Friday, October 31, 2014

Which Marvel Superhero Could Run a University?

This from the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Marvel Comics this week announced a new slate of superhero movies to be released over the next several years. You’ve got plenty of time to decide which ones you’ll see, so in the meantime let’s address the question on everyone’s mind: Which Marvel character would make the best college president? Let’s limit the search to all nonmutants who have starred or will star in a Marvel movie.
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Right off the bat, you can count out Robert B. Banner, otherwise known as the Hulk. While Mr. Banner has three Ph.D.’s from the California Institute of Technology, at some point he’s bound to go berserk and lay waste to half the Faculty Senate. That’s a PR disaster.
Let’s also disqualify Natalia Romanova, also known as the Black Widow, (no experience in American higher education) and Thor (little experience with earthly institutions).
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How about Dr. (Stephen) Strange? He’s an accomplished neurosurgeon, but some faculty members might be put off by his history in academe. After his medical career was derailed by a car accident, Dr. Strange thought too highly of himself to take a teaching job. Adjuncts will not take kindly to that, despite his mystical powers to get them tenure.
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The most likable candidate is probably Steven Rogers, also known as Captain America. Yes, he’s a stranger to academe, but he’s a superb leader and all-around great person. Think Adm. William H. McRaven, the incoming chancellor of the University of Texas system, but trade the college degree for super strength. Unfortunately, Mr. Rogers’s extensive ties with the U.S. military might raise some eyebrows, and you don’t need the protests. Invite him to be your commencement speaker, not your president.
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Captain America doesn’t have a college degree, but Captain Marvel, also known as Carol Danvers, does. In fact, her father didn’t have enough money to send her to college, so she earned her degree through the Air Force, where she became a star pilot, then was a high-level member of NASA. But her career took a different turn when, after various interactions with an alien race, she was demoted. She responded by writing a tell-all book ripping the space agency. While her story is inspiring—she went on to save the sun, and therefore all human life—her history with institutional loyalty has troubling privacy implications. Ever heard of Ferpa?
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Speaking of military ties, let’s talk about Anthony E. Stark, also known as Iron Man. He’s got a perfect résumé, having entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age 15 and earned several Ph.D.’s in engineering. He also has a charismatic personality and is essentially a walking R&D empire; your university would certainly get a piece of the pie. And yet, his corporate and military connections will roil students and faculty members, and Mr. Stark is too rich to care about ticking them off. Stay away.
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Which leaves T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther. Hailing from the African nation of Wakanda, the Black Panther knows what it means to think globally. He’s got a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Oxford and is an accomplished inventor, scientist, and politician. Considered one of the eight smartest people on earth, the Black Panther also fought apartheid in South Africa. Dare your Board of Trustees say no to that résumé?
 But my choice is Super Grover !!!
He's doin' great in preschool, and should be ready on time to become EKU's 13th president.
Plus, he can do this:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Former Louisville Male HS principal appeals firing

This from WDRB:
A day after being fired by Jefferson County Public Schools, former Louisville Male High School principal David Mike has filed an appeal with the Kentucky Department of Education to get his job back and his lawyer says he will fight to exonerate Mike "until the end."
attorney William Walsh

In the letter sent to Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday on Wednesday, Mike's attorney William Walsh said Mike “wishes to answer the charges set forth against him” by JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens and asks Holliday to appoint a tribunal to hear his case.

“My client was terminated for alleged conduct unbecoming of a teacher,” Walsh wrote, adding that Mike “denied having engaged in any such conduct.”

Under state law, Holliday will now appoint a three-member tribunal consisting of a teacher, an administrator and a lay person, none of whom reside in Jefferson County, to conduct an administrative hearing, which must begin within 45 days of receiving the letter.

During an interview with WDRB News at his office Wednesday evening, Walsh said Hargens' decision to fire Mike on Tuesday “came as a complete shock to both of us.”

“David is a good man and has been a good employee of JCPS for the past 20 years,” Walsh said. “We are appealing this decision and we are going to show that he is innocent.”

Mike received his termination letter from Hargens on Tuesday, nearly a year after testing improprieties were first alleged at Male High School. The letter said Mike did not create a proper testing environment and that he told a teacher to destroy documents.

Hargens' decision came after a district investigation found it was “inconclusive” as to whether Mike tried to cover up improprieties in how the ACT Compass test – an assessment taken by seniors that could boost the school's percentage of “college ready” students – was administered at Male High late last year.

However, that same investigation substantiated that Mike failed to "insure the security and integrity of the ACT Compass Assessment," allowed "a testing environment at Male that was not conducive to protecting the integrity" of the test and failed to report and correct the violations.

In addition, the investigation found that Mike asked a teacher to discard student notebooks containing notes of practice test questions rather than turn them over to an ACT investigator.

The district's investigation took place following a separate investigation by the Kentucky Department of Education, which found that several violations occurred at Male High as a result of Mike and two other staffers' failure to “ensure the security” of ACT Compass exams given during the fall of 2013.

"Having considered the seriousness of your conduct outlined in this letter and your prior record and length of service, I have concluded that termination of your employment contract is warranted," Hargens wrote in Mike's termination letter.

She included a reference to an incident in August 2006 in which Mike was suspended for two days without pay for retaliating against an employee after the employee's husband complained about management activities at the school.

Walsh said Mike has a “superlative record as a teacher and administrator” in JCPS, serving at Seneca High, Kennedy Middle, and Western High School before being named the principal of Male in May 2013.

“David is a dedicated and able leader and it is a shame that he has been subjected to this attack on his character and career,” Walsh said.

At issue in the JCPS investigation was whether Mike coached students or staff members to lie about cheating that allegedly occurred on the ACT Compass when ACT began looking into how the test was administered in December 2013.

Walsh said Mike complied “fully and cooperatively” with the district's investigation.

Mike admitted, according to the JCPS report, that he told teacher Sarah Graziano to “get rid” of student notebooks used in preparation for the Compass test rather than turn them over to ACT's investigator – an allegation that first came to light in the Kentucky Department of Education's July 3 investigative report.

That happened “after the conclusion” of the initial investigation in December 2013 and before ACT and Kentucky Department of Education officials returned to further investigate Male in May 2014, the Sept. 8 JCPS report noted.

Walsh said Wednesday that Mike instructed all of his staff in December 2013 to “turn over all notes from the Compass test and by and large, everyone complied.”

It wasn't until a few months later, Walsh said, that Graziano came to Mike to tell him that she still had notebooks from the test.

“He did direct her to get rid of them because ACT was no longer there,” Walsh said, adding that at that point, the investigation was over and that Mike “didn't want the notebooks to be used by other students or staff.”

Walsh said Graziano did not get rid of the notebooks; instead she turned them in to ACT.

“David has never lied about what he told Ms. Graziano,” Walsh said, noting that there was “nothing incriminating” in the notebooks.

After previously being told by ACT he could not administer any of its tests, that order was lifted after he underwent training, Walsh said.

“In the spring of 2014, even as he endured the campaign of his opponents to drive him from his job, David oversaw the administration of the same ACT Compass tests at Male without any problems and with complete compliance with all directives regarding the testing,” Walsh said.

Sometime during the summer, ACT again withdrew Mike's ability to further administer any of its tests.

“We have no idea why this happened,” Walsh said.

In a separate two-page written statement, also released Wednesday, Walsh said Hargens “has not only compounded this wrong, she has failed to take action to resolve the crisis of insubordination at Male High School.”

Walsh said during the Spring of 2014, Mike was subjected to a campaign of “slander and disinformation on social media and Male High School was divided between his accusers and supporters.”

“He was harassed and taunted by his opponents. His home was vandalized. He was under immense stress,” Walsh said. “During these months, David's boss, Dr. Donna Hargens, never spoke to him or communicated to him. She offered no support to a principal facing an insurrection by many on his staff.”

Walsh said Hargens has never talked to Mike about the allegations.

“She removed him from Male in June and since then he has been investigated exhaustively,” Walsh said. “The investigations have revealed that David did not commit the wrongs of which he has been accused.”

Although Hargens fired Mike, he is considered to be suspended without pay pending final action by the tribunal appointed by Holliday, according to state law.

The law states that the tribunal members “shall be from a pool of potential tribunal members who have been designated and trained to serve as tribunal members on a regular and ongoing basis,” pursuant to administrative regulations designated by the Kentucky Board of Education.

The hearing may be public or private at the discretion of Mike.

Walsh said he and Mike have not yet determined whether they will ask for a public hearing.

The law states that if after the hearing the decision of the tribunal is against termination of the contract, “the suspended teacher shall be paid his full salary for any period of suspension.”

If the tribunal rules against Mike, the law says he has the right to appeal the decision to Jefferson Circuit Court.

“We hope it doesn't come to that,” Walsh said. “In order to fire him for conduct unbecoming of a teacher, they have to prove he did something intentionally wrong and there is just no evidence of that.”

Walsh said never “encouraged or directed any student or other witness to be untruthful” and he did not “help students answer questions on the ACT Compass test.”

Hargens could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Ben Jackey, a JCPS spokesman, said Tuesday the district would have no further comment about Mike.

The two other Male High staffers involved in the testing scandal, guidance counselor Rhonda Branch and former teacher Debbie Greenberg, are also under investigation by the district.

Greenberg retired from JCPS on July 1, while Branch remains employed but has been reassigned to central office duty pending the outcome of the district's separate investigation.

Jackey said as of Wednesday, there had been no conclusion to Branch's investigation.

Mike, Greenberg and Branch still face a proceeding before the Kentucky Educational Standards Board as a result of the Kentucky Department of Education's investigation.

The board, which controls teacher certifications, acts mostly in secret when handling disciplinary cases, so it's hard to determine where exactly the cases against the three educators stand.

Mike was making $141,000 as Principal of Male High School.

JCPS posted the Male High principal job Wednesday. The deadline to apply is Nov. 28.

You can read the full statement on behalf of David Mike here.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NGA says Early Math Learning Key To Long-Term Success

Mathematics knowledge acquired in early childhood and early elementary grades is a critical foundation for long-term student success, according to a new paper released today by the National Governors Association (NGA). 
A child’s math ability when he or she enters school has proved a better predictor of academic achievement, high school graduation and college attendance than any other early childhood skill. Early mathematics competency predicts later reading achievement better than early literacy skills. High-quality early mathematics instruction supports later learning of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills U.S. employers require.

Unlocking Young Children’s Potential: Governors’ Role in Strengthening Early Mathematics Learning looks at options governors can take to advance early mathematics education.

“There is a real need for state policies that can improve early mathematics education and yield long-term improvements in the skills of the U.S. workforce,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. “As part of their larger education reform agendas, governors can lead on this issue.”

Unfortunately, many students fail to master math skills and concepts during elementary school, developing negative attitudes about their ability to learn math.

As governors respond to the need for significantly improving the quality of public education, they should consider incorporating stronger actions to improve mathematics instruction as part of their reform agenda. Governors can take the following actions to promote high-quality mathematics instruction for young children:
  • Become champions for improving the quality of early mathematics education with legislators, business leaders, educators, parents and students;
  • Align high-quality mathematics standards throughout the educational pipeline, supporting appropriate use of student assessments to measure results; and
  • Promote changes in policies that improve teacher preparation and support the capacity to teach mathematics to young children.
To learn more about the NGA Center for Best Practices Education Division, please visit

Why North Carolina student-athlete cheating scandal is more exploitive than shocking

This from the Hechinger report:

Last week, the pubic learned that over 18 years, more than 3,100 student-athletes at the University of North Carolina took fake classes to satisfy academic requirements without significantly cutting into their work as athletes.

Advisers, counselors, faculty, coaches, and sometimes students collaborated to set up these “phantom classes” where no one had to meet or seriously have their assignments reviewed.

North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer (10) celebrates interception return for touchdown during NCAA Football game action between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated North Carolina 50-43 (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)The numbers have been referred to the numbers as “surprising” and “shocking.” But are they really?

The UNC scandal is just one of many symptoms of the larger issue of the National Collegiate Athletic Association exploiting student-athletes.

The term “student-athlete” is an excellent window into the systemic problems; it’s misleading and implies that these athletes lead normal lives as students.
During an albeit satirical report from The Daily Show, former Northwestern University football player Kain Colter explained how the NCAA does not cover medical expenses needed for injuries students received while playing for their schools. Colter went on to talk about his schedule as a “student.”

The UNC scandal is just one of many symptoms of the larger issue of the National Collegiate Athletic Association exploiting student-athletes.
“We already have a full-time job,” said Colter. “We don’t have time to get a second job.”
“We are employees just like how the NFL players are employees,” he continued later. “We spend 50-60 hours practicing in the off-season.”
Naturally, this means many athletes simply do not have time to focus on their academics. In a way, they are professional football players forced to masquerade as students so the universities and NCAA can compensate them with scholarships rather than paying them an honest wage.

Thus, colleges have a motivation to help students cheat and set up fake classes. Their administrations want the athletes to have the bare-minimum grades so they can keep students in school and continue the exploitation. However, they don’t want the students to properly earn these grades if it means taking away too much time from the athletics that bring in revenue for their school.
Helping students cheat is just one of many methods that educational institutions use to maintain this status quo where students allow them to rake in money without paying it back.
There are also some other disturbing implications in many of these stories, especially the UNC scandal. In UNC’s case, it was the African-American Studies department that set up the majority of these bogus “paper classes.”

Furthermore, Michael McAdoo, a black former student at UNC, claimed that he was pressured into majoring in African-American studies.
He goes on to say, “I lost an education. I lost trust in the school — someone I thought had my best interest.”
While cheating scandal of the extent of the situation at UNC may seem shocking, the deeper issue of exploitation is simply unconscionable.
Joseph Rauch is a staff writer for the SkilledUp Learning Hub, a provider of online educational opportunities. He’s also written for the Huffington Post.

JCPS fires Louisville Male High School principal David Mike

This from Toni at  WDRB:
Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Donna Hargens fired Louisville Male High principal David Mike on Tuesday – nearly a year after testing improprieties were first unveiled at the school.

According to a letter given to Mike, the district terminated his contract for "conduct unbecoming of a teacher." According to state law, he is suspended without pay pending final action by the Jefferson County Board of Education to terminate his contract.

The letter said Mike did not create a proper testing environment and that he told a teacher to destroy documents.

"Having considered the seriousness of your conduct outlined in this letter and your prior record and length of service, I have concluded that termination of your employment contract is warranted," Hargens wrote.

According to the letter, Mike has ten days to appeal his firing to the Kentucky Department of Education.

Mike and his attorney William Walsh declined to comment on the matter Tuesday evening.

The move comes a week after WDRB News obtained a copy of the district's investigative file that said it was “inconclusive” as to whether Mike tried to cover up improprieties in how the ACT Compass test was administered at Male High late last year.

However, that same investigation substantiated that Mike failed to "insure the security and integrity of the ACT Compass Assessment," allowed "a testing environment at Male that was not conducive to protecting the integrity" of the test and failed to report and correct the violations.

In addition, the investigation found that Mike asked a teacher to discard student notebooks containing notes of practice test questions rather than turn them over to an ACT investigator.

Now that the investigation is over and a conclusion has been reached, JCPS released a copy of the file to the media under the state's open records law Tuesday. It is the same investigative report – minus the student testing data – that WDRB obtained and reported about on Oct. 23.

Mike had been reassigned to administrative duties in the central office while three assistant principals have handled the day-to-day operations at Male.

Ben Jackey, a spokesman for JCPS, declined to comment on the letter Tuesday. The district will soon begin advertising for a new principal at Male.

The JCPS report, dated Sept. 8, includes a 29-page document containing findings and conclusions with more than 500 pages of support material.

While not absolving Mike of wrongdoing associated with the ACT Compass, JCPS investigators said they were unable to determine whether Mike “impeded the investigative process and compromised the integrity” of the initial inquiry last December by the ACT organization into how the test was handled.

At issue in the JCPS investigation was whether Mike coached students or staff members to lie about cheating that allegedly occurred when the ACT Compass – an assessment taken by seniors that could boost the school's percentage of “college ready” students – when ACT began looking into how the test was administered in December 2013.

After its December 2013 inquiry, ACT noted the shoddy testing environment at Male High and the inappropriate use of its software in a February letter.

But the investigation was re-ignited in May 2014 after Mike had made controversial choices to push a handful of staff members out of the school. Students alleged that cheating was rampant in the ACT Compass computer lab, with even students taking the “live” test getting answers from other students and staff.

Mike admitted, according to the JCPS report, that he told teacher Sarah Portman Graziano to “get rid” of student notebooks used in preparation for the Compass test rather than turn them over to ACT's investigator – an allegation that first came to light in the Kentucky Department of Education's July 3 investigative report.

That happened “after the conclusion” of the initial investigation in December 2013 and before ACT and Kentucky Department of Education officials returned to further investigate Male in May 2014, the Sept. 8 JCPS report noted.

According to Graziano's written statement, which is part of the investigative file, she discovered she had tutoring notebooks from the ACT Compass in a locked cabinet.

“He said that I should wait until the end of the year when no one is around and to put them in a bag (he asked if I carry a bag to school) and close it up. Then I should wait until later in the day when no one is around and take them home with me and dispose of them one (or a few) at a time. I was very uncomfortable, but did not say anything about feeling this way.”

The JCPS report does fault Mike for some things not related to the alleged cover up.

It says Mike violated Kentucky's administrative testing code when he “failed to ensure the security and integrity” of the Compass test. It says his “installing and utilizing” the supposed “practice” ACT software violated the portion of the testing code that prohibits any activities implemented “for the sole purpose of artificially increasing test scores.”

The Sept. 8 investigative report follows a separate July 9 JCPS investigation – reported on Oct. 16 by WDRB News -- which said allegations that Mike bullied and threatened students and teachers were "unsubstantiated."

Mike, along with two other 2013-14 Male staffers, still faces a proceeding before the Kentucky Educational Standards Board as a result of the Kentucky Department of Education's July 3 findings.
The board, which controls teacher certifications, acts mostly in secret when handling disciplinary cases, so it's hard to determine where exactly Mike's case stands.

You can read David Mike's termination letter here.

How Kentucky became a rare Common Core success story

This from Vox:
It hasn't been a good year for the Common Core.

Onetime Common Core allies ranging from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, have backed away from the initiative. Public support is dropping, and even Common Core supporters acknowledge it's become a politically toxic brand.
But one state has become a Common Core poster child: Kentucky.

Four years after Kentucky adopted the new Common Core benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do in reading and math, about 62 percent of students are considered ready for college or a career when they graduate — up from 38 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, the state has sidestepped some of the political controversy that's become a hallmark of Common Core elsewhere.
Here are three reasons for the state's success, and why it might be difficult for others to follow the same path.

Kentucky signed up for Common Core early

Kentucky began laying the groundwork for Common Core before the Common Core even existed. In 2009, the state passed a new education law requiring new, higher academic standards and adopting new tests. The law also required higher education and K-12 to work together to make sure that what students learned in high school matched up with what they needed to know to be ready for college.
the standards were already in place before the political controversies flared

Kentucky became the first state to sign on when the Common Core standards were released. By the 2011-12 school year, the Common Core wasn't just the basis for classroom instruction, it was the standard used on state tests — a move that put Kentucky years ahead of other states.

This early start meant the standards were already in place before the political controversies flared in 2012. In many states, parents got to know Common Core as a political issue, not an educational one. This wasn't the case in Kentucky. Kentucky also adopted the standards before the federal government offered incentives for doing so. This neutralized a common criticism of Common Core: that adopting the standards was federally mandated.

Kentucky talked a lot about Common Core, even when the news wasn't good

Common Core didn't get much publicity in most states until it became controversial. This wasn't the case in Kentucky, where the state started a PR and outreach campaign to explain why they'd adopted the new standards. The outreach effort included parents, teachers, and principals, as well as lots of support for developing new curriculums that matched up with the standards.

The new state tests aligned to the standards were harder, and scores dropped right away. On Kentucky's old state tests, last given in 2011, about 75 percent percent of students were considered proficient in reading and math. When students took the new tests for the first time, fewer than half were considered proficient.

Since then, though, scores have been climbing back up slowly in most subjects. (High school math is the exception; proficiency rates have dropped since 2012.) And scores on the ACT are at their highest since the state began requiring all high school juniors to take the test in 2008.

Kentucky college and career readiness
The state is now asking the public to review the Common Core standards and suggest changes. They have the benefit of years of experience with them in the classroom. There's also still a long way to go: just 19 percent of Kentucky students are considered college-ready in math, science, reading, and English, according to the ACT.

Kentucky kept the stakes for teachers lower

Kentucky's early adoption meant it avoided some of the political controversy surrounding Common Core elsewhere. But the real reason for its success might be that, compared to other states, the stakes for teachers weren't as high.

the stakes for teachers weren't as high

The Obama administration has pushed states to begin evaluating teachers, and making decisions about promotions, raises, hiring, and firing, based in part on their students' scores on standardized tests. This is a separate project from the Common Core. But it's happened at the same time, which means that the two policies have gotten tangled together — and the changes to teacher evaluation systems are much more controversial among teachers than the standards are.

Many states are putting the standards in place in the classroom, testing students on them, and evaluating teachers based on those test results, all within a few years. That quick timeline has scared teachers unions and other groups that otherwise support the Common Core, and it's made the standards much more controversial.

Kentucky, though, has been an outlier on teacher evaluations.

While the state did create a new way to evaluate teachers, which begins to take effect this year, test scores won't be included until the 2015-16 school year — four years after students first took Common Core tests. And the test scores included in the evaluation will be averages, not individual test scores; the state's reform-minded education commissioner, Terry Holliday, has said he doesn't believe that teachers should be evaluated based on test results.

This has helped Kentucky preserve support for the Common Core among teachers when teachers unions elsewhere have faltered.

But it's also a hard path for other states to follow. The Gates Foundation has recommended a two-year moratorium on using test scores in teacher evaluations, and the Education Department allowed states a one-year delay. But in many states, the Common Core and new teacher evaluation plans are inextricably linked. That makes it more difficult to win teacher support. And the support of teachers is key to the Common Core's success.
Card 4 of 18 Launch cards

What’s actually in the Common Core?

The Common Core is a list of things students should know and know how to do at each grade level in math and language arts. The language arts standards include expectations for writing, speaking, and reading both fiction and nonfiction.

Many of the standards show up over and over at every grade level: writing age-appropriate opinion pieces that back up arguments with evidence, for one. Here are some (not all!) of the fifth grade Common Core standards. Each box is an example of what students should be able to do at each grade level.

Hat tip to the Tanqueray Cowboy.

National Group Presses Case for Charters in Kentucky

 When I was a kid they would have been called "Outside Agitators"

Under the leadership of National Advocacy Director, Shreé Medlock, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) began its push to create charter schools in Kentucky in 2010. Kim Mapp and Pastor Jerry Stephenson, were named BAEO KY State Outreach Coordinators and began holding events to agitate for school choice. U K's Dr.Wayne Lewis became a prominent university spokesperson.

BAEO reached out to elected officials, candidates, and leaders in the faith-based and business communities. “Parents in Kentucky want more options," was the message of this national group - the same message used everywhere they went.

We’re planting seeds that will reap tremendous fruit for education reform and parental choice in Kentucky,” said Medlock, in 2010.

What is troublesome about the effort is its historical ties to racist groups that more recently use charters as a step stone to vouchers. Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, the current push for vouchers is led by conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors.

This from the Courier-Journal:
Louisville protestors push for charter schools

Holding signs reading "No More Failing Schools," nearly 50 education advocates gathered in downtown Louisville Monday to urge Kentucky lawmakers to pass a charter school law.

Parents and ministers with the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which organized the rally, said charter schools could help address lagging achievement, particularly for poor and minority students stuck in low-performing schools but unable to afford a private education.

"All students deserve a high-quality, free education ... regardless of their family's socioeconomic status," said Nicole Coggins, who has three children at Jefferson County Public Schools, as she stood on Louisville's old courthouse steps with the other demonstrators.

State charter proponents have pushed for a charter law for years to no avail. But their prospects could improve next year if Republicans retake the state House of Representatives in the November elections.

Kentucky is one of only a handful of states without some sort of charter school despite the approach being endorsed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Mendell Grinter, state director of Educational Options, said publicly funded and independently run charter schools, freed from bureaucratic rules, are better able to adopt innovative teaching models, mandate smaller classes or use special schedules and programs.

But critics say they siphon money from public school systems and that, far from being a cure-all, on average they perform no better or worse than traditional public schools.

"Moving toward charter schools is a step toward privatization," said Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association.

Several rally speakers said the state's recent release of test scores showed the need to create charter school options for parents.

JCPS, for example, posted gains in college readiness, graduation rates and areas of academic proficiency, but only 43 of 137 schools tested were deemed proficient.

Grinter said the ongoing race and income achievement gaps suggest "black students are served the least" in the system, a long-term trend that warrants trying new approaches to boost achievement and spur competition among public schools.

JCPS already offers some level of choices among schools, including magnet programs to which students can apply. It is also working to open several "schools of innovation," including one that aims to provide extra social service help for students.

But Coggins said some of the district's magnet schools are academically selective and don't serve struggling students.
This from Aaron Yarmuth in Leo:

Future of Kentucky charter schools to be decided Nov. 4

Every once in a while, voters can make proactive decisions with absolute certainty of what the consequences of an election will be. The 2014 race for the Kentucky Legislature is one of these definitive instances.

By Kentucky’s Constitution, a governor’s veto of legislation can be overridden by a simple majority of both houses of the legislature. This means that if Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the governor will be powerless to prevent the most draconian conservative legislation this state has seen in the last century. The Republican wish list will assuredly include right-to-work legislation and anti-abortion bills.

However, one seldom-discussed issue that will be certain to forge its way through Frankfort is rolling out the red carpet for charter schools. Kentucky is one of eight remaining states in the union that does not spend taxpayer dollars on charter schools. And should the Republicans take control of the General Assembly, that domino will certainly fall.

LEO, in an effort to bring this debate to the forefront of voters’ minds, is bringing the debate to town before it is too late. In a Gallup poll released in August, 70 percent of Americans indicate support for charters, particularly as a public school “free of regulation,” while the vast majority have no experience with them or do not understand what they really are.

In the article “Charter Schools Don’t Need an Ad Campaign, They Need Regulation,” author Jeff Bryant illustrates, through a litany of cases, the perils of charter schools and deregulating education. In essence, charter schools can, and often do, become the washing machine for money-laundering schemes — or at least mechanisms for big business to siphon tax dollars from state education budgets to private pockets.

Louisville attorney Brian Butler, a dear friend and a thoughtful, libertarian contributor to this debate, presents the counter perspective of education reform, explaining, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.“

Make no mistake: This issue hangs in the balance of this election, and there will be no debate if Republicans seize the House.

This from Brian Butler in Leo:

Charter schools nourish the best and brightest who cannot afford private education

Campaign season is fully upon us. In our annual election ritual, some of our politicians have renewed their cry that they are “for education.” Really? Who is against education? But, nonetheless, they will wrap themselves in a comforting cloak that promises that if only we spend more money, then everyone would read, write and attend Harvard. If only we elect the newest, greatest, most well-meaning progressive, every child will enjoy a premiere education and all will be right in fantasy utopia. Don’t you just feel better thinking about their utopia? To hell with reality. But in my view, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

Our public school system is failing scores of our children. Of the 137 Jefferson County public schools tested, only 43 were deemed proficient or better. Put another way, 94 of our 137 public schools are NOT proficient. And make no mistake — proficient is hardly a high standard. Only in the government can disastrous results such as these lead our politicians to proclaim that modest improvements over last year indicate that we should stay the course.

According to the Huffington Post, the United States tops the world in spending per student on their education. However, we routinely trail many countries in our students’ performance. According to a 2011 Department of Education report, the average reading score for eighth-graders attending United States public schools was 19 points lower than the overall score for U.S. students attending private schools. A recent Brookings piece indicates that the average Catholic school cost per elementary student was approximately $6,000, whereas the average public school spending per elementary student was approximately $12,000. Lack of money is not the problem with our public schools, and allegedly incompetent teachers are not to blame.

Our poorly performing public schools are a direct consequence of the decline of the family foundation. Since the 1960s, when radicals and the intelligentsia began to attack the traditional foundations of American society, progressives have sought through political correctness to force us to ignore the fact that statistically, children do better if they are raised in a home with a mother and father. Certainly, children from non-traditional families can and often do thrive, but it is more difficult for them. The poor performance of our public schools is exacerbated by the lack of respect for authority. This unfortunate trend to denigrate the traditional stalwarts of American society has contributed to a lack of respect for teachers by many students and some parents. Rather than the teacher almost always being right, we live in a society where the teachers are often the targets of abuse, threats and intimidation. The problem is not with funding or teachers; the problem is with us. Our public education system is merely a reflection of the decline of America caused by a devaluation of the Judeo-Christian foundations of our republic.

Charter schools are not necessarily the cure-all to what is ailing public education.  The cure-all to public education is to restore the family structure to American society, remove the elite progressive agenda from public education, and return to the simple formula of teaching our children to read, write and do arithmetic. But given the performance of our public education system, charter schools are a must.

Charter schools are independently run public schools that have greater accountability for performance. The schools have the freedom from some of the burdensome bureaucracy of the public school system. Most importantly, parents and students choose to go to these charter schools. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that charter students perform ahead of public school kids in reading and approximately the same in math. Of critical importance, Patrick J. Wolf, author of a recent study and a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas, found that charter schools were 40 percent more cost effective in math and 41 percent more cost effective in reading compared to traditional public schools. In sum, charter schools’ budgets were, on average, significantly less than traditional public schools’, but they outperformed the traditional public schools.

Some charter schools have achieved incredible results, particularly in poor urban areas. Charter schools have the opportunity to be innovative and to tie their innovation to improved performance or risk closure. Charter schools function like the private sector, where success is measured and failure mandates change.

Most importantly, charter schools give a choice to parents and students who do not have the financial means to attend a private school. Parents have the opportunity to put their children in an environment where other children strive to learn. Parents have the opportunity to obtain the benefits of a private school educational experience through a charter school. It is foolish and cruel not to nourish the best and brightest among us who happen not to have the financial ability to escape our often failing public schools. Give parents and students a choice about what is best. Give students an opportunity to reach their maximum potential. Do not curse those that want to maximize their potential by not giving them another option besides the all-too-often failing public school. Our children deserve better.

Opportunity should not be limited to only those that are financially blessed.

The elites fear school choice because deep down, below their dreams of a fantasy utopia, they know that rational people making choices in the best interests of their beloved children will chose opportunity over quagmire and failure. But in the end, should not it be the parents and students who choose — not the elites who proclaim to know better than we do what is in our best interests?

Brian Butler is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and Notre Dame Law School.  He is a former United States Navy J.A.G., Assistant Commonwealth and Assistant United States Attorney. Currently, he is an attorney in private practice in Louisville.

Pressing for Equity

Eleven civil-rights groups came out this week with a letter calling on local, state and federal policy makers to focus on equity when designing school accountability systems. They argue that schools should get credit not just for boosting test scores, but for prioritizing integration; supporting students' emotional, cultural and physical well-being; creating an equitable disciplinary system and developing services that build on the "cultural and linguistic assets children bring to schools." The groups also call for a new focus on engaging parents, especially those who speak languages other than English. And they seek better teacher preparation, including programs to help educators recognize implicit bias. Signatories include the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Congressional and State Educational Leaders: 

On behalf of millions of students and families, and civil rights organizations, communities of color, and organizations that reflect the new, diverse majority in public education, we write urging implementation of a set of strong recommendations for advancing opportunity and supporting school integration, equity, and improved accountability within our nation’s systems of public education.


We believe that improved accountability systems at the local, state, and federal levels are central to advancing and broadening equal educational opportunity for each and every child in America. The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In our highly inequitable system of education, accountability is not currently designed to ensure students will experience diverse and integrated classrooms with the necessary resources for learning and support for excellent teaching in all schools. It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes.

The demand for our schools to meet new college-and-career-ready standards is happening in the wake of a record number of children living in poverty and an increasingly diverse student population. Students of color represent more than 50 percent of youth and are more than twice as likely to attend segregated schools. Second language learners whose first language is not English now represent 10 percent of all public school students nationwide, and students living in poverty represent virtually half of all US public school students.[1] [2]

Recognizing the challenging backdrop in which our students, schools, and communities are expected to thrive, we are committed to adhering to the civil rights laws of this country that require that all children be educated equitably and effectively based on their needs. This reality must be matched with the learning opportunities, preparation, knowledge, services, supports, and skills that will enable them to lead healthy and successful lives in the world and workforce. From early education to the postsecondary years, we believe that the federal government continues to play a critical role in helping states, districts, and tribes to achieve educational excellence through equity.

While the need for accountability is almost universally agreed upon, there have been concerns raised about overly punitive accountability systems that do not take into account the resources, geography, student population, and needs of specific schools. In particular, the No Child Left Behind law has not accomplished its intended goals of substantially expanding educational equity or significantly improving educational outcomes. Racial achievement and opportunity gaps remain large, and many struggling school systems have made little progress under rules that emphasize testing without investing.[3] We must shift towards accountability strategies that promote equity and strengthen, rather than weaken, schools in our communities, so that they can better serve students and accelerate student success.


We call on local, state, and federal policymakers to use the following set of principles in rethinking sound public education accountability systems. Comprehensive systems of shared responsibility with educational professionals and key stakeholders should evaluate the extent to which productive learning conditions are in effect for all students in each school – with attention to disparities by race, class, gender, language, and disability status – and ensure that appropriate corrective action is taken to improve learning conditions where problems are identified. Development and monitoring of well-designed and comprehensive measures of educational inputs and outcomes must demonstrate the equity that is emblematic of systems that are serious about universally advancing opportunities to learn and succeed. These features are critical to an effective accountability system:
1. Appropriate and equitable resources that ensure opportunities to learn, respond to students’ needs, prioritize racial diversity and integration of schools, strengthen school system capacity, and meaningfully support improvement. These include:
  • Funding and instructional materials, including access to technology and adequate facilities, allocated based on student needs (poverty, culture/language learning, and other needs)
  • Equitable access, within and across schools, to high-quality curricula, tools for learning, and enrichment programs
  • Tailored individualized services that build upon the cultural and linguistic assets children bring to schools
  • Qualified, certified, competent, racially and culturally diverse and committed teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other school support staff, with appropriate professional development opportunities, including cultural competency training, and support and incentives to work with students of greatest need; and
  • Social, emotional, nutritional, and health services
2. Multiple measures:  The system should acknowledge that both inputs and relevant outcomes matter, and thus should monitor both appropriate inputs that support academic, social, emotional, physical health, and cultural well-being, along with student and school outcomes (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) that demonstrate college-and career-readiness and civic literacy. These include school resources; school discipline and positive school climate information; children’s in- and out-of-school learning opportunities over time; student improvement; and student achievement, progress, and graduation rates.
3. Shared Responsibility:Each level of the system – from federal, state, and local governments to districts and schools should be held accountable for the investments it must make and for the oversight, accountability, data collection, monitoring, and actions it must undertake to produce high-quality learning opportunities for each and every child and to ultimately achieve equity in student outcomes. This includes ensuring civil rights protections, equitable resources, meaningful student and parental engagement and inclusion in decision-making, active coordination between systems serving students, and productive learning opportunities.
4. Professional competence: Systems of preparation and ongoing development should ensure that educators have the time, investments, and supports necessary to acquire the knowledge about curriculum, teaching, assessment, linguistic and cultural competence, implicit bias, and student support needed to teach students effectively. This should include additional supports for education professionals who serve children and families in historically under-resourced and disadvantaged classrooms and schools. School systems should recognize educators’ abilities, particularly in working with diverse learners and students of color. They should not only create incentives for education professionals to develop or acquire additional skills, but also require professional learning to ensure their effectiveness in the classroom.
5. Informative assessments for meaningful 21st Century learning: A system of assessments should document both student and school system progress using tools that evaluate deeper learning skills (e.g. critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity) that are necessary and valuable for today’s and tomorrow’s world and that represent authentic applications of knowledge. Assessments should be valid for the students and purposes for which they are used, comparable in quality, and able to be reliably scored. These measures would be used to help identify the most appropriate interventions, supports and instructional strategies to accelerate learning. They should also be used as diagnostic tools for determining student acquisition and application of knowledge, should identify students’ strengths as well as their learning and cultural needs, and should be used to support individual students and educators. Measures should also be used to assess whether individual and collective education systems are moving toward meeting objectives related to greater equity in educational opportunities and achievement.
6. Transparency: The system should provide useful, publicly accessible, and actionable school system information and data for parents and community members, as well as students and educators. It should also support new ways for changing practices, exploring additional investments, or expanding opportunities. School system progress should be evaluated in part in terms of equitable inputs and outcomes, as well as access to learning resources, services, and opportunities for different student groups (e.g., English learners, students by race and ethnicity, Native students, low-income students, and students with disabilities).
7. Meaningful and culturally and linguistically responsive parental and family engagement:  The expertise and meaningful engagement of all parents and families should be included in both the teaching and learning process and in decisions associated in the planning and implementation of P-12 system investments. Adequate steps must be taken to ensure participation of low-income parents and parents facing linguistic or other obstacles. Such planning should also incorporate the resources of community partners (e.g., tribes and Native communities, afterschool providers, businesses, faith-based institutions, medical providers, higher education institutions, and community and civil rights advocacy organizations) that can contribute to a shared vision of accountability in an education system in which all students can excel.
8. Capacity building:  Accountability, including the consequences that accompany evidence of poor performance, should be a mechanism for strengthening schools, education professionals, and their communities. Consequences that accompany evidence of poor performance should be timely, narrowly tailored, targeted to the populations and parts of the school systems most in need, and likely to maximize student learning for all students. This system accountability would serve to elevate all children to achieve to their highest potential by enforcing and expanding students’ equitable opportunities to learn; guiding strategic investments so that schools are healthy, productive places for learning; and ensuring meaningful progress toward equity in student achievement.
We appreciate your attention to our concerns and urge you to use the principles articulated in this letter in deciding how to best serve and nurture our nation’s greatest resource, our young people, and the backbone of our democracy, the public school system. We believe the right to a quality education is a civil right and that the civil rights of all our children must be vigorously protected. We look forward to hearing from your respective offices to discuss the issues raised in this letter further. We can be reached as a coalition through Dr. Joseph Bishop of the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign at (626) 319-0496, or via email at



Advancement Project
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign
National Urban League (NUL)
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)
National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC)
National Indian Education Association (NIEA)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

1. Southern Education Foundation (2013). Low Income Students in the South and in the Nation. Retrieved at
2. UCLA Civil Rights Project (2012). E Pluribus...Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students.  Retrieved at
3. See: Darling-Hammond, Linda (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Nation’s Future. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fayette County school redistricting committee seeks 'simplest solution,' chairman says

This from the Herald-Leader:
Months away from redrawing school attendance zones, Fayette County's redistricting committee focused attention Thursday night on what the chairman called the "simplest solution": the one with the fewest adjustments to the way neighborhoods are assigned to Lexington's high schools.

Alan Stein
Committee members, in reviewing scenarios presented by a California-based demographics company, also seemed interested in a proposal that brought more balance between the number of students who pay for their lunch and those who get free and reduced-price lunches at the high schools. Under one scenario, Bryan Station would have fewer students who receive free and reduced lunch, Henry Clay would have slightly more, and about half the students attending a new high school on Winchester Road would receive free and reduced lunch. Socioeconomic balance is one of the committee's goals.

The redistricting committee met in Paul Laurence Dunbar High School's library. Chairman Alan Stein said the committee could start meeting weekly until a plan is presented to the school board, probably in the spring. The next meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the district's Central Office, 701 East Main Street. The district last initiated wide-scale redistricting in 2002.

Attendance zone changes will be implemented when two new elementary schools open in 2016 — one on Georgetown Road and the other off Polo Club Boulevard — and the new high school opens in 2017. About 20 of the committee's 30 or so members attended the meeting, at which several scenarios were discussed for redrawing high school attendance boundaries. The committee will look at the boundaries for elementary schools next, followed by boundaries for middle schools

"Everybody in Lexington ... thinks they are going to be affected by redistricting. The reality is that's not even remotely true," Stein said. He said it was more likely that 10 percent or fewer of families would be affected, and one-third of those would be reassigned because of the new schools. "We want to find the simplest solution," he said.

But Stein acknowledged that the committee was faced with a complex problem. The committee is trying to keep students at schools close to their homes and maintain socioeconomic balance. It also is trying to reduce transportation costs and keep elementary school students together so they generally attend the same middle and high schools.

Overcrowding at Henry Clay High School, which has about 300 too many students, will be eased naturally because the new school on Winchester Road is relatively close, Stein said.

"Dunbar, not so naturally," he said.

The committee discussed what it would mean to move some homes now assigned to Dunbar, which is also overcrowded by about 300 students, to other high schools, including Lafayette and Bryan Station. Bryan Station is considered low-performing academically but has made some recent improvements.

Stein said some of the scenarios reviewed Thursday were "virtually painless."

"I don't think we are going to land on those, but it gives us a road map of how we can reduce some of the concerns so many people in the community have," he said.

Parents have told the Herald-Leader they worry about the possibility that their homes will be reassigned to other schools, especially if those schools are perceived as having low academic achievement. Stein said he had heard that some people were waiting to buy homes until the plan is in place.

"We think our pace is not quick enough," he said. "People are telling us in the real estate market that it's just come to a halt, people wanting to hear about this."

Critical decisions await the victors in the Fayette County school board race

This from H-L:
Several months from now, members of the Fayette County school board members will be faced with a series of difficult — and potentially controversial — decisions.

The school board ultimately will need to work together to address problems with the district's budget, to bridge the achievement gap for poor, disabled and minority students, and to figure out what to do when Superintendent Tom Shelton's contract ends next year.
Clockwise from top left: Doug Barnett, Roger Cleveland, Amanda Ferguson and Natasha Murray.

Read more here:

Two of the five Fayette County school board members will be competing with political newcomers in the Nov. 4 election for the right to help make those critical decisions.

The school board races are important for all Lexington residents, because voters paying school taxes should exercise oversight, Transylvania University Political Scientist Don Dugi said.

"There are lots of reasons to have an effective educational system," he said, "and things like financial mismanagement and other factors that might cause the educational system to function at a lower level than it should are things you want to avoid if at all possible."

In the 2nd District, incumbent Doug Barnett, a senior staff attorney in the Kentucky Court of Appeals, is running against Roger Cleveland, an associate professor in the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University. The district covers northern Fayette County.

In the 4th District, incumbent Amanda Ferguson, a former mediator and non-profit manager, faces Natasha Murray, a consultant with the Kentucky Department of Education. The district includes an area south of Main Street and east of South Broadway.

Barnett and Ferguson have been the two most outspoken members of the board, questioning Shelton about budget cuts and other issues.

All candidates have children attending schools in the district. Murray and Cleveland served on school-based decision-making councils. Before Ferguson and Barnett were elected to the school board, they were active in the PTA.

2nd District

As a board member first elected in 2010, Barnett notes that he has advocated for a new elementary school. He, along with Ferguson, worked to preserve funding for band and music programs during a contentious budget cut this year. Barnett also pushed for the creation of a task force to improve special education, and fought a plan to outsource custodians. With many schools in his district beset by the achievement gap and limited fundraising for student activities, he called for equity for students and staff.

Cleveland points to 20 years of experience in higher education and elementary, middle and high schools. He spent six years in the Kentucky Department of Education. He served on the Fayette Equity Council, and volunteered in at least 20 schools in the district. His campaign platforms include equity and excellence in schools, increasing family and community engagement and closing what he calls the "opportunity" gap for students.

Barnett said that in addition to having high expectation for all students, high-poverty schools need resources from the district and schools need a long-term plan in place. Achievement gaps will never improve until they improve staff morale and include all parents in the conversations.

Barnett, who serves on Fayette's redistricting committee, said that Fayette County needs to ensure that schools are not overcrowded.

"I think that because we have fewer middle schools and high schools than we do elementary schools, the best thing to do would be to keep the elementary kids close to home and consider socioeconomic diversity in the feeder patterns for middle and high schools," he said. "I think this approach meets the goals in the board's guiding principles for school rezoning."

Cleveland said elementary children should go to a school near their homes and that redistricting can't be accomplished on the basis of race and ethnicity.

Barnett said the most important issue for the district is that all students are learning at levels so they will be prepared for college and careers.

Barnett, 39, said a trust fund most recently used to make loans to teachers for travel and other situations, should be used to support high-poverty, low-performing schools. William Wells Brown Elementary, which is in District 2, had the lowest tests scores in the state among elementary schools.
Cleveland said "You can't throw money at low-performing schools."

He said you have to create a culture in the district of good teaching and believing that all kids can learn.
During the campaign, the candidates have been asked about State Auditor Adam Edelen's special examination which found chronic mismanagement in the district, Barnett said the school board needs to assure the public that the board will hold the responsible parties accountable.
Cleveland, 51, said the allegations that led to the audit resulted from personality conflicts among district officials and "had nothing to do" with children.

He is concerned that the district spent thousands of dollars on the audit and district officials already knew much of what was in the findings. Cleveland said "too much play" had been given to the findings in the audit. Instead, he said the district should be talking about student achievement.
"Students are not reading on grade level, there are horrendous gaps, we should have more conversations about student achievement versus personality issues," Cleveland said. Everyone should be held accountable for the problems outlined in the findings, including current board members, he said.

4th District

Murray, in her work for the Kentucky Department of Education, has reviewed programs at low-performing and high-performing schools. She said that her area of expertise was evaluating gaps in reading and math, and that she hopes to bring a fresh perspective of how to navigate challenges that impact the academic success for all students. Murray said her professional experience in educational policy sets her apart from Ferguson, her opponent. Among her priorities are equity in education and increasing innovative educational opportunities to raise student achievement.
Murray said community partnerships is one way to make that happen: "I want to see Fayette County become one of the trendsetters ... that other districts look to us."

Ferguson, who is wrapping up her second four-year term on the board, said she has been a strong advocate for all of her constituents and is getting positive feedback for her questioning of Shelton and other district leaders.

"I have always tried to represent the best interests of both our students and the community, to make sure every tax dollar is wisely spent, and to be a voice for those who feel they have not been heard — whether they be students, parents, teachers, administrators, or simply concerned citizens," said Ferguson.

"To me, a school board member's responsibilities include serving the public by asking questions, sometimes tough ones, of those in leadership, offering critical analysis, responding to citizens' concerns, and listening to the needs of teachers and other employees. All of these tasks work together towards the most important goal of educating our students and ensuring their readiness for college and careers beyond their time in the Fayette County Public Schools."

Ferguson said she was concerned that Fayette County was classified as a "needs improvement" district, instead of "proficient" in the latest round of statewide student testing.

Murray said she is concerned that students are not equipped to be successful in the work force.
On the issue of Edelen's audit, Ferguson, 48, said while the superintendent is working to correct problems and the district should move ahead, people in the community are not satisfied that full responsibility has been taken for the problems that Edelen found.

Murray, 39, said the audit should assure people that every dollar was accounted for — Edelen found no criminal wrongdoing — and she thought Shelton had taken immediate corrective action.
Ferguson, meanwhile, said that redistricting is needed to address Fayette County's overcrowded schools. She said to balance diversity and let children attend schools closest to their neighborhoods is "not always going to be possible."

Murray said the redistricting debate should include weighing economic diversity, maintaining feeder patterns of schools so that elementary students go to the same middle and high schools, and the costs of transportation.

The Herald-Leader searched Fayette County court records for all four candidates.

In December 2009, the University of Kentucky Credit Union filed a civil complaint in Fayette District Court against Murray to collect on an unpaid $1,193.33 Visa credit card bill. Murray signed a document called an agreed judgement in January 2010 saying she would make payments. An order of wage garnishment was issued June 28, 2011. The case was resolved July 2011, according to court documents.

"I closed accounts and thought everything was taken care of, but apparently with that one card the Credit Union had been sending information to the wrong address," Murray said. "All debt was cleared and has been settled."

  • Doug Barnett

    Born: Oct. 6, 1975
    Residence: 1881 Lost Trail Lane
    Education: Bachelor's in political science and history, University of Kentucky (1998); law degree, University of Kentucky College of Law (2001); pursuing master's in public administration, Kentucky State University (expected 2016)
    Occupation: Senior staff attorney, Kentucky Court of Appeals
    Elected Office: Fayette County Board of Education, District 2. Elected 2010.
    Family: Wife, Jennifer; children ages 11 and 4
  • Dr. Roger Cleveland

    Born: Oct. 21, 1963
    Residence: 465 Skyview Lane
    Elected Office: None
    Education: Communications degree from Morehead State University; M.A. in sociology of education, Union College; doctorate in social and cultural foundations of education from University of Cincinnati
    Occupation: Associate professor, Eastern Kentucky University
    Family: Wife, Audra; children ages 3, 18, 13, 13
  • Natasha Murray

    Born: Sept, 5, 1975
    Residence: 1473 Thames Drive
    Education: Doctoral candidate in applied quantitative research methods, Educational Psychology department at the University of Kentucky; master's degree in higher education, from the University of Kentucky
    Occupation: Educational consultant at Kentucky Department of Education
    Elected office: None
    Family: Husband, Marqus; children ages 12 and 16
  • Amanda Main Ferguson

    Born: July 15, 1966
    Residence: 317 Cochran Road
    Education: B.A. in psychology from University of Kentucky; M.A. in psychology from Vanderbilt University
    Occupation: Former mediator and non-profit manager; currently stay-at-home mom
    Elected office: Two-term incumbent on Fayette County Board of Education
    Family: Husband, Todd; children ages 16, 13 and 10

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