It’s that time-a-year to get fired up for Public Charter Schools! Looking at my calendar, looks like Kentucky Legislature will be back in session on January 3rd. Here’s a video we produced during last session about [public] charter schools. We have got to get this worked out in KY, our kids are suffering more and more each year. The longer we hold off, the more we fall behind the rest of the country (& world)!
Charter schools are free public schools that operate under a performance contract, or a “charter,” which frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results.
The length of time for which charters are granted varies but most are granted for five years.
Education Week is carrying an Associated Press article that cites explosive growth in public charter school enrollment across the nation.
According to the AP:
“The growth represents the largest increase in enrollment over a single year since charter schools were founded nearly two decades ago.”
The article says more than 500 new charters were opened across the nation for this school year and enrollment in charters jumped by 200,000 students, a 13 percent increase since last year.
Maine apparently did what Kentucky failed to do last year, enacting its first charter school legislation.
There is one problem with the AP article. It incompletely cites the 2009 CREDO study of charter schools, “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States.”
Like many before, the AP totally ignores the most important finding in the study, one regularly overlooked.
That finding: Once students spend sufficient time in charters, they do outperform their public school peers. See pages 32 and 33 in the CREDO report.
The AP does mention that parents have become much more savvy education consumers. That helps explain the explosive growth in charters. After all, when we are talking charter schools, parents get to choose. They don’t have to put their kids in a charter, or leave them there, if they don’t see clear advantages in these schools of choice.
Kentucky is now well behind in the charter school race. We don’t even have a law to allow them. But, that can change in the next legislative session, and just like officials in Maine said last year, the time is now right to give Kentucky parents and students the sort of choice that the vast majority of states now offer to their residents.
The Kentucky Board of Education did a worthwhile thing yesterday, voting unanimously to improve the way our schools provide testing accommodations to students with learning disabilities.
The new rules bring us in line with policy in the vast majority of states (42 of them, according to comments made by Associate Commissioner Ken Draut at the meeting). It also aligns Kentucky with the special education testing accommodation rules allowed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
One change in particular has been a Bluegrass Institute interest item of great importance. Well-meaning, but seriously misguided, teachers will no longer be allowed to read the state’s “reading tests” to our learning disabled students.
This change for allowed reading accommodations reverses two decades of very poor policy that covered up widespread failure to teach reading. The former policy probably motivated schools to lose all interest in even trying to teach thousands of Kentucky children to read. Instead, these kids were carried all the way through their school years as illiterates that had to have everything read to them.
In the end, schools got good looking test scores (which were reported as “reading” scores although they were really just spoken word comprehension scores), but the students entered adulthood without the ability to survive in the new economy.
The reading policy change should help reduce Kentucky’s nation-leading rates of exclusion of students with learning disabilities on the NAEP. It is embarrassing that Kentucky excluded eight times the proportion of students that Mississippi excluded from the 2011 fourth grade NAEP reading assessment. Can it really be that our reading teachers are that much less effective than those in Mississippi?
Despite the obvious value and common sense in the new policy, the status-quo crowd could not resist the temptation to cloud the issue.
Two teachers from Jefferson County moaned nonsense to the board, claiming the regulatory improvements would hurt these special kids.
Fortunately, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and the board members were not buying this nonsense.
As quoted by the Kentucky School Boards Association, State Board member Dorie Combs may have said it best:
“If we are always reading to these children, they are never going to learn to read by themselves. This regulation clearly is about moving to independence. If we start moving in this direction, initially there’s going to be some frustration, but in the long run, you’re going to have children who are more independent.”
Let’s hope our teachers take a deep breath, carefully examine what past policy created and then realize that things like reading kids a reading test does those students no good at all. If they still don’t get it, maybe our teachers need to take a look at how Mississippi and a lot of other states are able to prepare a whole lot more of their kids to at least sit for the NAEP reading assessments.
An Oregon court recently ruled that a blogger pay $2.5 million to a company she allegedly slandered on her blog because bloggers don’t enjoy the same types of legal protections as more traditional media.
Oregon’s law states that media protections related to providing sources, information, etc… extend to “any medium of communication” with the public. The problem is that the ruling judge claims that the blogger is a self-proclaimed investigative blogger and is not affiliated with a traditional media organization (paper, TV, wire service…). Therefore, bloggers are not a protected medium of communication under Oregon law.
My question is how long will it take for laws to catch up with emerging technology? The blogosphere is becoming the predominant news source for people around the world.
Furthermore, if these slanderous claims came from someone at a newspaper and not a blogger, would it make them less offensive or valid?
What if this happened in Kentucky?
Lets get with the times here, folks.
A report on digital learning, commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Education and created by OpenEdSolutions was released on December 8, 2011 at the Kentucky Board of Education meeting. The new report
The new study makes recommendations for improvement in 11 broad areas:
1. All students should be eligible for digital learning
2. Authorize multiple statewide online learning providers to expand full and part time options.
3. Allow students to personalize their learning.
4. Support customized learning pilots.
5. Support competency-based learning pilots (these allow students to proceed at their own pace).
6. Plan shift to online instructional materials by 2013-14.
7. Support the shift to blended instruction (this is instruction in traditional classrooms using digital resources instead of classical lecture approaches).
8. Plan for online assessment by 2013-14.
9. Create statewide online/blended learning authorizer/contractors.
10. Develop a fractional and performance based funding model (Allows $$ to easily follow the student to digital learning alternatives such as the Barren Academy for Virtual and Expanded Learning).
11. Create a program management office and fund the transition (would better coordinate digital learning support from the Kentucky Department of Education).
The Bluegrass Institute is pleased that our work in the digital learning area is being picked up by policymakers in Kentucky. We look forward to improving education in Kentucky with more innovations in digital learning.
We’ll provide an update with a link to the new digital learning report as soon as the Kentucky Department of Education posts it.