Tuesday, March 29, 2011

EKU Issues, Later Rescinds Alert

Public Safety Bulletin

To: The University Community

From: Interim Chief Brian Mullins, EKU Police Department

Date: April 1, 2011

On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, I informed you of an alleged incident involving a female being grabbed and fondled. After investigation, the complainant has recanted her statement. The Eastern Kentucky University Police Department has closed this investigation and wishes to thank the University Community for its cooperation.

Public Safety Bulletin

To: The University Community

From: Interim Chief Brian Mullins, EKU Police Department

Date: March 29, 2011

Eastern Kentucky University Police Department has received a report of an alleged incident in the area of the Case Annex at the Powell Service Drive. The alleged victim stated that at approximately 3:30 p.m. on March 29, 2011, she was approached in the Case Annex/Powell Service Drive area by two unknown male subjects who grabbed her arm and fondled her. She could not provide a physical description of the subjects; however, she was able to describe their clothing.

Subject #1:

· Dark green hoodie sweatshirt, pulled over his head

· Blue jeans

· Tennis shoes

Subject #2:

· Royal blue hoodie sweatshirt, pulled over his head

· Blue jeans

· Tennis shoes

The Eastern Kentucky University Police Department is currently investigating this incident.

Eastern Kentucky University is committed to your safety. I want to remind you of the following safety precautions:

Immediately report suspicious persons loitering around University facilities.

If you become the victim of a crime, do not try to physically detain or apprehend the criminal. Report the incident immediately to the EKU Police Department at 911 or (859) 622-1111.

On or off campus, walk/jog/bike in groups of three or more in well-lit and well-traveled areas. After dark on campus, call the campus shuttle or for a walking escort.

Scan the area before you exit or approach your vehicle/building and while you proceed between sites.

Have your key ready in hand to quickly access the door of your vehicle/building.

If strangers approach, maintain a distance and be observant. If they are in a vehicle, get the license plate number, if possible.

Lock doors and windows of your room/building. Do not prop open doors or let strangers in.

In the United States, Merit Pay Plans for Teachers are Few and Far Between

This from EducationNext:
A new report finds that merit pay plans for teachers have been implemented in no more than 500 school districts out of some 14,000 districts nationwide, only 3.5 percent of the total. According to the study, even in those districts that have adopted an aspect of merit pay as part of their teacher compensation practices, these merit pay plans are not as rigorous as they tend to be in the private sector.

The number of school districts identified as having some form of merit pay is based upon information provided by the National Center on Performance Incentives (NCPI), which is located at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and funded by a 5-year, $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The Center systematically gathers data from school districts on their use of performance evaluations for compensation purposes. The authors identified districts listed on the NCPI website that reported having performance pay programs, and divided the number of such districts by the total number of districts in the United States. Using this methodology, the researchers estimated that only 3.5% of districts report having merit pay plans.

In the study, to be published in the Spring 2011 issue of Education Next and available here, authors Stuart Buck and Jay P. Greene examined the key characteristics of performance pay plans currently in place in school districts, in light of increased attention given to merit pay in national debate and in the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top (RttT) competitive grant program.

The authors found that even in districts that were identified by NCPI as having merit pay plans, “most were so weak that they represented no meaningful change from traditional compensation systems,” which typically are based on the number of years on the job and academic credentials.

Podcast: Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson discuss why merit pay experiments in the U.S. tend not to last very long or work very well.

Around the States from Education Next:
  • The U. S. Department of Education asked states to include proposals for implementing teacher merit pay—pay based on classroom performance—in their 2010 applications for Race to the Top (RttT) monies, and many applicants promised action on this front.
  • In Washington, D.C., former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee negotiated a strikingly original merit-pay plan, despite strong union opposition.
  • Last year, the Florida legislature enacted one of the more stringent proposals any state has ever attempted—only to have the bill vetoed by Governor Charlie Crist as a way of jump-starting his ultimately doomed bid to become Florida’s first independent U.S. senator.
  • In Cincinnati and Philadelphia...merit pay policies were blocked just before they were about to be implemented.
  • Denver’s Professional Compensation for Teachers (ProComp) plan, widely heralded as the leading national example of performance pay, awards more money for earning another degree than for demonstrated performance in the classroom. ...it exempts teachers hired before January 1, 2006...
  • In Houston, merit was defined so broadly that it included an overwhelming majority of the teachers.
  • In Florida, Iowa, and Texas, the legislatures have encouraged local districts to enact performance pay plans.
  • Only a handful of Florida districts participate in merit pay, for example, even though state funds cover the cost of the initiative.
  • High-quality research on this topic within the United States is sparse and results are mixed... Vanderbilt released a study recently on a well-designed randomized trial of a merit pay experiment in Nashville. The program involved bonuses of up to $15,000, which would presumably be large enough to affect individual incentives. Yet virtually no effect was seen on test scores (outside of 5th-grade math, an effect that disappeared for those same children the next year). That said, the Nashville study did not examine long-term effects on the composition of the teacher workforce.
  • The Bloomberg administration in New York City made headlines in late 2007 by announcing a pilot merit-pay initiative, the School-Wide Performance Bonus Program. The New York City Department of Education randomly assigned eligible schools to treatment or control groups, which has enabled scholars to conduct rigorous evaluations. Early results with respect to student achievement are not promising overall, although the program appears to have had a positive impact in schools with fewer teachers (see “Does Whole-School Performance Pay Improve Student Learning?research). The researchers theorize that the group benefit feature of the merit pay program made it unlikely that it would have an impact on teacher behavior in any but the smallest schools.
  • The international evidence on performance pay is more encouraging, including a recent worldwide look that indicates that students learn more in countries with performance pay plans, all other known factors held constant. (Merit Pay International)
  • Governor Mitt Romney proposed merit pay in Massachusetts back in 2005–06, as part of an education budget that included tens of millions in new spending. That proposal went down to defeat; as the Lowell Sun reported, “the Massachusetts Teachers Association [MTA] and United Teachers of Lowell opposed the idea.
  • Philadelphia tried to institute a pilot merit-pay program in 2000, but later ditched the initiative, “calling it too expensive, too difficult to administer, and a failure at giving teachers useful feedback” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • In 2006, Philadelphia received a $20.5 million grant from the U.S. government to develop a merit pay program...but the deal [with the union] fell apart [when a budget deficit appeared].
  • [Cincinnati's 2002] merit-pay plan...was overwhelmingly voted down by teachers (1892 to 73), even though it did not base bonuses on student test scores.
  • Alabama's... “Race to the Top” application originally proposed merit pay and a “new salary schedule that would give more money to math, science and special-education teachers,” but that portion of the application was deleted [when the union opposed it].
  • A Little Rock, Arkansas, performance-pay program lasted only three years and was not renewed by the local school board, despite evidence of positive effects on student achievement in math, reading, and language.
  • The Alaska School Performance Incentive Program was canceled after three years.
  • North Carolina suspended incentive awards to high-performing schools in 2008–09 due to budget problems.
  • Iowa’s statewide Career Ladder and Pay-for-Performance grant program was passed in 2007, but only 3 Iowa districts, out of 360, bothered to apply.
  • Only 20 percent of Texas districts opted into the District Awards for Teacher Excellence program in 2009–10.
  • A 2010 report from the Arizona Auditor General [said] out of 222 districts receiving [special] funding, the auditor could identify only 29 “with strong performance pay plans that did a good job of linking teacher performance pay to student achievement.
Hat Tip to Mikey...for the question.

EKU Submits Proposal to Host 2012 Presidential Debate

EKU announced today that it is submitting a proposal to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to host one of the Presidential Debates in the Fall of 2012.

If the University is accepted as a host, the event would be held in the 2,012-seat EKU Center for the Arts, expected to open this fall. It is anticipated that a Presidential Debate would attract approximately 5,000 guests (including approximately 3,000 media personnel) to the community and area, some staying for as long as a week.

“The prospect of hosting a 2012 President Debate excites me for our University, community, region, and state,” President Doug Whitlock said. “It is particularly exciting when I think of what it would mean for our students educationally to witness history in the making and to see an event of national, even international, importance play out before them.

“We are truly grateful for the support shown to this project by Richmond, Berea, Madison County, Lexington, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Whitlock added. “Governor Beshear, Senator McConnell, Representative Chandler and many others here in the state and in the nation's capital have given us encouragement. We would not be making this application without their endorsements and unless we thought we had a legitimate chance.

“During the course of this process, we will have a visit from representatives of the Commission on President Debates. I am confident they will be impressed by our facilities, our capacity, the resources of the region, and our can-do attitude.”

A news conference held today on the Richmond campus also featured remarks from Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler, several local officials, and Debra Hoskins, Executive Director of EKU’s Center for the Arts.

Site surveys will be scheduled for April-June and conducted by members of the Commission. Proposals and site surveys will be reviewed this summer, and the CPD plans to announce the 2012 sites and debates this fall. Neither the number of applicants nor the number of debates is known at this time. All applicants will be announced Thursday, March 31. In 2007, 16 proposals were submitted, and three Presidential Debates were held the following year.

The proposal emphasizes several strengths University officials believe make EKU and the Richmond-Berea-Lexington area ideally suited to host such an event:

  • An easily accessible location, served by interstate highways in all directions and the Blue Grass Airport.
  • An experienced leadership team bolstered by several individuals who played key roles in logistics, security and communications with the Vice Presidential Debate held in Danville in 2000, including Hoskins, who was serving at the time as Director of the Programs at the Norton Center, which hosted the debate.
  • The spacious, state-of-the-art Center for the Arts and other nearby campus facilities, such as the Perkins Building, Business & Technology Center and Alumni Coliseum, among others, which would serve auxiliary purposes, such as credentialing and media filing. If selected as a site, the EKU Center would be among the largest venues to date to host a Presidential Debate.
  • More than 10,000 hotel and motel rooms in Richmond, Lexington and Berea.
  • Security personnel in Richmond and Lexington who have worked previous local events involving national and international figures.
  • The expressed support of local officials in Madison and Fayette counties to offer municipal resources as needed. The University’s proposal also includes letters of support from Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Chandler, local governmental and business leaders, and telecommunications companies, among many others.
  • The availability of shuttle services to and from the airport and to and from lodging locations.

A video accompanying the proposal package is narrated by Nick and Nina Clooney, Maysville native and acclaimed print and broadcast journalist. Nick Clooney, who received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from the University when he spoke at a commencement ceremony in 2008, is the father of actor George Clooney and brother of legendary singer Rosemary Clooney.

A regional comprehensive university serving approximately 16,500 students, Eastern Kentucky University has earned national recognition on several fronts in the past two years. It is the only college or university nationwide that can claim all the following “Points of Pride”:

  • First Tier, Southern Master’s Universities (U.S. News & World Report)
  • America’s Best Colleges (Forbes)
  • America’s Great Colleges to Work For (Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • National recognition for community engagement (Carnegie Foundation)
  • Military-Friendly School (G.I. Jobs)
  • Best for Vets, No. 1 Nationally (Military Times EDGE)

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

SOURCE: EKU Press release

Monday, March 28, 2011

Very Interesting


EKU Center for the Arts

10 a.m. Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You are invited to attend a news conference conducted by Eastern Kentucky University regarding the 2012 United States Presidential Debates.

Among those expected to bring comments will be EKU President Dr. Doug Whitlock, U.S. Congressman Ben Chandler, Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark, Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes and others.

BREAKING: BIPPS Offers Good Advice to School Boards on Superintendent Vetting

It's been a while since the Bluegrass Institute has issued any kind of advice for school board members - or anyone else for that matter - that wasn't dripping with bias, obfucation or thinly veiled political motivations.

But today BIPPS released tips for school board members who are looking for new superintendents, and they are worth considering. I only found two places where BIPPS allowed their biases to slip in. That's pretty good for them.

Superintendent hiring: Advice to school boards

  • Tip #1: Understand that some will hide problems – but information is out there

  • Tip #2: Research before hiring a search firm

  • Tip #3: Make some phone calls yourself

  • Tip #4: Check the newspapers

  • Tip #5: Resumes are critical – check out everything

  • Tip #6: Beware of Secrecy

  • Tip #7: Ask informed questions – be respectful, but understand that softball questions won’t help you

  • Tip #8: Never forget, this is YOUR responsibility, not a search firm’s, not the public’s

  • Tip #9: Consider other resources

  • Tip #10: Other considerations

  • Tip #11: NEVER FORGET: The focus is on student preparation for college and careers
BIPPS says,
Included are pointers on how to use the Internet to find out about an applicant’s past performance, along with ideas on how to use media sources and suggestions on informed questions to ask candidates to help determine what education reforms they have successfully undertaken.

Richard Innes, the institute’s education analyst, says a lack of due diligence on the front end of a hiring process can lead to embarrassment, and even resignations, later on.
Innes is exactly correct about this. In fact, BIPPS and KSN&C worked pretty well together, in 2007, when the Kentucky Board of Education locked in on hiring Barbara Erwin despite emerging evidence of an impending trainwreck. The Board believed Ray & Associates, their search firm instead of certain prophets of doom and it turned out that the prophets were right.

Here's the postmortem on the Erwin affair from C-J.

A subsequent state board had a similar problem in 2009, but followed one of Innes's tips. When a board member asked a certain blogger I know to look into a rumor about Commissioner finalist Dennis Cheek, that blogger was able to help the board avoid a substantial political problem.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gov. Steve Beshear vetoes most provisions of Medicaid bill

This from the Courier-Journal:

Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday stripped the Medicaid budget bill of cuts to education as well as other provisions, leaving what amounts to his original proposal for dealing with the program’s funding shortfall.

“I'm coming forward to restore common sense to the mission of rebalancing the state's Medicaid budget,” Beshear said at a news conference where he detailed his veto of most parts of House Bill 1, sent to him by a special session of the General
Assembly Thursday night.

“… I will not make drastic cuts to classroom teaching, to our veterans programs, to public safety, to our social workers, to higher education and numerous other services when there is no need to do so,” he said...

Still to be resolved is how the session finally ends. The House adjourned for good Thursday night, with no intention to return. The Senate adjourned until a final day on April 6 — when Beshear's deadline for issuing vetoes would have expired.

And the major players continued to squabble Friday over the issue of pay for all legislators for each day until the Senate finally adjourns. A legislative session costs taxpayers about $64,000 per day.

The Senate included in its version of HB 1 a provision that no lawmaker could be paid during the 12-day waiting period for vetoes. But the governor struck that language from the bill as one of his vetoes Friday.

He said that clashed with a provision in the Kentucky Constitution that he said “states something to the effect that legislators can't change their pay during the session in which they vote to make such a change.”

Stumbo agreed with that. And he urged Williams to convene the Senate as soon as possible to adjourn and thus conclude the session.

But Williams said no lawmakers will be paid for any days after Thursday if the House returns and overrides Beshear's veto of the provision that bans legislative pay for the 12 days.

“The Senate will come back on the scheduled day (April 6) unless we are able to convince the House to come back sooner,” he said.

Stumbo said the House has no intention of returning...

Quick Hits

Chicago charter aims to curb student absenteeism: A Chicago charter school is working to combat a growing trend of student absenteeism. The Chicago Talent Development Charter High School uses student attendance-tracking software, as well as several other in-school initiatives, to keep students in class. However, the problem is complicated by factors related to poverty, such as low access to adequate health care, neighborhood violence and safe passage to school. (The New York Times)

Tennessee House advances measure to create stricter tenure rules: Legislators in the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill requiring that teachers work five years instead of three to be eligible for tenure. The measure also would allow tenure protections to be revoked if teachers do not meet certain performance standards. A bill already has cleared the state Senate, and Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign a final proposal when it is completed. (Reuters)

How should learning be assessed in project-based lessons?: Education writer Suzie Boss considers the importance of effective assessments and how they can be used to measure student learning on project-based lessons. A new classroom guide developed by Edutopia offers tips and resources for assessing learning at each stage of a project-based lesson, from project planning to a culminating event when students present their conclusions. (Edutopia)

Delaware high school replaces textbooks with iPads: A Delaware high school plans to replace textbooks with iPads this fall to help expose students to the technology they likely are to use in their future careers. School officials say the iPad was a good choice for the school because of its mobility, simplicity and educational applications. (The Daily Times)

Oregon considers move to full-day kindergarten: With overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans, the Oregon Senate approved a bill Thursday requiring school districts to offer free full-day kindergarten by fall 2015. Sen. Mark Hass, one of the most vocal proponents of the bill, said it is time for Oregon to make full-day kindergarten part of state policy and end what he called an "embarrassing practice" of only mandating half-day services. (The Oregonian)

Are Google Chrome Notebooks a game changer for the classroom?: Six schools nationwide are testing the academic benefits of supplying every student with a Google Chrome Notebook computer, which is not yet available to the public. The principal at an Oregon high school that was chosen for the pilot calls the cloud-based computers a "game changer" for education. "It encourages students to become participants in learning, and it allows teachers to reach the students they weren't reaching before," Larry Lockett said. (The Oregonian)

System compares quality of online college programs: Author and online-education researcher Kaye Shelton has enlisted the help of nonprofit Sloan Consortium, as well as a group of experienced online-school administrators, to develop a system for comparing online college programs. The group's "quality scorecard" rates programs according to 70 metrics building on benchmarks published in 2000 by the Institute of Higher Education. (InsideHigherEd)

The national curriculum: How detailed should it be?: Determining how national education standards will influence classroom lessons is drawing opinions from all sides, with some debating how to define "curriculum." Some say a curriculum is a set of larger ideas that guide instruction, while others say it is the actual lesson plan. At issue is whether states and districts want their individual lessons dictated to them, with some saying they are concerned about a lack of local input in those decisions. (Education Week)

Michigan considers fines, sanctions for teacher strikes: Michigan legislators have introduced a proposal that would create stricter penalties for teachers who participate in illegal strikes. Under the bill, teachers could have their certifications suspended or revoked if they participate in such a strike. An additional bill would levy $5,000 fines per day against labor organizations for each teacher participating in strikes. "This, in our thinking, is another attack on teachers and the middle class," state teachers union spokeswoman Rosemary Carey said. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)

Fear of cuts push teachers, public workers to retire: More teachers and other public employees are retiring, saying they're worried that if they don't lock in now, their benefits will be eroded under government budget cuts. The rush to retire could mean strapped governments will not have to resort to layoffs, and can replace older, higher-paid workers with newcomers who earn less. However, officials fear that losing too many veteran workers, and their knowledge and skills, could harm services. (The Wall Street Journal)

Google hits roadblock in bid to publish digital library: Google's plan to create the world's largest digital library hit a roadblock Tuesday when a federal judge rejected the company's $125 million agreement with a coalition of author and publisher groups on the grounds that it would give the search giant a "de facto monopoly" over the printed word. Google has been trying for years to initiate its Books project, which proposes digitized public distribution for every book ever published. (The New York Times) (The Guardian) (Reuters) (Bloomberg)

Which Web tools are educators using?: More educators are using online tools to improve classroom management, enhance and reinforce lessons and provide students with multiple ways to express what they are learning. Web-based tools such as Weebly, Edmodo and Wikispaces allow teachers to create classroom websites for posting announcements, assignments and student work. Other tools such as Chatzy allow students to communicate in real time, while applications such as Vocaroo allow students to record voice messages and post them online. (Harvard Education Letter)

Judge: Education cuts in New Jersey may be unconstitutional: A judge reporting to New Jersey's State Supreme Court Tuesday advised that Gov. Chris Christie's cuts to state funding for education have been especially harmful for poor districts and may be in violation of the state Constitution. "Despite the state's best efforts, the reductions fell more heavily upon our high-risk districts and the children educated within those districts," Judge Peter E. Doyne wrote in his report, which could lead the court to direct the state to send more aid to poor schools. (The New York Times)

Report - Fewer U.S. high schools are "dropout factories": The number of U.S. high schools considered to be "dropout factories" -- where 60% or fewer students graduate -- has fallen from a high of more than 2,000 in 2002 to more than 1,600 in 2009, according to a report. The annual "Building a Grad Nation" report attributes the improvements to concerted attempts to curb the dropout rate and highlights districts where particular progress has been made, including those that promote community partnerships. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Mass. to require four years of math for college enrollment: Massachusetts officials voted to require students seeking entrance to the state's four-year public university to take four years of math in high school. The new requirement is meant to better prepare students -- particularly those from low-income communities -- for the demands of college, and help increase the college-completion rate. Currently, 10 states require four years of high-school math for admission to public colleges and more are expected to do so. (The Boston Globe)

Duncan speaks out on NCLB, teacher evaluations in Los Angeles: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a speech at an education summit in Los Angeles, called for a revised No Child Left Behind law that measures how much students improve on standardized test scores, rather than raw test data. He also called on teachers and district officials in Los Angeles to focus on improved teacher evaluations as they work to negotiate a new contract. "L.A. faces a perfect opportunity, not a perfect storm," he said. (Los Angeles Times)

The key to good classroom management: The key to effectively managing a classroom is having a positive relationship with students based on trust, says New York Times columnist and author David Brooks. Maurice Elias, director of the Social-Emotional Learning Lab at Rutgers University, writes in this blog post about Brooks' belief that students will feel freer to learn, explore and ask questions in an environment where they are trusted and are treated as co-managers of the classroom. A teacher-student relationship based on fear, however, can lead to frustration and harm learning. (Edutopia)

Gates on teaching, education spending: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is focusing his latest philanthropic efforts on teacher effectiveness as a strategy for improving schools. In this Wall Street Journal interview, Gates shares some of his views on why education spending should not be cut and how teachers should be evaluated and paid. (The Wall Street Journal)

Detroit seeks charter operators to run struggling schools: Detroit is the latest in a series of large urban school districts that are seeking to turn over struggling schools to outside operators by next fall. However, some experts are skeptical about whether the strategy to turn over a third of Detroit's schools will work, in part because the cash-strapped district may not be able to garner adequate funding to attract top charter groups. The plan still must be approved by the school board. (Education Week)

Well-off districts feel the pinch of financial crunch: Even affluent school districts in the Chicago area are experiencing the effects of reduced property taxes and delayed state aid to schools, and some are preparing for unfamiliar classroom cuts and teacher layoffs. In one district, officials will lay off teachers, raise class sizes and cut electives if voters turn down a tax-rate increase. A neighboring district plans to eliminate several jobs of teachers, classroom assistants and an assistant principal. (Chicago Tribune)

Why do U.S. students struggle with science?: Lagging science performance by U.S. students is attributable to numerous complex factors, from inadequate teacher training to poverty and attitudes about learning, experts say. Students in affluent school districts often outperform their peers in poor areas, resulting in a race-based disparity in test scores and lower scores in large urban school districts. Experts say a common misconception that students' innate ability -- rather than hard work -- determines science performance also contributes to the problem. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

School News from Around Kentucky

House accepts Senate Medicaid bill, with pledge by Beshear to veto some provisions: In a surprise maneuver, the House Thursday night approved the Senate version of a bill to resolve the state's Medicaid budget shortfall — part of a strategy to get the bill to Gov. Steve Beshear so he can veto provisions he and the House deem unacceptable. The move would allow Beshear to delete cuts to education funding and other changes made by the Senate, leaving only the language from his original proposal that shifts state money into this year's Medicaid budget. (Courier-Journal)

New York firm gets contract to create online “improvement platform” for Kentucky teachers: The Kentucky Department of Education has inked a nearly $5.5 million, three-year contract with a New York technology firm to create a “one-stop shop” to help teachers incorporate new common core standards in their classrooms, and eventually give them instant access to tools to improve their teaching skills. The contract with Schoolnet, Inc. is slated to release its first product – the basics on teaching the new standards in English/language arts and math – by the end of next month. New resources for teachers are to be phased in this summer and fall and throughout 2012 and 2013. The contract, which includes ongoing support to KDE, runs through December 2014. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said CIITS – Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System – originally was part of Kentucky’s bid for federal Race to the Top funding. (KSBA)

Arson forces closure of school: An early morning fire Thursday at Horse Branch Elementary School in Ohio County appears to be arson, according to Sheriff David Thompson. The fire, which was reported by a neighbor at about 3:10 a.m., destroyed several outbuildings and caused damage to the school at 11980 U.S. 62 East. Thompson said a nearby fire, which occurred at the same time as the fire at the school, is also being investigated and may be related to the school arson.
But some residents are speculating that the fire had something to do with a meeting Thursday night where the school's future was discussed. (Messenger-Inquirer by way of KSBA and WFIE)

Frayser 2nd grader injured in bathroom incident: There are still a lot of questions about what happened inside a bathroom at a JCPS elementary school where a student was seriously hurt. Frayser Elementary parents say the second grader was found hanging from a hook in the bathroom by his shirt. JCPS District spokeswoman Lauren Roberts' allusion to the student's "medical issue" completely failed to satisfy parents seeking answers to why a second grade boy was found unconscious and hanging from a bathroom stall. "Something's not making no sense. The boy didn't do it himself I don't think," one parent said. (WAVE)

Ongoing feud at two JCPS schools alarms neighborhood: Police made their presence known Thursday at Western High School after several incidents over the past week.Police arrested a 17-year-old student earlier in the week for wanton endangerment and terroristic threatening. They say she was texting kids in the Victory Park neighborhood who then showed up across the street from Western. Later, police say shots were fired nearby. Then Wednesday, five students from Iroquois High School showed up outside Western. Four of them were charged with loitering and menacing. Thursday, a fifth student was arrested. Authorities say the 14-year-old had a pellet gun. (WHAS)

Lincoln County 6th Grade Center principal suspended: Acting Superintendent Karen Hatter confirmed that Jimmy Dyehouse had indeed been suspended with pay from his post the preceding Friday pending an investigation over an altercation between Dyehouse and a teacher at the school. Hatter said that she and Pam Hart, a former Lincoln County Middle School principal, are conducting the investigation into the altercation between Dyehouse and the teacher and hoped to have it concluded very soon. Hatter also denied some of the wilder allegations that the altercation took place in front of students and that she had escorted Dyehouse from the building last week. She said, that between classes, Dyehouse had entered a classroom and when a verbal conflict arose between the principal and the teacher, the teacher asked for some other teachers to be present to witness their conversation. Dyehouse was contacted for this story, but declined to comment on the advice of his lawyer. (Central Kentucky News)

Kenton Co. recognizes Hanner's efforts: On the eve of his retirement, Tim Hanner, the long-time educator praised as "a student-oriented superintendent" by former Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud, has been honored by Kenton County officials. Kenton County Commissioner Jon Draud, who previously served as Kentucky's education commissioner, quipped that he once tried to lure Hanner away from the Kenton County School District to serve as his associate commissioner, but was unsuccessful. Hanner's honors include being named 2010 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year. He also led a district that implemented the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics campus featuring the latest green infrastructure technologies. He started Hanner's Heroes, the Superintendent Advisory Board and the Student Advisory Program, and expanded the school system's gifted and talented programs. Last month, Hanner, 50, announced that he's retiring as superintendent on June 30 to devote his full attention to his health. Just before he was offered the superintendent's job in 2006, he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. (NKy.com)

Bullitt Advanced-study program popular, growing: An advanced math and science program that began last fall as a bit of an experiment has proved to be more than what Bullitt County school leaders expected. BAMS is designed to allow students, starting at the beginning of their freshman year, to earn their high school diplomas and up to about 60 hours of college credit in four years. While students were initially going to attend classes at Jefferson Community & Technical College at the end of their second year, they likely will also have the option of attending classes at the University of Louisville, said Kelly Cleavinger, the teacher who leads the program. (C-J)

Spencer Schools may cut SBDM funding to keep teachers: Site-based decision making councils at each of Spencer County’s schools could soon be facing cuts in the interest of preserving teacher positions.At the February board of education meeting, Superintendent Chuck Adams and board members had preliminary discussions about the district’s 2011-2012 staffing formula. The formula dictates the number of teachers allocated to each of the district’s five schools.Currently the district employs 419 classified and certified staff. Adams is opposed to the possibility of cutting teachers’ positions and recommended instead to decrease the per-child amount allotted to each school from $135 per child to $110. Kentucky House Bill 1 requires that school boards allot a minimum of $100 per student. Adams estimated the measure could return more than $62,000 in discretionary funds to the school board. He said if the funding was not needed for staffing, it could be returned to the SBDM councils later. (Spencer Magnet)

Board votes to appeal decision by commissioner: The dispute between local school districts over non-resident students remains unresolved as the Harlan Independent Board of Education has voted to appeal a recent decision by the Commissioner of Education to the State Board of Secondary Education.The city board met with approximately 100 parents and employees of the district at a special meeting Monday evening to discuss the situation and take questions before opting to take the issue to the state board for review. Nearly two weeks ago, Commissioner Terry Holliday ruled that for the 2011-12 school year the city and county districts should accept a largely status quo arrangement regarding students who live within one district’s boundaries but attend school in the other. (Harlan Daily Enterprise)

Ready or not, new state education standards are coming to classrooms: In a little more than five months, Kentucky schools must be ready to start teaching new, tougher common core content standards detailing what students should learn in math and English language arts...Not surprisingly, it's a stressful time for Kentucky educators as they prepare for such sweeping changes. Money could be an issue. The Kentucky Department of Education hoped to win millions in federal grant dollars to finance standards implementation, but that money never materialized. Instead, education officials plan to fund preparation this fiscal year with about $40 million reallocated from the regular state education budget. State Education Department spokeswoman Lisa Gross insisted that the department isn't "skimping" on preparation, but she said it is having to "take longer to do the things we want to do." Educators are so concerned that a few weeks ago some lobbied state lawmakers to delay the entire implementation process...But Kentucky Education Association president Sharron Oxendine contended that preparations in school districts across the state are "spotty at best." The state has provided "no new money" for preparation, she said. "I know some districts are moving ahead ... but not a lot of conversation has taken place so far in a lot of districts," Oxendine said. "I talked with a math teacher who was given a copy of the new math standards the day school started and told to go teach them. She wasn't given any professional development, no resources, nothing." (Herald-Leader)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Holliday on Kentucky Newsmakers

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday sat with WKYT's Bill Bryant this weekend for an interesting interview.

This from WKYT:

Highlights include:

  • The weather and calamity days under HB 427 which allow the Commissioner to excuse up to ten days. Nobody will go to school beyond June 21.
  • Holliday is looking at a switch to Average Daily Membership (ADM) rather than the current Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for calculating attendance. Probably a good move overall although it might not help small schools.
  • The TELL Survey has gather responses from about 25,000 Kentukcy teachers on working conditions and leadership in the schools. Look for results in May.
  • The state has removed about 17 school councils to date pursuant to (HB 176) Audit Team recommendations in low-performing schools.
  • Some stuff about conservative anxiety over cursive writing, civics, math by hand, grammar, penmanship... Holiday says we are "preparing children for their futures, not our past."
  • Holliday's best rejoinder came in response to concerns that today's students don't know their civics like their parents do. Holliday said, "I would challenge you: [You] pull randomly ten folks off the street and let me pull ten fourth graders and let's have a civics competition... I think our schools are doing pretty good work. Something happens when they become adults though. They forget what they learned in school."
  • Holliday is still open to charter schools and believes, "If parents have a choice, they're more engaged in their child's education." But he correctly reads the data an says there are some great charters and some really bad charters.
  • Rand Paul sees no federal role for education. Holliday disagrees and says [if there was no Department of Education] "I think children would suffer" particularly poor students and special needs students. "I think the federal government has a huge role to play in that.
  • A little chatter on the tenure debate.
  • Cooperation and collaboration with teachers, improved working conditions and fair evaluations...
  • Pension and health care..."about to put us out of business"
  • Stu at Prichard: "real excited about Stu going into that position"
  • Holliday's one goal: More kids graduate from HS college and career-ready
  • Bad budget and the Legislature: We look at 2013-14 as being a better session

Sunday, March 20, 2011

1 Minute to Eliminate Ray, 1 Hour 59 Minutes to Choose McPherson

Fayette school board hires
same search firm Jefferson board is using

This from Jim Warren at the Herald-Leader:

Fayette County Board of Education members voted unanimously Saturday to retain McPherson & Jacobson LLC, a superintendent search firm from Nebraska, to help find a successor to outgoing Superintendent Stu Silberman.

McPherson & Jacobson also has been hired by the Jefferson County Board of Education to coordinate its search for a new superintendent.

But Fayette board members said Saturday the two simultaneous searches should not conflict because McPherson would assign an entirely separate team to work on the Lexington effort.

The board hopes to meet with McPherson representatives next Thursday or Saturday to negotiate details of a contract, said Fayette Board Chairman John Price.

The Fayette board also agreed Saturday to use the services of the Kentucky School Boards Association to assist McPherson in the superintendent search on an "as needed basis." The association's familiarity with Kentucky's education system and laws would be an added benefit, board members said.

Price stressed the board will hold a fully transparent superintendent search, and give the public extensive opportunities to advise the board on what qualities Lexington wants in a new school superintendent. The board is developing an extensive list of public focus groups to offer input.

"We want to make sure everybody is at the table," Price said. "The more people we can reach out to make a part of the process, the better will be the outcome." ...

It's a good thing, and easy choice, to avoid Ray & Associates. You never know what you're going to get. After the embarassing 2003 spectacle Ray made of avoiding public input for a public position in Fayette County and the outrageous failure of Ray during the Barbara Erwin affair, I can't imagine how they got 69 points. Price and the Board are doing the right thing. The position needs a solid public vetting.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Berman Headed to Eugene

Where Charter Schools Await

This from Toni at C-J:

JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman
hired to lead Eugene, Oregon schools

Outgoing Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman has been named the new school chief in Eugene, Ore. The Eugene School Board voted 7-0 Wednesday night to hire Berman, one of three finalists, as their next superintendent.

“Dr. Berman is a visionary educational leader and has engaged both staff and community members in moving schools forward through difficult conditions,” Eugene school board chairman Craig Smith said in a prepared statement. “We believe he is an excellent fit for Eugene.”

The district, the fourth largest in Oregon, has about 16,500 students in 38 schools, including three public charter schools, and an annual budget of $140 million. By comparison, JCPS has approximately 100,000 students in 155 schools and an operating budget of about $1 billion...

Arne Duncan’s useful exaggeration

This from Jay Mathews at WaPo's Class Struggle:

As my colleague Nick Anderson reported recently, Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimates that 82 percent of U.S. public schools will miss their academic targets this year as the federal No Child Left Behind law raises the bar higher than most schools can jump.

This was predicted by many experts when the law took effect in 2002. Its demand that nearly all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 was hopeless, but unavoidable. Members of Congress knew they would be ridiculed if they passed a law saying that 15 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent---pick your favorite number—of children would not learn.

What is most interesting about Duncan’s estimate, however, is not that so many schools are unable to meet the law’s standards, but that so many experts insisted Duncan’s expected 82 percent failure rate for 2011 was wildly exaggerated. Only 37 percent of schools missed their targets last year. This year’s percentage will be more than that, experts said, but nowhere near that much.

What is going on is an old clash of statistics and politics.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quick Hits

Obama urges Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind: President Barack Obama urged Congress to revamp the federal No Child Left Behind law, citing new figures that four out of five schools will be labeled as failing under the law if it is not changed. "That's an astonishing number," Obama said. "We know that four out of five schools in this country aren't failing. So what we're doing to measure success and failure is out of line." Obama wants the law rewritten by September, but one top Republican called that deadline "arbitrary." (The Associated Press) (The New York Times) (The Christian Science Monitor)

Helping students understand Japan's nuclear crisis: The writers of this blog post offer suggestions for teaching students about the nuclear crisis in Japan. Students can explore the pros and cons of nuclear energy and research the ongoing situation at the Japanese reactors. They can then work in groups to write news bulletins that explain aspects of the events as part of an exercise that is aligned with national academic standards. (NYTimes/The Learning Network blog)

Students rally to keep teachers amid L.A. budget cuts: About 7,000 Los Angeles teachers have received layoff notices. While some educators may be spared, students at Hamilton High School are acting to save their teachers' jobs. Students have begun writing e-mails to school board members and others to tell officials how important their teachers are. "Teachers here are amazing," said senior Naomi Hecht. (Los Angeles Times)

Tight budgets lead more schools to consider advertising on buses: Advertising on school buses is increasing as cash-strapped districts look for more sources of revenue. However, the trend poses challenges for school officials, who must weigh financial benefits against the potential for controversy over advertising content. One advertising executive said ads on 100 buses could equate to $500,000 in revenue for a district over four years. (USA TODAY)

Latest version of federal budget keeps education cuts: The U.S. House has approved a new extension of a fiscal year 2010 federal spending bill that maintains previous cuts to education programs, such as the National Writing Project and others. The bill does not include further cuts to education, which President Barack Obama has said he opposes. Congress will have three weeks to approve a federal spending bill for the remainder of fiscal 2011. (Politics K-12)

Connecticut schools face wide achievement gap: Connecticut schools are working to close a socioeconomic-based achievement gap that is the widest of any state in the country. The issue is seen in both urban and suburban schools and has been compounded by immigrants coming to Connecticut. Experts and educators say a student's home life is the main factor behind the gap. In West Hartford, educators have introduced prekindergarten and opened a family resource center to help address those needs. (The Hechinger Report)

More Colorado students are taking concurrent-enrollment classes: Colorado students are increasingly participating in concurrent-enrollment programs that allow them to earn college credits while still in high school. Nearly 6,500 students are participating in concurrent enrollment, up from 1,750 in 2005. Most are taking community college courses. Educators say the courses encourage more students to consider higher education, and students say the program reduces the cost of tuition and prepares them for college-level work. (The Denver Post)

Can Florida afford to implement teacher merit pay?: Plans to implement a merit-pay system for teachers are moving forward in Florida, but lawmakers have yet to specify how the state will pay for the plan. In addition to funding the merit-pay bonuses, the state faces the costs of developing new evaluation systems and training employees at a time of reduced funding for schools. Legislators in the state House were poised today to approve the merit-pay plan, which has already cleared the state Senate. (Orlando Sentinel)

Report calls for raising the status of U.S. teachers: Elevating the status of the U.S. teaching profession by raising standards for teacher recruitment, training and pay could help to improve schools, according to a report by the Program for International Student Assessment. Doing so would put the U.S. in the category of countries with top-performing school systems, according to the report. "Dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership," Pisa's Andreas Schleicher writes in the report. (The New York Times)

Colorado district approves pilot voucher program: Officials in Colorado's Douglas County approved a pilot voucher program that will offer up to 500 students $4,575 each toward private-school tuition. In response to criticism over the vouchers being used at religious schools, the board expanded the pool of eligible private schools and added a provision allowing students to opt out of religious instruction. Supporters of the plan say it will expand school choice, while critics say it is not needed because the district is one of the highest-achieving in the state. (The Denver Post)

Digital learning is tested as part of NYC Innovation Zone: New York City schools are working to develop and test new ways to improve and customize education -- primarily using digital tools and other technology -- through the city's three-year Innovation Zone initiative. Strategies being tested include a program that individualizes students' lessons in math and language arts and a 1:1 computing program that encourages students to work at their own pace. Organizers are set to expand the program next year, with plans to broaden its reach to 400 schools by 2013-14. (Education Week)

School combines team teaching, regular progress meetings: A Maryland elementary school combines team teaching with regular conferences aimed at monitoring the progress of individual students. The teaching teams include one teacher and one specialized interventionist, who could be a math or reading specialist or a special educator. The Kid Talks, held three times a year, help educators match resources with students. "We're smarter together than we are as one," principal Steve Raff said. (The Frederick News-Post)

How will struggling Boston school fare as a charter?: When Boston's struggling Gavin Middle School becomes a charter school this fall, about 91% of its former students will return. The school, which is to be run by nonprofit Unlocking Potential, is expected to employ union teachers, who will put to the test reforms such as longer hours, stricter evaluations and a merit-pay system. (The Boston Globe)

Protesters decry planned education cuts in Texas: More than 11,000 teachers, students and parents rallied Saturday at the state capitol in Austin, Texas, against proposed cuts to education funding. Gov. Rick Perry is proposing the cuts to help cover a state-revenue shortage of $27 billion, but protesters say the cuts will harm the future of education in the state. (San Antonio Express-News)

41 Detroit public schools could be turned into charters: Officials in Detroit have proposed turning 41 public schools over to charter-school operators in an attempt to cut costs and improve student achievement. It is unclear how many teachers would be laid off if the change is approved by the district's school board. However, union leaders oppose the charter-school plan, saying such schools do not always improve achievement. (The Wall Street Journal)

Can goal-setting programs help students raise achievement?: Some schools are looking to boost student achievement by implementing goal-setting programs that help students identify and reach measurable, attainable targets in a set time frame. The approach allows students to break down bigger-picture goals into smaller steps and use specific strategies to overcome obstacles. (The Wall Street Journal)

Wis. Assembly passes bill curbing workers' rights: Legislators in the Wisconsin Assembly voted largely along party lines to approve a bill that would limit the collective-bargaining rights of public workers, including teachers. Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign the bill into law soon. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

School bullying is the focus of presidential conference: President Barack Obama discussed his own experiences being teased in school when he was young, as he and first lady Michelle Obama convened a conference on bullying Thursday to raise awareness about an issue said to affect one-third of students in U.S schools. They called on parents and teachers to consider how they can offer more support to students and create safer school environments. The summit also included a live chat on Facebook. (The Associated Press) (The Christian Science Monitor)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Petrilli Appeal Denied

Court of Appeals Affirms Judge Ishmael in Petrilli Case

Procedural Error Helps Sink Petrilli

The “failure to specifically object
to the final written instructions means
the objection to the language. . .
has not been properly preserved for our review.”

--Kentucky Court of Appeals

Despite negative comments made during oral arguments by two of the three appeals court judges regarding jury instructions in the Petrilli case, the panel upheld those instructions in favor of the lower court and the Fayette County Schools today.

Former Booker T Washington Academy Principal Peggy Petrilli had appealed an August 14, 2009, judgment of the Fayette Circuit Court dismissing, with prejudice, her claims against defendants, Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman, and the Fayette County Board of Education.
Silberman and the Board cross appealed, asserting several errors by the trial court.
The Appeals Court ruling can be found by searching 2009-CA-001925 at the court's website.

Despite the judges' misgivings about the jury instruction, the court ultimately agreed with school district Attorney John McNeill that Petrilli did not "preserve the issue" of the threshold jury instruction for appellate review.
Failure to preserve an issue for review is a procedural matter for the courts. As I understand it, in order to “preserve” an issue for appellate review, the attorney must object to the matter during the trial, and it must be ruled on by the judge. McNeil argued successfully that Petrilli's Attorney J. Dale Golden’s objections came during a preliminary hearing, not during the trial itself.
The full court reasoned,
Petrilli argues that the trial court erred in creating a threshold jury instruction that superseded the elements for reverse discrimination, retaliation, and violation of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act.

The jury was given the following threshold jury instruction: “Do you believe from the evidence that the Plaintiff, Peggy Petrilli, voluntarily resigned from her position as principal of Booker T. Washington Academy on August 27, 2007?”

The jury marked “yes” and returned to the courtroom where the trial judge discharged them from further duties. Ms. Petrilli argues that the threshold instruction was given in error because it is completely different from the elements of her claims for reverse discrimination, retaliation, and violation of the Kentucky
Whistleblower Act.

The appellees argue that Petrilli did not preserve the issue of the threshold jury instruction for appellate review. In support of this argument, the appellees argue that Petrilli cites a discussion before the close of proof for the preservation of this issue. However, the record reveals that this was a preliminary discussion over the general structure of the jury instructions. According to the appellees, the trial court made it clear that it had put together an amalgamation set of instructions which included elements of both the Plaintiff and Defendant’s tendered instructions “for a
place to start” in drafting the final instructions.

According to the appellees, the trial court did not issue its final jury instructions until later that day, and only after the close of proof. Petrilli made no objection at that time to the threshold Question No. 1, and instead only objected to Jury Instruction No. 1, and her objection only dealt with whether the instruction should include a finding that Petrilli was a member of a protected class as it pertained to the reverse discrimination claim.

The “failure to specifically object to the final written instructions means the objection to the language. . . has not been properly preserved for our review.” Boland-Maloney Lumber Co., Inc. v. Burnett, 302 S.W.3d 680, 690 (Ky.App. 2009). Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 51(2) and (3) provide:
(2) After considering any tendered instructions ... the court shall show the parties the written instructions it will give the jury, allowing them an opportunity to make objections out of the hearing of the jury.

(3) No party may assign as error the giving or the failure to give an instruction unless he has fairly and adequately presented his position by an offered instruction or by motion, or unless he makes objection before the court instructs the jury, stating specifically the matter to which he objects and the ground or grounds of his objection.
Because Ms. Petrilli did not object to the threshold jury instruction at the close of proof, we agree with the appellees that she did not preserve this argument for review on appeal.
Petrilli argues that simply tendering her own jury instructions preserved this issue for appeal. We disagree. In Boland, the Appellant submitted its own instructions, and in lieu of objecting to the language they later took issue with on appeal, asked the court if they could “stand on their instructions as submitted.” Id. at 690.
A panel of this Court held that the particular language the Appellant argued on appeal was improper, had not been objected to specifically, and thus the matter was
not properly preserved for appeal. In the instant case, Petrilli objected to a different jury instruction regarding her inclusion in a protected class for her reverse discrimination claim, but did not specifically object to the “voluntary” language contained threshold Question No. 1. Accordingly, Petrilli did not preserve this argument for appeal to this Court.
But that's not all. The court turned 180 degrees from their comments during oral arguments and concluded,
We agree with the appellees that the trial court’s reasoning for including the threshold jury instruction/question was basic and correct. If the jury believed from the evidence that Petrilli voluntarily resigned, then necessarily they must not have believed she was constructively discharged.

Judges Acree and Thompson agreed with the majority in the result only, and Judge Thompson wrote a separate opinion citing his disagreement with the court's analysis in the jury instruction finding. However, he writes that,

Despite my disagreement with the majority’s legal analysis, I nevertheless concur in the result because, at the close of trial, the appellees were entitled to a directed verdict. The evidence established that the parents, not the school board, were the perpetrators of the conduct complained of by Petrilli.

Perhaps Silberman's strongest argument throughout the case was his offer to return Petrilli to Northern Elementary. In a footnote the court agreed saying,

"a lateral transfer of a principal is not even considered a demotion as defined by [KRS 161.720]...Therefore, Silberman could have sent Petrilli back to Northern Elementary without her consent and without recourse. However, she declined the lateral transfer and instead resigned her position."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Which Gap to Close

By Skip Kifer

Both No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Kentucky's Senate Bill 1 (SB1) refer to achievement gaps and include expectations for closing them. As defined by Kentucky's Senate Bill 168 (SB168) and NCLB, gaps are differences in test scores based on gender, disabilities, limited English proficiency, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. Each school in the Commonwealth - given a set of rules about what is a gap - is expected to minimize differences between those groups, thereby closing it. It is implied that one expects each student's score to increase but those with lower scores are expected to increase by greater amounts. There is a desire for overall improvement in test scores as well as improvement in closing a gap.

As I write, there has been no reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act (NCLB) so there is no decision about how to define a gap or how to decide whether a gap is closing. To my knowledge, no decision has been made about how the implementation of SB1 will deal with those issues, either. I expect, for reasons discussed below, NCLB definitions to change. My guess is that Kentucky's might also change.

NCLB now defines an achievement gap as a difference between the percent proficient for one group, say girls, versus that of another, say boys. For a school to close the gap, it must reduce the differences between the two percentages. For SB168, Kentucky initially used a complicated average difference to look at closing the gap. That is, a school closed an achievement gap when it reduced, by a set amount, the weighted average between groups of achievement differences across grade levels and content areas.

In what follows, I hope to point out the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches and then suggest a third alternative for consideration. It is so easy for one to mouth the words "closing achievement gaps" without being aware of the technical difficulties of defining the gap and knowing either when it exists or when it has been closed. As a way to discuss the issues, I created data[1] and drew pictures of them.

Figure 1. Six representations of an achievement gap.

Figure 1 contains six pictures of the data. The graphs depict comparisons for one grade level and content area; for example, fourth grade reading. Three pictures (A,C,E) on the left are ways to show shapes, centers and spreads of the data. Three pictures on the right (B,D,F) are ways to show the gaps across levels of the test scores. Pictures A&C and B&D are the same but will be used to describe different features of the data.

Centers, Shapes, Spreads - Averages as Gaps

Figures 1A and 1C compare two groups, one of which is four times larger than the other. The size difference could happen if, for example, one was comparing majority students to minority students. Such differences in size do not affect the ensuing discussion. The groups could be of equal size, too. These dotplots are just detailed histograms that better represent the shapes and spreads of the distributions. A reader should see several things in Figure 1A: the distributions overlap substantially, the shapes are rather similar; the spreads are similar; but, the centers are different. The bottom distribution is shifted to the left indicating lower average performance for Group 2. That average difference could be a measure of the "achievement gap."

Figure 1B is another way to describe the data. This is a particularly good way to view cut-points that are used as the percent proficient goals. The lines I added to the figure are guides to interpreting the data. These curves depict what parts of a score group are at or below certain values. For example, if one follows the lines, one can see that fifty percent of Group 2 students score at or below 35. The comparable number is 40 for Group 1, the higher scoring group. The differences in those percents is the measure of the gap when the cut-point is 40 (i.e., 40 represents the goal, the desired percent, the percent proficient). One's eye can see different achievement gaps as the curves move from about 10 to 70.

Percent Proficient (Cut-points) as Gap Measures

In Kentucky there are three major cut-points, producing four major scoring categories - Novice, Apprentice, Proficient, and Distinguished. NCLB requires at least three categories of performance and that percent proficient be the cut-point for determining gaps.

There are several desirable properties of defining the gap in terms of cut-points.

  1. There are several well-defined, judgmental methods to define the cut-points, i.e. what will be called a proficient performance.
  2. Given the defined cut-points, it is straight-forward to calculate the gap and changes in the gap. This is especially true for summing across grade levels and content areas within a school.
  3. Coupled with a long-term goal of each student being proficient, the gaps are eliminated when the goal is met.
  4. The notions of being proficient in a subject area and having the percent proficient be the indicator of success, are easily conveyed to a broad audience.

There are several undesirable properties as well.

Perhaps the most serious one is depicted in Figure 1D. It shows that if the cut-point is at 40 rather than 50, the gap will be almost double the size. That is, the size of the gap varies according to where a cut-point is placed. Since the methods used to determine cut-points are judgmental, there is no one logical, well-defined place on the scoring scale to place a cut-point. That is a major reason why different states have different percents of students who are proficient.

Another weakness of cut-points as proficiency standards is that if those in the school wished to "game" the system, it is clear how that might be done. A gap can be narrowed by dealing with only a small proportion of the students. One should focus on students in the lower scoring group who are below but not too far below the cut-point. When they are moved to or above the cut-point, the gap is narrowed despite the performance of lowest scoring students. So differences in the percent proficient can be minimized by working with relatively few students.

Conversely, a school could increase dramatically the scores of the lowest scoring students without having an impact on the percent proficient. Imagine moving each student below the cut-point closer to the cut-point. Although the accomplishment would be dramatic, it would have no impact on the percent proficient.

The combination of using cut-points with a rule that each student must be proficient in a certain amount of time, gives a school an impossible task. Figure 1C shows where the cut-points of 1D fall on the score distributions. When the percent proficient is at a score of 50, 90 per cent of students in Group 2 must be moved to or past the cut-off. For Group 1 which is four times greater than Group 2 more than 80 percent of students must be likewise moved. When the cut-point is lower, the task is less onerous, about 70 and 50 percent respectively. I know of no empirical results that show such dramatics effects.

Finally, the whole idea of being proficient may be illusory. Simply placing a label on a test score does not make it true. Tests labeled science, for instance, may be very different kinds of tests. The science portion of Explore, the ACT eighth grade test contains only multiple choice questions and requires an inordinate amount of reading. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) eighth grade science contains constructed response and extended constructed response questions and tends to minimize the effects of reading. Whatever proficient may be, it is likely to result in substantially different definitions depending on what science measure is used. And they both are wrong!

Mean Differences as Gap Measures

Just as for cut-points, defining achievement gaps in terms of mean differences have both desirable and undesirable properties. The positive aspects of such a definition include:

  1. Given data that are approximately bell-shaped the mean is a good typical value;
  2. As opposed to a cut-point definition where not all students are affected, the mean takes into account all cases.
  3. An average is a number most persons understand.

But, as I tell my students "never a center without a spread." Figures 1E and 1F show the effects on differences between groups when the spreads differ. The difference between the figures is about 2 1/2 points, a standard deviation of 10 for the first four and between 7 and 8 for the last two. The differences in the cumulative distributions get rapidly "fatter" above the mean of 40 (incidentally, the area between cumulative distributions is equal to the difference between means for the two groups). Minimizing differences when spreads are small may mean something different than when they are large.

Because decreasing mean differences may mean different things depending on the spread of data, it creates interpretation problems across grade levels and content area. Unlike summing percents based on cut-points, there is a question of how one should sum the effects to get an overall school index.

It is possible to "game" the means, although effects may be smaller than what one gets when gaming the cut-point definitions. If one believes, for example, that there are faster and slower learners, then to focus on relatively fast learners in the lowest scoring group could provide bigger gains that focusing on each of the students.

Finally, if it were just a matter of reducing differences between means, there would not necessarily be improvement across the system. So, there should be some specification of an expected amount of improvement.

Effect Sizes and Mastery Learning

An effect size, classically defined, is the mean for a treatment group, minus the control group mean, divided by the control group standard deviation.

This standardizes mean differences making them interpretable in terms of standard deviation units. The general idea can be used in the context of gap differences. For the data I have displayed, Group 1 has a mean of 40 and Group 2 has a mean of 35. Using the larger group's standard deviation of 10, we come up with an effect size of .5, that is, Group 1 performance is on the average 1/2 of a standard deviation higher. That magnitude of effect often would be interpreted as a medium sized.

These effect sizes can be summed over content areas and grade levels in a school to produce a school index. It would take some empirical work to decide how much the index should be reduced in order to say that an achievement gap is closing.

Although effect sizes respond nicely to the question of different spreads they do not help when it comes to different shapes. When Ben Bloom in 1967 outlined the properties of his approach to Learning for Mastery, he recognized the problem of only dealing with average improvement. So his goals included not only influencing average performance but also influencing the spread and shape of performance. The goals are to raise the mean, minimize the variance, and skew the distribution! A desirable outcome, then, is a heavily positively skewed set of higher scores rather than ones that look bell-shaped.

I don't know of anyone who has argued for reducing spreads and creating positive skewness as measures related to closing the achievement gap. Perhaps someone should. It may be worth a look.


If I were to decide what to use as indicators for defining a gap and determining whether it has been closed, I would not use either a method based on cut-points or simple mean differences. I would start with effect sizes and then do some analyzes to determine whether indicators of reducing variation or creating positively skewed outcome data are other possible measures.

What ever measure is chosen, it should be grounded in empirical results. So, there is a major task for the assessment persons in the Kentucky Department of Education to analyze their assessment data and come up with defensible suggestions for measuring a gap, measuring how much it changes, and how much it must change before deciding that the gap has been reduced.


I have tried to respond directly to the gap issues without divulging my reluctance to base decisions about what is a good or effective school simply on the basis of test scores. Or, for that matter, whether schools should be held accountable for "gaps" that are based only on test scores. There is what I consider a naive view that backgrounds of students should be ignored when looking at whether schools are effective. At the same time there is an almost religious belief in the efficacy of test scores as the way to determine whether a school is good. Such views defy common experience and ignore research about schools and schooling. Some schools, for example, have relatively small amounts of turnover during a school year; others turnover almost completely. Some schools have huge amount of parental participation; others have virtually none. And, it remains true that the strongest within country correlations with test scores in international studies are based on the background characteristics of students.

The effects of schooling are many, diverse, desirable and undesirable, both short term and long term. Tests get at a small number of similar, desirable, short term effects. NCLB ignores most content areas in judging schools. The Commonwealth's assessment measures fewer than half of its goals. What ever happened to self-sufficiency, effective group membership, and integration of knowledge?

Tests do not get at whether a school produces persons who are thoughtful and reflective. They do not get at whether persons are well-informed. They do not get at how well persons work together or how they well they respect other persons and other points of view. They do not get at whether a school produces good citizens. Good schools do all of the above! Those things are as worth thinking about as is the achievement gap, however defined.

[1] I produced these data. They do, however, mimic those I analyzed for a paper on the gap.