Thursday, December 31, 2015

The top 10 charts of 2015

This from the Economic Policy Institute:
On some fronts, the economy is steadily recovering from the Great Recession. The unemployment rate is down, and the pace of monthly job growth is healing some of the damage inflicted by the downturn. But as EPI’s top charts of 2015 illustrate, the economy remains far from fully recovered—and is still failing ordinary Americans, who have endured decades of stagnant wages despite working more productively than ever.
But the charts also make clear that it doesn’t have to be this way. They show that policies that enhance low- and middle-income Americans’ economic leverage—such as keeping interest rates low, raising the minimum wage, making it easier for workers to bargain collectively, expanding access to overtime pay, and eliminating discriminatory practices that contribute to gender inequality—can go far toward creating an economy where prosperity is broadly shared.
This is Number 10. Check out the rest of the data here.
Economic inequality leads to education inequalities. The large achievement gaps documented throughout children’s school trajectories don’t originate in school—rather, they are rooted in children’s socioeconomic status (SES). Indeed, performance gaps in reading and math are apparent when children enter kindergarten—and performance is closely associated with, and rises along with, SES. In fact, children in the highest socioeconomic fifth have reading and math scores that are significantly higher (by a full standard deviation) than those of their peers in the lowest SES fifth.

This illustrates the need to weaken the link between inequality and education, and to ensure that all children are prepared for kindergarten. This will require not only expanding access to high-quality early education programs, but also pursuing policies to reduce economic disparities.

Lawmaker wants to boost free speech

Right idea. Wrong solution.

...with a surprise at the end.
For good reason, Rep. Meeks wants to make sure Kentucky students are able to exercise their first amendment rights of free speech. But his solution sounds to me like an invitation to students to filibuster any class at any time - effectively ending instruction - should a student choose to do so. The courts have ruled that the content of speech generally cannot be limited (with some exceptions for hate speech, incitement, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater...that sort of thing) but institutions can place reasonable limits on the time, place, and manner of that speech. That prevents individuals from disrupting class or other public meetings.  

At EKU, we have a centrally-located, open-air, free speech zone right next to the student center, which can be used by students anytime, and even by other members of the public with a little notice. And it gets used. A couple of times every year there is a preacher who takes time out of his busy schedule to come to campus and tell our students they are all going to hell. If we had no ability to restrict time, place, and manner, he could walk into any classroom and do the same thing.

That reminds me. 

In November, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray had to enforce a few time, place, and manner restrictions on a speaker during an Urban-County Council meeting. The speaker was given a few minutes to address the Council on the minimum wage issue as the Council had deemed reasonable. What happened next...well, take a peek at the cringe-worthy episode at the end of this post.
This from the Bowling Green Daily News:
Following college student protests across the country, a state lawmaker wants further protection for free speech on Kentucky’s college campuses.
Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville
“It just occurred to me that we need to be proactive on this,” said Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville.
Meeks pre-filed Bill Request 271, which would limit public postsecondary institutions’ ability to restrict student speech, for consideration in the 2016 General Assembly.
“What I would like to achieve is a modicum of facilitation of open discussion on our college campuses,” Meeks said. “I’d like to achieve a state in which our students feel valued in terms of sharing their vision.”
It’s a response to incidents across the country where colleges and universities have attempted to quash free speech, Meeks said. The issue has come up at top schools, including Harvard and Yale, he said.
In November, black football players at the University of Missouri refused to play until the university system’s president, Timothy Wolfe, was ousted. A Missouri state representative recently introduced a bill to revoke scholarships to student-athletes “who refuse to play for a reason unrelated to health,” CBS Sports reported.
For Meeks, college students have been a part of important historical uprisings like the American civil rights movement, campaigns against apartheid in South Africa, Tiananmen Square in China and the Arab Spring. That’s something that should be valued both nationally and in Kentucky, Meeks said.
BR 271 would create a new section of Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 164 to read that “public postsecondary education institutions shall not impose restrictions on the time, place and manner of student speech.”
The bill further elaborates that the protection extends to student speech that occurs on campus and is protected by the First Amendment. Restrictions are only warranted if they are reasonable, justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.
John Winstead of Nashville, a Western Kentucky University senior, said he’s ambivalent toward the proposed legislation. As a senator in WKU’s Student Government Association, Winstead faced a censure hearing Dec. 2 in front of the SGA’s Judicial Council for criticizing the university’s president. Winstead was not censured.
“On the one hand, I like that this legislation would narrow a public institution’s ability to restrict unfavorable speech,” Winstead said via a Facebook message. “On the other hand, this type of legislation doesn’t address the type of internal institutional intimidation that has been thrown around to scare off activists. So this bill is a step in the right direction, but is not a panacea.”

Now back to Lexington's Urban County Council.

The Most Amazing Thing Happened at Last Week’s Lexington City Council Meeting

This from Nick Roush at Kentucky Sports Radio:
In my final weeks as a UK Student News reporter, for the first time I took my talents to the Lexington City Council.  A new minimum wage ordinance is simple to understand, and it’s easy to cover because it invokes intense emotions from those on both sides of the issue.

I was hoping to see something from a scene of “Parks and Rec,” but I was let down.  My partner in crime, Rudy Salazar, was luckier than me.

Before the final vote last Thursday (which would go in favor for raising the wage), citizens took the chamber floors, speaking their piece for almost two hours.  About 30 minutes in, something magical happened.

I’ve watched it nearly a dozen times and I enjoy something different each time.  I’ll let you find them for yourself.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for public meetings, because no matter how boring they may be, they will not let you down.  Hopefully this lady is having a much better week and a Happy Thanksgiving.

Now it just so happens that the school administrator being...shall we say my former assistant, and Cassidy School's principal for more than a decade now. She does a fine job, and I feel very comfortable assuring everyone that neither she, nor the Fayette County Schools, inquires about any applicant's sexual practices, or lack thereof, or insists that teachers are sexually active, when making hiring decisions. But apparently they do screen out he extremely goofy.  

And I'll assume the comments are not an accurate reflection of WKU's screening process for teachers either.

Thank the court for time, place, and manner restrictions. 

Enjoy watching the audience reactions...

Any Charter School Law Just Won’t Do

While I may disagree with a couple of Wayne's particulars, I do agree with the sentiment that any future Kentucky charter school law must be strong if it is to prevent the kinds of wide-spread abuses some others states have suffered. Just any ol' charter school law won't do.
Wayne D. Lewis

At first glance I would add to Wayne's list a prohibition against:

  • For-profit charters (where most abuses seem to occur)
  • Virtual charter schools (where the worst performance appears to occur...not because online instruction is a bad thing, but perhaps high schoolers are not quite mature enough)

And subtract from his list:

  • Independent charter school commissions (which have shown a tendency to act as though they are really private, denying public review of records, open meetings, poor oversight...)

In the end, the General Assembly has a constitutional mandate to provide an adequate and equitable education for all Kentucky children, and it cannot satisfy that mandate by delegating it. 

This from Wayne Lewis at Education Policy Matters:

With Kentucky’s election of conservative Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who included school choice as a part of his campaign platform, and Democrats coming closer by the day to losing control of the state House of Representatives, discussion of the passage of a charter school law in Kentucky has picked up significantly. In fact, I have never heard more discussion of what many education policy movers, shakers, and watchers are saying is the inevitable emergence of public charter schools in Kentucky. As a longtime advocate for the passage of strong public charter school legislation in Kentucky, I greet that conversation with cautious optimism.

It is true that the support of Governor Bevin, the support of newly appointed Education and Workforce Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, and shaky control of the state House by Democrats, all contribute to a political environment in Kentucky that could be ripe for the passage of a strong charter school law. But even with a more favorable political environment, advocates for high quality charter schools should be more insistent than ever that Kentucky’s lawmakers get charter school legislation right. We have learned from other states successes and challenges that the details of charter school legislation matter tremendously. It is the provisions of the statute that set the framework what charter schools in a state will eventually become. Unfortunately, I believe the inclination of some educational leaders and lawmakers in Kentucky is to try to pass a charter school law that is most palatable to the traditional public education establishment, rather than passing a law that gives charter schools in Kentucky the greatest opportunity to be successful. Rather than putting first the academic well-being of children who will be served by Kentucky’s charter schools, I fear that some lawmakers find it preferable to please district and state-level education leaders and the organizations they represent. Make no mistake about it, the interests of children and the interests of education organizations are not always one in the same.
Elementary Classroom

I have gone on record previously and I do so again in saying that I will not advocate for the passage of a weak charter school law. A charter school law in Kentucky that leads to the creation of no high quality public charter schools, or worse, leads to persistently low achieving public charter schools, would do more harm to children than good. As such, Kentucky would be better served by forgoing the passage of a weak charter school law, and having no charter school law at all.

There are many elements of a strong charter school law to be decided on, but there are a few essential elements that must be a part of Kentucky’s charter school law if it is to lead to successful public charter schools. Based on research, the successes and failures of other states, and good old fashion common sense, here are a few of those essential elements:
  • Multiple Paths to Authorization. Kentucky’s charter school law must include more than one path to authorization for schools. Local school districts may serve as one of the charter authorizers, but groups applying for a charter must have at least one additional path to apply for charter authorization. Others states have experienced success with additional routes to charter authorization through independent charter school commissions, state boards of education, state commissioners or superintendents of education, city governments, and state-supported universities. All of these options should be considered in Kentucky. Providing charter schools with only one route to authorization through local school districts would leave the establishment and success of charters schools in Kentucky solely in the hands of organizations that have opposed the passage of charter school legislation.
  • Academic Accountability. Kentucky’s charter school law must hold charter schools to the highest standards of academic performance accountability. Authorizers must be held accountable for granting charters only to groups that have a comprehensive plan for the success of the school. Authorizers must be held accountable for monitoring the academic performance of charter schools in their charge, intervening when needed, and not renewing or revoking schools’ charters when necessary. Public charter schools in Kentucky cannot be allowed to fail children and families year after year, generation after generation, as some of our traditional public schools have.
  • Collective Bargaining. Kentucky’s charter schools must not be bound by collective bargaining agreements between teachers unions and local school districts. The provisions of such agreements limit the human resources autonomy of administrators in some of Kentucky’s traditional public schools. Specifically, provisions of such collective bargaining greatly limit school administrators’ ability to recruit, hire, supervise, evaluate, and if need be, terminate school personnel. As the charter school concept is based on providing schools with greater autonomy in exchange for higher levels of academic accountability, binding public charter schools with those restrictions would be counterproductive. A charter school law would not and could not, however, prevent teachers at Kentucky charter schools from forming their own unions if they so chose and collectively bargaining with their schools.
  • Funding Equity. Kentucky’s public charter schools must receive funding that is equitable to traditional public schools. Public charter schools in some states have been crippled by receiving as little as half the per pupil dollar amount that would be allocated for a child attending a traditional public school. Such funding inequity would be unacceptable in a charter school law in Kentucky. Funding for public charter schools should be allocated in the same manner that funding for traditional public schools is allocated, on a per pupil basis. For every child whose parent chooses to enroll her in a public charter school, the same state, local, and federal dollars that would follow her to a district school should follow her to a public charter school.
Wayne D. Lewis serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Kentucky Charter Schools Association (KCSA), a Louisville-based non-profit organization. He is currently an assistant professor and chair of the principal leadership program in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies, and an affiliated faculty member with the African American and Africana Studies Program at the University of Kentucky.

Ramsey marks the highs and lows for Prichard folks

This from Brigitte Blom Ramsey via Twitter @bblomramsey:
Dear Prichard Committee Members and Friends,

This note comes with warm wishes into the New Year and gratitude for all you do to support education in Kentucky.  As we reflect on Kentucky’s progress in education during 2015, there are a number of points to celebrate and reminders that there is still much to do:
BBR_Headshot_2015_finalBright Spots to Celebrate
  • Kentucky now ranks 8th in 4th grade reading as reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • We have 4 years of assessment data with the new standards and the trend is positive: 3-5 point gain in proficiency for 3rd graders in reading & math and 11th graders meeting KY ACT benchmark in English and reading.
  • High school graduates college and career ready increased by 20 points since 2012 – now at 66.8 percent college and career ready.
  • High school graduates college ready based on KY ACT benchmarks alone increased by 4 points between 2012 and 2014 – now at 37 percent college ready.
Challenges & Opportunities Ahead
  • The 4-year trend for 11th graders meeting the KY ACT benchmark in mathematics is -0.5.
  • Overall, the 2015 state test scores are flat and proficiency in some subjects decreased in this one year (some districts made year over year improvements – KY School Report Card for individual district results).
  • The achievement gap for minority and low-income students is persistent and overall unchanged in recent years.
  • The kindergarten readiness screening results have shown no statewide improvement since implemented – still at 50 percent ready.
  • We need to ensure that a high school diploma truly indicates readiness for college and/or career for all students graduating from Kentucky high schools.
While there are many policy conversations to be had regarding the accountability system and assessment, we also recognize that the difficult work of reform happens at the school and classroom level.  Policy implementation takes time and requires support.  In 2015, we began looking into what was happening in the classroom.  We encourage you to read, and enjoy, our Perspectives Special Reports compiled in this blog post: ‘Tis a Gift to be Curious.

In 2016, we will continue our work to highlight the changing face of teaching and learning in the classroom.  We will also release a study group report on the achievement gap which will include recommendations for policy and community responses to help close these gaps and ensure all of Kentucky’s students receive the education necessary to be successful after high school.

Finally, reason for celebration and a challenge full of opportunity for Kentucky is the long awaited passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which replaces No Child Left Behind.  The new Act allows for much flexibility at the state level and as a result Kentucky will be revisiting the accountability model and other policy issues.  Here is a good side by side overview: ESSA vs. NCLB – What’s Changed?  We will be following this closely in the New Year.

Thank you again for all you do.  We look forward to our work together in 2016,

Brigitte [Ramsey]

JCTA President Defends Teachers’ Unions Against Bevin’s Criticism

This from WFPL:
The president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association says Gov. Matt Bevin’s assertion that teachers’ unions hinder schools’ success is unfounded and irresponsible.
Gov. Matt Bevin

Bevin, a Republican, lashed out teachers’ unions on Tuesday at an event in West Louisville to support charter schools. At the event, Bevin said teachers’ unions protect “those who don’t need to be protected” —  namely, by providing job protection for ineffective educators.

Brent McKim, the president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said Bevin made a “ridiculous assertion.” McKim said teachers’ unions don’t protect bad teachers, but they do work to protect a “fair process.”

Jefferson County Public Schools has about 6,000 teachers, and about 95 percent are part of the union, McKim said.
“For the governor to try to draw a distinction between teachers and their union in Jefferson County shows a real lack of understanding on his part,” McKim said.
New teachers are subject to a four-year screening process during which they may be dismissed at any time, for any reason, McKim said. The process is meant to weed out ineffective teachers. This comes after teachers have participated in a years-long training program, which includes college and student teaching, McKim said.

“There’s really no reason to believe that we have ineffective teachers when we have that rigorous multi-year screening process to ensure that anyone that gets a continuing contract is effective,” he said.

Teachers receiving a continuing contract following the four-year provisional period can still be ousted, but the district must provide a definitive reason for the firing, McKim said.

Teachers are subject to the state accepted Danielson Framework for Teaching, which allows for what he called a flexible evaluation process to determine effectiveness, McKim said.

While teachers that have progressed beyond the four-year provisional phase of their career should be effective in the classroom, there are rare occasions when a teacher will lose the ability to effectively educate students.

“This does happen,” he said.

JCTA Pres. Brent McKim
A Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman said the district keeps a close working relationship with the teachers’ union to ensure educators have the resources they need in the classroom.

Still, McKim said Bevin’s blaming struggling schools in Jefferson County on ineffective teachers is “naive and inaccurate.”

“There are a host of factors that lead to poor performance of a student in school,” he said.

Most of those factors, he said, have nothing to do with teachers, but rather  parents, home-life and “literal trauma” experiences outside the school.

“Blaming teachers for all of these factors, as if they’re in control of all of that, is inaccurate,” he said, adding that teachers account for about 10 to 15 percent of the influence in a student’s educational performance.

McKim encouraged Bevin to give teachers’ unions the “benefit of the doubt.”

He said he’s yet to sit down and discuss the issue with Bevin, though he has attempted to set up a meeting.

Charters are generally state-funded schools operated by organizations outside the local school system.
Jefferson County Teachers Association members don’t see charter schools as the answer to the district’s problem, McKim said.

“What they see is the need for more flexibility among the public schools and the need to invest in our public schools rather than privatizing public education and essentially allowing a corporate takeover of our public schools,” McKim said.

Kentucky is among a handful of states that do not allow charter schools.  Republican state legislators have pushed charter schools in recent years, but Democrats in the House haven’t taken up the issue.

Charter schools may have to wait, Bevin says

While certainly not a done deal – Gov. Matt Bevin says it's possible the issue will have to wait since the upcoming legislative session will focus on the budget – proponents and opponents alike say the chances are greater than ever that this session, which begins Tuesday, could end with Kentucky becoming one of the last remaining states in the nation to adopt a charter school law.

Bevin touts charter schools
As the question turns from whether charter schools have a place in the Bluegrass State to what place they should occupy, many are looking to other states to help determine what path Kentucky should take.

“One of the advantages of being 20 years late to this innovative movement is Kentucky will be able to … benefit from the laboratory of 43 other states," said Hal Heiner, the newly named Kentucky Secretary of Education and Workforce Development and a charter school supporter.

Mixed research

Charter schools are publicly-funded schools that are run by outside groups and are often freed from some of the onerous requirements placed on more traditional public schools, such as not having to follow class-size requirements or having a nontraditional school calendar.

Supporters tout charter schools as a way to encourage innovative teaching methods, which could in turn close achievement gaps by better reaching kids who don’t thrive in a traditional public school setting. But opponents contend they siphon taxpayer dollars away from public schools and, without effective oversight, can result in cases of mismanagement and insufficient attention to equity.
Research has been mixed on charter schools, and for a good reason: charter schools can look very different not only from state to state, but even within a county.

For instance, a recent report on urban charter schools by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that, on average, urban charter school students performed better in math and reading compared to their traditional school counterparts. But those findings were mixed depending on the region being examined; in some communities, the majority of urban charter schools had smaller learning gains compared to their traditional school counterparts.

"It's hard to have a discussion nationally about the charter schools story," said Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who studies charter schools. "Their autonomy allows them to be very different from each other, and the rules in which they operate from state to state also makes them very different."
Finding the best policy for Kentucky

Jennifer Saba, director of state policy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said while there are local factors that determine how successful individual charters will be, a lot of it has to do with the strength of state policy.

But of course, there is debate about exactly what a strong charter school system looks like.
Heiner pointed to charter school policies in Indiana as a good foil for Kentucky, while others have suggested looking to other systems, including Georgia's, which is where new Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt worked before coming to Kentucky.

Researchers, charter school proponents and others say that several major issues must be hammered out before the passage of any charter school bill, including who decides which charter schools get to open; who oversees the charter schools; what sort of accountability and transparency is required; and even how students should be chosen for charter schools to try to ensure equity and keep schools from cherry-picking.

Many charter school proponents, including Heiner, tout the idea of having multiple “authorizers,” or entities that accept and review proposals for new charter schools. Others, including the Kentucky School Boards Association, are pushing to have local school boards as the state’s only authorizers, arguing having multiple authorizers can create inconsistency or unforeseen conflict.

"There's no way a Frankfort panel or even the Kentucky Board of Education would be aware of whether a charter school in one end of the county would create issues in another end of the county," said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the state school board group.

Tom Loveless, an education researcher with public policy think tank Brookings Institution, said the idea of having local school boards approve and monitor charter schools is "good in the sense that you have people who know something about schools and school performance, but the downside is you are asking a school system to basically monitor their competitors."

Jefferson County Public Schools, which could find itself authorizing charter schools should legislation pass, has made it a priority to block charter school legislation in the upcoming session.

Loveless said that regardless of who authorizes charter schools, Kentucky must ensure that they will be active and hands-on, and will "assume accountability for the performance of the charter. It's taken years and years to close down charters in some states because authorizers are not monitoring them."

A possible pilot program

Lawmakers have yet to file a charter bill for the 2016 General Assembly, but last’s year’s bill – which died in the Democrat-controlled House – had language authorizing both local school districts as well as a governor-appointed state board to create charter schools.

State Sen. Mike Wilson, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he has co-sponsored charter school legislation for the past several years and has plans to again file a charter school bill this session.

He said the bill he plans to introduce would essentially create a five-year pilot program for charter schools in Jefferson and Fayette counties, which he said have "unconscionable" achievement gaps for minorities and low-income students.

State Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who chairs the House Education Committee, did not respond to requests for comment.

Midwest Church of Christ Pastor Jerry Stephenson, who has led local support for charter schools since 2009, has long pushed for bringing charter schools to western Louisville, saying some of the schools serving residents in his part of town are failing students.

Stephenson added that opening a charter school could help revitalize the neighborhood.

He pointed to Indianapolis' Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School – a charter school that opened about 10 years ago in a neighborhood called The Meadows that was experiencing high levels of concentrated poverty – as an example of how charter schools can improve a community. As of last year, $66 million had been invested in the neighborhood since 2000, according to data from United Northeast Community Development Corporation, which is leading redevelopment. Crime rates have also fallen, The Indianapolis Star reports.

But while the charter certainly catalyzed redevelopment of The Meadows, stabilizing the community took more than just establishing a school, said Amandula Anderson, executive director for the development corporation.

Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said many of the details of his proposed legislation are still being worked out – including whether for-profit charter management companies will be allowed – but he said he plans to propose only allowing a maximum of five charter schools in each county's school district in the first five years.

He wants a system where low-income students and students in low-performing schools would get first dibs on charter school seats.

He also plans to propose an accountability measure that would shut down the charter schools after those five years if they aren't able to meet certain goals to increase reading and math scores and close the achievement gap.

"The beauty of the pilot program is, if charter schools don't prove they can be successful, then at the end of the pilot program, you don't have any more charters," Wilson said.
Not a done deal

The Kentucky Board of Education has not taken a position on charter schools, but Pruitt said he thinks charter schools could be "a good thing in the right situation" – as long as they’re part of a broader plan for improving education.

"You can't slap a charter name on a marquee and expect things to get better," Pruitt said.

This is the first state Pruitt has worked in that doesn't have charter schools, and he said Kentuckians should be “looking at the national trends” and asking whether charter schools have “actually made a difference, and in what conditions” they have been effective.

Wilson said he feels more optimistic than ever about the passage of charter school legislation. "The governor has made it clear this is one of his priorities," Wilson said. "And we just had another member of the House switch his party."

Despite uncertainty whether charter school legislation will pass in the upcoming session, Bevin pledged to bring the issue forward "in a repeated and timely manner" until it passes.

"We’re one of only seven states in America where there is no competition for public education dollars," he said. "That's crazy. That has to end. We deserve better than that."

But bringing charters to Kentucky is anything but a done deal.

Hughes, with the state school board group, said that "there has been a lot of opposition" historically for charter schools in the commonwealth.

"It's got a greater chance now than it ever has had before," Hughes said. "But we're not just going to sit by and allow a pro-charter steamroller to come through and put kids left in public schools at a disadvantage."

What are charter schools?

Charter schools are public schools in that they are publicly funded and held accountable for student outcomes (often, they’re held accountable to state standards through the standardized tests other public school students take). But they’re also freed from some of the rules and regulations traditional public schools face.

Supporters say charter schools encourage innovative ways of educating kids, like extended school days or employing specialized teaching methods, which could be especially effective for reaching low-income and minority students. Opponents say they siphon public funds away from traditional public schools and, without adequate oversight, can lead to mismanagement and insufficient attention to equity.

JCPS and school choice 

Educators point out that Kentucky already has policies that provide some of the flexibility that makes charter schools so appealing.

For instance, school-based decision-making committees already get to make certain curriculum and budget decisions for individual schools. And the state has named four Districts of Innovation, including Jefferson County Public Schools, who can apply for waivers from certain state regulations in order to innovate.

And of course, JCPS began its focus on school choice – which charter school supporters are for – decades ago when it established its magnet and choice system.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Outgoing Auditor Wants U of L Investigation To Continue

Unclear If It Will

Incoming Auditor Harmon sees UofL Foundation as "fully private"

Outgoing State Auditor Adam Edelen says his office’s examination of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees won’t be complete by the end of his term.

university-of-louisville_19696458643_oEdelen, a Democrat, lost to Republican Mike Harmon in the November election. Harmon said he’s adopted a “wait and see” approach as to whether he’ll continue the investigation.
Earlier this year, Edelen opened up an investigation into the board and its relationship with the University of Louisville Foundation, which manages the school’s $1.1 billion endowment. Both the board and foundation have come under fire for hefty compensation packages awarded to the school’s top executives — including U of L President James Ramsey, who is the sitting president of both boards.
In an exit interview with Kentucky Public Radio and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, Edelen said that it would be a “significant setback” if Harmon decides to not continue the investigation.
“The decision whether to continue the University of Louisville audit, is going to set the stage for the kind of auditor that my successor is going to be,” Edelen said.

“It is important that you communicate strength. It’s important that you communicate that you are going to track every tax dollar when you come into this office. And failure to do so will largely result in being pushed around the lunchroom for four years.”
U of L President Ramsey’s base salary is about $670,000. On top of that, the U of L Foundation awards bonuses—Ramsey received $1,023,153 in deferred compensation and tax gross-ups from the foundation in 2015.

The U of L Foundation is a non-profit and technically independent from the university.

Incoming auditor Harmon, who’s presently a state Representative from Danville, said in an interview last month that he was skeptical about whether the state auditor had the authority to look into the foundation.

“I’ve always been unclear as to where the auditor gets the authority and the power to be able to audit a fully private group, and they do use the funds toward public good,” Harmon said at the time. “So that’s something that we’ll have to review in more detail.”
Adam Edelen
Adam Edelen

Edelen disagrees, and said the foundation can’t shield itself from public inspection.

“If you follow that logic, what it would enable public institutions to do is run through a private entity important resources that would shield the public from their ability to oversee how those resources are being spent,” Edelen said.

The U of L has been under the microscope as multiple scandals have emerged over the past year.

The NCAA is investigating the school’s basketball program after a former escort alleged an ex-coach paid for strippers and sex for players and recruits. Ramsey and his senior staff were accused of being racially insensitive for  wearing stereotypical Mexican garb at a Halloween party and the FBI is investigating top U of L officials for possible misuse of federal grant funds.

Edelen says oversight in the university has “clearly” broken down.

“So the question is, is there a culture of permissiveness inside the University of Louisville that has created an environment where people think that they can get away with these abuses of their position? To me, that requires the involvement of watchdogs,” he said.

Edelen’s last day in office is Jan. 3.

8 Common (but Worthless) Education Phrases That Should Die in 2015

Campbell Brown uses a worthless Ed phrase in The Seventy Four's mission statement. She writes, "Our public education system is in crisis." This hyped statement plays well in the press but ignores history and assumes too much about what schools can contribute to the eventual well-being of its students - while conveniently blaming the institution for failings that emanate from other places in society. It is a lot like Campbell's own choice of a phrase to dump - "failing schools."
Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk recently called himself a "transformational leader" during his public vetting. During his press conference I told him I had no idea what that really meant. Manny looked chagrined. I think he meant "hire me and things will get better," but I'm not sure.

Manny and Campbell are not alone. We all probably use worn out, meaningless phrases to argue one point or another.  And Campbell collected a handful of them for our consideration.

This from Campbell Brown's The Seventy Four:
As the year draws to a close, now is a good time to consider what should be left behind in 2015 — a New Year’s resolution in reverse so to speak. In that vein, I started considering what education words and phrases should be retired in 2015, because they’re vapid, overused, meaningless, or just plain wrong. I also reached out to several education advocates, journalists, and scholars for their nominees, many of whose initial response was, “Where do I begin?” 

I got a variety of terrific suggestions, and some of the best ones — plus my own — are below:

College and career readiness 

Submitted by: Dana Goldstein, journalist and author of “The Teacher Wars

“It's time to retire the phrase ‘college and career readiness.’ It has become a euphemism for ‘high standards,’ but using this jargon papers over some tough questions. First of all, to what extent is college readiness the same as career readiness? Sure, there are some skills that are crucial to both, such as getting information from texts, or learning to pose good questions and research their answers. But the truth is that Algebra II is not a requirement for many good jobs, even though it is a requirement for a four-year liberal arts college (and, increasingly, high school graduation, too). Some of the most rigorous learning I've seen has taken place at vocational high schools that help students earn professional certifications alongside a high school degree, though this isn't what the education community usually has in mind when it talks about getting states to commit to "college and career" standards like the Common Core.

“In fact, the focus on the Common Core, while important, has detracted attention from some of the other ways American education is unique compared to schooling in other affluent nations. We lack sophisticated apprenticeships or workplace-learning opportunities, which is one reason why American 18 to 25-year olds suffer from higher youth unemployment than young adults in places like Germany or Switzerland. In our constantly shifting economy, it would be dangerous to prepare teenagers to do just one narrow job. But even students at elite colleges would benefit from more structured exposure to the world of adult careers. Workplace learning builds social-emotional skills like collaboration, and helps students understand how classroom learning can apply to real life. Let's retire ‘college and career ready,’ and instead talk specifically about the types of experiences that will help students prepare for an economy that will require them to be lifelong learners.”


Submitted by: Susan Moore Johnson, Jerome T. Murphy Research Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“I'd nominate the expression ‘data-driven,’ which increasingly is used as a seal of approval for  any decision or program that someone wants to peddle or defend, whatever its quality. If it's data-driven, it's got to be good. The expression  elevates data — typically quantitative data — over judgment, even when the data used are faulty, incomplete, or irrelevant to the decision at hand.
“Often in education, many factors must be weighed as teachers and administrators choose instructional programs, make moment-to-moment pedagogical choices, or design and interpret assessments. Such analysis is a professional responsibility that should not be shirked. Yet, the label ‘data-driven’ can lull us into believing that ‘experts’ have done all the important work for us. In fact, educators have both the right and the responsibility to make and to justify their own decisions, based on the best qualitative and quantitative information available.”  


Submitted by: Brandon Wright and Chester E. Finn, Jr., Editorial Director and President Emeritus (respectively), Thomas B. Fordham Institute

“Differentiation is a splendid notion — but it doesn't work at scale in truly heterogeneous classrooms. It’s akin to presenting a physician with two dozen patients who manifest different symptoms, differing degrees of illness, and, upon examination, many different ailments. It’s unlikely that any one doctor can do a great job with all of them, especially when strapped for time and resources. He’s apt to engage in a form of triage, focusing mainly on those he can readily help and giving less attention to the mildly ill. The sickest may be sent to the hospital and others referred to appropriate specialists. Teachers, however, are expected to be all things to (almost) all youngsters. Few, at least in the United States, have had much training in effective strategies for meeting this challenge. And most of those with whom we have spoken admit that, while technology and small classes surely help, they don’t often feel that they’re meeting it well. Some accept the premise of differentiation but then — triage style — pitch much of their instruction to kids in the middle of the achievement/ability/motivation distribution, doing less for pupils who are either lagging far behind or capable of surging ahead.” 

Transformational leadership

Submitted by: Naomi Nix, Senior Reporter, The Seventy Four

“Transformational leadership may have once been a revolutionary theory among academics to describe a management style that inspires employees to produce extraordinary results as opposed to ruling over them with an iron fist. Education insiders took note of the concept and ran with it, sprinkling the term in everything from major policy initiatives to more foundation reports. These days, the term is bandied about so often it's lost its punch. Let's agree to give the phrase a rest and get back to discussing specific strategies to improve leadership of our schools.”

21st century skills

Submitted by: Lisa Hansel, Communications Director, Core Knowledge Foundation
“So the Maya were not critical thinkers? This term perpetuates the idea that you can teach such skills directly. In reality, even 3-year-olds can engage in critical thinking. What they lack is knowledge, not some thinking skill.“

________ "works" and best practices

Submitted by: Chad Aldeman, Associate Partner, Bellwether Education Partners

“Almost anything could work, but whether it actually does in a certain setting often comes down to local context and implementation. This applies to a whole host of education interventions, like charters or pre-k or teacher prep. Basically any time someone inserts the phrase ‘high-quality _____,’ what they mean is that the implementation must look exactly like they have in their minds or else it won't "work." 

“Education policy is too often made based on ‘best practices’ that are little more than theory or anecdotes. My favorite example of this is in teacher prep, where everyone seems to have a magic cure for ‘what works,’ like longer clinical placements or higher entry standards or additional content requirements, but none of these provide any guarantees for whether someone will actually be a good teacher. Worse, these ‘best practices’ often get codified in policy, so then we have other places trying to replicate someone else's intervention using rules written on paper, even if we're not sure that intervention was effective in the first place!” 

Test-and-punish and high-stakes testing

Submitted by: Morgan Polikoff, Assistant Professor of Education, University of Southern California
“These terms are not very useful because quite few people have actually been punished through standardized tests over the last decade. Very few teachers have been fired because of poor student test results, school sanctions under NCLB were mostly quite weak, if they were applied at all, and the large majority of state tests have no stakes for students whatsoever. To be sure, some tests are actually high-stakes (e.g., graduation exams for students), but as compared to the stakes attached to standardized tests in many other countries, most of our tests are quite low- (or even no-) stakes. So it's a convenient slogan and scare tactic that belies reality.”

And my pick, for the education phrase that should be banned from 2016:

Failing schools

The term is overused, underdefined, narrowly applied, and unnecessarily divisive. I don’t doubt that there are many schools out there that can improve, often significantly. But the failing school label is frequently glibly applied to any school with low English and math test score proficiency rates. Such scores, though, tell us little or nothing about the quality of the school because they don’t account for where students start at; they also focus too much on test scores, which are important, but don’t tell the whole story.

On a more personal note, I used to teach at a school that some would deem ‘failing.’ And indeed in many respects it could have improved. But the vast majority of teachers there worked our butts off and cared deeply about kids. Casting schools and educators as ‘failures’ only serves to alienate teachers without helping them get better.

Ohio school board seeks millions in compensation for money lost to poor performing charter school

This from WTRF News:
Taking a cue from another Ohio school district, a school board in Jefferson County is seeking compensation they believe should be theirs, rather than charter schools.

WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville
"Why should charter Schools receive our funding if they're performing worse than us," questioned Indian Creek School District Superintendent Dr. T.C. Chappelear.  

That's exactly why Indian Creek Schools have adopted a resolution asking the Ohio Department of Education for $3.2-million they say has been lost to charter schools since 2002.

Nearly 70 Indian Creek students are enrolled in online charter schools, rather than the district. 

Dr. Chappelear says the school has to pay an average of $6,200 per student that attends charter schools from their district, while only receiving an average of $3,900 for students who attend their schools. 

"Our goal is to educate the public. Educate our local citizens on what's happening, because we believe that when a tax payer votes on a levy to support Indian Creek Schools, and that money goes to Quaker Digital Academy or Buckeye Online School for Success, or one of these other online charter schools, we feel that our tax payers don't realize that's happening," said Superintendent Chappelear.

Dr. Chappelear says this is just a formality and does not expect to see that $3.2 million from the ODE, but hopes it will contribute to the efforts to hold charter schools to the same standards public schools are held to and make funding more fair.

Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession

This from the Pew Research Center:

Wealth Inequality by Race
The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines.

The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010.

Wealth Gaps by RaceThe current gap between blacks and whites has reached its highest point since 1989, when whites had 17 times the wealth of black households. The current white-to-Hispanic wealth ratio has reached a level not seen since 2001. (Asians and other racial groups are not separately identified in the public-use versions of the Fed’s survey.)

Leaving aside race and ethnicity, the net worth of American families overall — the difference between the values of their assets and liabilities — held steady during the economic recovery. The typical household had a net worth of $81,400 in 2013, according to the Fed’s survey — almost the same as what it was in 2010, when the median net worth of U.S. households was $82,300 (values expressed in 2013 dollars).

The stability in household wealth follows a dramatic drop during the Great Recession. From 2007 to 2010, the median net worth of American families decreased by 39.4%, from $135,700 to $82,300. Rapidly plunging house prices and a stock market crash were the immediate contributors to this shellacking.

Our analysis of Federal Reserve data does reveal a stark divide in the experiences of white, black and Hispanic households during the economic recovery. From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%.

Americans' Wealth Since Great RecessionMeanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. Among Hispanics, median wealth decreased by 14.3%, from $16,000 to $13,700. For all families — white, black and Hispanic — median wealth is still less than its pre-recession level.

A number of factors seem responsible for the widening of the wealth gaps during the economic recovery. As the Federal Reserve notes, the median income of minority households (blacks, Hispanics and other non-whites combined) fell 9% from its 2010 to 2013 surveys, compared with a decrease of 1% for non-Hispanic white households. Thus, minority households may not have replenished their savings as much as white households or they may have had to draw down their savings even more during the recovery.

Also, financial assets, such as stocks, have recovered in value more quickly than housing since the recession ended. White households are much more likely than minority households to own stocks directly or indirectly through retirement accounts. Thus, they were in better position to benefit from the recovery in financial markets.

All American households since the recovery have started  to reduce their ownership of key assets, such as homes, stocks and business equity. But the decrease in asset ownership tended to be proportionally greater among minority households. For example, the homeownership rate for non-Hispanic white households fell from 75.3% in 2010 to 73.9% in 2013, a percentage drop of 2%. Meanwhile, the homeownership rate among minority households decreased from 50.6% in 2010 to 47.4% in 2013, a slippage of 6.5%.

While the current wealth gaps are higher than at the beginning of the recession, they are not at their highest levels as recorded by the Fed’s survey. Peak values for the wealth ratios were recorded in the 1989 survey — 17 for the white-to-black ratio and 14 for the white-to-Hispanic ratio. But those values of the ratios may be anomalies driven by fluctuations in the wealth of the poorest — those with net worth less than $500. Otherwise, the racial and ethnic wealth gaps in 2013 are at or about their highest levels observed in the 30 years for which we have data.

Ed Week's 10 most viewed stories of 2015

This from Ed Week:

 1. Study: RTI Practice Falls Short of Promise

Response to intervention failed to improve the reading skills of students identified for initial interventions in a 13-state study. (November 6, 2015) | Filed Under: Special Education, Assessment and Testing, Achievement Gap

2. Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach

A mountain of evidence indicates that educators have been painfully slow to use technology to change and improve the ways they teach. (June 10, 2015) | Filed Under: Teaching Profession, Curriculum and Instruction

3. Most Math Curricula Found to Be Out of Sync With Common Core

A new Consumer Reports-style review of instructional materials for K-8 math has found that 17 out of 20 series fail to fully align with the Common Core State Standards. (March 4, 2015) | Filed Under: Curriculum and Instruction, Mathematics

4. A Fresh Approach to Ranking States on Education

The 19th annual edition of Education Week's Quality Counts includes a new take on the state report cards and provides a leaner format that focuses on educational outcomes from early childhood on up. (January 2, 2015) | Filed Under: Politics and Policy

5. New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter

New research challenges the belief that teachers plateau early in their careers, suggesting instead their effectiveness grows over the first decade in the classroom and beyond. (March 24, 2015) | Filed Under: Teaching Profession, Professional Development

6. New Read-Aloud Strategies Transform Story Time

Under the common core, teachers use new questioning techniques to help the youngest students learn to draw evidence from what they read. (May 11, 2015) | Filed Under: Curriculum and Instruction, College and Career

7. Parent-Teacher Conferences Get a Makeover

Schools are revamping traditional back-to-school nights to enlist parents' help in ensuring that their children master key academic skills. (September 29, 2015) | Filed Under: Teacher Quality, Parent Involvementt

8. Hurdles in Pairing General, Special Education Teachers

Poorly implemented co-teaching practices may be taking the "special" out of special education, say many who train teachers and districts in collaboration. (June 9, 2015) | Filed Under: Teaching Profession, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction

9. Top Ala. Teacher's Resignation Sparks Questions on Certification Rules

The situation of former Alabama Teacher of the Year Ann Marie Corgill puts a personal face on the issue of who is allowed to teach and where. (November 10, 2015) | Filed Under: Teacher Quality, Teacher Preparation

10. Searching for Clarity on Formative Assessment

Ask five teachers what formative assessment is and you're likely to get five different definitions. (November 9, 2015) | Filed Under: Teaching Profession, Assessment and Testing, Teacher Preparation

Harry’s Guide To 2016 Election Polls

Here's your 12-step program 
to help you break your addiction to bullshit polls.

This from Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight Politics:
  1. Wait. Shrug off polls until just before primaries, or until after the conventions for the general election. Even within a week of a primary election, the polls are often inaccurate. The polls more than a month out are, at best, a guesstimate. General election polls are far more accurate on the eve of an election, and the candidate who leads after the major party conventions is likely to win.
  2. Ignore national primary polls – they measure nothing. (But state polls matter.) Unlike in general elections, when all states vote on the same day, the primary calendar is sequential; each state’s results often affect the next state’s. The national polls don’t add to your understanding of the race — just look at surveys of the upcoming states.
  3. Ignore hypothetical matchups in primary season – they also measure nothing. General election polls before and during the primary season have a very wide margin of error. That’s especially the case for candidates who aren’t even in the race and therefore haven’t been treated to the onslaught of skeptical media coverage usually associated with being the candidate.
  4. Look for polls of likely voters, not just registered voters. Voter turnout in primaries and non-presidential year general elections is often low. If you want to know who is going to win, you need to poll the people who are more likely to vote.
  5. Look for polls using live interviewers; they’re often more accurate. Although there are solid pollsters who don’t use live interviewers, studies show that pollsters who do tend to be more accurate in primary and general elections. Live-interview pollsters can reach landline and cellphone users, while robo-polls and Internet pollsters often miss big slices of the population.
  6. Be wary of Internet polls; they’re less tested. There are a number of good Internet pollsters, such as SurveyMonkey and YouGov, but these pollsters don’t have a long track record in primaries. In general elections, they tend to be at least as accurate as other types of pollsters.
  7. Know the polling firm – some are waaay better than others. Polls sponsored by major news organizations (ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, etc.) are often the most accurate because more money is spent on them. If you haven’t heard of a pollster before, there’s probably a good reason for it. If you’re in doubt, check the FiveThirtyEight Pollster Ratings.
  8. Margin of error and sample size matter less than who’s in the sample. Good polling costs a lot of money, so many times the best polls have a smaller sample size (the more people you call, the costlier the survey). That raises the statistical margin of error, but the margin of error for a sample of 400 is less than double that for a sample size of 1,000. What you don’t want is coverage error, in which you’re polling people who won’t even vote or ignoring people who will.
  9. Beware polls tagged “bombshells” or “stunners.” Outliers are usually wrong. “Surprising” polls are usually outliers. Anyone remember when Gallup called for a Mitt Romney victory in 2012? That was wrong.
  10. Instead, look at averages or trends in polling. There’s a reason we aggregate polls at FiveThirtyEight: The aggregate is usually better than any individual pollster. That’s especially the case in general elections. In primaries, the trend line can be more important, as a candidate with momentum heading into a contest often outperforms his or her average.
  11. Asking people about their votes “if the election were tomorrow” is designed to heighten drama by reducing “undecided” responses. The average primary poll finds that only about 10 percent of voters are undecided, even months from the election. Yet, the vast majority of primary voters don’t make up their minds until the final month before voting. The true number of undecideds are far higher than polls indicate far out from an election.
  12. Consider the motives of the media reporting on polls. They want headlines. This one is self-explanatory. The media are interested in your readership. Moreover, partisan news outlets are more likely to give press to those polls that favor their preferred candidate.