“There is cause for concern about teacher performance when Kentucky’s white students only outscored whites in one other state (West Virginia) and whites in 42 states (including California) outscored ours on the National Assessment of Educational Progress 8th Grade Math Assessment in 2013.” –Richard Innes, BIPPS staff education analyst
A California judge just ruled it is in that state
The NY Times reports that two days ago a landmark decision finding public school teacher tenure unconstitutional was handed down in the Los Angeles Superior Court room of Judge Rolf M. Treu. The suit was brought by a group of student plaintiffs who are backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire. The students said tenure laws deprived them of a decent education because bad teachers were left in place.
In a move likely to turn organized teachers strongly against the administration, the decision in the case – Vergara v. California – was enthusiastically endorsed by US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Judge Treu said:
“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
It will take some research to see if Kentucky’s constitution would support a similar tenure challenge in the Bluegrass State.
Also, in part due to union influence, unlike California, Kentucky currently lacks an effective and public teacher evaluation system (teacher ratings in California are published in the media). This makes it difficult to determine how serious the problem of bad tenured teachers is in the commonwealth.
Monday’s meeting of the Kentucky Legislature’s Interim Joint Education Committee brought some very interesting revelations.
Some of those interesting comments came during questions and answers between Kentucky Senator Katie Stine and Gene Bottoms, the Senior Vice President of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).
Listen here to learn that if you think non-college bound students can get by in today’s world without much math and science, you are badly mistaken.
WKMS, the NPR station at Murray State University, posted “Kentucky Education Commissioner Weighs In on Next Generation Science Standards” yesterday. This article helps torpedo the myth of local control over school curriculum in Kentucky.
In the article – which deals with outcomes from the Next Generation Science Standards that Kentucky’s governor adopted despite a negative vote from a legislative committee – Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education asserts that both evolution and man-made climate change will be taught to our students. He also asserts both will be taught as theory.
Did you get that? The commissioner is telling us what is going to be taught in every classroom. How does that square with the old KERA myth that curriculum is locally controlled by each school’s site base council?
The truth is this situation undermines the myth that the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards are only standards, somehow divorced from the curriculum that mythologists tell us teachers still control.
The truth is that in a standards-based system, the standards are the focus and driving factor for everything else in the education program.
For sure, standards absolutely drive the state assessments. And, the state-level education establishment, not local schools, selects those standards.
As a consequence, teachers have no choice but to teach what is in those assessments and the underlying standards.
So much for the myth left over from KERA that local site base councils control curriculum. If the commissioner of education can tell you that evolution and climate change absolutely will be taught in your school – and assert that they will be taught as theory, not fact – it is clear that local school boards, local site base councils and parents have lost control of their public schools.
“The Kentucky Black Alliance for Educational Options Pastors Coalition…is saddened by this attempt to defraud our people and cheat our students out of a great education.”
The Louisville-based group’s response to the closing of Myer’s Middle School was published in an op-ed featured in the Monday edition of the Courier-Journal.
In their letter, the pastors recounted how the Kentucky Department of Education labeled 18 Jefferson County schools as “low-performing” and outlined the department’s subsequent efforts to promote academic achievement in the district. Unfortunately, progress was elusive in a number of those schools, particularly in Myers Middle School. As such, the school district voted on May 12 to close the school, “a decision that lacks community voice and parent insight.”
The seventh and eighth grade students of failing Myers Middle School will now be attending the failing Waggener High School where they will be taught separately. In other words, Jefferson County School officials are responding to failure by sending them to another low-performing school. Can progress really be expected out of the closure if this is the remedy?
According to report findings, Jefferson County Schools have over 360 administrators that are paid over $100,000 to make Jefferson County school decisions. While these bureaucrats are lining their pocketbooks, teachers all across the district are unable to get funding for necessary classroom supplies or better technology to help their students learn. Instead of empowering our students with the tools and education they need for a bright future, Jefferson County Schools are setting them up for failure. Unfortunately, that failure falls hardest on our low-income children, about half of which are minority children.
In the face of failing schools across the state, both the Bluegrass Institute and The Kentucky Black Alliance for Educational Options Pastors Coalition strongly support the legalization of school choice, including the adoption of charter schools to supplement our current education system. Charter schools (which are not, in fact, private schools) have proven to be hugely successful in neighboring states, such as Tennessee and Indiana. If implemented, charter schools would provide high-quality education options for our children, and we simply cannot continue to send our students to failing schools.
Elaina Waters, BIPPS Intern
Be careful what you ask for – especially if you’re an insolent and intransigent board member in a wasteful and bloated Kentucky public school district.
Be especially wary if state Auditor Adam Edelen’s on the receiving end of that request.
Edelen, whose office arguably produces the most return for taxpayers of any state agency on a surprisingly small budget, just released results of an audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). It concludes that adult administrators are well taken care of while students and teachers often are left to fend for themselves.
Edelen’s year-long audit – performed at the request of the JCPS board – found more than 360 administrators in the system pocket six-figure salaries while many additional non-teaching staffers snag pay in the $80,000 to $100,000 range.
Students, meanwhile, lack access to textbooks, and many far lower-paid teachers dig into their own pockets to provide supplies.
The fact that Kentucky has some of the nation’s worst teacher-to-administrator ratios make it a pretty sure bet that JCPS isn’t alone in staff bloat.
Another winning bet is that responses from board members and bureaucrats statewide to an audit by Edelen, who is likely to run for governor, of their districts would be similar to that offered by JCPS board member Carol Haddad.
Haddad huffed and puffed about how dreadful it was that the auditor would do what she calls “a political thing.”
Considering that Kentucky spends 40 percent – more than $5 billion annually – of its entire General Fund on K-12 education. Edelen’s job is to uncover waste and inefficiency in that huge amount of spending.
Exposing problems in school districts statewide – as Edelen has done – is, first and foremost, good policy. And granted, good policy often also is good politics. So what?
Sadly, school-board members like Haddad, already under fire for chronic low performance in Louisville’s schools, likely expected Edelen’s office to play along by downplaying problems and offering the usual rosy scenario.
But the auditor didn’t gloss over the fact that Kentucky’s largest school district has more $100,000 administrators than are found in the entire executive branch of Kentucky’s state government.
Haddad now yells “politics” when she should say: “Thanks!”
The JCPS funding situation might be somewhat palatable if the district’s academic performance was significantly improving. Alas, federal testing shows only about one in three of the district’s fourth-graders is proficient in the key academic subjects of reading and math – a ratio that drops to around one in four by the time those students reach eighth grade.
These students could benefit from more school choices – a policy some bitterly resist.
Former Rep. Carl Rollins, who chaired the House Education Committee and was notoriously opposed to charter-school legislation, often made bureaucratic costs the centerpiece of his anti-choice arguments.
“It creates a whole ‘nother (sic) level of bureaucracy,” Rollins once said on KET’s Kentucky Tonight. “Usually the administrators of charter schools are well paid; the teachers are not.”
Ironic, isn’t it, that Rollins would focus on how well public charter-school leaders allegedly are paid and yet one of the most important state audits ever in Kentucky’s history points to the ultra-high cost of a low-performing traditional education bureaucracy that fails way too many children. And it’s administrators’ pay that’s at the heart of the problem.
It’s likely that, as former state Rep. Bob Heleringer wrote in a Courier-Journal column about the audit: “Things will never change unless a reform-minded (next) governor and General Assembly empower parents to direct their education tax dollars to the public, private, religious schools of their choice without the assistance of even a single $88,281.19-per-year JCPS ‘placement specialist.’”
Could that potential “next governor,” who courageously exposed the problem, also lead in the proven solution of bringing parental school choice to a system led by people who think true accountability is “terrible?”