five urban school districts that have sought to improve their principal-hiring processes in recent years. They find some strengths—but also plenty of challenges:
  • The principalship is a high-pressure job in which the school head’s authority is generally not commensurate with his or her responsibility. It’s also a job that does not pay very well. Put these shortcomings together and it’s not surprising that many high-ability individuals are loath to seek such a position.
  • Recruitment of leadership talent beyond a district’s own boundaries is limited and uneven. Most principals are therefore selected from a group of individuals already on the district payroll. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, not much strategic thought goes into how to identify talent or find the best fit between the skillset of a new principal and the needs of a specific school.
  • Districts have built into their selection-and-hiring processes many sensible practices—and cronyism is less of an issue than it used to be. Yet those same rubrics don’t collect much hard data on candidates’ prior effectiveness in improving student outcomes.
In the authors’ words,
Our primary finding is that principal-hiring practices—even in pioneering districts—continue to fall short of what is needed, effectively causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great. Our research suggests, however, that better hiring practices alone are only part of the solution. Districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role so that it is a job that talented leaders want and are equipped to execute successfully.
Among their key recommendations are the following:
  1. Make the job more appealing—and manageable. Give principals the power to lead, including authority over key staffing decisions, operations, and resources.
  2. Pay great leaders what they are worth. Compensation must be commensurate with the demands, responsibilities, and risks of the job—and should reward success in this challenging role.
  3. Take a proactive approach to recruitment. Develop criteria to identify promising candidates both inside and outside of the district and actively seek them out. At the same time, identify and prepare internal candidates systematically and early—and eliminate barriers that might discourage high-potential candidates.
  4. Insist on evidence of a candidate’s prior success in boosting pupil achievement.
  5. Evaluate candidates against the competencies and skills demonstrated by successful principals.
  6. Design the placement process to match individual schools’ needs with particular candidates’ strengths.
  7. Continually evaluate hiring efforts. Collect and analyze all relevant data, and then develop metrics by which to assess each stage of the process, particularly in relation to the school results that follow.

New Charter School Lottery System Gives Each Applicant White Pill, Enrolls Whoever Left Standing

Warning: This from The Onion:

Introducing key changes to the lottery system that governs the admissions process, the New York City Charter School Center notified potential students this week that openings will now be filled by randomly distributing white pills to applicants and enrolling those left standing.

In place of the existing electronic lottery system conducted in the spring, education officials explained that applicants would receive identical white pills, among them a small number of innocuous placebos corresponding to the amount of open spots, and then wait approximately 30 minutes to determine the survivors and new charter school enrollees.

“With so many deserving students competing for so few spots in the city’s network of high-performing, tuition-free charter schools, our new lottery system ensures that each student is provided with an equal opportunity,” said Eva Moskowitz, the head of the Success Academy chain of 22 charter schools, while mixing up a tub of 118 sugar pills and 2,376 pentobarbital capsules to be blindly administered in an upcoming lottery. “Between small class sizes, longer school days, individualized instruction, and superior college admission rates, charters provide amazing opportunities for students who don’t enter a convulsive state, fall into a coma, stop breathing, and cease all bodily functions during the admissions process.”

“Of course it’s heartbreaking for the families of children who aren’t accepted,” Moskowitz continued, “But seeing the look on parents’ faces when their child is still standing in a room littered with rejected applicants is priceless. They know their child is going to get the best possible education.”...

JCPS Responds to State Audit

This from WFPL:
Jefferson County Public Schools plans to review salaries, analyze school staffing levels and inventory text books in response to a critical state audit earlier this year.

Waggener High School
The Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday approved a formal response to state Auditor Adam Edelen's review, which criticized the size of the JCPS central administration among its findings.  The school board requested the audit last year in a 5-2 vote on Superintendent Donna Hargens' recommendation.
JCPS administration also pledged to take steps to ensure that school board members better understand the budget, addressing another of Edelen's concerns.

Here's an outline of the "action steps" from JCPS:
-Benchmarking (Classroom Resources)—To ensure that all teachers have properly resourced classrooms, the district will provide principals additional guidelines and training regarding existing policies on the teacher stipends section of their budgets. JCPS currently provides $140 per student for instructional supplies. The current state requirement is $100 per student.
-Benchmarking (Textbooks)—Each principal or designee will conduct an inventory of all base textbooks in the four core areas and indicate the availability of resources for students to take home. We will use this inventory to ensure that each school has appropriate instructional resources and textbooks during the annual budget process.
-Benchmarking (School Staffing)—School-Based Decision Making (SBDM) Councils are responsible for staffing decisions at each school, as mandated by state statute. However, to help ensure that schools have optimal ratios of teachers, instructional assistants, counselors, and administrators, we will conduct an analysis of staffing levels approved by the JCBE and by SBDM Councils. Then, district leadership will conduct meetings with individual school administrators to provide feedback on current staffing decisions and obtain consensus of true staffing needs for the future.
-Benchmarking (Compensation)—JCPS will submit a request for proposal for a salary review. This ensures that all employees are fairly compensated for their duties and responsibilities and that our salary scale is reflective of today’s market.
-Governance (Fiscal)—Will improve sharing of pertinent information to ensure that the JCBE has a greater understanding of budget items and the budget process so that members can make informed decisions.
-Internal Audit—JCPS is reviewing the scope and nature of our internal audit function, which will move to a best-practice, risk-based work plan. The JCBE will have more formal oversight in this area, and we will consolidate fraud hotline and complaints tracking, as recommended in the audit.
-Contracting—JCPS is implementing a centralized database of all contracts, as called for in the review.
-Information Technology—To further fortify the safety of confidential digital information, JCPS continues to work closely with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) not only to investigate areas of potential improvement but also to employ a risk- based approach to ensure that sufficient protective measures are evaluated and implemented.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Male HS principal reassigned in ACT inquiry

Perhaps this is a good time for a reminder:
More than 30 years ago, the eminent social scientist Donald T. Campbell warned about the perils of measuring effectiveness via a single, highly consequential indicator:
“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”
High-stakes testing is exactly the kind of process Campbell worried about, since important judgments about student, teacher, and school effectiveness often are based on a single test score. This exaggerated reliance on scores for making judgments creates conditions that promote corruption and distortion. In fact, the overvaluation of this single indicator of school success often compromises the validity of the test scores themselves. Thus, the scores we end up praising and condemning in the press and our legislatures are actually untrustworthy, perhaps even worthless.
This from the Courier-Journal:
The principal of Louisville Male High School has been reassigned to the central office pending the outcome of a new investigation — this time into improper testing practices involving the ACT.

David Mike, who took over as principal at Male last year, was notified of his reassignment on Friday and reported to the student assignment division of the central office on Monday, said Ben Jackey, a spokesman for Jefferson County Public Schools.

David Mike
The move came after Jennifer Geraets, a senior investigator with ACT, sent Mike a letter on Thursday, informing him that in light of information obtained during an ACT investigation and previous concerns regarding the secure and fair administration of tests at Male High, he is no longer "authorized to access, administer or oversee the administration of tests for any ACT-owned or branded products, unless ACT has given written permission otherwise."

"ACT will work with the Kentucky Department of Education and Jefferson County Public Schools to implement a plan that will allow testing at (Male High) to continue while better protecting the integrity of ACT testing assets and the validity of scores," Geraets wrote.

The Kentucky Education Department began working with the ACT, the Iowa-based testing organization, to investigate possible cheating that took place on the ACT Compass Test administered last year at the school.

Students have told The Courier-Journal that a school administrator gave them answers, and when the ACT began investigating, they said Mike told them to lie.

Jackey said JCPS has been assisting the state and ACT with the investigation and will start its own investigation as soon as the state probe is complete.

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said Monday: "We are taking this very seriously and we are looking into the matter. The ACT letter provided us with evidence of their concern, which prompted our investigation."

Hargens also said parents can have "complete confidence" when ACT Compass Test scores come out that they are accurate because students were retested.

She said "lots of steps were taken to ensure the integrity of the test was maintained."

Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Education Department, said Monday night that the state's investigation is ongoing.

Mike is also under a separate investigation, started May 30, by JCPS for "professional behavior" that "does not involve testing" at Male High School. He had been allowed to stay at the school during that investigation, Jackey said.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Consortia assessments – yours, mine or ours?

This from Terry Holliday at Dr. H's Blog:

As states moved to implement new, more rigorous college/career-readiness standards in English/language arts and mathematics, they faced a challenge:  how would they assess student progress on the new standards?  Writing high quality assessment items that truly measure student mastery of the standards would be no small task.  It would be both time consuming and expensive.

In Kentucky, due to the mandates of Senate Bill 1 (2009) to implement new standards and aligned assessments in 2011-12, the Kentucky Department of Education contracted with vendors to provide end-of-the year tests for students in grades 3-8, and an on-demand writing test and end-of-course exams in Algebra II, English II, Biology and U.S. History at the high school level.  The majority of the tests were traditional, multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests that were really more narrowly focused than the standards demanded, but were nonetheless valid and reliable. 

Meanwhile, in 2010 through the Race to the Top Assessment Program, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) awarded $330 million to two assessment consortia to develop a new generation of tests designed to provide ongoing feedback to teachers during the course of the school year, measure annual student growth, and more accurately gauge students’ understanding and application of the standards. Through the consortia, states would benefit from having their dollars used in highly leveraged ways to support goals that would not otherwise be achieved without an infusion of federal funding.

Based on their applications, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) planned to test students' ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. 

The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) would test students using computer adaptive technology that would ask students tailored questions based on their previous answers. 

The consortia would develop periodic assessments throughout the school year to inform students, parents and teachers about whether students were on track.

The requirements of the grant provided that  the consortia “…make all assessment content (i.e., assessments and assessment items) developed with funds from this competition freely available to the States, technology platform provides and other that request it for the purposes of administering assessments, provided they comply with the consortium or state requirements for test and item security.”

This provision was designed to ensure that content developed with public funds was widely available – including to states that were not part of grantee consortia. Initially, Kentucky was a participating state in each consortium, meaning we were monitoring but not leading the work. Eventually, due to capacity issues and a potential conflict of interest if either or both of the consortia would bid on Kentucky’s testing contract, the state withdrew from each.

Now, in an effort to save millions of dollars, the Kentucky Department of Education is seeking access to consortia-developed assessment items at the end of the 2014-15 school year so that we may enhance Kentucky's assessment item pool for the 2015-16 state assessments. Of course, before any new items are added to state K-PREP tests, they would move through the normal state review process.

It is my understanding, however, that several states have already contacted the consortia to request access to assessment items and have been denied access or told they would have to pay for access to assessment items. Both of these conditions seem to violate the program requirements of the publicly funded grant.  

So, the question is, who owns the assessment items and the consortia-developed assessments?  Are they yours (the consortia’s), mine (the states’) or ours (the federal government’s)?

I have written Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to ask for clarification. Kentucky and several other states anxiously await his response. Stay tuned.

Budget shortfall raises spending cut fears in Ky.

This from the Courier-Journal:
Kentuckians are unlikely to feel immediate pain from a recently announced shortfall in state revenues, but some budget experts warn that it raises the risk that spending cuts will be needed to balance the already lean 2014-16 state budget.

"It puts pressure on us through the next two years because in order to balance, revenues will now need to grow more than we've projected," said Rep. Rick Rand, a Bedford Democrat who heads the House budget committee.

Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center on Economic Policy in Berea, said, "A shortfall in one year has a kind of a domino effect on the next years, and it looks like revenues in the next two years will have to grow in a higher range that's not expected."

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said it's too soon to know if the legislature will have to adjust the budget. "But I know that we're still in a weak economic recovery and revenues are spotty."

The Beshear administration announced June 10 that a significant shortfall is inevitable in tax receipts when the fiscal year ends June 30. Budget Director Jane Driskell said it is too soon to say how far short revenues will be, but that it's likely to be "significantly larger" than a $28 million shortfall projected in April.

Driskell's comments were based on the fact that through the first 11 months of this fiscal year, revenues had only grown 1.1 percent over the same period last fiscal year — yet the budget for this year requires growth of 2.2 percent to meet expectations.

In interviews since the announcement, Driskell said it's still too soon to release an estimate of the size of any shortfall.

But some budget watchers like Bailey note that if state revenues grow in June at the same 1.1 percent rate as they did through the 11 prior months, the shortfall would be about $100 million in the approximately $9.5 billion in revenues anticipated in this year's budget.

Immediate cuts not planned

With the shortfall coming into view so late in the fiscal year, emergency cuts in funding agencies can hardly be made and are not planned, Driskell said.

But following instructions in state law and the budget itself, Beshear has several sources of funds he can turn to to balance by midnight June 30 — which is required by the Kentucky Constitution.

Driskell said options under consideration include tapping the state's so-called Rainy Day fund — or spending part of an $80 million ending balance budgeted for this year that carries forward into the next budget.

Such moves, Driskell said, would restrict the administration's "flexibility" in managing next year's budget.
For instance, the Rainy Day fund, which is a reserve kept to cover such shortfalls, has a balance of $98 million. The budget that takes effect July 1, however, takes about $14 million from that fund for spending during the next two years, leaving $84 million.

Bond rating agencies encourage states to keep a balance of about 5 percent of revenues in rainy day funds. But $84 million is less than 1 percent of annual state General Fund revenues.

To the extent Beshear uses any money from that fund to balance the current shortfall, he'll have that much less available to cope with any shortfalls in the next two years.

And the $80 million on hand as a budgeted ending balance this fiscal year is also spent on state programs within the 2014-16 budget. That means if Beshear taps it for the current shortfall, he'll need a revenue surplus to replace it.

Potential bigger problem

The larger concern of state officials and budget watchers is that this year's shortfall means next year's revenues must grow stronger than expected for the budget to balance next year.

The recently passed state budget assumes General Fund revenues in 2014-15 will be equal to last year's $9.5 billion in revenue — which was presumed before any shortfall was envisioned — plus growth of 2.6 percent. But to the extent that this year's revenues fall short, then the base for calculating next year's revenues is lowered a like amount.

"That puts pressure on us over next year and the second year of the new budget to grow by a higher percentage than the experts project to meet the dollars that have already been projected in the new budget," Rand said. "And that gives me concern because of the volatility we've seen in our revenue stream in recent months."

Driskell said the administration will closely monitor revenues and see what trend develops after the first three months before deciding if any budget cutting is necessary.

Makes bad outlook worse

Bailey said the unexpected shortfall this year is serious "because the 2014-16 budget is extremely lean to begin with."

The budget did fund the first raises for state employees and teachers in six years. It boosted funding for pre-school, phased in a restoration of cuts made earlier to child care for low-income families, and began paying more to the troubled pension system for state workers. But Bailey noted it cut funding to many agencies by 5 percent, cut funding for mine safety by 30 percent, and cut university funding 1.5 percent.

"Many areas, including higher education, have suffered cuts back to 2008," Bailey said. "Dealing with the current shortfall means potentially dipping into an inadequate Rainy Day fund or other steps that create more of a structural imbalance down the road."

Beth Jurek, the top budget official of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told a legislative committee last week that the next budget provided $30 million a year less in General Fund appropriations per year than requested by Beshear — an amount that means $100 million less per year for the cabinet when the federal Medicaid match is considered.

"We're looking closely at that, not ready to panic at this point," Jurek said. "We know ... that we never get everything we ask for in Medicaid."

And folks who closely follow the issue are quick to point out concerns beyond the 2014-16 budget. Those include the $13.8 billion unfunded pension liability of the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System and the state's obligation to pick up part of the tab for expansion of Medicaid beginning in the 2016-18 budget.

"The three troubling things that are on the horizon for Kentucky are soft revenues, but also the Teachers Retirement System and Medicaid expansion. Those are all storm clouds," said Dave Adkisson, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Many advocates for health and education programs interviewed last week said the current shortfall shows the need for tax reform that would raise immediate new revenue and produce more reliable revenue growth.
"Until this state embraces the notion and the need for comprehensive tax reform, we're going to be playing this game of hold-your-breath, wait-and-see, and hope the bad news doesn't hit us," said Sheila Schuster, a longtime advocate for health and mental health programs. ""I don't think that's the way to care for the needs of the people."

Thayer and Rand both said it will be extremely difficult to reach any political consensus on tax reform. Thayer said, "I'm not optimistic that there'll be any sort of tax reform until after the 2015 governor's race," he said. "It's going to take a statewide debate on that issue for our highest elected office in state government."
But Beshear, who leaves office in December of 2015, "remains interested in implementing comprehensive tax reform," said Governor's Office spokesman Terry Sebastian.

Talking “truth”

Superintendents need to tell public schools’ success stories, counter myth-makers

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Bowling Green – The fact that Americans love their local public schools but have a dim view of the nation’s public education system isn’t news. It’s borne out year in, year out by the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll.

Dr. John Draper
But participants in the summer conference of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents were told Wednesday that the local leaders can no longer be satisfied with community support while lawmakers in Frankfort and Washington, D.C., are being pressed for reforms in public schools in general.

“Elected officials feel compelled to do something about the myth that public schools other than local schools are pretty bad,” said Dr. John Draper, a former Alabama educator and executive of the state’s school administrators association who is now a consultant for the Rockville, Md.-based National School Public Relations Association. “Public schools are doing better than ever but Americans don’t believe it. We have to learn how to make the truth sticky and how to unstick a sticky myth like public schools are failing.”

Draper, who will be delivering a keynote address at next month’s KSBA Summer Leadership Institute, led superintendents through a series of “Talk, Truth and Critical Conversations” about public education in America. For example:

Talk: Too many high schools are dropout factories.

Truth: We are making changes and doing a better job – graduation rates are rising. The difference between now and the past is that special education students are being counted in graduation rates.

Conversation: Schools must identify struggling students early – “We’ve got to push it down into elementary grades;” – remove time constraints, going to things like an “ungraded high school,” where student progress is measured by credits or hours rather than being labeled as “freshman, sophomore, junior, senior…and stupid;” schools must provide multiple options needed for every child to graduate.

Talk: Charters do a better job of educating kids than regular public schools.

Truth: There is no research that charters as a group are more effective than regular schools. Some charters are better, but are more selective in the students they accept.

Conversation: Americans like to choose and “choice is a new American value. How can we bring this flexibility to all public schools? The day will come when the money will go with the kid. If we are not the schools of choice, we are really going to hurt when the money goes with the kids."

Talk: American ACT and SAT scores are declining and have been for decades. American schools are falling behind those in other nations on international tests.

Truth: Average ACT and SAT scores overall have declined, but every subgroup of test takers – girls, boys, whites, minorities - has increased scores. That’s because the overall population of students taking these tests has changed significantly as more low achieving kids are encouraged or required to take these tests, such as the ACT in Kentucky. And American students have never tested well on international tests, scoring 12th of 13 nations when the first international exam was conducted. Now the U.S. scores have “fallen up” to near the international average. Some countries cull low-performing students and those with disabilities from testing.

Conversation: “Standardized tests are one measure of learning. All children can learn but learn at different rates with different strengths. And we don’t want to be the high score on international tests. The minister of education of Singapore – a nation scoring high on international tests – came to America to study our public education system. Asked why, he said that Singapore does a good job teaching students who to take tests, but then its students don’t do well on the test of life. He was here to learn how America teaches students to do well after graduation.”

Draper said the place to begin rejecting the myths will come within public schools themselves.

“If we can’t win over our own people – teachers – how will we win the rest of the country? There are 8 million public school employees in this country. Some are saying bad stuff and killing you out in the public,” said the former middle school assistant principal and high school principal.

“You have to be the chief morale officer of your district. It wasn’t part of the job description years ago, but today it is. We know the many wonderful things happening in our schools. Those good things are everyday happenings to you (but not to the general community,” Draper said.

During Wednesday’s opening session of the KASS conference, the organization honored Cindy Heine, the retiring associate executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, with its KASS Distinguished Service Award for her years of advocacy and research about public education’s needs, successes and challenges in Kentucky.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fayette superintendent says no problem with hiring company founded by friend

This from the Herald-Leader:
Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton maintains there are no problems with his decision to hire a career and college counseling company founded by his friend and mentor.

Tim Hanner, Tom Shelton and Lu Young
Questions about NaviGo, a pilot program that launched at five Fayette County high schools in 2013, have been raised on more than one occasion over the past few weeks by a district employee and two school board members.

Julane Mullins, the school district's budget director, sent an email last month to board members saying Shelton violated board policy when he directed that two budget transfers, totaling $150,000, be made for NaviGo without board approval. That issue, among others, is being investigated by Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen.

On Friday, Shelton told the Herald-Leader his relationship with NaviGo's founder Tim Hanner, whom he knows both personally and professionally, had "nothing to do with the decision to find a way to improve college and career planning in our schools."

"As a superintendent my job is to look for innovations that will improve what we do for students," Shelton said. "I am constantly looking for good ideas and I reject the notion that we should refuse to explore something that's good for kids simply because the idea originated from someone I know."

Shelton said Hanner, a retired Kenton County schools superintendent and a former Kentucky associate commissioner of education, has been "a colleague of mine for years."

Hanner, Shelton said, is one of five owners of NaviGo. Shelton said he had not met any of the others "prior to us becoming one of the pilot districts."

Shelton has previously said Fayette schools volunteered for the pilot, a normal process for new programs in education, and it does not require the use of a bidding process because a pilot is a sole source provider to initiate and create such a program.

He said the money used to fund the program was already in the district's existing budget.

"We are currently evaluating the program and its success to determine any future plans," Shelton said.
Hanner said the district entered into the contract with NaviGo not because of him, but because "of the services we provided."

NaviGo officials had done everything the company was contracted to do.

"I know everything we have done is in good faith," Hanner said.

Budget transfers

Late last month, Mullins sent the school board — and the state auditor — several concerns about the district's finances. She alleged that the district's budget crisis stemmed from an irregularity and was worsened by questionable spending. She highlighted the lack of board approval for Shelton's payments to NaviGo.

Shelton has said Mullins' allegations are inaccurate and has been cooperating with the state auditor's office. Edelen's spokeswoman Stephenie Hoelscher said she had no timetable for the investigation.
Mullins' email last month included several documents to back up her claim, including an email Shelton sent to Mullins' supervisor Mary Wright. Shelton's email, dated May 18, 2013, told Wright he wanted to process some purchase orders from his 2012-13 budget funds but didn't think it required board approval. He mentioned payments to NaviGo.

Shelton said in the email that the board had previously approved some funds for him and placed them in a contingency code because he didn't know at the time how he wanted to use them. Shelton told Wright he wanted to move those funds and he did not think the transfers required board approval.
Shelton has told the Herald-Leader he was simply paying two $75,000 invoices to NaviGo using his budget.

"In my experience in school district finance, a budget transfer is not an item that goes to the board for approval," he said. "A budget transfer is an accounting function that provides for accurate tracking of expenses."

Shelton said he recommended deleting the language that required board approval for budget transfers as part of an annual policy review because "we looked at the policies of several other school districts and found that none of them had any language about budget transfers going to the school board for approval."

Mullins, who did that research, confirmed those findings in a recent interview.

The change was presented to the school board on July 22, 2013, Shelton said.

"I did it out of my office at their request," Mullins said. "My concern is that we did something before the policy was changed. We were out of compliance. I felt uncomfortable processing those budget transfers before the board approved changing the policy."

Three school board members told the Herald-Leader they were not concerned about the decisions that Shelton made. But school board members Amanda Ferguson and Doug Barnett said they think questions remain.

Barnett said he's "afraid there might be an appearance of impropriety," and Ferguson said that is something the district should steer clear of.

"I think in this instance, we should have gone above and beyond to try to avoid any appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest since Dr. Shelton and Tim Hanner are personal friends," Ferguson said.

In the past few weeks, Ferguson has also asked Shelton how much money was paid to teachers who participated in the pilot.

Ferguson said in an interview she has concerns that, given the district's budget crunch, stipends paid to teachers for extra time to work with the students in college and career coaching at the five pilot sites over the course of the school year totaled $18,485.67.

Shelton said he understands that people are curious about other spending choices, particularly after "we have just finished making difficult decisions about developing a budget."

The Fayette County school board approved the 2014-15 tentative budget, about $428.4 million, which included a cut of about $17.5 million from the budget for the current school year.

"The reductions we made in our spending plan for next year have made the adjustments necessary to ensure financial stability and will enable us to continue to invest in innovations that are good for students," he said.

As for concerns about teachers for NaviGo, Shelton said, much like the implementation of any new program, NaviGo "required some additional training for our staff members."

"The company provided that training," he said. "In our school district, we pay our teachers for taking on additional responsibilities or attending professional development, so the stipends are part of our normal procedures, and were spent to directly support our primary responsibility to students."

'Wonderful results'

A key component of the Fayette pilot program is that NaviGo staff members train teachers to coach students as they work on their Individual Learning Plan , or ILP. The ILP is an online planning tool that the state requires, starting in sixth grade, so students have a central place to document their academic achievements, standardized test scores, extracurricular experiences, and career and college exploration. Students and teachers recently told Fayette school board members that the program had helped their schools.

"We entered the NaviGo pilot because we believed the program had the potential to improve the services we provide for students and help them make connections between the work they do in school and the path they set after high school," Shelton said. "The schools that have implemented NaviGo this year have seen wonderful results."

Fayette County Board Chair John Price said the board was aware of the NaviGo project.

"The project was funded in the superintendent's budget," he said.

Board member Daryl Love said he was glad Shelton entered into the NaviGo contract.

"As it relates to the NaviGo program expense, as a board we approve a district budget that covers current and future contracts," he said. "If an expense cannot be covered by an existing budget line item and new dollars are required beyond what has been approved, I would expect the expense to be brought to the board for approval."

But Love said that didn't apply in this case because no new money was needed.

"It is my understanding that this expense was covered under the superintendent's budget," Love said.
Hearing the results and impact shared by students in the pilot schools "confirmed the program's effectiveness," Love said.

Vice chair Melissa Bacon said that when the board hired Shelton in 2011, members had a priority of helping students navigate through preparing for college and career as they come through Fayette County Schools.

NaviGo, she said, "was a tool to complement this need."

Read more here:

Two Public Policies That Transformed Our Nation

This from Michael Benson in the Huffington Post:
On Sunday, June 22, we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the G.I. Bill becoming the law of the land. Innumerable individuals have benefited from this far-sighted policy, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Those who blazed the trail by availing themselves of the G.I. Bill were certainly blessed personally and professionally, to be sure.

But consider the positive influences post-secondary education, and all of its collateral benefits, which have accrued to subsequent generations. For me, this is one of the most profound and lasting impacts of one of the greatest social policies ever devised in the 20th century.

The first generation of college-going Americans matriculated and earned their degrees. And, more often than not, a new level of expectation among their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, was established. A college degree became the portal to a better life full of immeasurable opportunity. And thus was ushered in an unprecedented age of prosperity in America inextricably linked to all the immense benefit of a more-educated populace and workforce.

For FDR, the United States of America owed those willing to sacrifice all they had with the one thing many of these enlisted men and women heretofore could never hope to access: a college degree. As Roosevelt himself stated in the months leading up to the Bill's enactment, "I believe that the Nation is morally obligated to provide this training and education and the necessary financial assistance by which they can be secured."

Roosevelt's vision of access to education was only matched by one of his predecessors over eight decades earlier when Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act of 1862. This Civil War-era legislation created tens of state colleges and universities throughout America, the majority of which were public schools with the notable exception of private institutions: Cornell and M.I.T.

Consider this immutable fact: at some of the darkest moments of our nation's history -- the Civil War and World War II -- two prescient presidents helped enact two of the greatest social policies ever passed. And both had to do with post-secondary education. There is much to learn from the foresight of these two remarkable public servants and their unassailable belief in the power of education to change one's life and transform a nation.

My hope is that lawmakers, in particular, will take note of the examples of Lincoln and Roosevelt as we unfortunately continue to see a diminishing investment on the part of state legislatures across our country in their respective public institutions. As Benjamin Franklin asserted, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."

It falls to us, particularly those at public higher education institutions where the large majority of American students study, to ensure two absolutely essential elements of post-secondary education as envisioned by the Morrill Act and the G.I. Bill: access and affordability.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Test Scores. Up Yours!

Assessment expert James Popham (UCLA) has finally given up on the education assessment industry's ability to design a decent Value-added system and gone into business for himself. Ha!

Superintendents urged to embrace PGES

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Starting this fall, Kentucky superintendents will use the state’s new PGES (Professional Growth and Effectiveness System) to evaluate principals as building academic leaders. To do so, they have to understand how those principals are using the same system to evaluate teacher skills in the classroom.

Laurie Leeper with Estill Co Supt Bert Hensely and Instr Supv Tonya Issacs.
Thursday, dozens of superintendents and a number of district instructional supervisors spent an intensive day studying research and other states’ experiences as part of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents’ summer conference in Bowling Green.

“Effective teachers make a tremendous difference, particularly in low-achieving schools. One effective teacher in a team can make a difference not only in his or her class but in the surrounding classes of the team she or he works with,” said Dr. Lauri Leeper, a Virginia-based researcher on teacher and administrator effectiveness.

“As a superintendent, what can you do to help your administrators help your teachers become as effective as possible?” Leeper said. “You are the most powerful person for change implementation if you believe in it. You can transfer that belief to others, not by saying, ‘This is great,’ but by providing them with the resources they need to be successful.”

Leeper’s three-session, four-hour training focused on development of student growth goals (SGGs), a key element in the PGES teacher evaluation model.

“There are two ways to implement SGGS: as a state add-on requirement – ‘We’re going to get through this!’ – or as a catalyst for deep, rich teacher and school improvement – ‘We’re going to embrace it, have some successes and failures, take them in stride and get better as a result of it,’” said the former elementary and middle school teacher.

Leeper cited extensive research on the impact of SGGs on learning:
      · Students gain between 18 and 41points when teachers set and communicate clear goals for learning.
      · Formative assessments of classroom instruction can lead to increases in student learning by as much as two grade levels
      · Schools that show multiple years of improvement use data to make decisions, and then encourage teachers to use the data to make instructional decisions. 
“SGGs focus on student results instead of focusing on what teachers do in the classroom,” Leeper said, spelling out a five-step process for crafting “smart (Specific ,Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Time-bound) student growth goals into teacher evaluations.
Step 1: Teachers determine curriculum focus and how that content area will be measured.

Step 2: Teachers create SGGs based on current data from those assessments.

Step 3: Teachers select the teaching and learning strategies they will use to achieve the SGGs.

Step 4: Teachers monitor progress, reflect on what’s working and what isn’t working, and with their principals, determine when to continue, adjust or end strategies that are leading to the SGGs.

Step 5: Teachers and principals determine whether students met SGGs using the next round of assessment data.
Through a series of roundtable discussions, Leeper got the administrators to brainstorm their roles and opportunities to assist principals – and through them, teachers – in making PGES work for educators and students alike.

“One of the lessons that’s been learned about developing student growth goals is that it takes time to get it done,” she said. “That has to be planned for. The point is for you to go back home today and plan for tangible actions that can help your principals.”

One district’s experience

One of the first districts to pilot the early stages of PGES, starting three years ago, was Gallatin County. Superintendent Dot Perkins cautioned her colleagues that the process in her district isn’t perfect today, but “if we tried to go back to the old evaluation system, there would be a mutiny. Our teachers love the feedback. They love discussing student performance. And they love being treated as a professional.”

Perkins echoed what Leeper noted from her research of other states implementing new educator evaluation processes – it takes time and resources.

“Principals have to be in classrooms; they can’t do all the bus loadings, the cafeteria monitorings, go to the Rotary club and do this process well. They have to let go of some things,” Perkins said, adding that her district has placed assistant principals and/or instructional coaches in the schools as new resources for the academic teams in each building.

“Principals carry most of the water on this. They will sit down and go over the plan with teachers, then the observation cycle begins. A majority of their time is spent in the classrooms (while) the assistant principals runs the building each day,” she said.

Ultimately, Perkins, who is retiring this month, said she is confident her district is on the right track to make PGES work for educators and for students.

“Before, our evaluation was a check list: meets, does not meets, exceeds,” she said. “(PGES) will differentiate your teacher, show who is skilled and who is not, who gets results and who doesn’t. This process helps teachers and principals grow professionally.

“I’ve told our teachers, ‘If we do this just for compliance, we’ve wasted our time and money. We are here to grow and do what’s best for students,” she said.

The KASS summer conference wraps up today.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Response to the new NCTQ Teacher Prep Review

I was planning to give this year's version of the NCTQ report on teacher prep colleges its due - you know, completely ignore it - but then I ran across this piece and AACTE's response and thought I'd post them.

NCTQ was established to break down Ed schools and create a market for private teacher preparation institutions. Its methodology is so suspect that it's results (even those that ranked EKU highly last year) should be totally ignored. I'm convinced that their paper review of our program has taught them nothing about the educational experience here or anywhere else.

This from The Becoming Radical:
NCTQ’s announcement of its new edition of its Teacher Prep Review predictably exalts its own role in improving public education by requiring colleges of education to raise students’ test scores through the instruction of its teacher candidates once they are members of school faculties. I will briefly respond to a few of the claims that they make, which rely on rhetorical characterizations about “success” and “achievement” that spuriously elevate their belief that standardized tests reflect the whole of learning, a claim that few teachers or teacher educators endorse. In contrast, most teachers and teacher educators believe that the NCTQ’s narrow focus on standardized “achievement” tests undermine an authentic education that prepares students for work or life.

The report claims that “The training that teachers receive has to set them up for success.” Well, who doesn’t want successful teachers and students? The question that many of us within the profession ask is this: How is success defined here? For NCTQ, teacher educators are successful when graduates of their programs teach students who do well on standardize tests. But it’s pretty well documented that the best way to have students get good test results is to teach kids from affluent families. The best way to be a successful teacher educator, then, is to encourage teacher candidates to teach the wealthiest kids possible, rather than those residing in impoverished communities. Given that social justice is inscribed in the mission statement of just about every college of education in the nation, being successful according to NCTQ means betraying the values to which we are committed as educators.

The recent judicial decision to eliminate teacher tenure in California may well negate the claim that tenure decisions will now include data from “student achievement.” NCTQ overlooks the fact that in many “Right to Work” states do not have tenure, collective bargaining, unions, or other job protection rights. In any case, the idea that the only measure of “student achievement” is standardized tests overlooks other ways in which students may achieve in school.

The “troubling ‘capacity gap’ between what teachers were being expected to do and what their training equipped them to do” is only troubling if one accepts the fact that teacher educators reject the idea that they should focus on one thing: training prospective teachers to train children and youth to take multiple choice tests. I use the word “train” here because narrow, tedious learning of this sort involves little constructive or open-ended thinking. These tests, first of all, are often not related at all to the curriculum but instead test students on their ability to get correct answers on test items constructed in relation to brief passages by psychometricians who may have little understanding of curriculum, instruction, human developmentexcitement about learningopen-ended thinkingcreativityartistic expressionkids’ home livesauthentic work readiness, cultural ways of thinking, kinesthetic learningthe needs of learners with special circumstancesthe cultivation of committed writersrelating instruction authentically to students’ lives, and other aspects of school learning.

The emphasis on narrow testing abilities further overlooks the many contributions that teachers make to schools: caring for emotionally needy studentsproviding pathways to persistingmaking a long-term commitment to schools and their communitiesfostering the ability to form healthy relationshipsinvolving community members in school activitiesbeing good colleaguesbuilding the confidence of young people at fragile points in their lives, and other aspects of cultivating the whole person.

The report further claims that “new teachers don’t feel like they can even get to the business of teaching and learning because they haven’t been taught the most basic classroom management techniques.” They are right in that many colleges of education have eliminated classes in classroom management, in many cases because without unruly students present to illustrate procedures, the abstraction of management textbooks are of little value in learning how to manage increasingly large classes of kids who are subjected to a deadly dull curriculum oriented to multiple choice assessments. The NCTQ appears to have little understanding of the relation between an engaging curriculum and student engagement. Rather, colleges of education should train teacher candidates how to prepare kids for standardized tests and manage (i.e., punish) those who find the experience despicable. It’s easy to see why an intelligent, dedicated teacher educator would find that prospect both unappealing and educationally bankrupt.
This from AACTE:
Statement on NCTQ Teacher Prep Review from Sharon P. Robinson

Yesterday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its second annual Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs. Although parts of this report venture a conciliatory tone, as might be expected from NCTQ’s past reports, this review offers largely unhelpful recommendations that are based on questionable methodology.

Public Shaming—Over a Document Review

In an attempt to provide a consumer-friendly guide to teacher preparation programs, NCTQ has moved from rating institutions on a 4-star scale to ranking them numerically—a divisive tactic that mostly serves to pit institutions against one another. Notably, these rankings have as little to do with graduates’ readiness to teach as did last year’s star system.

Because of NCTQ’s history of misrepresenting data, only 118 of the 1,127 institutions reviewed fully participated in the report. In many instances, programs provided less than 50% of the information requested to evaluate whether a standard was met. Gaps were filled by NCTQ by downloading online course descriptions, catalogues, and syllabi and tracking down other materials from partner schools and districts. Even “full participation,” however, resulted in little more than a document review—hardly adequate evidence to judge graduates’ readiness to teach.

Despite this lack of data, NCTQ draws sweeping conclusions about the entire field. The report goes so far as to recommend that prospective employers refer to these input-oriented ratings to help sort applicants for job openings—even as it acknowledges that “low-ranked programs can, and often do, graduate teachers who end up being effective, even superstars.” I advise school leaders to view this report with caution and consider carefully its usefulness in evaluating teacher candidates.

Real Reform and Accountability

AACTE and its member institutions believe in accountability. Low-performing programs should be given the opportunity and support to improve and then evaluated on transparent, well-researched standards with a clear understanding of what needs to change. If programs fail to improve, then they should be closed. But rather than wasting any more attention on antagonistic distractions such as NCTQ’s report, we are committed to continuing our own reform efforts on several exciting fronts—using reliable and valid evidence derived from and informed by research.

We are implementing a ground-breaking performance assessment, edTPA, that gives both programs and teacher candidates meaningful evidence about whether graduates are ready to teach from Day 1. We have a remarkable new initiative, the Innovation Exchange, responding to the changing demands of PK-12 schools with several programs aimed at building programs’ capacity, synthesizing research, and more. We are expanding partnerships with PK-12 schools to improve clinical preparation and supports for all educators. And we participate in rigorous transformation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), our professional quality-assurance provider committed to research, improvement, and peer-driven accountability.

In its report, NCTQ acknowledges some of these reforms and even tries to take credit for many of them, but in fact, they predate NCTQ’s work. AACTE and its members are steadfast in our goal of promoting true program improvement and reforms that have had lasting and positive outcomes for teacher preparation and the students served by these educators.

Conservatives Evenly Split on Common Core

This from Wall Street Journal:
Opponents of Common Core, a new set of national academic standards, are pressuring Republican candidates and warning of a mounting conservative revolt.

WSJ/NBC poll graphics.
But in fact, conservatives are evenly split over the standards, with 45% supportive and 46% opposed, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Even among Republicans who describe themselves as tea party supporters, opposition to Common Core rose only as high as 53%.

As controversial as the standards have become in some quarters – three Republican-led states have dropped Common Core in recent months — nearly half of adults, 47%, have never heard of it. That may leave room for both supporters and opponents a chance to shape public opinion.

The benchmarks were created by a bi-partisan group of governors and educators seeking to raise student achievement and draw state-by-state comparisons. But the Obama administration’s disbursal of federal education grants to states that adopted Common Core set off alarms among conservative activists wary of federal incursion into local schools.

The standards were described in the poll without reference to the federal government’s role. Overall, 59% said they strongly or somewhat supported the standards, while 31% said they strongly or somewhat opposed.

Support was highest among African-Americans (80%), Hispanics (76%) and liberals (75%).

University of Louisville Won't Release High-Profile Audit

This from WFPL:
University of Louisville officials refuse to release a report by an outside auditing firm that examined the school’s internal controls following a series of high profile – and high dollar – thefts.
This comes after the university signed an additional $100,000 contract amendment for the auditing firm to help implement its recommendations.

UofL's Grawemeyer Hall
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has tried to obtain a copy of the audit since April. University officials have denied an open records request, saying the audit is still a draft, and KyCIR has appealed to the state attorney general’s office.

The status of the report has raised questions from at least one university trustee and prompted wide speculation from others close to the school. The university has paid Strothman and Company more than $160,000 this quarter and authorized an additional $100,000 for the company’s help in implementing recommendations.

It remains unclear whether the university is already putting the consultant’s recommendations in place.

Last fall, President James Ramsey recommended hiring an outside firm to review the financial management of the university in response to an accusation of theft in the school’s Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine. The school’s board of trustees approved that recommendation.
A draft of the report was presented to the trustees during the board’s April meeting. But U of L spokesman Mark Hebert said the company is still working on the document.

“We’re hoping that Strothman will have the final report done and ready to present to the board of trustees sometime next month, in July,” he said. “That may or may not happen. But that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Strothman and Company is a Louisville-based auditing firm known for working with large governmental organizations, including Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville-Jefferson County metro government and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation.

The contract stated Strothman would be paid no more than $175,000 for fees and expenses. So far, the university has cut two checks to Strothman totaling $160,522. Under the new amendment, the company stands to receive an additional $100,000.

In its proposal, the company outlined five areas it would review at the university’s request:
  • All internal reports issued by the U of L’s Office of Internal Audit since 2007 to determine whether or not recommendations have been implemented.
  • The Office of Internal Audit itself to make sure all audits are current.
  • The qualifications of employees with signature authority for bank expenditures and deposits.
  • Financial controls for faculty professional practice plans at the Health Science campus.
  • Bank accounts in a 50-mile radius that exist in the name of University of Louisville, University of Louisville Physicians or any derivative.
Document: Contract Extension

The contract was scheduled to end March 31. But on Feb. 10, an extension was signed by Kathleen Smith, Ramsey’s chief of staff, and Mitchell Payne, senior associate vice president for business affairs. Now, the contract goes through June 30.

The same two employees approved a further amendment March 26, authorizing a $100,000 increase to the original payment to cover Strothman’s “consultation for implementation of recommendations.”
During their April board meeting, trustees heard a short presentation from Strothman officials and were given 30 to 40 minutes to review the draft report. But they couldn’t keep copies, board member Steve Wilson confirmed through a spokeswoman. Wilson has publicly questioned why the university still considers the audit a draft.

University of Louisville, a school with a nearly half-billion-dollar annual budget, has had a series of high profile thefts in recent years.

In 2010, former Dean of Education Robert Felner pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion. According to his plea agreement, Felner executed a scheme to defraud the University of Rhode Island, the University of Louisville and the Rock Island County Council on Addictions of more than $2 million. Of that, more than half a million belonged to U of L.

In April 2012, Alisha Ward, who worked in the school’s equine industry program, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Ward embezzled more than $463,000.

And in April of this year, Perry Vaughn, former executive director of the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine at U of L’s medical school, was indicted on seven criminal counts charging theft and bribery in programs that receive federal funds, money laundering, mail fraud, and filing false federal income tax returns, according to court documents.

Vaughn was in charge of managing the finances of the department as well as the affiliated private medical practices. He allegedly diverted contractual checks and patient payments to the school’s Family and Geriatric Medicine Associates account and then withdrew more than $2.8 million for his personal use.

“We’re hoping that Strothman will point us in the direction of changes we can make in our financial controls and our entire financial management system to shore it up, to try and make sure these thefts don’t happen again,” Hebert said. “We can’t guarantee that they’re not going to, because thieves are very ingenious and will figure out a way to steal from the University of Louisville and any other agency they can steal from.

“But if you can cut down the probability, that’s what we’re really trying to do,” Hebert added.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Educators say Kentucky is on the right track with Common Core standards

There’s at least one reason why David Adams should never be quoted on education issues in credible publications. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (And he’s personally dishonorable, but let’s set that aside.)

David Adams
In the space of five paragraphs in today’s Common Core article in the Herald-Leader, reporter Matt Young only got two things right about David Adams. He did sue the state, and conservative opponents of Common Core fear a federal takeover. Perhaps due to that fear, or perhaps due to an anti-US government predisposition, or perhaps because an anonymous donor paid him to say so, Adams has proven that he is willing to repeatedly make untrue statements that he can’t back up. At some point don’t sound journalistic principles require the reporter to state when one’s opinions are not borne out in fact? 

Adams says Common Core standards are just more of the same. In fact, the Common Core standards are the nation’s first attempt to connect a high school diploma to the skills needed to be college and career ready. This was Ed Prichard’s dream.

David Adams is a Tea Party activist who filed a lawsuit against the state over the implementation of Common Core. But Young fails to mention that his suit was thrown out for Adams’ failure to present a cogent case. Adams filed paperwork to appeal his defeat and then, once again, completely failed to make a case. Adams' claims have been tried in court and found lacking. Don’t readers deserve to know that?

Adams claimed Kentucky colleges support Common Core because doing so will bring them more money. How? I can’t see where colleges profit one cent. Colleges profit when students arrive at college ready to be successful in credit bearing courses. Those students are retained and graduate at much higher rates and colleges profit from that success.

Anyone who cannot see differences in American schooling since 1965 is simply not trying. American schools were desegregated using a combination of ESEA and court actions. While I realize that Adams may, or may not believe desegregated schools to be desirable (or the 14th amendment for that matter) nevertheless, the percentage of black students attending school with whites grew exponentially. Over the years, more students have been educated at much higher levels.

Common Core was written specifically because some states were lowering their individual state standards. Shared standards make for a better yardstick and prevent states from gaming the system. Adams’ empty assertion completely fails to demonstrate how lowering standards profits anyone - because it doesn’t.

The steady stream of falsehoods from Adams surely should prompt the H-L toward a higher standard of journalism; one that goes beyond finding that opposition voice, but also extends to actually verifying the credibility of that voice, and warning readers when the information is suspect.

This from the Herald-Leader:
The names of the presidents of the University of Louisville and Kentucky State University were noticeably absent last week from a group of more than 200 national college leaders who indicated their support for the controversial Common Core education standards by forming the coalition Higher Ed for Higher Standards.

James Ramsey
U of L spokesman Mark Hebert said it was an oversight that President James Ramsey's name was not on last week's list, and he reaffirmed U of L's backing of Common Core. Attempts to reach officials at Kentucky State University were unsuccessful.

Both schools previously showed their support by signing the College and Career Readiness Commonwealth Agreement.

The presidents of Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky were among more than 17 Kentucky higher education officials to join the national initiative.

EKU President Michael Benson said in a statement that he was proud of EKU and the commonwealth's support of Common Core.

"It is imperative that we have high school graduates who are better prepared
academically for college and career," Benson said. "The Common Core standards will help accomplish this goal and will allow many more students to bypass developmental education courses currently being offered in college."
Jay Blanton, spokesman for UK, said that not only did President Eli Capilouto support Common Core, but faculty feel that "innovations like the Common Core standards are foundational building blocks, critical to students having the skills they need to succeed in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields that are so essential to our country's economic growth."
Michael Benson

The Common Core standards are an initiative of the National Governors Association to set benchmarks for what children in each grade should learn. However, there is no set curriculum for each grade, creating flexibility in reaching the standards. Individual states, school districts and teachers may determine their own curricula and lesson plans to fit the individual needs of children.
Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core standards in an attempt to help make students college and career ready. Math and reading standards have been implemented, and state education Commissioner Terry Holliday has said Kentucky schools will institute the science standards in the fall.

Statistics from the Council on Postsecondary Education show that during the 2012-13 academic year, nearly half of all incoming students at two-year colleges, and more than one in five at four-year schools, were required to take remedial courses due to a lack of academic preparedness.

Graduation rates at Kentucky colleges also are a cause for concern; less than half of all students graduate from a four-year institution with a bachelor's degree within their first six years. At community colleges and two-year institutions just over one in 10 students graduate within the first three years.

Opponents of Common Core say the standards are just more of the same.

David Adams, a Tea Party activist who filed a lawsuit last year against Gov. Steve Beshear over the implementation of Common Core, said Kentucky colleges support Common Core because doing so will bring them more money.

"Common Core will generate more revenue for the colleges, and we will be back here in X number of years wondering why remedial rates are even higher," he said.

For decades, critics such as Adams have said, federal programs have attempted to help students, but U.S. students have continued to fall behind other nations. From President Lyndon Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind, education reforms have come and gone with little or no results, they say.

Conservative opponents insist Common Core will be another waste of money that will not help students. "They will just keep lowering standards to meet goals to get funding," Adams said.
Conservatives also fear a federal takeover.

As designed, Common Core is an independent initiative adopted by states individually. President Barack Obama tied funding grants to the acceptance of "college and career ready" standards. According to a recent Washington Post article, an early version of Race to the Top specifically highlighted Common Core.

Gene Wilhoit, a former Kentucky education commissioner and one of the architects of Common Core, insisted the Obama administration change the wording because they did not want the federal government to be involved in Common Core. Even still, opponents of Common Core fear that requirements for education funding eventually will move from simply accepting standards to accepting federal curricula and lesson plans.
Gene Wilhoit

Liberal opponents of Common Core fear the program was designed to profit corporations, not students. Bill Gates, one of the primary financial backers of Common Core, has insisted that is not the case.

People with concerns about Common Core do not truly understand it, said Sue Cain, college readiness and developmental education initiative coordinator for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Cain, who has worked nationally with Common Core, is confident the standards will work.

"As the Common Core were written, Kentucky educators suggested many adjustments, changes, additions and fixes for things we thought went too far, beyond college-ready," she said. "Our changes were a part of the changes made to the overall standards."

Cain also said the standards would work because of the collaboration that took place at all education levels.

"Common Core is different because both postsecondary and K-12 came together to develop the standards that exist," she said. "Previously, they were not communicated well; this time with these standards that conversation is occurring."

Cain isn't worried about the possibility of a federal takeover of the standards. Even with the current Race to the Top grants, states could alter up to 15 percent of the standards to fit individual needs, she noted, adding that was done to help custom-fit education to work-force needs that vary around the country.

Cain said a federal takeover would not make sense because the standards were written to be adjusted.
Sue Cain
To those who fear Common Core will benefit special interests and corporations more than students, Cain said, "I wish they could see the Common Core in action. It's more than standards, it's more than assessments, it's more than accountability. This is to make sure students are ready to go to college or have a career."

So is it working? Education officials in Kentucky think it is. Data from the state Department of Education show that college and career readiness has jumped from 31.8 percent for 2009-10, just before the state adopted Common Core, to 54.1 percent for high school graduates in 2013.
But Cain said that was not good enough.

"We have got a long way to go in Kentucky, but we are on the right path. Every other state is watching our progress here in Kentucky. We are leading the nation in this."

Read more here: