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Today in a speech at Georgetown University, President Obama announced the specifics of new executive orders which will force federal bureaucrats to enact unprecedented regulations on power plant carbon emissions. Not only will these regulations have a significant negative impact on Kentuckians, no cost-benefit analysis was provided to justify such hardship.
Obama’s executive orders will result in finalized carbon limits for new power plants by September of this year, drafted carbon limits for existing power plants by next year, and massive subsidies for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency standards. Expectations of such unilateral executive orders have already resulted in the loss of more than 6,000 miner jobs in the commonwealth over the past 18 months as power plants and mines alike continue to close down.
These expectations have also brought historic levels of coal exports from the commonwealth to countries friendlier to Kentucky’s most valuable natural resource. But as a true showcase of the current administration’s true stance on coal, Obama’s executive orders are also designed to impede the ability of coal miners to profit from their way of life internationally.
Obama’s plan will specifically target coal by working toward imposing bilateral agreements limiting other countries’ use of the energy source. If such agreements are passed, the impoverished people in developing nations won’t be the only ones severely affected by the loss of such a cheap energy source – so will Kentuckians who will have lost their last outlet for the black rock.
Sen. Rand Paul drove the point home just yesterday:
“President Obama today declared a war on coal, and thus declared a war on Kentucky jobs and our economy. Whether it is through the retroactive denial of permits, onerous regulations on coal-fired power plants, or unreasonable environmental requirements, the policies of this Administration are threatening the very way of life that has sustained Kentucky communities for generations. As a defender of the free market and of coal, I will continue to fight back against the EPA and any other federal agency whose goal is to stifle coal production. I will continue to stand up for our miners in Washington as we continue to recognize the sacrifices they make to provide food for their families and energy for America.”
A new report from Education Sector Reports, “The New State Achievement Gap: How Federal Waivers Could Make It Worse—Or Better,” makes some pretty glowing comments about Kentucky’s educational progress between 2003 and 2011 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Naturally, without pausing for any reflection, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) jumped all over this with a news release.
The KDE news release says:
“The study compares student gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 2003-11 in grades 4 and 8, reading and math for all students. Kentucky students recorded an overall gain of 28.2 points, which translates into not quite three-fourths of a year of improved achievement per assessment from 2003-11.”
The 28.2 point gain claim got me scratching my head; so I took a deeper look. I knew none of our NAEP score gains in any subject were nearly that good.
I quickly learned that Education Sector’s score reporting is confusing.
Let me explain.
This table shows the changes that occurred in NAEP math and reading scale scores between 2003 and 2011 for Kentucky and the overall average changes for that period for all states plus Washington, DC.
Education Sector generated their 28-point improvement number for Kentucky by adding the individual improvement numbers for each subject together. That is VERY different from what many people think of as a “composite” score. For example, on the ACT college entrance test, the composite score is an average across all the subjects tested. Using the ACT definition, Kentucky’s improvement in NAEP between 2003 and 2011 would only be the average of 12 plus 6 plus 7 plus 3, or just 7 points.
But, there are more serious problems here. The Education Sector’s approach hides those problems.
Notice that changes in individual subject scores have not been that large either in Kentucky or across the states. Furthermore, while Kentucky has made a more progress than the other states in its elementary schools, there is no discernable difference in performance changes for Kentucky versus the other states at the eighth grade level.
This very different, very important picture gets hidden when you lump everything together simplistically as Education Sector just did.
In fact, even the simplistic review of the overall student scores above shows whatever gains Kentucky made on NAEP compared to other states at the elementary school level do not persist into the middle school years.
There is a lesson here, by the way, for our new Unbridled Learning state accountability system. Unbridled Learning’s final judgment of each school and school district is also based on an overall average of all scores. Just like the eighth grade surprise in the table above – which clearly is very different from the implications in the Education Sector’s NAEP analysis – Unbridled Learning’s lump-everything-together approach can hide major problems and performance issues, as well.
For example, minority students can still be left behind while schools generate overall improving scores.
We’ll be keeping an eye out for that as more K-PREP testing data becomes available.
There is more to the NAEP/Education Sector story. The rosy EdSector picture starts to fall apart as soon as you disaggregate the NAEP data by race. You can learn more about that by clicking on “Read More.”
Here’s a short, yet thoughtful piece on how the new Common Core State Standards can impact even non-public school students.
Last week, the Bluegrass Institute participated in an event hosted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a national group of concerned African Americans fighting to increase school choice for those who need it most – underprivileged kids.
At the event, BAEO member and long-time supporter of the Bluegrass Institute, Pastor Jerry Stephenson, introduced the keynote speaker for the evening: Howard Fuller, Ph.D., founding member of BAEO and a man who has a lot to say about school choice and the state of education in western Jefferson County.
The theme of his talk was “the urgency of now.” For too long, we’ve heard from Kentucky education officials that four, five even ten years are needed before we can turn schools in Jefferson County into competitive centers of education. We can no longer afford to accept such tired rhetoric when a four year delay only means yet another generation of kids who don’t have the tools to thrive in a 21st century workforce.
Fuller pointed to the historic 1960 sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, where four young black students demanded to be served at a segregated diner in a show of racial equality. Now more than 50 years later, blacks do have the right to be served in such a diner – the only problem is they can’t read the menus.
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today,” Fuller said. “We need warriors…people that don’t accept that it can’t be done now.”
But now, today’s state of education in Kentucky, and especially Jefferson County, is not serving black youths. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites for both math and reading are still alarmingly wide, and claims that we require years before we can turn it around are unacceptable.
But according to Fuller, the way toward improving education in Kentucky is not through more of the same, but by making fundamental changes to the commonwealth’s educational institutions.Passing charter school legislation is the lowest hanging fruit. Kentucky is one of the “dirty eight,” the eight states that have yet to pass such legislation. By refusing to make these fundamental changes, by insisting that traditional public schools become “charter-like” instead of true charters, the educational establishment and teacher unions only practicing what Louisville’s Muhammad Ali innovated decades ago: rope-a-dope. And Kentuckians are continuing to allow the educational powers-that-be jab away at our kids’ future with the same old rhetoric.
Fuller left the Louisville audience with the obvious question: “How much longer y’all gonna wait?”