But, Right-to-Work is an even hotter topic in various counties around Kentucky, which is where the business rubber actually meets the road. Hear Simpson County Judge Executive Jim Henderson explain how local, bi-partisan efforts in his county to improve their business climate led to one of the first adoptions of a County Right-to-Work ordinance in the Bluegrass State.
But, Right-to-Work is an even hotter topic in various counties around Kentucky, which is where the business rubber actually meets the road. So, local counties in Kentucky are not waiting for Frankfort’s foot draggers. Instead, as pointed out by Bluegrass Institute’s president Jim Waters and a number of Kentucky’s leaders in a Frankfort press conference today, local bi-partisan efforts in a growing number of Kentucky’s counties are taking advantage of the state’s home rule legislation to enact Right-to-Work laws in their home communities.
Learn more about this exciting local-government-in-action story by viewing Jim’s press conference comments here:
We got more evidence of this priority when No Child Left Behind came along with its heavy focus on those two, pivotal subjects.
So, my interest was piqued when the Kentucky Board of Education received its annual report on February 4, 2015 on the progress of Kentucky’s “Priority Schools,” which used to be called the “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.” How did things look for the bread and butter stuff?
As expected, the department tried to make as good a show of their data as possible. In fact, the Power Point used to brief the board was titled, “Priority Schools, Kentucky’s Success Stories.” There were a lot of figures from Unbridled Learning including a “hurrah” that five of the Priority Schools, once among the lowest performers in Kentucky, were now “Distinguished” schools. That sounded pretty amazing.
The presentation included hardly any negative comments. Most notably, there was no information on the math and reading performance. You have to dig into the full report to find that. And, you have to go to the very end of the full report – Page 40 and on, to be exact – to find out how the Priority Schools are doing with reading and math.
I slugged through that information for you to set up an Excel spreadsheet, Percentage of Students Rated P or More in Reading and Math Combined in PLAs for Gap and All Student Groups, so I could see what is happening. Here are some summaries of what I found:
• In 2014, out of the 39 schools still in the Priority Schools program, only 13 – just 33 percent – got a combined math and reading average proficiency rate above the statewide average for their minority and disadvantaged students (the department collectively calls these students the “Gap Group,” a term some of my friends in the minority community don’t like).
• All but one of the 39 Priority Schools had sufficient data to compute a desired 2014 target reading/math proficiency rate for their students who traditionally have under-performed. Only four of the 38 schools met their target in 2014.
• There also are average student scores for all students in each school. All 39 Priority Schools had reported scores in 2014, but only seven schools scored above the statewide average.
• There were targets for the all student scores, as well. Only five of the 38 schools that had data reached their combined reading/math proficiency rate targets.
• If we are going to move forward in these schools, it is obvious that proficiency rates in reading and math need to improve. So, I was particularly disturbed to find that 15 of the 39 schools actually experienced a decline in their combined reading/math proficiency rates for their traditionally under-performing student populations between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school terms.
• Even if we include the non-disadvantaged students in the Priority Schools, a total of 15 out of the 39 schools, or 38 percent, experienced a drop in their combined reading/math proficiency rates between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school terms.
There was one more bit of information. More than half of the 39 schools, 24 of them, did see a reduction in the gap between their disadvantaged students’ reading/math proficiency rate and the overall average reading/math proficiency rate for all their students. That seems impressive until you learn that 11 of those 24 schools only saw their achievement gap decrease because their “all student” scores decreased between 2011-12 and 2013-14. That’s not the way we want to reduce gaps.
The bottom line is that when we look at basic, bread and butter scores for Kentucky’s Priority School students, things don’t look that impressive. In far too many cases the math and reading performance is weak and even trending in the wrong direction. Clearly, we need to try something else.
Education commissioner worried: New minimum dropout age of 18 may lead to districts playing games with homeschooling
Were similar games already played with Kentucky’s high school graduation rates?
There was a lot of “High Fiving” in Frankfort recently because the last school districts in Kentucky finally adopted a minimum high school dropout age of 18. It sounds positive. But, unfortunately, there is an obvious way for local schools to do an end run around the new policy. And, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is obviously concerned.
The facts are that Schools can jimmy both their dropout statistics and their high school graduation rates simply by reporting that problem students transferred to home school. That gets rid of troublesome kids who are fed up with school and at the same time effectively removes those students from the state’s graduation rate and dropout rate calculations.
Apparently, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is hearing enough rumors about this problem that during last week’s state board of education meeting he called for a new report to be created annually by his department to track students who shift from high school to home school.
This story could get interesting and could impact both public schools and legitimate home school students. There is no surprise that the Herald-Leader already picked it up.
I don’t generally favor the state interfering with homeschooling parents; but, this particular effort might be needed to insure we don’t experience widespread corruption of our dropout and graduation rate statistics. After things like the recent staff cheating events in Louisville’s prestigious Male High School, the disturbingly constant trickle of evidence of inappropriate teacher/student relations, and other educator misbehavior, I am not quite as ready as the commissioner to feel there is not much cause for worry about what goes on in our schools.
And, to reiterate, dropout stats are not the only problem. Under the new graduation rate formula, Kentucky’s high school graduation rates also get inflated when kids who are really high school dropouts get reported as transfers to home school, instead.
Will this happen here?
The Hechinger Report has a very disturbing article about how new replacement tests for the old GED are getting corrupted in New York. Per Hechinger, 20-year old Nurul Ali says he passed New York’s new replacement for the GED, the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC, even though he guessed at many of the science test questions because the material was something he had never heard of before.
Ali apparently passed because while the new TASC has a lot of hard questions, an applicant only has to correctly answer somewhere around 30 to 40 percent. On tests with four possible answers to each question, pure guessing should generate about a 25 percent score, so not much knowledge is needed to get over that 30 percent level.
So far, Kentucky has kept the recently rewritten GED as its alternate high school completion measure, but the new GED started out with both hard questions and fairly rigorous scoring. Nationwide, Hechinger says that dumped the pass rate on the new GED dramatically from the rates on the old test.
According to Hechinger’s article:
“The GED Testing Service estimates that the number of people passing in 2014 was about 90,000, down dramatically from 540,535 in 2013 when there was a rush to take the previous “easier” GED and down from 401,388 in 2012.”
With alternative, dumbed down options to the GED out there now, there will be a lot of pressure on the new GED to dumb down, as well.
And, the experience of TASC shows that even hard questions on a test may not mean it is all that difficult to get a passing score. It all depends upon whatever standards the educators running the program really chose to use.
But, charter school bill advances, anyway
The Kentucky Senate’s Education Committee voted on February 5, 2015 on the Senate Bill 8 to create a charter school pilot in Kentucky. During the discussion before the vote, Senator Reginald Thomas (D) Lexington, argued that charter schools are not required. Along the way he said several things that merit discussion, including his comments about what he called the “Fayette County Equity Council.”
For a little background, what is actually the Fayette County Public Schools Equity Council was formed out of a predecessor Equity Task Force in 1999 (not in 1994 as Sen. Thomas stated) to deal with chronic achievement gaps for minority students in Fayette County Schools. After 16 years, the latest KPREP testing reported in the 2014 Fayette County School Report Card shows a solution to the achievement gaps continues to elude the Council and Fayette County Public Schools, as well.
In any event, Sen. Thomas talked about the “Fayette County Equity Council” during his comments on SB-8. He said this council is “independent of the Fayette County Schools.” That’s not correct. The truth is that the Fayette County Public Schools Equity Council is directly supported by the Fayette County School District. In fact, the local board of education has considerable control over who sits on the council. Ten of the 15 board members are directly appointed by members of the Fayette County Board of Education. The other five Equity Council members are in turn selected by those 10 appointed members. Clearly, the Equity Council is unlikely to go against the wishes of the local school board members who appoint the majority of them.
At another point in his presentation, Sen. Thomas talked about how no members of the Equity Council had expressed a desire for charter schools. In fact, the council has never taken up the issue. Given their close relationship to the Fayette County Board of Education, it would be surprising if they had, and such a discussion might be beyond the authority of the Equity Council in any event.
Sen. Thomas’ comments didn’t impress another legislator from the Lexington area. During the committee voting on SB-8, Senator Alice Forgy Kerr (R) Fayette County, explained her “Aye” vote this way:
By the way, SB-8 cleared the Kentucky Senate on February 6, 2015 by a 23 to 12 vote and has now been forwarded to the Kentucky House. This may be the largest majority vote ever enjoyed by a charter school bill in Kentucky and shows sharply growing numbers of Kentuckians are unhappy about the achievement gaps in this state and are increasingly willing to see if charter schools can help to turn this chronic problem around.