This week Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen delivered an audit on the functioning of the Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) District. Plenty of problems are listed in this 301-page report, but the auditor also provides over 200 suggestions on how to improve. That could be helpful – IF – Jefferson County folks ever get past their initial, knee-jerk denials.
WAVE-3 TV’s article, “JCPS fires back after audit claims wasted millions,” carried the first round of denials from a Louisville schools crowd that seems to place the status quo interests of highly paid school staffers ahead of those of Jefferson County Public Schools’ (JCPS) generally under-served students.
I dealt with some of the more general whining yesterday. Now, let’s look at a somewhat more technical denial, found at the end of the WAVE-3 post, where it says:
“JCPS said comparisons would have been difficult if Edelen did try to tie test scores to his audit. Three of the districts don’t have a testing system that can be easily compared with JCPS. As for the other two, JCPS said their scores trail Charlotte and Austin is a mixed bag. JCPS is roughly equal in reading but behind that Texas city in math scores.”
Very simply, I don’t think that is accurate. Once you look at the test data involved, which comes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, I think Jefferson County does not look too good on the academic issues, either.
If you have a taste for details, read on.
It was only a few hours after the new audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools was released on Wednesday by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts before the denials started rolling in from Louisville’s entrenched, adults-first interests.
WAVE-3’s article, “JCPS fires back after audit claims wasted millions,” carried some of those first denials from a crowd that seems to place the status quo interests of highly paid school staffers ahead of those of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) generally under-served students.
The audit is disturbing
It’s not surprising the adults-first crowd in Louisville is riled. The new audit takes clear aim at some long-time sacred cows – over-staffed and over-paid personnel in Jefferson County’s schools.
WAVE-3 points out some of the compelling evidence:
“The audit found 369 JCPS employees were making more than $100,000, three times more than one of the peer school systems auditors compared to JCPS.”
“Auditors found 150 salaries of $100,000 in central office alone. That’s compared to just 33 in Cobb County, Georgia central office outside of Atlanta, and 39 in Austin, Texas, two of the five benchmark school districts compared JCPS too.”
But deniers don’t want to hear it
The deniers excused those excesses in some rather nonsensical ways. They claimed many of the staffers had worked at Jefferson County for many years, apparently expecting us to believe everyone in comparison districts like Austin, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina just arrived on their scenes recently.
One of the more outrageous excuses, as related by WAVE-3:
“Board member Carol Ann Haddad said the very public way Edelen went about all makes her think he’s using it as his own springboard to run for governor.”
Let’s see if we understand this. The auditor was wrong to issue a public report, funded with public tax dollars, in a public forum? Yeah, right!
Haddad really added to her denier status by saying:
“I really have a problem when people want to use education as a ground for political gain.”
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
Actually, the auditor did his job – pretty diligently as far as my first reading into the audit indicates – and now he is accused of playing politics?
Why is Haddad trying to raise a smoke screen around some pretty clear indications in the audit that the Jefferson County Board of Education members – also all elected, don’t forget – have not carried the mail for their kids very well? Why isn’t she digging into the audit, first, to see what needs work? Who is really the one playing politics at the expense of students?
One more thing: the deniers brought up test scores, claiming that they didn’t really look so bad, at least compared to Austin, Texas, which has comparison testing data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. I’ll deal with that issue tomorrow and close by pointing out this situation provides dramatic new evidence that Louisville badly needs some real school choice options to help shake the establishment schools out of their denial problem.
“At this time, there is not sufficient public support for committing over $350 million in state, city and other funds to a basketball arena and convention center when there are so many well-recognized educational, economic, retirement and health care needs across Lexington and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” –University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto on proposed Rupp Arena renovation project. Gov. Steve Beshear proposes forcing taxpayers statewide to spend $80 million on the effort.
Confirming problems many have long understood on a subjective basis, the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts just released a huge report on the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS).
The report was actually requested by the Jefferson County Board of Education, which now might better understand its limitations in trying to control the huge bureaucratic monster in Louisville.
To be sure, findings in the Auditor’s 301-page report are extensive, pointing to a school system that seems more run for adults than students.
Louisville has been “skipping class” and has a lot of makeup work to do.
It was was low profile for some time, but WDRB has now resurfaced a story about a potential cheating scandal at Louisville’s Male High School.
“Eight seniors at Louisville Male High School say they were helped by a school official – or witnessed the official helping their peers – on a standardized test that measures whether students are ready for college.”
WDRB’s article continues with some of the TV station’s own investigative reporting interviews with students and others. That reporting that makes it clear an investigation is clearly warranted and certainly points to a high likelihood that improper activities did occur at Male. Now, both the Kentucky Department of Education and the ACT, Inc., which developed and administered the COMPASS tests in question, are investigating.
The consequences could be dramatic.
Not only would cheating lead to consequences for those involved directly, but the school’s overall College and Career Readiness Rate in the state’s Unbridled Learning accountability program would also be impacted. That would reduce the overall accountability numbers for the school.
One more point: this is the second major issue to surface with COMPASS in the past few months. I wrote earlier (here, here and here) about an issue where students using certain smart calculators could compromise the accuracy of the overall COMPASS math score. That issue could impact many schools across Kentucky. However, so far there has been no public discussion about the exact amount of such impacts on the true College and Career Readiness rates. I hope the Kentucky Board of Education addresses the situation in a transparent way shortly.
By the way, I did a little estimate of what could happen to Male’s College and Career Readiness if the COMPASS cheating occurred. Click the “Read more” link to see that.