The facts show that more money does not guarantee better results in education. Read more in our recent Bang for the Buck 2012 report.
That China’s first investment into Kentucky is coal-related is no surprise. China has more than 100 cities with a population of over 1 million residents, compared to nine in the U.S. Experts predict China’s population figures will continue to grow as the country embraces a more liberal economy, a factor that will inevitably lead to higher energy needs.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency continues to strive to shut down Kentucky’s energy sector for the sake of unproven, alternative fuels, the increasing demand for coal – not only from local residents, but also from places as far off as China – is a testament to the vital economic importance of the commonwealth’s natural resources. Coal is Kentucky’s comparative economic advantage, and as more countries embrace a more western economy, it will become even more valuable to Kentuckians. We can’t afford to let bureaucrats legislate that economic potential away.
Clearly, there is a rapidly increasing global demand for the cheap energy provided by the Bluegrass State. Demand is what drives a free market, and no bureaucrat can steer against those market forces for long.
And, this is a high performing school system in Kentucky!
By any reasonable measure, the Walton-Verona Independent School District in Northern Kentucky has to be considered one of the states better performers.
In our new Bang for the Buck 2012 report, Walton-Verona’s 28 percent better than the average efficiency ranked seventh best in the state.
Walton Verona excelled on the ACT in 2012. It’s ACT Composite Score of 21.4 ranked in the number five position.
Walton-Verona is doing a whole lot better than average.
So, you will understand my surprise when I read “WV Schools add new grading standards” recently.
The article says that until this year, Walton-Verona’s grading process gave too much credit for “work ethic issues” like class participation and completing homework. But, this top school system didn’t put enough weight on whether or not students actually were learning material.
The inflated grades hid the fact that students were not grasping key subject content.
That led to serious consequences.
Walton-Verona graduates were walking in the college door with serious gaps in their academic preparation.
Similar grading errors plagued Kentucky Statewide. As a consequence, over 40 percent of Kentucky’s college freshmen lose their KEES scholarship money after their first year on campus.
You see, work ethic is important, but it isn’t nearly enough. It won’t substitute for significant deficiencies in academic content knowledge.
Walton-Verona, with a new state assessment system focused on college and career readiness breathing down its throat, has finally figured all of this out.
The new grading scheme at Walton-Verona now places the most weight in grading on academic performance. The work ethic issues still count a bit, but it’s a new day in Walton-Verona’s classrooms.
The amazing thing is that it took 22 years of KERA, and a change in the state’s assessment and accountability system, for this top school system to figure out that academic knowledge really matters. How long is it likely to take for schools to learn this elsewhere in the state? After all, as the article concludes:
“Ultimately the change comes down to making sure students are learning what they need to learn to succeed and not just getting good grades.”
“‘We can’t have kids who are B students who are scoring 12 on their ACT,’ said Superintendent Robert Storer.”
To that I can only say, finally, Amen!
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.