WDRB in Louisville broke a major story yesterday, raising questions about how money supplied by the state legislature for what was supposed to be a reading support program in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) got diverted to pay nurses’ salaries instead.
At issue: possible misappropriation of state funds
Reaction from the new administration in Frankfort wasn’t slow in coming. Kentucky’s new Secretary of Education Hal Heiner immediately brought the potential misappropriation of funds from the Every1Reads student reading program to staff salaries. Apparently, the new Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts is also concerned. WDRB now reports that Auditor Mike Harmon is going to be doing another audit of the JCPS even though one was recently conducted by his predecessor, Adam Edelin. However, Edelin’s audit apparently didn’t look into the fiscal areas where the Every1Reads situation would have been discovered.
So far, JCPS spokespeople are claiming there was no fault in the redirection of money because it was being reported openly in the automated MUNIS fiscal accounting system.
However, WDRB already has interviewed a number of legislators who voted for the budget who all thought the money was being spent to help kids learn to read and not being redirected to another use not in the budget language. The Kentucky Department of Education claims it didn’t know about the redirection, either.
One thing we already know at the Bluegrass Institute is that Every1Reads was always guilty of a major misrepresentation of actual reading performance in JCPS schools.
Years ago, JCPS started reporting improbably high numbers of the district’s students were reading “at or above grade level.” When I looked into that claim, it turned out the district had applied its own, misleading scoring scheme to the state’s Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) reading test results. The official scoring scale for CATS was the familiar Novice, Apprentice, Proficient and Distinguished scale still in use with the current KPREP system. There never was an “at grade level” score.
Jefferson County not only fabricated its own scores for CATS, but it declared that all students who only reached the “Apprentice” level were “at grade level.” The Kentucky Department of Education and the state board, which legally has sole authority to assign scoring schemes for the state’s tests, always indicated that “Proficient” was the target to be met.
As this graph from a very old BIPPS blog shows, the Every1Reads scoring deception went back to at least 2007.
So, long before the fiscal impropriety question surfaced, Every1Reads was already problematic.
Flash forward to the present, and there is current evidence that JCPS should not be pulling money away from efforts to help students learn to read.
Our comparison of eighth grade EXPLORE scores for the district from 2011-12 to 2014-15 shows that reading scores dropped dramatically for both whites and blacks during this period. The percentage of Jefferson County Whites scoring at or above the EXPLORE Readiness Benchmark Score for reading dropped 3.5 points and the blacks readiness dropped 3.8 points (Source: Kentucky School Report Cards for Jefferson County for 2011-12 and 2014-15).
The tenth grade PLAN scores for Jefferson County show significant reading declines for whites and blacks in Jefferson County, as well.
In any event, stand by for more on this one, which could involve the illegal misappropriation of somewhere between $4 to 5 million since the nurses first started getting money intended for Every1Reads around 2009.