Monday, January 31, 2011

Famous Last Words

Amis says ACT inquiry in Perry a ‘dead issue’

This from the Hazard Herald:

An investigation into compromised test scores in Perry County is no longer an issue and districts officials have moved on, Superintendent John Paul Amis told board members during a meeting of the Perry County Board of Education last week.

In 2010, ACT, based in Iowa, launched an investigation into tests given at Perry County Central and Buckhorn High School, noting that information found during the inquiry led investigators to believe that the resulting tests were not solely the work of the students. Several scores were canceled and students were given the opportunity to retake the exam.

ACT took little action following their investigation, but did require the district to submit remediation reports and strengthen testing protocols.

Superintendent Amis took a moment during last week’s meeting to chide local media outlets for their recent coverage of ACT’s investigation, saying the now concluded inquiry is a “dead issue.”

Details of the ACT’s findings were included in two news stories in Hazard last week, first from the Hazard Herald and then from WYMT-TV after the Herald made an an open records request to the Kentucky Department of Education seeking documents related to the investigation.

According to those documents, ACT investigators found among other things high erasure counts indicating altered test responses and were told by at least one student that adult proctors had given answers to students during the test.

Amis said no students have told local officials of any impropriety, adding that there was no reason to be reporting on the story as he considers it over with. He said the investigation concluded two months ago, and there were no Perry County Schools employees implicated in the final report. He also noted that both Perry Central and Buckhorn will continue giving the ACT locally.

“It’s over,” he said. “It’s a dead issue. The only people that are keeping that issue alive is the media.”

Amis said he has never had a parent call him upset with the district about the investigation. He said there has been some anger toward ACT over their handling of the investigation, and now with the media.

“I had people today tell me that they’ll never buy another Hazard Herald or watch WYMT again because you just won’t let this issue go,” he continued. “The media and some of our school rivals are the only people that’s even mentioning this thing.”

Amis also criticized ACT for not sharing information with the district about who may have been responsible for manipulating the tests, and again noted that the final investigative report made no note of specific individuals either.

Board member Jerry Stacy said he has received calls from people about the investigation, and finds some of the allegations “troubling.”

“I was going through this today, and I couldn’t believe some of these allegations,” Stacy said during Thursday’s meeting. “I think these allegations are damning.”

Stacy said he was curious as to why the information was forwarded to other state agencies such as the attorney general’s office.

“That’s a dead issue,” Amis replied, saying that he thought ACT had a hidden agenda and wanted to hurt the Perry County District’s image.

“All ACT is trying to do ... is just to give the district a black eye. That’s all they’ve done,” he continued.

“We have done everything that they have asked us to do, and we’re going to continue to give the ACT at both of our high schools, and it’s over as far as I’m concerned,” he added.

Amis said despite charges of testing manipulation, the majority of the students scored the same or higher on the test during the make-up exam.

“We had 116 students that retook that ACT, and over 60 percent of them made the same score or a higher score than what they made the first time, but they won’t report that,” Amis said. "Nobody reports that.”

The final report issued by ACT on November 23 notes that 59 students whose scores for the 2010 ACT were canceled actually saw an average decrease in their new score by one point. But Amis said ACT cherry picked those students in an effort to ensure a negative reflection upon the school district. He said ACT’s focus on only 59 scores didn’t tell the whole story.

“They could take the 59 and make it appear like the scores went down,” he said.

“You actually think they’ve (ACT) got some kind of hidden agenda?” Stacy later asked.

“Obviously,” Amis replied.

Scott Gomer, media relations director with ACT, said the organization had no hidden agenda in its investigation, but did note that ACT’s part in the matter has concluded and offered no further comment.

According to an email from Lisa Gross with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) in December, the matter was referred to the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) for review, as well as the attorney general’s office and the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Inspector General.

Gross said KDE has had no word that either of those agencies have finalized their own investigations.

“Our legal counsel remains in contact with all of the agencies mentioned, but we’re not aware that any investigations outside of ACT’s have been completed,” she wrote in an email on Monday.

The Education Professional Standards Board did receive a referral from KDE, noted Alicia Sneed, director of legal services for EPSB, but thus far the agency has taken no action.

She did note that were the EPSB to take action on any matter, it would be leveled at individuals and not at the district as a whole. The EPSB handles the issuance of certification for all teachers and administrators in Kentucky.

Shelley Johnson with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office said her office has not yet received a referral from KDE about the matter, while a message left with the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Inspector General was not returned.

Grady Varney, chairman of the Hazard Independent board of education refuted an editorial published in the January 19 edition of the Hazard Herald which includes a comment Varney made during the January 13 regular meeting. Following a discussion about the hiring of a new ACT coach at Hazard High School, Varney quipped, “We will not have any extra money for erasers or anything like that.”

School News from Around Kentucky

Bill Promotes Bible Class: While students are allowed to study the Bible all they want on their own time at school, the book that has influenced so much of what they study, from literature to history to current events, is rarely mentioned in the classroom. A bill now in the Kentucky Senate could change that by encouraging public schools to offer Bible literacy classes.“The Bible is probably the most significant piece of literature that has ever been written,” said state Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 56. “It’s a shame that kids can’t study it.”Actually, as the law now stands, students can study the Bible and teachers can teach about religion and the Bible. (Daily News)

Harlan Student Contract Proposal Rejected: A five-year nonresident student contract proposal from the Harlan County Board of Education to the Harlan Independent Board of Education was rejected at a special called meeting of the Harlan Independent Board on Thursday. Superintendent David Johnson said the city school district’s core philosophy is the importance of family choice of where their children are educated. (The Harlan Daily Enterprise )

State Cuts to Have Long-term Effects: Madison County Schools has been saving for a rainy day.Based on the Kentucky Department of Education’s recent announcement that they will cut nearly $50 million in funding to local schools, that rainy day may be on the horizon sooner than expected. (The Register)

90 percent of JCPS parents favor diverse schools, survey says: An overwhelming majority of Jefferson County parents say they want diverse public schools and support guidelines to ensure that happens, according to a survey conducted by a national expert on school integration. The survey showed that 90 percent of roughly 1,800 surveyed parents said their children benefit from diverse schools, and 69 percent are satisfied with their child's school assignment...However, parent satisfaction was less strong on the way Jefferson County Public Schools was implementing its current plan, with 54 percent saying they were happy — and large percentages expressing concern about the reliability of bus transportation. (Courier-Journal)

JCPS parent survey showing support for plan is 'skewed,' opponents say: Opponents of Jefferson County's controversial student-assignment plan fired back Friday against a new survey showing that the vast majority of parents support the district's diversity goals, calling it “skewed” and inaccurate. “It was a puff survey,” said Louisville attorney Teddy Gordon, who represents nine families in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the district's student-assignment plan. “It's easy to say you prefer diversity.” But school board chairman Steve Imhoff said Friday said he was pleased with the survey findings and believes they are reliable. “Teddy is not accurate.” Imhoff said, noting that the survey was conducted by a professional research group in Louisville. “I've got every faith that the survey response is accurate.” (C-J)

Governor, First Lady and Basketball Great Mashburn Call on Lawmakers to Pass Graduation Bill - Increasing graduation age creates a stronger workforce: Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear recently joined educators, business leaders and former University of Kentucky basketball great Jamal Mashburn to urge lawmakers to pass House Bill 225, which would gradually increase the mandatory attendance age for high school students from 16 to 18. “Encouraging our high school students to stay in school is not only an education issue, it’s a workforce issue,” said Gov. Beshear. “A better-educated workforce means better quality jobs. Increasing the graduation age is one step toward a better quality of life for Kentuckians.” (The Gov)

Fayette County Looking into Transportation Allegations

KSN&C received a short note from Fayette County Schools' spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall in response to a few questions about recent allegations made regarding the Transportation Department.

* With regard to an allegation that:
That an African American bus driver was passed over for a position for which the individual was most qualified. That employee grieved. After that, the employee was disciplined for "not following in line" during a field trip (no kidding) and was removed from the "trip list" - thus reducing the employees ability to earn wages. And that 90-days had passed before the greivance process was completed, rather than the 10-days called for in policy - by which time, the disputed position had gone to a white driver.
On word from Superintendent Silberman, Deffendall says the district is looking into it.

* On the allegation that:
That a Transportation Department administrator is using a district vehicle as their personal car - even to the point that the individual is on sick leave, but the car is at the individual's home and not available for district use.

Silberman said they have checked into the allegation and have found nothing to substantiate that the car has been used for personal use.

* Finally, KSN&C filed an open records request for a copy of all grievances filed and disciplinary reports written in the Fayette County School District, (Transportation and elsewhere) where sexual harassment or workplace bullying was alleged, between the dates of August 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010.

The district will respond once any pertainent documents have been identified.

Quick Hits

How a Nevada public school is challenging highly-gifted learners: The Davidson Academy, a public school on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, serves students who have an IQ of at least 145 and are considered to be highly-gifted. Experts say many such students struggle in traditional public schools, under policies that do not typically allow them to take appropriately advanced classes and taught by educators who are not trained to teach students who are highly gifted. (Education Next)

Commemorating McAuliffe's legacy after 25 years: Educators nationwide today will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion and death of educator Christa McAuliffe, who was on the shuttle and was to become the first teacher in space. A ceremony will be held at Florida's Kennedy Space Center and eighth-grade students at a Massachusetts charter school bearing McAuliffe's name will complete space-research projects. "Christa served as a great reminder to everybody that the key to education is good teachers," said Barbara Morgan, who became the first teacher in space in 2007. (Education Week)

What are the qualities of an effective science teacher?: Some educators agree that a good science teacher must be a content expert and must know how to engage students in hands-on lessons that help them understand concepts. "Can the teacher go deeper, be flexible and explain why something is important?" one expert asked. "This is the human part, often overlooked. And accurately measuring success is a science in itself." (The Hechinger Report)

L.A. archdiocese adopts 200-day calendar for elementary schools: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles is switching most of its elementary schools to a 200-day school year, which will be among the longest in the country. Cardinal Roger Mahony said the change is aimed at boosting student performance and is not meant to compete with Los Angeles public schools, which cut their calendar this year to 175 days. "What we're trying to do is focus on the group that we're entrusted with, and we believe that more time in the classroom is beneficial to the students," he said. (Los Angeles Times)

Philadelphia plans to restructure 18 troubled schools: Philadelphia wants to restructure 18 struggling schools this fall, keeping 10 under district control and releasing eight to charter groups. Teachers at the schools will be asked to reapply for their jobs and most principals will be replaced. South Philadelphia High School, the site of racial unrest last year, is among the schools to be restructured. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Is blended instruction the best way to learn?: A Department of Education analysis found that students might retain more information and achieve slightly more when learning online. However, the analysis also suggests that blending online learning with traditional teaching might be the best instructional model. "Students are highly engaged when they work online because they get instant feedback," said a university professor who recently included some online learning in a course but had been skeptical it would produce results. "The degree of benefit surprised me." (U.S. News & World Report)

Teachers use videoconferencing program to broadcast lessons: Teachers at a Virginia school use a computer program called Dimdim to broadcast high-school classes over the Internet. The program allows for a type of videoconferencing in which students can see the teacher in real time and type questions that can be viewed by the instructor. The program allows students to learn at home on snow days and at other times. (Martinsville Bulletin)

Education chief wants more flexibility for meeting goals: Rural schools are distinctly different from those in urban districts, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a teleconference Wednesday, and that causes challenges in meeting some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Proposed changes in NCLB, which would be part of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, are intended to address some of those challenges, he said. “There is strong interest in fixing No Child Left Behind from both sides of the aisle in Congress,” Duncan said. “We want a fair accountability system. Nobody likes how No Child Left Behind labels schools as failures even when they’re making real gains.” (Messenger by way of KSBA)

What should be done to improve science education?: Interest in science education has waned since the days of Sputnik, but experts say an understanding of science concepts is increasingly important because many of the personal choices individuals are faced with today are science-related. Some say efforts to improve science education, such as the Obama administration's "Educate to Innovate" program and other initiatives, are facing an uphill battle to recover time lost because of a focus on reading and math that was prompted by No Child Left Behind. "For years we're going to suffer from that," one science-education advocate said. (The Hechinger Report)

Arkansas virtual school offers flexibility for students: The Arkansas Virtual Academy has reached its cap of 500 students enrolled in grades K-8, with 1,000 more on a waiting list. The public charter school allows students a more flexible schedule, while still providing a curriculum that prepares students for required exams, a school official said. One parent said virtual schooling is not for every student, but special field trips and online clubs allow students to maintain interaction with their peers. (

NCLB rewrite is expected to include more flexibility, changes to AYP: In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to overhaul No Child Left Behind with a "more flexible" program modeled after his Race to the Top grant competition. Educators are pleased that Obama has proposed changing the adequate yearly progress system, which labeled a third of schools as failing in 2009 and imposes sanctions on schools. Meanwhile, some are questioning how Race to the Top can be applied to a revised NCLB. "He should have talked about [the need for] broader reforms and improvements and raising standards, rather than making the theme of competitiveness the main thing," one expert said. (The Washington Post) (The Christian Science Monitor)

Survey: Most biology teachers approach evolution lessons cautiously: Most biology teachers are cautious when teaching evolution so to avoid controversy, according to data from the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers. Of 926 teachers surveyed, 60% said they do not advocate for either evolutionary biology or nonscientific alternatives in their teaching. Some educators say they teach students evolution concepts on state exams, or teach both evolution and alternative theories and allow students to draw their own conclusions. The National Science Teachers Association says the teaching of evolution is critical for scientific literacy. (USA TODAY) (The Washington Post)

NYC mayor: Budget woes could lead to massive teacher dismissals: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the possibility of $1 billion less in state aid for education -- combined with city budget woes -- could mean more than 21,000 teacher layoffs for city schools. The mayor said the state's current teacher-seniority law -- which he is seeking to change -- could mean the dismissal of all teachers hired in the past five years. Bloomberg said such a scenario would "disproportionately hurt the schools with more minorities." Aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was premature to speculate about the budget proposal, but that such teacher cuts are unlikely. (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times)

Schools see ongoing effects of recession on students: Educators in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb say they are seeing the ongoing effects of the recession on their students. Some students' parents have been unemployed for extended periods of time and students are fearful of losing their homes and their friends. The situation has more students receiving free or reduced-price meals. Educators are creating support groups to help students cope with their worries. (The New York Times)

Dismissing Rosalind

In his letter dismissing Rosalind Hurley-Richards from her teaching position, Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman accused her of outrageous conduct that should shock the sensibilities of any parent, teacher, or school administrator. He alleged that Hurley-Richards,

"physically attacked a student who you had scolded for running down the hall, by grabbing the student, placing your arm around his neck and choking him. You then dragged the student to the principal's office while continuing to keep the student's neck in a choke hold and berating and yelling at him."
KSN&C backstory, here, here and here.

But according to Hurley-Richards’ appellee’s brief, the evidence did not support that claim, and that is why Fayette County Circuit Court Judge Ernesto Scorsone determined that the Tribunal's lengthy suspension of Ms. Richards was not based upon substantial evidence.

Teachers are required to hold students to strict account for their behavior.

"Each teacher ... shall in accordance with the rules, regulations, and bylaws of the board of education made and adopted pursuant to KRS 160.290 for the conduct of pupils, hold students to strict account for their conduct on school premises ... " KRS 161.180(1).

The Tribunal had made findings of fact which were not challenged by Hurley-Richards on appeal, nor by the trial court in its order. The Tribunal found that ZK, the 2nd grade boy in question, "squirmed and twisted. Richards propelled him forward. She was still holding paper and markers in her left arm and hand. . . they proceeded up the office hall with ZK moving under protest. ZK was protesting that she was choking him, and Richards was saying that she was not hurting him."

The Tribunal found that the factual charges against Richards were inaccurate and overstated.
Rosalind Hurley Richards,
“physically restrained a student whom she had scolded for running down the hall. As the student was being guided to the office, he resisted and turned to go back toward the cafeteria. At this point, Richards' arm was across ZK's front, sliding up and around the neck/shoulder area as she physically directed him toward the office. This may have been perceived as choking. She continued to speak loudly to the student."
Although the student was "protesting" that he was being choked as he proceeded down the hall, the Tribunal specifically found that "the adults who were at the situation did not react as if the child was in harm's way."

So, the Tribunal threw out the Superintendent's termination of Hurley-Richards, downgrading it to a suspension without pay.

Turns out, earlier Tribunals have done this sort of thing before – and in Fayette County. Remember Fankhauser v. Cobb, 163 S.W.3d 389 (Ky. 2005). There a Tribunal issued a suspension instead of termination. The court held that "the superintendent's proposed sanction is not binding” on the Tribunal.

Scorsone did not find evidence to support the Tribunal’s suspension either- and particularly not a suspension without pay from February 3, 2009 through June 30, 2010.

As he saw it, Hurley-Richards was exercising her duty as a teacher when she attempted to discipline the little scamp. It was her duty to maintain order in the hallway. ZK was insubordinate and unwilling to walk on his own to the office. Prior to escorting him to the office, Hurley-Richards had to physically separate ZK from his sister, whom ZK was physically harming. The teacher had reason to believe ZK posed a risk to those around him. The school district agreed that the presence of risk to others was a permissible reason for physical restraint.

But Judge Scorsone found that the facts were insufficient and provided “no evidentiary basis on which to support any suspension without pay,” much less one of such duration. Essentially, the Tribunal concluded that the Plaintiff did not choke the child but suspended her anyway. Thus, Scorsone concluded, “the actions of [Hurley-Richards] were reasonable given the circumstances and the conclusions made by the Tribunal were not based on the facts of the situation.”

Whenever the facts of a case do not support the conclusions of the Tribunal, they may be seen by the court as arbitrary. The Kentucky Court of Appeals previously held that, “Unless the action taken by the tribunal was supported by substantial evidence, it is arbitrary and must be set aside.”

The case was headed back to the Tribunal when the district appealed.

Some school district personnel have argued to KSN&C that a different standard of review must be applied to Tribunals because of the language in KRS 13B.150(2), which reads,
"The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of evidence on questions of fact." So the primary question under review is whether the trial court misapplied the standard of review called for in the law.
But when previously asked to rule on this question the Kentucky Supreme Court declined “to depart from the 'substantial evidence' standard.” Thus, the same standard of review would seem to apply to Tribunals.

The district’s appeal is slated for April.

ACT: Not the Only Measure of College Readiness

Council on Postsecondary Education honcho Bob King recently argued in the Herald-Leader that CPE's High School Feedback Report allows the state "to look more deeply into actual performance measured by an external, unbiased resource — the ACT exam."

King suggested that the ACT, by itself, was superior to predictions of college-readiness derived from combinations of data. Discounting graduation rates and average GPA in favor of a single test prompted our resident testing expert to retort.

NOTE: H-L seemed to struggle editing Skip's piece, so here's the unadulterated article the paper titled:

If I were to assert that a player who cannot make 56% of his free throws is not "ready" for the NBA, a fan would point out that there is much more to basketball than shooting free throws. An astute fan with a historic prospective would point out that Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal and a bevy of other current players would not be "ready" using that arbitrary standard. One facet of basketball does not make or break a player's "readiness."

Bob King, president of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education, in a recent op-ed piece applies the council's arbitrary standard of using a single test score to determine whether a student is "ready" for regular course work in Kentucky's public universities. He implies a test score is a better predictor of grades in college than is a high school record. He then presents results from one high school that lump higher performing students (those with above average high school records) with lower performing ones in a misguided approach to justify his position. A test score, however, does not make or break a student's "readiness" for higher education.

Decades of research indicate: performance in academic courses in high school is the single best predictor of success in higher education; a combination of the high school record and test scores predict better than the high school record alone; and, how good the prediction is and how the components are combined vary depending on the institution. Although there is a general pattern of the primacy of the high school record, there is no one-fits-all model to predict grades in different courses or different institutions.

In addition to the thoroughly suspect notion of labeling a test score readiness, the council's use of a single score for placement purposes violates standards for the proper use of tests. Those standards include the following:

In educational settings, a decision or characterization that will have major impact on a student should not be made on the basis of a single test score. Other relevant information should be taken into account if it will enhance the overall validity of the decision.

In addition:

When test scores are intended to be used as part of the process for making decisions for educational placement, promotion, or implementation of prescribed educational plans, empirical evidence documenting the relationship among particular test scores, the instructional programs, and desire student outcomes should be provided. When adequate empirical evidence is not available, users should be cautioned to weight test results accordingly in light of other relevant information about the student.

Apparently, the council determines readiness by doing statistical analyses of ACT scores and grades in first year courses without regard to institution. A certain ACT score produces a 50/50 chance of getting certain grades, say C, or better. I could find no information about this or other investigations done by the council. And, although it is possible to present information about how good a model is, I could not find any information of that kind either.

To give a sense of the power of statistical models to predict first year grades I report analyses conducted years ago on University of Kentucky student samples. The question was whether results of KIRIS, the first commonwealth assessment related to school reform, could be used for admission and placement in a university.

If a model exactly predicts grades one can say that the model accounts for 100 % of what could be known. If a model cannot at all predict grades, one can say that 0% is accounted for. One way, then, to talk about the power of a statistical model is determine what percent the model predicts.
The table below gives those percents for different courses at UK for three different statistical models: High school record only, High School record + ACT scores and High School record + KIRIS scores.

The first thing to recognize is that the models are not particularly powerful. They rarely account for 25% of what could be known leaving 75% to be explained. That 75% may be differences in students' study habits, class attendance, interests, any of a thousand other variables or simply things not explained statistically.

The pattern of results, however, is clear. Adding an ACT score to a model containing GPA makes the prediction better but not greatly so. The same is true for KIRIS scores, too. Incidentally, that was without including the KIRIS writing sample.

These are not unusual results. They point, obviously, to gathering more information about a student before making a placement decision. Here is what ACT says:

ACT offers a variety of tools to ensure postsecondary students are quickly and accurately placed in courses appropriate to their skill levels. Assessment tools from ACT offer a highly accurate and cost-effective basis for course placement. By combining students' test scores with information about their high school coursework and their needs, interests, and goals, advisors and faculty members can make placement recommendations with a high degree of validity.

To that, I would add, for obvious reasons, it is desirable for an educational agency to use tests in exemplary ways.

The op-ed piece goes on to exhort parents to ask right questions, asks an undefined "we" to fear international test results, says admissions offices should align themselves with the council's readiness standards, and the still undefined "we" to serve teachers more effectively. Such exhortations would be more convincing if, in the first instance, the council could propose placement procedures based on a robust notion of "readiness" that in addition did not violate test score use standards.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where Grievances Go To Die

KSN&C sure is hearing a lot out of the Fayette County Schools' Transportation Department these days.

Unconfirmed allegations range in outrageousness from mundane and spiteful acts of administrative domination to outright denial of employee rights. We hear terms like sexual harassment, misuse of FCPS property, and discrimination being tossed around.

There are a lot of drivers in a district the size of Fayette County. And they seem to have produced a lot of grievances. KSN&C has seen transcripts (but no actual tapes), purporting to have been taken from recorded conversations during due process hearings. If true, they show an administrative effort to block the grievance process and subdue dissent.

We are told that a driver's record is used to determine who gets certain jobs and promotions. That sounds like a good idea. But when a certain African American driver wanted a particular job and was passed over, a grievance was filed. According to FCPS policy, the administration has 5-days to review grievances at each level (there are two in this case) but it took 90-days for the driver to get a response. By that time the job was long gone - to a less qualified white driver.

Put a knick on a bus mirror, and the driver is suspended; if the accident was deemed to have been preventable. It's not too dificult to see how that might be good policy. But some drivers have been wondering about the dings that have appeared on the director's truck from time to time.

And drivers are wondering why a person who is on a long sick leave, would be allowed to take home a FCPS vehicle for their own personal use - thus denying the use of the vehicle to the district in the meantime.

Again, these are unverified reports at this point. But they are consistent across several sources, and perhaps most importantly, did not come from the aggrieved individuals themselves.

Then there's a little generalized grumbling. The superintendent supposedly told the press (I didn't see it) that all drivers are trained to drive in inclement weather. But the drivers say that all training takes place in the summer, not in the snow. ...and that the buses are radio-equiped and could be recalled if necessary, which is different from something Silberman allegedly said.

Lots of smoke is appearing on the horizon. Is there some fire to go along with it? Stay tuned. We have asked for comment from the district and will let readers know what we hear next week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Better the Devil You Know?

As recently as 2009, a survey of JCTA members pointed toward trouble for recently non-renewed Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman.

57.1% either disagreed or strongly disagreed that they were satisfied with Berman's administration of the schools. 60% disagreed or strongly disagree that Berman exhibited effective leadership that fully supports teachers. 76.2% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe in their school. 59.9% disagreed or strongly disagreed that Berman involved classroom teachers in a collaborative decision making process.

So it has been somewhat surprising to find the JCTA leadership apparently lining up behind the superintendent.

It also seems it won't matter.

This from C-J:
Sheldon Berman supporters say
they will seek new JCPS school board
vote to keep him

With the teachers union and NAACP lining up behind him, supporters of ousted Jefferson County Superintendent Sheldon Berman say they will push for a new school board vote next month to keep him.

Board of education member Linda Duncan said Tuesday she will formally ask the school board at its Feb. 14 meeting to reconsider its decision to replace Berman, whose contract expires on June 30.

Duncan, a Berman supporter who was on the losing end of the 5-2 vote last November that ended his tenure, said she wanted to give Berman's supporters
time to make their case to retain him — which would require at least two board members to change their mind.

“I wanted a little bit more time for input from the community, before we close this and say, ‘That's it,'” she said.

Members of the Jefferson County Teachers Association and the Louisville branch of the NAACP both said they plan to use that time to lobby board members to retain Berman, who they say has been a staunch advocate for integrated schools and has instituted education reforms.

But board members who voted against Berman, including Debbie Wesslund, Diane Porter, Joe Hardesty and Carol Ann Haddad, said Tuesday they remain committed to finding a new superintendent....

Education Takes Center Stage

If you want to make a difference
in the life of our nation;

if you want to make a difference
in the life of a child
– become a teacher.

Your country needs you.

--President Barack Obama

This from Politics K-12:

President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to put education front-and-center on the national agenda, and on the agenda of the newly divided Congress. And he tied his education proposals, including the long-stalled reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, directly to the nation's economic future.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment," he said, alluding to the nation's 1960s-era investment in research and education spurred by concerns after the launch of the Soviet space satellite.

While calling for a five-year federal spending freeze, the president—without giving budget specifics—also proposed spending more on education as part of a campaign to "win the future."

"Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine," Obama said. "It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact."

Excepts from the President's State of the Union:

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, ―The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.‖ Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

Now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there...

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future – if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas – then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.

Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.

The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, ―If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.

You see, we know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.

Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said ―Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing… that we are smart and we can make it.

Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as ―nation builders. Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you.

Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit – worth $10,000 for four years of college.

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we are also revitalizing America’s community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she’s earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams too. As Kathy said, ―I hope it tells them to never give up.

If we take these steps – if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take – we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense...

This from Slate:

Obama's Sputnik Moment

The lesson from the 1950s is that
it takes more than private enterprise
to revive American innovation.

It takes lots of government spending. President Barack Obama didn't say much about foreign or military policy in Tuesday night's State of the Union address. To the extent he did talk about it, he spent more time on economic agreements with India, South Korea, and China than on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—and, given the state of the economy and the nature of the political battles ahead, the balance was probably right.

But he did evoke a huge defense issue from a half-century ago—the signal wake-up security call that marked the years of transition from Dwight Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy, the single word that has symbolized ever since the fear of slipping behind in a dangerous world: Sputnik.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment," Obama said. As a result, we need to fund "a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the space race," with particularly strong investments in biomedicine, information technology, and clean-energy technology. In the same section of the speech, he likened this funding effort to "the Apollo Project," which later put a man on the moon.

Yet later on in the speech, Obama proposed, starting this year, to "freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years," a step that, he boasted, would "bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president."

It's hard to see how he or the Congress can resolve this contradiction—Kennedy-esque vigor and investment on the one hand, Ike-like torpor and penny-pinching on the other. He said much of this extra money could be freed up by eliminating subsidies for the oil companies. First, good luck on that. And second, that alone won't free up enough.

The history of Sputnik, and the revival of the American economy that it spurred, is instructive. Sputnik was the 184-pound satellite that the Soviet Union launched into outer space on Oct. 4, 1957. It was a first (the United States had tried once before, with the Explorer, but failed), and it shocked the world. Everyone had assumed the Soviets were technologically primitive; now it looked like they were ahead.

The achievement wasn't merely symbolic; it also meant that, if the Soviets could build a rocket to boost a satellite into orbit, they might also build a rocket to boost an intercontinental missile that carries a hydrogen bomb and comes back down on the other side of the Earth, blowing an American city to smithereens.

Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, declared on national television that, with Sputnik, America had "lost a battle more important and greater than Pearl Harbor." In the U.S. Congress, Clare Boothe Luce, R-Conn., called Sputnik's beep "an intercontinental outer-space raspberry to a decade of American pretensions that the American way of life was a gilt-edged guarantee of our national superiority." ...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kentucky NAEP Science Scores Outpace National Averages

The results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science show that Kentucky's 4th and 8th graders scored higher than the national averages, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today.

Scale scores for 4th and 8th graders in 2009 are significantly above the national average. The NAEP science grading scale ranges from 0 to 300.


NOTE: The NAEP 2009 science results are based on new science frameworks, meaning that direct comparisons to prior years’ overall scale scores are not recommended.

Disaggregated scale scores also show that, in all but one category, Kentucky students outperformed the nation. The only Kentucky group that did not have higher scores than the nation was 8th-grade white students, whose average scale score was 159, compared to the national average of 161 for the same group.


2003 marked the first year NAEP was administered in all states, as mandated in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. States applying for Title I funds must indicate that they plan to participate in NAEP.


Grade 4:
In 2009, the average science score for 4th-grade students in Kentucky was 161. This was higher than that of the nation's public schools (149).

In 2009, the percentage of students in Kentucky who performed at or above Proficient was 45 percent. This was greater than that for the nation's public schools (32 percent).

In 2009, the percentage of students in Kentucky who performed at or above Basic was 83 percent. This was greater than that for the nation's public schools (71 percent).

Grade 8:
In 2009, the average science score for 8th-grade students in Kentucky was 156. This was higher than that of the nation's public schools (149).

In 2009, the percentage of students in Kentucky who performed at or above Proficient was 34 percent. This was greater than that for the nation's public schools (29 percent).

In 2009, the percentage of students in Kentucky who performed at or above Basic was 71 percent. This was greater than that for the nation's public schools (62 percent).

NAEP is a project of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), reporting on the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. For more than 30 years, NAEP has been the country's only nationally representative and continuing survey of students' educational achievement. Because the national NAEP samples were not designed to support the reporting of state-level results, state NAEP samples were introduced in 1990 to provide participating states reliable data concerning the achievement of their students. The assessment is authorized by Congress, directed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and developed by Educational Testing Service of Princeton, New Jersey. Westat, Inc. of Rockville, Maryland, conducts sample selection and data collection.

NAEP protects the confidentiality of students, teachers and schools that participate by not reporting individual student, teacher, school or district data. NAEP provides results for major demographic groups, and states that meet NAEP reporting criteria are able to compare their results with both national results and the results of other states.

SOURCE: KDE Press release

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Results of ACT Investigation in Perry Co Point to Altered Tests

Students tell ACT Investigators
Proctor Gave Answers During the Test

Supt searches for Explanations

This from the Hazard Herald:

Altered exam responses, multiple handwriting sources and statements from students were all given as evidence by a national testing organization to cancel test scores for several students at two Perry County high schools during an investigation in 2010, according to documents obtained in an open records request by the Hazard Herald.

The findings of ACT’s investigation into allegedly compromised test scores at Perry County Central and Buckhorn High School were noted in letters from ACT to Superintendent John Paul Amis and the high schools’ principals dated November 23.

Though ACT has made no finding of fault by any particular local testing administrator, it does list the organization’s key findings following the investigation which concluded in November, most notably that ACT “found evidence indicating that answer sheets for a significant portion of the students tested at PCCHS were manipulated.” ...

Fifty-nine students from Perry Central took the ACT exam again in October after their initial scores were canceled. According to ACT, the average composite scores decreased by more than one point, and 59 percent of the scores decreased from the initial exam.

ACT investigators found similar aberrations on the 2009 PLAN and ACT exams from Perry Central...

Superintendent John Paul Amis tried to explain the situation to the Herald:

ACT says there were: a high number of erasures from incorrect to correct responses.

Amis says: "...while it wouldn't happen very often, a student taking the test could go back and review answers and find that they were bubbled in out of order or on the wrong page of the answer sheet and have to change them before the time allotted ran out."

ACT says there were: slash marks on answer sheets that forensic handwriting analysts deemed were the result of someone other than the student marking responses on the test.

Amis says: “I don’t think that’s anything abnormal.”

ACT says: an adult proctor provided students with answers during the test,”

Amis says: “I could not find any student that felt like teachers provided answers to them.”

The Kentucky Department of Education forwarded ACT’s findings to three government agencies for further review: the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, the Education Professional Standards Board and the Office of Inspector General.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stars Shine on Christian Researcher

This from Inside Higher Ed:

The University of Kentucky has settled a religious discrimination lawsuit with C. Martin Gaskell, a former University of Nebraska astronomer whom Kentucky declined to hire as director of its Lexington-based observatory.

After being snubbed for the directorship in 2007, Gaskell alleged that Kentucky officials had passed on him because of his Christian views -- a claim his lawyers say is supported by e-mails sent by members of the search committee, as well as sworn testimony given by the panel's members and other Kentucky faculty. The university will pay the spurned astronomer $125,000 -- roughly the equivalent of the extra money Gaskell would have made if he had held the directorship for two years, according to Francis Marion, a senior trial lawyer for the National Center for Law & Justice, which worked the astronomer's case pro bono. A district court judge had denied motions for summary judgment from both parties.

The bulk of Gaskell’s published work addresses the technical aspects of black holes. But he also made a hobby of criticizing the prima facie dismissal of Biblical assertions as irrelevant to scientific theory, while advocating for a view of natural history that rejects neither the Judeo-Christian creation story nor evolution. In a document published on his personal website -- which later became fodder for discussion among his would-be employers at Kentucky -- Gaskell criticized both creationists and evolutionary scientists for perpetuating bad science.

“It is true that there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory … and that these problems are bigger than is usually made out in introductory geology/biology courses,” wrote Gaskell in an essay titled “Modern Astronomy, The Bible, and Creation.”

School District Evaporation

The district has come apart so quickly
it's left students shell-shocked.

This from the Enquirer:

Last year Little Miami High School sophomore Allie Blake read 60 books from her school library. This year the librarian was reassigned to other schools and the library closed - its shelves sealed with shrink-wrap - to save money.

At junior Claire Schad's choir performances, students pass the hat to pay for sheet music and piano tunings. Schad, who hopes to major in music in college, worries the high school music program will be cut her senior year.

Sophomore Shawn Lansdell just got his class ring. Now, as his district considers dissolving after seven straight tax levy defeats, he wonders how long his high school will even exist.

Little Miami's fiscal crisis is not, at heart, about state takeovers, taxpayer revolts or school board politics. It is about students - who watch helplessly as their school system evaporates around them.

Kentucky Board of Education to Meet

Happy Groundhog's Day


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

9:00 a.m. (EST)

I. Call to Order
II. Roll Call
III. Approval of minutes from the December 7-8, 2010, regular meeting
IV. Introduction of New KDE Employees and KDE Team Members of the Month by the Commissioner of Education
V. Report of the Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet
VI. Report of the President of the Council on Postsecondary Education
VII. Report of the Executive Director of the Education Professional Standards Board
VIII. Report of the Commissioner of Education (Questions on written report)
IX. Good News Items
X. Public Comment Segment
XI. Full Board Items
A. Next Generation Learners and Next Generation Support Systems (Strategic Priorities)
· 703 KAR 5:200, Next Generation Learners and discussion on remaining accountability issues for Kentucky’s accountability model (Regulation is under separate cover) (Review Item); Associate Commissioner Ken Draut, Division Director Rhonda Sims and Associate Commissioner Felicia Cumings-Smith; 2 ½-hour presentation/discussion

12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. (EST)

1:00 p.m. (EST)

XI. Full Board Items
B. Next Generation Schools/Districts (Strategic Priority)
Initial discussion regarding recognition and assistance for the Next Generation Learners component of Kentucky’s new assessment and accountability model (Review Item); Associate Commissioner Ken Draut, Division Director Rhonda Sims, Associate Commissioner Larry Stinson and Associate Commissioner Felicia Cumings-Smith;
C. General
Legislative Update – Associate Commissioner/General Counsel Kevin Brown and Tracy Herman, Legislative Liaison;
Hearing Officer’s Report – Associate Commissioner/General Counsel Kevin Brown;

2:30 p.m. (EST)

XII. Management Committee Meeting
A. Action/Consent Items
1. District Facility Plans: Bath County, Hazard and Fulton Independent School
Districts (KDE Support and Guiding Processes)
2. 2010-2011 Local District Tax Rates Levied

B. Action/Discussion Items
1. 702 KAR 7:065, Designation of Agent to Manage High School Interscholastic
Athletics and Revisions in Kentucky High School Athletic Association Bylaws

XIII. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee Meeting
A. Action/Consent Items
1. Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) Advisory Board Appointment
2. Appointment to the State Textbook Commission


XIV. Approval of Action/Consent Agenda Items (approved as a block of items)
A. District Facility Plans
B. Tax Rates Levied
C. KSB Advisory Board Appointment
D. Textbook Commission Appointment
XV. Report of the Management Committee on Action/Discussion Items
XVI. Board Member Sharing
XVII. Information Items
A. KDE Employment Report XVIII. Internal Board Business
XIX. Litigation Report
XX. Adjournment

An Imaginary Hurley-Richards Defense

As KSN&C readers know, I'm not an attorney, so take my ramblings with a grain of salt. But I've been trying to imagine the defense attorney JoEllen McComb might use in an attempt to derail the FCPS appeal of Ernesto Scorsone's circuit court ruling in the Hurley-Richards case. (I'm seeking the actual brief, but it will be next week at the earliest before I can see it.)

Bob Chenoweth will argue for the district that the court is bound by KRS 13B.150(2) and that the court cannot substitute its judgement for that of the Tribunal when it comes to the weight of evidence.

13B.150 Conduct of judicial review.
(1) Review of a final order shall be conducted by the court without a jury and shall be confined to the record, unless there is fraud or misconduct involving a party engaged in administration of this chapter. The court, upon request, may hear oral argument and receive written briefs.
(2) The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. The court may affirm the final order or it may reverse the final order, in whole or in part, and remand the case for further proceedings if it finds the agency's final order is:
(a) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions;
(b) In excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
(c) Without support of substantial evidence on the whole record;
(d) Arbitrary, capricious, or characterized by abuse of discretion;
(e) Based on an ex parte communication which substantially prejudiced the rights of any party and likely affected the outcome of the hearing;
(f) Prejudiced by a failure of the person conducting a proceeding to be disqualified pursuant to KRS 13B.040(2); or
(g) Deficient as otherwise provided by law.

OK. That seems very straightforward. How can the district lose? Scorsone appears to have done a little evidence weighing himself in determining that the Tribunal's conclusions were "without support of substantial evidence..." The word "substantial" would certainly seem to indicate a weighing of the evidence occurred.

But there are lots of laws and some are higher than others. I wonder if McComb will make a constitutional claim on Hurley-Richards' behalf.

Would granting the district's claim constitute an
unconstitutional breach of the separation of powers?

Here's my imaginary defense:

The Kentucky Constitution is particularly strong on the separation of powers. Authored by a guy named Thomas Jefferson, our Constitutional provisions related to the separation of powers contain explicit provisions which mandate a separation among the three branches of government. At Sec 27:

The powers of the government of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shall be divided into three distinct departments, and each of them be confined to a separate body of magistracy, to wit: Those which are legislative, to one; those which are executive, to another; and those which are judicial, to another.
That's the part everyone remembers because David Williams and other politicians have made outrageous claims in recent years, in an attempt to extend that separation into more power for the legislature (...or was it just Republicans?).

But there's a second part to the provision at Sec 28:

No person or collection of persons, being of one of those departments, shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except in the instances hereinafter expressly directed or permitted.

So my question is: By what right does the legislature constrain the manner in which the courts consider evidence? The power to try cases by hearing evidence and reviewing governmental processes would seem to belong exclusively to the judiciary.

It seems to me that the Kentucky Court of Appeals could choose to reject as improper the limitations placed on the court in KRS 13B.150(2) - a violation of the separtation of powers doctrine - and uphold the lower court ruling.

In LRC v Brown (Ky.) 664 S. W. 2d 907, 912 (1984) the Kentucky Supreme Court declared that the separation of powers doctrine must be "srictly construed."

In Rose v Council for Better Education (Ky.) 790 S.W. 2d. 186, 60 Ed Law Rep. 1289 (1989) that same court reiterated that "the power to legislate belongs to the General Assembly, and the power to adjudicate belongs to the judiciary. It is our goal to honor both the letter and the spirit of that constitutional mandate."

Just as the court is constrained from dictating to the legislature how it goes about its business, the legislature is constrained from dictating to the judiciary how judges must adjudicate.
Did I mention that I'm not an attorney?

Oh, and one more thing. The language in KRS 13B.150(2) says the court can "remand the case for further proceedings..." So, one supposes that if the district wins its appeal, the case would return to the circuit court for final disposition.

Meanwhile in Alabama...

A measure designed to force Alabama Education Association members to chose between advocating for Alabama schools or payroll deduction squeeked by the Alabama legislature last week. The measure criminalizes many non-campaign actions if the teachers' union members use the current dues system.

According to, It is now illegal in Alabama for a teacher to work for passing a local tax referendum, publicly criticize an elected official for raiding a school budget, or doing any kind of advocacy on behalf of their students if they use payroll deduction to pay membership dues. The law specifically makes it illegal for AEA to undertake public opinion polling on issues like charter schools, make telephone calls to members about state budgets, or publish the votes of legislators in the Alabama School Journal.

The law is intended to make it more difficult for educators to become and remain members by forcing the group to eliminate payroll deduction.

But what was not expected by the legislature was the resiliency of Alabama educators.
“AEA was here long before [current politicians] were here, and we’ll be here long after they are gone,” said Dr. Paul Hubbert...To overcome the loss of payroll deduction, AEA has set up a new system called AEA Automatic Dues Pay. Electronic drafts from checking accounts take the place of payroll deductions, dues stay the same, and educators are sure to protect their schools and membership by enrolling in AEA Automatic Dues Pay. It is also the best way to tell [the politicians] and the special interests that Alabama educators know how to deal with bullies.

The first rule is to stand up to them.

HT 2 Amanda

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Scoop on Silberman v Hurley-Richards

Teacher Disciplined for
Conduct Unbecoming a Teacher

Related to alleged Mishandling
of a 2nd Grade Child in 2009

Circuit Court Reverses

District's Appeal Set for April

Court records reveal that on-going legal action between Rosalind Hurley-Richards and Fayette County School Superintendent Stu Silberman is a disciplinary matter where Hurley-Richards was accused of, and disciplined for, conduct unbecoming a teacher. It has to do with the alleged mishandling of a child.

Rosalind Hurley-Richards was on bus duty at Cardinal Valley Elementary school on February 3, 2009 when she got into a fuss with a second grader identified as ZK.

Hurley-Richards observed three siblings in the hallway and the two youngest were running. The kids ignored her instructions to walk until the eldest child told the siblings to walk. To correct the misbehavior, Hurley-Richards asked the children to go back up the hall and walk back down properly, but ZK, ran yet again. When Hurley-Richards fussed at the youngster, he delivered that infamous line all teachers love to hear, "You can't tell me what to do!"

The teacher instructed the other two children to go on to breakfast while she spoke to ZK, but the kids got into some kind of fight which involved ZK pulling his little sister's (EK) hair while elder sister MK pulled EK by the hand. Hurley-Richard then put her hand around ZK's waist to separate him. As instructed, the girls EK & MK began to move toward the office but not ZK. He refused, squirming and twisting such that the teacher had to physically propel him up the hallway. As ZK resisted, Hurley-Richards' arm was "across the student's front in a manner that may have been perceived as choking." ZK protested that Hurley-Richards was choking him, which she disavowed. When they reached the office the physical contact ended. Hurley-Richards passed the matter off to the principal Yvonne Beegle. (In the interest of full disclosure, Beagle was a student of mine at UK, of whom I think highly.) An examination by officer David Collins revealed no injury.

But there was an eyewitness who saw things differently. Kindergarten assistant Sheri Jones Hall would later testify that it appeared to her that Hurley-Richards had the child around the neck. But she did not feel compelled to intervene.

Superintendent Silberman determined that Hurley-Richards conduct was inappropriate and he charged her with conduct unbecoming a teacher. On the afternoon of the incident, Hurley-Richards was informed that she was suspended without pay. She was notified on February 27th that her contract was terminated.

Hurley-Richards exercised her right to a hearing before an Administrative Tribunal. The Tribunal met April 23 & 24 and on September 1, 2009. The members were Deborah DeHoag a JCPS teacher; Marilyn Hafley a Lincoln Co administrator, and Franklin County layperson Jane Kelly. The hearing was held in private and took testimony from seventeen witnesses including Hurley-Richards and Silberman.

The Tribunal determined that Hurley-Richards had no intent to harm ZK and that he, indeed, suffered no harm. But they remarked that they found the eyewitness testimony "particularly reliable" and Hurley-Richards to be "generally truthful and reliable" but "influenced by self-interest and later events." The Tribunal rejected the notion that she was delicately guiding ZK forward with a gentle hand on his backpack, as she testified, but found no intent to harm. Still, the Tribunal found that Hurley-Richards exercised poor judgment in continuing to apply force after ZK complained about choking, and ordered her into safe physical management training.

The Tribunal also rejected Silberman's disciplinary action, modifying it to suspension without pay through June 30, 2009.

Hurley-Richards appealed to the Fayette County Circuit Court on grounds that her conduct did not constitute conduct unbecoming a teacher and that her punishment was excessive and beyond the authority of the Tribunal.

On April 20, 2010, Judge Ernesto Scorsone's trial court ruled that the conclusions of the Tribunal were "without support of substantial evidence on the whole record" and provided "no evidentairy basis on which to support any suspension without pay." The court found Hurley-Richards' conduct reasonable, and the Tribunal's conclusions incorrect. Scorsone reasoned that Hurley-Richards was maintaining order in the hallway following ZK's attack on his sister and that she had reason to believe ZK posed a risk which would justify physical restraint.

The district is now appealing the Circuit Court ruling citing KRS 13B.150(2), which reads, "The court shall not substitute its judgement for that of the agency as to the weight of evidence on questions of fact." So the primary question under review is whether the trial court misapplied the standard of review called for in the law.

Joellen McComb and Arthur Brooks represent Ms. Hurley-Richards. Bob Chenoweth represents the district.