The Harlan Daily Enterprise reports “School accountability raises major questions.”
At least, that is what is happening in the Harlan County School District.
Among other things, the district is unhappy with the way the new program rates schools using a norming process rather than setting a specific performance criterion. Under this norming process, results from as many as five separate calculations based on test scores and graduation rates are mixed into one final school grade. Then all the schools get ranked for that final grade.
Those schools that fall below the 70th percentile for their final score will be classified as “Needs Improvement.” Thus, regardless of performance, 7 out of 10 schools in Kentucky are going to be rated as needing improvement.
Actually, given present school performance, even selecting the 70th percentile may be excessively undemanding.
Except for some really top-performing high schools in Kentucky, the percentages of students being adequately prepared for the mathematics required for college and careers isn’t very impressive even for the 70th percentile school.
Looking at the 2012 mathematics performance of Kentucky’s 11th grade students on the ACT, for example, the 70th percentile school, East Jessamine High School, only prepared 41.9 percent of its students well enough to be likely to avoid taking remedial math courses in college. You have to look above the 84th percentile to find schools that prepare even half of their students adequately for college and career requirements in math.
Only eight high schools in the whole state prepared two-thirds of their students adequately in math in 2012. Out of 230 high schools, that is above the 96th percentile!
I also got a big chuckle out of the article.
Jason Bailey argues in the Frankfort State-Journal that switching Kentucky government employees to a 401(k)-style retirement plan “has little or nothing to do with the state’s main challenge on this issue: how to pay back the existing unfunded [pension] liability.”
In one sense, Bailey has a point. After all, cutting up the credit card you’ve been abusing won’t pay the outstanding balance. But it should be obvious to anyone that keeping the credit card and your bad habits, even after you’ve paid the bills, leaves you with the same propensity for overspending.
The pension obligations themselves represent tens of billions of dollars in the coming decades. The only proper way to deal with a contractual obligation of that size is, of course, to pay it. But it doesn’t logically follow that a tax increase is the best way to fix Kentucky’s pension woes, though Bailey seems to think it is.
If Kentucky’s lawmakers were serious about meeting these pension obligations while respecting taxpayers, they wouldn’t continue to fund wasteful projects near and dear to the hearts of many Kentuckians: new arenas in Louisville and Lexington (and elsewhere), government-run golf courses, government-run resort parks and dozens of other similar wastes of taxpayer money.
Few would seriously argue that any of these entertainment projects is a better use of money than leaving it in the wallets of taxpayers. But Bailey, like many in Frankfort, seems implicitly to do just that. Not directly, of course. But by moving seamlessly from making the moral case for paying one’s bills to casting the pension bust as “primarily a revenue challenge,” Bailey appears duty-bound to believe that every dollar currently spent by state government is not only being spent well, but spent better than billions more dollars currently sloshing around in the private sector.
Maybe all that arena, golf-course and resort-park spending is terribly important. The real question, of course, is how important. When lawmakers start cutting subsidies to college basketball in Kentucky, we’ll all know they’re serious about setting priorities.
In a recent cn|2 Pure Politics interview, Sen. Dennis Parrett of Elizabethtown revealed that he wants to end the special pension perks granted to Kentucky state legislators. He speaks specifically about the added benefits from 2005’s HB 299.
These perks should absolutely be repealed.
Frankly though, the senator doesn’t go nearly as far as he should. Why do part-time legislators receive a publicly funded pension at all?
You can read about how legislative pensions have grown over time (including the benefits added in HB 299) and become an extremely lucrative benefit for the part-time General Assembly in our recent exposé, Future Shock.
What if Kentucky’s judiciary was as interested in protecting our freedoms as it is in deying them?
Monday morning, Richard Innes spent about 45 minutes discussing the test score debacle in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) with Mandy Connell on WHAS. Listen to the discussion below.