Friday, May 13, 2011

House Bill Calls for Eliminating 43 Education Programs

The piecemeal assault on the Department of Education has begun. Expect NCLB reauthorization to be taken hostage in the process.

This from Politics K-12:

Forty-three education programs would be scrapped under a bill introduced today by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee that oversees K-12 policy.

Backstory from Politics K-12.

"It's time to trim the fat," Hunter said in a statement. "Today I will introduce legislation that will eliminate—not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate—43 wasteful K-12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American fourth graders can't read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of students first."

Among the programs the bill would eliminate are Striving Readers, the Even Start Family Literacy Program, and the National Writing Project...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Education Programs Assail 'U.S. News' Survey

This from NPR:
Amid criticism from education reform advocates who say many teacher preparation programs provide poor training, a national organization is conducting a review of more than 1,000 programs to help aspiring teachers choose from the best. This consumer guide for prospective teachers — conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality — will be published in U.S. News and World Report next year.

But many schools of education say the effort is misguided, and they are threatening to scuttle the project.

Compiling The Stats

Teacher training programs have similar goals, but they vary tremendously. Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality, who is spearheading the effort, points to requirements for middle school biology teachers.

"In some places it means that teacher has to take nine biology courses, and some places it means that teacher has to take one biology course," Walsh says. She says her staff is combing through course syllabuses and entrance requirements and examining the rigor of in-classroom training.

"We want to know how prepared they are to teach reading, the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers. We're looking at whether they're at all selective," Walsh says.

It may sound like another harmless rating system for higher ed, but in the world of education, it can be impossible to get people to agree on standards. And that's exactly what's happening here.

Lynne Weisenbach, vice chancellor of the University of Georgia, says her state's institutions are doing fine. They have already been vetted by a state review board.

"The professional standards commission has high standards, and all of our institutions are accredited" by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Weisenbach says.

She says the U.S. News survey relies too heavily on documents like curriculum contents. Some teachers use materials that may not show up in a syllabus, she says. For that and other reasons, she thinks the survey will be misleading and a waste of time. So the University of Georgia has refused to participate in the U.S. News review of teacher training.

"Given the time and resources we have, we really feel that we're putting them in the right place," she says.

'A Very Strange Metric'

A number of other institutions have similar problems and may not help supply data.

Walsh says this won't stop her. She will get the information through open records requests if she has to. "These are publicly approved programs preparing public school teachers. This is information the public has a right to know," she says.

But Walsh admits that open records requests will not let her peek inside private preparation programs. And even with public programs, filing all those requests will be expensive and will make it tougher to get a complete picture.

Many schools say they feel the U.S. News ratings are just looking at the wrong indicators.

"For example, most of the indicators people are discussing have to do with inputs like the quality of the entrance requirements. That's a very strange metric," says Deborah Ball, the dean of the education school at the University of Michigan. "If I was a person looking for a program, I'd want to know what I'm going to learn while I'm there, not how selective the program is."

Nevertheless, Ball says the University of Michigan will produce the requested data.

People behind the review project say they feel as though teaching programs are reluctant to have outsiders looking in. But they say a view from the outside is just what is needed if teacher prep is ever going to undergo the changes they say are needed...

Hat Tip to Scott.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fayette School Board Could Hire Superintendent Next Month

This from Jim Warren at H-L:
The Fayette County Board of Education could select a new school superintendent before mid-June, according to a tentative schedule worked out Monday afternoon.

The board has said it wants to have a new superintendent in place by July 1 to succeed Stu Silberman, who announced in February that he is stepping down after leading the Fayette schools for seven years.

Board members met for more than two hours Monday with representatives of the search firm, McPherson & Jacobson LLC, to discuss plans for the final phase of the search. Jacobson officials also gave members a summary of comments received during public forums and stakeholder groups late last month seeking input on the qualities being sought in the new superintendent...

[T]he final phase of that process will kick in after May 16, the deadline for superintendent candidates to submit applications.

McPherson & Jacobson will deliver applications to the district central office on May 19. The district's six-member superintendent screening committee would then review the applications, planning to select top candidates on May 25 in consultation with representatives from McPherson & Jacobson.

The names of recommended candidates would go to the school board for discussion on May is expected that they would select three to possibly five finalists in executive session at that meeting. The names would be made public...

Board members plan to bring the finalists to Lexington for interviews with board members, and forums with key groups and members of the general public during June 6-10...

Supreme Court Refuses Appeal of 'Silent' Cheerleader

This from the School Law Blog:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of a Texas high school cheerleader who was dismissed from the squad after she refused to cheer for a basketball player accused of sexually assaulting her.

The cheerleader and her parents had sued the Silsbee Independent School District near Beaumont, Texas, on grounds that officials violated her right to equal protection and her free-speech right not to cheer in symbolic protest.

The case drew headlines after the cheerleader, identified in court papers as H.S., alleged that she was sexually assaulted at a 2008 party by the basketball player and two other young men. A state grand jury declined to indict the three defendants, and the basketball player was permitted to return to the Silsbee High team.

When the player went to the free-throw line during a 2009 game, H.S. silently refused to cheer for him along with her fellow cheerleaders. According to court papers filed by the school district, the cheerleader's refusal caused a disruption in the stands, and officials told her she had to participate in the cheers or else go home. H.S. went home, and she was removed from the cheerleading squad the next day. (She later rejoined the squad.)

A federal district court dismissed the family's claims against the school district and school officials, as well as additional claims filed against the local prosecutor. In a unanimous ruling last September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, affirmed the dismissal.

"In her capacity as a cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech—namely, support for its athletic teams," the 5th Circuit panel said. "Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, [the district] had no duty to promote H.S.'s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily."

The family's Supreme Court appeal in Doe v. Silsbee Independent School District (Case No. 10-1056) was declined without comment from the justices.

What the Survey TELLs

Over at Prichard, Susan Weston has broken down some of the TELL survey results. Just as it should be, it's a good news, bad news story. A huge percentage of Kentucky teachers responded, some would say bravely, to a set of questions on their working conditions. So the results can be seen as representative of the teachers at large.

Here's a good snippet:
and a bad snippet:
Check it out.

Times Expands Value-added Ratings for LA School Teachers

(In Photo: Former Felner buddy, UofL SemiDoctor and Gates guy John Deasy not so keen on value-added now that he's in LA.)

This from the LA Times:

New data include ratings for about 11,500 teachers

School and civic leaders oppose release of data

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday is releasing a major update to its elementary school teacher ratings, underscoring the large disparities throughout the nation's second-largest school district in instructors' abilities to raise student test scores.

The posting — the only publication of such teacher performance data in the nation — contains value-added ratings for about 11,500 third- through fifth-grade teachers, nearly double the number released last August. It also reflects changes in the way the scores were calculated and displayed.

Overall ratings for about 470 schools also are included in the release, which is based on student standardized test scores from the academic years 2003-04 through 2009-10. To obtain the rating of a teacher or school, go to and enter the teacher's or the school's name.

The initial release of teacher ratings last summer generated intense controversy — and some praise — across the country, and this round has already met with some opposition.

The Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent and other civic leaders, in a letter to the newspaper's publisher, recently asked The Times to reconsider publishing the ratings, saying in part that individual teachers' performances should be addressed in private conversations...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Parents Furious When Buses Strand Field Trip Kids in Cincinnati

As though gas prices were not as issue, two Fayette County Public School buses were ordered to make two round trips to Cincinnati for one field trip Thursday: one round trip to take 120 Sandersville Elementary School second graders to the Cincinnati Zoo, and one more trip to pick them up.

This, because the transportation department, after approving the field trip and calculating costs to the school, directed the drivers to come back to Lexington and run their regular routes for the afternoon, and only then return to Cincinnati to get the kids - effectively doubling the expense of the trip.

A KSN&C reader reported, "I heard that the buses did not return to Cincinnati until around 7 pm and they didn't get home until around 9 pm. I heard that one of the students involved in this mess was Doug Barnett's kid and that he may have been pretty irate at transportation management about how all of this went down."

KSN&C was able to confirm that one of the second graders was indeed David Barnett, son of newly-elected Board of Education member Doug Barnett, and the elder Barnett was a chaperon on the trip. Like other students in his class, David paid his $10 for the field trip; half for the zoo and half for the bus. The students expected to leave Lexington around 8:30 am and head back home around 4:30 pm, but it was 9:30 am before they could get away.

It would be 11 am before the students reached the zoo. That's roughly when Barnett learned that the buses had been ordered back to Lexington, leaving a large number of seven-year olds and chaperons without transportation, should some unforeseen emergency have made that an issue.

By the time the buses made their afternoon runs back in Lexington and then returned to Cincinnati, it was 7:15 pm. Parents who were expecting their children to return home around 6 pm saw them next somewhere around 9 pm. A number of them were livid. If we assume that most of the children started heading to school somewhere around 7 am that morning, then the planned 9-hour day turned into a 14-hour day.

KSN&C asked Barnett to confirm whether he was irate, as our reader had suggested. He said, "I would have used the term furious." As a chaperon on the trip Barnett "saw the whole thing play out...I would have been deeply concerned even if David's class were not involved," Barnett said.

In the wake of the parent's response to the second grade trip a planned trip to the Newport Aquarium by Sandersville's first grade class was cancelled because of these same transportation issues.

Barnette "asked [Fayette County Schools Superintendent] Stu [Silberman]to investigate and resolve this matter because it should not be an event to get kids to and from field trips." He got district policy in return.

"I was told that this happened because we have a shortage of drivers and that the school has the option of using charters." Silberman referred Barnett to Policy 06.14 AP.1. One wonders if the school will now be billed for two round trips.

"There is also some notice (not in policy) that says substitutes can't be used for field trips and that two one-way trips could occur so that all routes can be completed," Barnett said. "I think this is process is too confusing and inefficient...for younger kids. I think this needs to be examined more because who knows how many times this has happened."

Barnett also wonders why a city the size of Lexington has a driver shortage.

On reflection, Barnett said "the teachers and staff at Sandersville did an absolutely wonderful job with the kids at all times on the trip. I told Stu I would have given those five teachers a gold star because of the transportation issue they had to deal with. I'm proud of each of them."

"I've calmed down a whole lot since Thursday," Barnette said.

This from FCPS Policy:

Use of Buses- Special Activity Trips

Categories of Service
Regular Service - Regular route service consists of transportation of students from home to school and back, including Kindergarten, School for the Deaf, School for the Blind, and Vocational School transportation.

Program Service - Program service includes Extended School Services (includes Summer School), Community Based Instruction, Child Development, Safety City, Dental and Clothing trips, Detention Programs, Family Resource Center, and Teen Mother Program.

Activity Trips - Activity trip service includes field trips, band and athletic trips, Arts in Basic Education (ABE), After School Activities and other non-recurring services.

Payment for Services
Regular and program services will be funded from within either the Transportation Division or from special program funds administered from the District level. Activity trip costs will be billed directly to schools.

Basis for Cost
Transportation service costs are based on a formula consisting of two (2) primary components:
1. Bus cost per mile, which is calculated by taking the entire transportation budget (less driver, driver assistant, and clerical personnel costs), then dividing the remainder by the total number of miles driven during the fiscal year.
2. Driver’s salary, which bill regular hours at an average of the existing regular hourly rates of the drivers on the trip list. Overtime hours are billed at 1½ times the regular average. Equity of billing is obtained by the establishment of an average cost for trips within a 50 mile radius of Lexington.

This process permits all schools to pay the same amount for trips to the same destination. Academic and special activity transportation services will be billed either to schools or to central program managers at a rate based on the above formula. The trip cost will be calculated annually and included in budget preparation guidance.

Driver Compensation
Drivers shall be paid for all actual driving hours plus time they are required to be on duty. However, such trips shall not provide less compensation than if the driver had been working normal confirmation times.

Availability of Buses
Buses will be made available as needed, except that activity and program services are restricted to times other than when regular services are being provided, and the number of buses assigned to special activity and ABE events, together, shall not exceed 30 buses per day.

Priority of Service
Within the previous priorities, at the beginning of each school year buses shall be reserved on scheduled ABE days for ABE events until October 1. Unreserved buses shall at that time become available for assignment for other trip purposes.

Use of Buses- Special Activity Trips
Bus Reservations
Trips sponsors wishing to request bus transportation for a school trip must complete the required Transportation Request Form, which can be accessed from the Transportation listing on District’s web site (Downloadable Forms).
Availability of buses on a particular date may be obtained and the transportation service reserved for a period of 24 hours by calling the Transportation Division prior to close of business on the following day in order to maintain the reservation.

Use of Food Services
Any time activity trips take students away from their school over the lunch period, teachers are responsible for notifying the cafeteria manager at the time the trip is confirmed. Whenever feasible, box lunches prepared by the cafeteria staff should be considered. This will address the problem of forgotten lunches and will make the trip less expensive for students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals. The Transportation Request Form contains a space for cafeteria requirements.

Seniority Cycle
The seniority trip list for Category II trips shall be cycled to the beginning of the list each week, or more often as necessary to ensure that trips are assigned to the most senior drivers.

Removal from Trip List
Drivers shall be removed from the trip list after turning down three (3) trips. Removal from the list will remain in effect for 90 days. Turn down of a trip within 24 hours of the trip date will result in immediate removal from the trip list, unless the driver was physically unable to take the trip.

Relief Drivers
A relief driver shall not be assigned trips that will interfere with his/her duties as a relief driver (i.e., overnight trips).


Friday, May 6, 2011

TELL Survey Produces Preliminary Data

High Response Rate suggests
Input is Valid and Representative

Kentucky teachers’ and principals’ participation in the TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Kentucky Survey set a record for first-time response rates on similar surveys.

According to the New Teacher Center (NTC), the non-profit organization that administers the survey, Mississippi previously held the highest record for first-time response rate, with 67 percent participation. Kentucky’s overall response rate was 80.27 percent. Of the total 52,353 educators eligible to participate, 42,025 completed the survey. Additionally, 91 percent of Kentucky schools met the minimum response rate threshold of 50 percent and will be able to use their own school results for annual school improvement planning.

“I am extremely pleased with the rate of response from Kentucky’s teachers and administrators,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “The value of this survey lies in participants’ honest evaluation of their teaching conditions. Because we expect every principal and teacher to create and sustain positive conditions for learning in every classroom, we must be able to measure those conditions.

“Addressing teaching conditions in our schools and districts will improve student learning results, reduce teacher turnover rates and make a long-term impact on the economy of Kentucky. All of the participants – along with our education partners – should be congratulated and commended for their work on this survey.”

See data related to the survey here.

The results will be used by school-based decision making councils, schools, districts, KDE, Kentucky Board of Education and numerous other organizations to improve the teaching and learning conditions in the state’s schools and districts. However, the results will not be used to form a score as part of an accountability model for schools and districts.

All schools and districts across the state were able to view their results April 25 using pass codes. NTC provided tools for assistance in using the data, such as a School Improvement Guide and a District Guide. All tools and results can be viewed here. As follow-up, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will provide webcasts and technical support on use of the data.

The Kentucky Board of Education will review the preliminary findings at its June meeting for potential state policy and budget impacts.

“The collaborative work of the education leaders in Kentucky, under the strong leadership of the Governor and the commissioner, should be commended,” said Eric Hirsch, chief of External Affairs for NTC. “Not only has Kentucky set a new record for overall response rate percentages for first-time administration of the survey, the large number of schools and districts obtaining the minimum threshold will provide valuable data as the TELL Kentucky Coalition of partners continues its work to help ensure that every school provides the supports necessary for all students to be successful.”

According to NTC, early analyses of the results indicate that, overall, educators are positive about their teaching conditions.

* 93 percent agree they work in a school environment that is safe.
* 94 percent agree the school leadership facilitates using data to improve student learning.
* 92 percent agree that teachers are encouraged to try new things to improve instruction.

However, there are areas of concern expressed by educators. For example, only 63 percent of educators agreed that there is sufficient time for instructional planning to meet the needs of all students.

The final report from NTC, which will include information related to student achievement as well as other key indicators such as years of experience of teachers and comparison to the results from the administrator portion of the survey, will be available in the fall...

From March 1 to March 28, the TELL survey was administered to all Kentucky certified educators employed in the state’s 174 school districts. All school-based certified public school teachers and principals were asked to submit their perceptions on a variety of issues related to student achievement and teacher retention, including the adequacy of facilities and resources; time; empowerment; school leadership; community support; student conduct; professional development; mentoring and induction services; and student learning.

The survey was administered by the New Teacher Center (NTC), a national organization dedicated to supporting the development of a high-quality teaching force. NTC has conducted similar surveys in other states and provides induction and professional development for teachers and principals across the country. Since 2008 NTC has administered the teaching conditions survey in eleven states, hearing from almost 500,000 educators.

TELL Kentucky was conducted under the leadership of the Kentucky Department of Education and supported by a coalition of education organizations...


* 42,025 (80 percent) educators responded to the TELL Kentucky Survey.
* Of nearly 1,400 schools, 1,245 met or exceeded the 50 percent response rate necessary for data to be available.
* Of 174 school districts, 128 had every school reach the minimum threshold for response rate.
* 1,800 administrators responded to the survey (1,057 principals, 743 assistant principals).

Major Trends

Overall, educators are positive about their teaching conditions:

* 93 percent agree they work in a school environment that is safe.
* 83 percent indicate they intend to continue teaching at their current schools.
* 80 percent agree the faculty and leadership have a shared vision.
* 94 percent agree the school leadership facilitates using data to improve student learning.
* 86 percent agree that the school council makes decisions that positively impact instruction (i.e. curriculum, instructional practices).
* 92 percent agree that teachers are encouraged to try new things to improve instruction.

Major Concerns

Early analyses indicate there are concerns across the state. For example, in the area of Time:

* Only 51 percent agree that efforts are made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do.
* 63 percent agree that teachers have sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all students.
* 68 percent agree that teachers are protected from duties that interfere with their essential role of educating students.

Survey Areas

Facilities and Resources
Community Support and Involvement
Managing Student Conduct
Teacher Leadership
School Leadership
Professional Development
Instructional Practices and Support
New Teacher Support

SOURCE: KDE Press release

Larry Clark files election complaint against groups that opposed him

This from the Courier Journal:

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, has filed a complaint with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance contending that that his Republican opponent last November and three pro-labor groups illegally worked together in an unsuccessful effort to unseat him.

The complaint, a copy of which was provided by a spokeswoman for Clark, names Republican Brian Simpson; the Jefferson County Teachers Association; Better Schools Kentucky, a political action committee controlled by the JCTA; and a political organization calling itself The Truth From American Workers Inc.

It alleges they committed various violations of Kentucky election law during a race in which they combined to spend $326,850 to beat him....

Emily Dennis, general counsel for the Registry of Election Finance, said she is not allowed to not confirm that a complaint has been filed and could not provide a copy of it.

Clark, long supported by labor unions, fell out with some of them in recent years. Brent McKim, president of the JCTA, said it tried to beat Clark in 2010 after years of backing him because he refused to work with them.

“We’ve been, historically speaking, very supportive of him over the years. We walked precincts for him, made phone calls,” McKim said. “We could not even get a meeting with him. He just ignored us.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A tribute to Dr. Dorothy Bowen on the Occasion of her Retirement

The EKU Department of Curriculum and Instruction gathered to honor two retiring faculty members Tuesday and it was my honor to serve as MC for the festivities. This is the second of two posts.

Dr Bowen came to Eastern Kentucky University after having spent 30 years in Kenya.

The original motivation for all those years in Kenya was her desire, from a very young age, to be involved in missionary work. This international interest was apparently inherited by two of her children -Ruth lives in Haiti while Andrew lives in Paraguay. Both are teachers. Younger son Richard, who lives in Lexington, is a web engineer who works out of his home for a company in Baltimore.

And most of you know that her daughter Ruth, and her two children, lived with Dorothy for five months following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Dorothy was born in southern New Jersey. Her father was a Methodist pastor and her mother was a schoolteacher. Dorothy had three sisters and a brother. As was typical of her generation Dorothy's mother was trained in normal school and never did complete her degree because it was never forced upon her and she was always needed. She taught until 1980 at the age of 70. Grandmother was a teacher too and Dorothy remembers her helping Dorothy with her Latin as a schoolgirl. Dorothy's father studied theology at Princeton Seminary and Temple University.

"My parents put me in school too soon," Dorothy says, "I started at 4 1/2 and I wasn't ready." Apparently Dorothy was a bit of a class clown in kindergarten. Her parents almost took her out of school because she wasn't learning to read, but she soon caught up and was a good student all the way through school.

Dorothy particularly remembers middle school in Camden New Jersey which was difficult. Dorothy didn't like inner-city living but resided in the parsonage of the first Methodist Church. Dorothy says she always got along with the other students in middle school, but felt like a bit of a misfit. She was interested in the violin and always played in the school orchestras and was very active in community work with the church.

Her love of literature came from her parents who she says "read to us a lot. We had a great library. Raggedy Ann books, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Marguarite de Angeli… She's sure that's where her love of literature began.

She carried on family reading time with her own children. In Kenya, Dorothy didn't have television and reading to her children was what the family did. “They went to a boarding school - which was terrible,” Dorothy says, "but when they came home we would read every night." They even kept a schedule of who read what. And, she brags, “my kids are brilliant when it comes to literature and writing poetry. Ruth became a language arts teacher.

Dorothy started high school in Camden and then moved to Long Branch near Asbury Park where she graduated high school. During high school she was an honor student, involved in the orchestra, a high school sorority, her church, and she did lots of things with a tight circle of friends. In fact I'm told that one of her classmates from Long Branch may be here this evening.

Long Branch high school was since torn down. “They tore down all the schools I attended," Dorothy said, and she feels responsible somehow. “It gets to you after a while, you know?”

At the risk of causing the same destruction in Kentucky, Dorothy moved to Wilmore to attend Asbury College. She completed her student teaching at Wilmore Elementary School, where she still volunteers today. When Dorothy came to Kentucky, her parents moved to Bordentown -which has always been something of a family joke.

After graduation in 1962, with her elementary teaching certificate, she returned to New Jersey where she taught third grade.

But Dorothy had always planned that public school teaching would only be a temporary step because she always knew she wanted to be involved in some kind of cross-cultural career. She knew there was a need for missionaries because her parents had hosted missionaries in the family home throughout her youth, and Dorothy felt the call to follow suit.

Dorothy soon began interviewing with the women's division of the Methodist Church for missionary work. It was around that time that she began dating her husband Earl. Dorothy had known Earl throughout her childhood, and had even lived in the same house at different times as kids. Earl's father was a Methodist preacher, and they graduated from Asbury at the same time, but did not begin dating until she began teaching.

By the time they decided to marry, Earl was already on his way to Kenya. Dorothy would follow eight months later. They were married in Kenya which Dorothy now appreciates was a difficult thing to do to one's parents. So she made a deal with her kids that no matter where in the world they were when they married, she would be there. So when her daughter married, in the states, Dorothy and Earl traveled back from Kenya. They were in country when Richard married and Andrew married a Bolivian he met in Paraguay and so Dorothy and Earl made another long trip.

Dorothy began teaching at Tenwek secondary school, a government boarding school in the bush. The name Tenwek, is rumored to have come from Kenyans saying that Americans would not last ten weeks in that land. Dorothy and Earl’s children were born at the bush hospital and the boys - who accurately claim to be African-Americans - were Kenyan citizens and held dual citizenship for a while. They're very proud of their African heritage and even today Richard operates a website for Kenyans to meet and assist each other while in America.

Get this: There are students here at Eastern who went to the Tenwek School. And, having lived in that tribal area, Dorothy is able to distinguish their appearance from that of other African tribes. “They are our runners," Dorothy says, and one of the best female runners is from the village where Dorothy lived. Dorothy says it just blows their minds when she walks up to them in the library and greets them in their native language.

Also somewhat surprising, at least to me, was that Dorothy herself was a runner, having participated in numerous 5K events. They would run 5 days a week. She says they walk now.

(Dorothy seen here with Caldecott-winning author Brian Selznick)

If a Kenyan student graduated high school in those days they were one of the elite of the country and many of Dorothy's former students have gone on to serve in government positions.

Dorothy's next post was at the Kenya Highlands Bible College where Dorothy was told that she would be the librarian. Not, would you like to be the librarian- but that that would be her job. That's how she started out in library work, cataloguing the books and doing whatever was done in that library. Few schools in Kenya had librarians - it was really something to have a library. A lot of the books were cast-off from the US, but still, they loved it.

Dorothy came back to the states in the 70s and she got her first library degree. She attended the University of Kentucky and received her Masters of Library arts, while Earl attended Asbury.

Their next stop was Kenya Highlands Bible College which, after years of effort, was granted a charter by the Kenyan government in March and now goes by the name Kenya Highlands Evangelical University. Go to their website and you can see the building where Dorothy was married. The school was only 25 miles from the equator but over 6000 feet in altitude so climate supported tea production.

Their next stop would be Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology now known as Africa international University, but in order to teach at the graduate level they both needed their doctoral degrees. Dorothy completed hers at Florida State in 1984.
If you have seen the film, Out of Africa, and appreciated the expansive scenery afforded by the film you will also appreciate that that was the view from Dorothy's home. In fact, Earl was selected to be an extra in the film but circumstances prevented him from participating.

There was a period of time when Dorothy and Earl had to leave Kenya for about five months because it was politically untenable to have a white man serve as Dean of a Kenyan College. So Dorothy and Earl went to pre-apartheid South Africa in 1991 at a school working toward accreditation. They traveled back to South Africa later and experienced some of the national excitement surrounding that historic time.

Earl and Dorothy were asked to return to Kenya, but by 1998, there was once again a movement to Africanize the schools. The time seemed right to return to America. They had bought a little house in Wilmore in the early 90s, where their son Richard had lived for a while, and they returned there to live.

As a professor at EKU, Dorothy's publications have related to international librarianship. At the time of her promotion she was invited to write an article about developing world schools with a case study of the graduate school where she had been. Most of the publications on literature that she has done have been on Africa; teaching kids about African culture through picture books.

Probably the most rewarding part of working at Eastern has been the number of school librarians that are working in the area. Dorothy takes pride when she hears that one can tell a difference between EKU graduates and others -- and she takes pride in that.

"A great librarian has to really care about the kids and really want to help them find the material that suits them," Dorothy says, "and help them learn to really want to read, even if it's something that you would not choose for them, but something that will catch their interest."

One of the things that helped Dorothy realize that she really liked being a librarian was the technical side of it: cataloguing and learning how to organize. She likes the form and organization of it.

Dorothy's retirement hobbies will likely include sudoku, crossword puzzles, relearning how to ride a bike, and play violin, and being with her eight grandchildren. That will be hard with some of them so far away, but the three who are in town come to the house twice a week for meals.

Earl has been asked to take a job in central Florida, and Dorothy will be in the Retirement Transition Program, teaching online for EKU from there.

Dorothy's hoping that they will find time for travel. She would love to get back to the ocean. And they've already bought their tickets to Paraguay. But they will retain ownership of the home in Wilmore and plan to return to Kentucky one day.

On behalf of the College of Education and the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, it is my honor to publicly thank you for your service – to the university – to the field of library science – to the to the thousands of students you taught - and lives you touched.

A tribute to Dr. Cheryl Jackson on the Occasion of her Retirement

The EKU Department of Curriculum and Instruction gathered to honor two retiring faculty members Tuesday and it was my honor to serve as MC for the festivities. This is the first of two posts.

Cheryl was born on March 3, 1947, in Appleton City, MO. She grew up with her sister Joyce on the family farm about two miles from Lowry City; population 350.

Like many Americans she started her education in a one-room country school. Cheryl says, "It didn't seem to hurt, in fact, in a lot of ways it got me where I am today. In a one-room school you get a lot of individual attention and I have a lot of memories." Cheryl went through her elementary years in a class of five or six students within a school population of about 35 kids.

Cheryl's father was a farmer who turned to turkey farming while she was still young enough to be chased across the field to school in the mornings. “Those things were mean,” Cheryl recalls.

One of Cheryl's earliest memories relates to school, and what one needed to be a great teacher. Before starting first grade herself, she insisted that her mother get her a smock, which she called an “old rag thing,” so that she could be the teacher when she played school with her cousin Jimmy.

Once in school Cheryl always tried to be productive. One day with her friend Bobby, Cheryl planned to make a paper chain that would stretch all the way around the school. But when her parents began questioning the amount of money Cheryl was spending on paper, her parents called for a conference with the teacher. The project was immediately called to a halt and Cheryl was left holding bags and bags of paper chain.

Cheryl remembers liking the itinerant music teacher who visited the school twice a week for 30 min and says "things haven't changed all that much." A musical prodigy in second grade, Cheryl was permitted, after some convincing, to join the fourth-grade students for their recorder lessons. That's what got her started playing wind instruments. Piano lessons followed in third grade, and because Aunt Patsy had one, Cheryl started playing clarinet in fourth-grade. She switched to bass clarinet in junior high.

As a child, Cheryl spent her playtime playing baseball with anyone who would play with her, or, if no one would, by hitting or throwing baseballs over the barn. She liked riding her bicycle. And since her Grandma and Grandpa Bray lived nearby, Cheryl walked to their house to visit while grandma was cooking, doing laundry, or making lye soap. Her grandmother would often ask Cheryl to play the piano in the living room while she was busy in the kitchen.

All through junior high and high school Cheryl was in every ensemble as she could get into. By that time she knew she wanted to become a music teacher. In her senior year she was in 14 ensembles in one day, prompting a music contest rule change, limiting the number of ensembles in which one student might participate, in subsequent years.

While in school, Cheryl participated in many activities: band, choir, solos, small ensembles, accompanying, plays, cheerleading, and the school newspaper. She kept score for the baseball and basketball teams only because she was not allowed to play with the boys. Her community activities included 4-H Club, Methodist Youth Fellowship and she played organ and piano for the church, and sang in the choir.

Cheryl says she was always pretty shy, but every once in a while her gumption would shine through. As a senior, and valedictorian of her high school, Cheryl surprised herself by approaching Dr. Crew, the best instructor at Central Missouri State, (Go Mules!) and announcing that she was looking forward to studying with him during the next year.
Cheryl married in 1966 between her first and second years of college. On November 20, 1969, her children Aaron and Lisa were born. Cheryl stopped going to school and became the cosmetic buyer for the drug store. But she still gave private music lessons at her home on days off. About 1974, Cheryl and her family moved to Clinton; population 9000.

On her shyness: Cheryl says, "When I'm performing, I take on a different attitude. When I'm teaching a class, directing an ensemble; I become an actor, really. It's not just hearing it - performing music just goes to my soul.”

“Music is unique,” she says. “In painting you can take time to start over if you want. But in performance, it's out there. And the reason why music is kind of difficult to comprehend is because it exists in our memory; it's not tangible.”
Teaching music is Cheryl’s way of sharing that deep joy.

She recalls with pride performing with the top ensemble at Michigan State University. And can recalled an event that still sends chills up her spine. Her ensemble was scheduled to perform a full tour under the baton of well-known Maestro Revelly, when he unfortunately passed away. Amazingly the ensemble conducted their tour, which included Elgar's tricky “Procession to the cathedral,” without a conductor and recalls the long ovation for both the performance and as a tribute to their deceased conductor.

In 1979, Cheryl began teaching in a small elementary school and then returned to Central Missouri to finish her bachelor’s degree in music education (1984). Cheryl’s first job after receiving her degree was in a small school near Butler, MO.

Cheryl returned to CMSU to work towards a MA in music education. After completing her master’s degree, and her marriage, Cheryl accepted a position as music director at Smithton High School and moved to Sedalia: population 20,000.

After one year there, Cheryl took a leap of faith and accepted a position in Avon, in the beautiful southeastern corner of SD: population 550. It was the best public school teaching job she would ever have - in the lowest paying state. She taught instrumental music to grades seven through 12 in Avon for three years teaching. While there, her band played at the annual season opening of Mount Rushmore.

She always knew she wanted to teach at the college level, so after three years, Cheryl fulfilled another dream by completing a PhD at Michigan State.

She accepted a position at Eastern Kentucky University in 1998 she became the only music education teacher in the college of education. …and was ultimately banished to “the tower” in the Campbell building where she has lived out her exile. But after a year in Richmond, Cheryl came to realize that she had left home to come home.

Cheryl has several very good friends from the First United Methodist Church where she is very active in the music ministry. In addition, she has performed with the Central Kentucky Concert Band and the Madison Community Band.

Cheryl says that the best thing about working at EKU has been her interactions with the students. She has enjoyed advising and getting to know the students, personally, and helping them solve problems outside the classroom.

Following 15 years as an EKU professor Cheryl says she still enjoys the teaching. The ability to present at national and international music education conferences has also been among the highlights. She has had the opportunity to conduct the EKU Wind Symphony on two occasions, and has played in the ensemble, as well as in the university clarinet choir.

Cheryl has always liked conducting and believes that learning to conduct has been good for her as a naturally shy person. In conducting she learned to establish a presence and command in front of a group of people.

Cheryl and her sister Joyce call each other and their Aunt Lucille every Sunday evening – a habit that they established after their father died.

In 2005, Cheryl traveled to England and Scotland and recalls the trip as an experience of a lifetime.
In December 2007, Cheryl completed a long search for just the right Bichon Frise when she drove to Crab Orchard, and picked up Chloe, her faithful companion, and swimming buddy. She describes the three-year-old Chloe as "the love of my life...I never dreamed I would become this crazy over a dog."

Cheryl is looking forward to officially retiring in December, and moving to Columbia where she will be two hours away from Aaron or Lisa. She would like to spend some time sewing and exploring other arts and crafts. And she has sufficient skills that she made her daughter's wedding dress. She looks forward to attending concerts, ball games, birthday parties, and other family events that her grandchildren are involved in.

And - she says definitively - "I am going to Ireland as soon as possible. I would even consider retiring over there."

On behalf of the College of Education and the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, it is my honor to publicly thank you for your service – to the university – to the field of music education – to the to the thousands of students you taught - and lives you touched.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Achieving Enlightenment

This from the Daily Mail:

A teacher has been arrested for stripping off and parading naked around an elementary school after he was told he was being laid off.

Harlon Porter was reportedly upset about losing his job at Haynie Elementary School in Morrow, Georgia.

Fortunately, the children had been released for the day before Porter started his alleged impromptu strip show.

School staff called police after the teacher allegedly started strolling the halls in his birthday suit.

Officers say they found the 31-year-old sitting nude in a chair in the teacher’s lounge. He was later released on $2,000 bond after being charged with public indecency.

If the children had still been at the school, he would have faced the more serious charge of child molestation.

After being arrested, Porter claimed he had ‘reached a new level of enlightenment’ and ‘he wanted everybody to be free now that his third eye was open'.

The teacher may not have allegedly been wearing any clothes, but he was carrying several books on spirituality and transcendental meditation...

Quick Hits

STEM-focused charter sees success after many challenges: A charter school near Boston has overcome many challenges -- from parental opposition to high staff turnover -- on its path to becoming a successful school focused on science, technology, engineering and math. The Advanced Math and Science Academy was founded in 2005 by educators and parents seeking a higher academic standard for students. The school now has a long waiting list and is recognized for high test scores, a rigorous computer-science program and an integrated middle-school curriculum. (The Boston Globe)

How schools can handle questions about bin Laden's death: Educators across the country are integrating the news of Osama bin Laden's death into classroom lessons for many students -- many of whom were not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001, or are too young to remember the terrorist attacks. Discussions at many schools focused on the history of al-Qaida, President Barack Obama's speech and the appropriateness of celebrations, although some educators said they steered away from the topic with younger children. Experts advise parents and educators to tailor discussions according to a child's age. (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) (Chicago Tribune) (WSPA-TV)

Summer plans - Two different approaches to academic success: The different summer plans of two high-performing middle-school students in San Marino, Calif., highlight a debate over how students should spend their downtime. One student takes advanced classes and spends hours studying to get ahead academically, while another visits museums and libraries and pursues nonacademic activities, such as sports and summer camp. (Los Angeles Times)

Duncan to teachers - I appreciate you: To mark Teacher Appreciation Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has released an open letter to teachers in which he expresses appreciation for the work they do. He writes that he wants to work with teachers to improve and rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind Act and develop fair and accurate methods for evaluating teacher effectiveness. "As that work proceeds, I want you to know that I hear you, I value you, and I respect you," he writes. (Education Week)

Why appreciation should be an ongoing endeavor:
School leadership coach Elena Aguilar writes in this blog post that teachers should be appreciated more regularly -- rather than once a year. She offers suggestions to foster appreciation in the classroom, asking students to recognize positive qualities in each other. Aguilar writes that the activity also is a powerful exercise for educators, and she encourages schools to develop structures that promote a culture of appreciation throughout the year. (Edutopia)

Widespread changes are coming to Indiana schools:
Indiana education officials soon will begin implementing four ambitious education reforms approved recently by the state's legislature. A new school-voucher program must first survive a legal challenge, but it is expected to transform private education in the state. Other initiatives include the development of a new system for evaluating teachers, limits on teachers' collective-bargaining rights and a law that is expected to allow more charter schools in the state. (Courier-Journal)

Should students use their own mobile devices in the classroom?:
School policies that allow students to use their own mobile-technology devices in the classroom are becoming more popular as educators look for ways to introduce one-to-one computing. Research on one-to-one laptop programs suggests the benefits of mobile-learning initiatives might include better attendance, more educational resources and improved achievement. Some educators are concerned about students becoming distracted by the devices, but others say the novelty wears off and is replaced by higher engagement in academic uses. (eSchool News)

New Project to Safeguard Students' Constitutional Rights in Hard Economic Times:
Seeking to protect students’ rights to a sound basic education in a time of diminished state resources, the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University is embarking on a new project that will document the impact of state funding cutbacks, develop a concrete, operational definition of the resources, supports and conditions that are needed to provide all students a meaningful opportunity for a sound basic education, and then determine the actual cost of providing that opportunity to all students in New York State in a cost effective and cost efficient manner. (ACCESS)

Michigan Law Review Sets Up “Battle of the Education Heavy-Weights” in Book Review of Courts & Kids and Schoolhouses, Courthouses and Statehouses:
Referring to two major books that take opposing positions on the role of the courts in education adequacy decisions, Stanford Law Professor William S. Koski sets up his analysis of the two texts as “a bout between contenders for the school-finance-reform-litigation heavyweight championship.” [see full review here] The two works he considers are Courts & Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts, by Michael A. Rebell, Executive Director of the Campaign for Eduational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University and Schoolhouses, Courthouses and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools by Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and Alfred A. Lindseth, counsel at the Atlanta-based law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. (ACCESS)

The Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2010

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) releases The Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2010.

This report presents results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2010 civics assessment. National results for representative samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 are reported as average scale scores and as a percentage of students performing at or above three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. Scores are also reported at selected percentiles, showing changes in the performance of lower-, middle-, and higher-performing students. Results for student demographic groups defined by various background characteristics (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, and students’ eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunch) are included, as well as sample assessment questions with examples of student responses.

Results from the 2010 assessment are compared to those from two previous assessments in 1998 and 2006. The Technical Notes and appendix tables provide information on NAEP samples, school and student participation rates, and the exclusion and accommodation of students with disabilities and English language learners.

In comparison to the last assessment in 2006, average scores in 2010 were higher at grade 4, not significantly different at grade 8, and lower at grade 12. Gains for Hispanic students from 1998 to 2010 contributed to a narrowing of the White–Hispanic score gaps at all three grades. The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level in 2010 was 27 percent at grade four, 22 percent at grade eight, and 24 percent at grade twelve.

Major findings from the 2010 report include:

• The average score for fourth-graders was higher than in previous assessments in 2006 and 1998. The average score for eighth-graders in 2010 was not significantly different from either 2006 or 1998.

• At grade 12, the average score in 2010 was lower than in the 2006 assessment, but not significantly different from the average score in 1998.

• Average scores for Hispanic students in grade 8 were higher in 2010 than in 2006; average scores for Hispanic students at all three grade levels were higher than in 1998.

• Average scores for students eligible for either free or reduced price school lunch were higher in 2010 than in 2006 at both grades 4 and 8; additionally, a higher percentage of fourth-graders eligible for free lunch performed at or above Basic than in 2006.

• The average score for female fourth-graders increased since 2006; there were no significant changes in score for male fourth-graders since 2006.

• The percentage of twelfth-grade English language learners performing at or above Basic was lower in 2010 than in 2006, but not significantly different from the percentages in 1998.

Shelby Board Stonewalling Its Seniors?

This from the Sentinel-News:

We congratulate: Collins’ seniors for their initiative
In the continuing debate among students, parents and administrators concerning the new graduation seating policy for Shelby County Public Schools, we now have a new and important voice being raised if not necessarily heard.

Members of the senior class at Collins High School have delivered to the administration their considered request to have the seating policy returned to its former structure, which was to seat honor graduates in the order of rank.

Their arguments, based on tradition and their personal years of dedicated effort, are well-conceived, well-stated and well-intended.

We congratulate their initiative, their spirit and their commitment to the values that have defined their academic careers.

And we think it’s too bad that they have yet to receive a response from members of the school board or administrators.

It’s as if their voices don’t matter, that the affected don’t have a proverbial dog in this fight...

Duncan: Rural America Must Create College-Going Culture

This from Politics K-12:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who certainly isn't known for crafting policies aimed at rural America, issued this challenge today to a group of rural advocates: "Make a commitment to ensure rural students complete college at higher rates."

For his part, Duncan said his department—and others across the Obama administration—will help.

He spoke alongside Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington at the National Summit on the Role of Education in Economic Development in Rural America, sponsored by the Education Commission of the States.

Duncan used his speech as another opportunity to tout President Obama's challenge that the U.S. lead the world in producing college graduates by 2020. Rural America "hasn't created a college-going culture," Duncan said.

He also used the speech as an opportunity to talk about how he thinks his agenda helps rural schools—from his ESEA reauthorization draft to the 300 rural schools that are using School Improvement Grant money to turn themselves around. He pointed to the administration's Promise Neighborhoods program (targeted at poor, urban areas) as money that can be tapped to help impoverished, rural America...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Defense of Old School Instruction

As one who lectures, amid a very popular groundswell of support for active learning, I am frequently given to doubts. For me, it's less a question of whether to lecture, as it is when to lecture. For large introductory foundational courses students are required to cover a lot of ground. Much of this is accomplished through reading, but providing perspective and highlighting the salient aspects of debated issues falls to the instructor.

So anyway, this caught my eye...from Education Next:

Should teachers stand in front of the class and present the material to be learned? Or should learning be more dynamic, with students solving problems, either on their own or under the teacher’s guidance? Which approach yields the most student learning?

Opinion on this question is deeply divided. “The sage on the stage” versus “the guide on the side” is how the debate is often framed. Proponents of the former ruled the education roost throughout the 19th century, but in the 20th century a child-centered doctrine, developed by John Dewey in the gardens surrounding the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School, then refined at Columbia University’s Teachers College, gained the high ground, as “inquiry-based” and “problem-solving” became the pedagogies of choice, certainly as propounded by education-school professors. In recent years, the earlier view has staged something of a comeback, as KIPP and other “No Excuses” charter schools have insisted on devoting hours of class time to direct instruction, even to drill and memorization...

When Guido Schwerdt and Amelie Wuppermann of the University of Munich figured out a way to test empirically the relative value of the two teaching styles (see “Sage on the Stage,” research), it is worth trumpeting the findings. These analysts took advantage of the fact that the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS) not only tested a nationally representative sample of U.S. 8th graders in math and science, but also asked their teachers what percentage of class time was taken up by students “listening to lecture-style presentations” rather than either “working on problems with the teacher’s guidance” or “working on problems without guidance.” Teachers reported that they spent twice as much time on problem-solving activities as on direct instruction. In other words, U.S. middle-school teachers have drunk deep from the progressive pedagogical well.

To see whether this tilt toward the problem-solving approach helps middle schoolers learn, Schwerdt and Wuppermann identified those 8th graders who had the same classmates in both math and science, but different teachers. Then they estimated the impact on student learning of class time allocated to direct instruction versus problem solving. Under which circumstance did U. S. middle-school students learn more?

Direct instruction won. Students learned 3.6 percent of a standard deviation more if the teacher spent 10 percent more time on direct instruction. That’s one to two months of extra learning during the course of the year.

The students who benefited most from direct instruction were those who were already higher-performing at the beginning of the year. But even initial low performers learned more when direct instruction consumed more class time...

Quick Hits

Teacher morale is low in Tenn. amid legislative changes: Legislation that would end collective-bargaining rights for educators in Tennessee is harming teacher morale and deterring would-be teachers from entering the profession, a lobbyist for the state's teachers union said. The proposed changes are compounding the effects of recent legislation that will make it more difficult for teachers to earn and retain tenure in the state, the lobbyist noted. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Why an accurate way of measuring teacher performance is needed:
A recent report by The Brookings Institution calls for the development of a uniform, accurate way to measure teachers' value-added performance according to student progress. Such a national system still would allow for local experimentation, says Grover Whitehurst, the director of Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy. A meaningful teacher-evaluation system is necessary for management and merit-pay programs, but also would have positive effects on teachers and give them valuable feedback, he said. (U.S. News & World Report)

How is education reform affecting low-income students?:
Top-down education reforms are having a particularly negative effect on poor and minority students, education author Alfie Kohn writes in this commentary. Under current reforms, learning for these students is measured by standardized test scores and instruction often relies on workbooks or worksheets to improve those scores, rather than deeper learning or critical thinking that is more typically taught in suburban schools, he notes. (Education Week)

Gates, Pearson partner to align online courses with the common core:
Two education foundations said Wednesday they are working to develop 24 new online reading and math courses that will be aligned with the common core national standards. The courses will be developed by the Pearson Foundation -- associated with the major textbook company -- and will include video, social media, games and other digital materials. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $3 million for four of the courses to be offered free to schools. The initiative appears to be the most ambitious effort so far to align textbooks -- online or otherwise -- with the new standards and may position Pearson as a leader in the market. (The New York Times) (MSNBC)

Should cursive writing be taught in schools?: Many students are still taught the basics of cursive writing, but few schools spend much time on the subject beyond introducing it in third grade. Some proponents say cursive writing helps develop students' fine motor skills and being familiar with cursive writing is important for reading historical documents. However, many educators say preparation for standardized tests and an increasing focus on 21st-century skills are driving cursive writing from the curriculum. (The New York Times)

State Republican officials promote school-voucher expansion: Legislation to expand school-voucher programs that would channel public funding to private schools is being pushed in 35 states, largely by Republican state governors and legislators. The proposals employ diverse strategies, including tax credits for donations and student-education accounts that can be used for tuition or tutoring. The proposals in many states also would allow the programs -- which have typically targeted students from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds -- to be extended to larger populations of students, including those from middle-income families. (Education Week)

Common core likely an improvement, but challenges remain: In New York, 100 schools already have begun adhering to the common core -- curriculum standards expected to be in place in 42 states and the District of Columbia by 2014. Overall, the standards are believed to encourage deeper thought among students, and more emphasis on persuasion and analysis. However, questions remain concerning the implementation of the new standards, including how much oversight will be given to ensure they are followed. {The New York Times)

Ohio mandates statewide merit pay for teachers: Ohio's new collective-bargaining law effectively eliminates salary schedules and step increases for the state's public-school teachers -- replacing the negotiated raises with a statewide performance-pay system. Ohio is believed to be the first state to adopt a mandatory merit-pay system. State officials say a portion of teachers' evaluations will be based on a test now being developed that will measure students' academic growth over time. (The Plain Dealer)

Study - Why students might struggle with basic lessons:
Material that is initially easy for students to understand might be difficult for them to remember -- a phenomena that researchers call the "stability bias." New research shows that classroom lessons that are more difficult for students to comprehend at the onset and require more in-depth study will actually be easier in some cases for them to recall at a later date. (Education Week)

District to launch e-days: An Alabama school district is preparing for its first e-day, in which all students will receive instruction and complete assignments online. In preparing for the experiment, the district determined that 98% of students have Internet access at home, while the remaining 2% will work at a local library or on a school-issued laptop at a designated site with free Wi-Fi. The district -- the first public school system in the state to implement e-days -- will test the model on two Saturdays to make up for two January snow days. (The Birmingham News)

KIPP Schools: A Reform Triumph, or Disappointment?

This from Time:

A new report ... will add to the debate about the Knowledge Is Power Program or KIPP schools — a highly influential non-profit network of public schools serving low-income students. The study is important because it's the first large-scale look at the college completion rate for students in schools at the leading edge of today's reform efforts. The results show that while KIPP graduates—who are 95 percent African-American and Latino and overwhelmingly low-income—far outpace the national averages for similar students, they also fall short of the network's own goals: 33 percent of students who completed a KIPP middle school at least 10 years ago have a bachelor's degree today. Among similar students nationwide, just 8 percent have graduated college.

The study has implications for the growing array of schools with missions and methods similar to KIPP because it begs the question: Is 33 percent an enormous achievement given the challenging environments that KIPP operates in? Or, conversely, should KIPP be achieving better results given the intensive support KIPP students receive?...

Kati Haycock, President of the Education Trust, a national advocacy group for low-income students says she, "can't help but be impressed by KIPP's focus on college and its willingness to hold itself to public account for the college graduation rates of its graduates. At best, most K-12 folks report how many of their graduates entered college, but many don't want even to be accountable for that." ...

By Design

Schools Falling Short on AYP

This from Ed Week:
The proportion of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act last school year rose to 38 percent, up 5 percentage points from the year before, as the 2014 deadline for getting all students “proficient” in reading and math approaches, says a report issued today by the Center on Education Policy.

At the same time, individual states’ progress toward that goal varies widely, based on the center’s analysis of state test data. In Texas, for example, only 5 percent of schools failed to make AYP in the 2009-10 school year, and in Wisconsin, only 6 percent. That stands in stark contrast to the District of Columbia, where 91 percent of schools did not make sufficient progress, or Florida, where 86 percent were unsuccessful.

Kentucky State Pre-K Program Improves Quality, Increases Enrollment

Budget Ax Fells Funding Rank

National annual survey labels recession’s impact
‘a depression for many young children’

Kentucky’s pre-K program made gains in enrollment and quality, according to the annual survey of state-funded preschool programs released today.

“The State of Preschool 2010 showed that more preschoolers were enrolled in the Kentucky Preschool Program, a program that for the first time met nine of 10 benchmarks for quality,” said W. Steven Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and author of the report. While additional federal and local funds increased overall spending, cuts in state funding for Kentucky’s pre-K program caused the state to rank 30th, down from 24th last year.

Nationwide, Barnett warned that preschool-age children felt the effects of the recession for the second year in a row only the impact was far greater the second year.

“Overall, state cuts to preschool funding transformed the recession into a depression for many young children,” said Barnett.

“In the 2009-2010 school year the effects of the recession became fully apparent despite federal government aid to the states for education,” Barnett said. “Total enrollment barely increased over the prior year. Total spending by the states decreased, and per-child spending declined in inflation-adjusted dollars.”

The funding situation may get worse even as the economy slowly recovers. Federal funds to help states weather the recession are now gone. Without the aid from the federal economic stimulus, funding per child would have been even lower, approaching its lowest level since 2002 when NIEER began tracking state preschool performance.

The depth of the decline varied considerably by state. A few made modest progress. Many held steady. In others, cutbacks were sometimes severe...

SOURCE: National Institute for Early Education Research Press release

Support education, support jobs

This from David Adkisson in C-J:
Congress is scheduled to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As chairman of the U.S. Chamber's Education Committee, I will join Chamber President Tom Donahue and former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings this week in Washington to meet with congressional leaders and release the U.S. Chamber's recommendations for reform....
  • High academic standards and assessments for all students. Each state should hold all students to the same challenging, relevant academic standards. States must continue annual assessments of every child in reading and math.
  • Rigorous accountability for all schools. To ensure college and career readiness, we must maintain a strong accountability system that sets annual targets, a deadline for producing results, disaggregates results of different types of students and includes all students in all schools.
  • Clear information and real choices for parents and students. Meaningful options, including charter schools, and clear information should be provided to all families, particularly those whose children are trapped in persistently low-performing schools.
  • Recognize and reward effective teachers and principals. States should create systems to identify, develop and retain effective faculty who produce real gains in student achievement and in closing the achievement gap. These systems should determine decisions about tenure, compensation, rewards, equitable access to effective teachers and dismissal.
  • Tenure policies often hamstring local officials' ability to ensure that students have access to the most effective teachers. Federal law should encourage, not inhibit, state and local efforts to make changes in these policies to quickly and fairly remove ineffective teachers who fail to improve.
  • Taxpayer accountability and information. Federal education policy should encourage innovation and promote what works to improve student performance and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. This includes supporting data systems that inform decision-making at all levels by providing timely and accurate information to educators, parents, taxpayers and the public, and by supporting analysis and use of that data.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Diane Ravitch on NPR's Fresh Air

"The whole purpose of federal law and state law
should be to help schools improve,
not to come in and close them down and say,
'We're going to start with a clean slate,'
because there's no guarantee that the
clean slate's going to be better than the old slate."

---Diane Ravitch

This from NPR:

Listen or Download here.
Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch was once an early advocate of No Child Left Behind, school vouchers and charter schools.

In 2005, she wrote, "We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act. ... All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents' generation."

But four years later, Ravitch changed her mind.

"I came to the conclusion ... that No Child Left Behind has turned into a timetable for the destruction of American public education," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I had never imagined that the test would someday be turned into a blunt instrument to close schools — or to say whether teachers are good teachers or not — because I always knew children's test scores are far more complicated than the way they're being received today."

On the Obama administration's Race to the Top program
"Race to the Top is an extension of No Child Left Behind. It contains all of the punitive features. It encourages states to have more charter schools. It said, when it invited proposals from states, that you needed to have more charter schools, you needed to have merit pay — which is a terrible idea — you needed to judge teachers by test scores, which is even a worse idea. And you need to be prepared to turn around low-performing schools. So this is what many state legislators adopted hoping to get money from Race to the Top. Only 11 states and the District of Columbia did get that money. These were all bad ideas. They were terrible ideas that won't help schools. They're all schools that work on the free-market model that with more incentives and competition, schools will somehow get better. And the turnaround idea is a particularly noxious idea because it usually means close the school, fire the principal, fire the staff, and then it sets off a game of musical chairs where teachers from one low-performing school are hired at another low-performing school."