Here are Dr. Lewis’ initial comments:
With the conversation elevating over the announcement today that Interim Commissioner of Education Dr. Wayne Lewis is recommending that the state board of education take over the Jefferson County Public School System (JCPS), a little review about another state takeover of a chronically failing school district seems in order.
Kentucky took over the Floyd County system many years ago and ran it until 2005.
It seems to have helped.
In the last year of Unbridled Learning, the district got ratings of Distinguished/Progressing and was in the rewards category of District of Distinction. While I am not a fan of Unbridled Learning, the district clearly wasn’t at the very bottom of the pack anymore.
For more, check out this Herald-Leader report: “Once the scourge of Kentucky education reform, Floyd County schools now the star.”
Here’s one interesting quote from the article:
“Floyd County is now showing more affluent, more urban districts how increased achievement is done — and it’s doing it with modest resources in an area with a great deal of poverty.”
Maybe the lofty JCPS school system has something to learn from this previous takeover district.
(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) –– The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, has been bringing much-needed sunshine to the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) for many years now.
JCPS has been mismanaged for decades and the achievement gap continues to widen. Since the inception of national tests in 2009, low-income and minority students have been falling further and further behind. Jefferson County has 17 of Kentucky’s 25 priority schools, but as the audit points out, the district has no structure to provide needed support to these schools.
State testing shows that nearly 70 percent of all third-graders in JCPS failed to reach proficiency in reading last year despite attending school in a district with a $1.5 billion budget – the largest of any school district in Kentucky and nearly twice the size of the entire Louisville Metro Council budget.
That is a travesty and it’s more than time for big changes.
The Bluegrass Institute looks forward to the turning of a new page for all JCPS students.
For more information, please contact Jim Waters at email@example.com, 859.444.5630 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).
Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide. This column has been updated to reflect the override of Gov. Bevin’s vetoes of tax-and-spending measures.
Changing a commonwealth long mired in poverty perpetuated by misguided policies designed to satisfy voracious appetites for ever-more government programs, dollars and dependency takes more than a single election and politicians whose top priority is maneuvering simply to survive voters’ next trip to the polls.
While the GOP made progress in the 2016 election by winning enough seats to control the Kentucky House of Representatives’ for the first time in nearly a century and then demonstrating political pluck during the 2017 legislative session by passing important economic-growth policies like right-to-work and accountability measures such as making politicians’ pensions transparent, the 2018 session was filled with too much worry by too many Republicans about the next election rather than focusing on continuing the dramatic change in direction.
How else to explain opening the door to charter schools by passing enabling legislation during last year’s General Assembly session only to slam it shut faster than you can say “teachers’ unions” by refusing to provide funding for charters this year?
“Kentucky will be a charter state with no charter schools,” Western Kentucky University professor and state Board of Education member Gary Houchens, Ph.D., writes on his blog.
Also on stark display in debates that occurred during this year’s General Assembly regarding pension reform and the budget is a maddening reality for conservatives which commonly occurs when the GOP controls the process: Republicans exert too much political capital trying to please ideological constituencies who will never support them or free-market causes while taking their base for granted.
Despite Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget proposal to spend around 60 cents of each of the $22 billion in the next General Fund spending plan on pensions and education alone, one liberal after another stood during floor debates in the House and Senate to accuse Republicans of wanting to ruin public education.
Notwithstanding Bevin’s budget plan puts $3.3 billion – or 15 percent – of the entire budget into public pensions, one sign after another displayed during loud, raucous and largely uninformed protests organized and funded by teachers’ unions demonized Bevin and the Republicans.
One protester even flew a Socialist Party USA flag.
What makes lawmakers claiming conservativism’s mantle believe protesters waving socialism’s flag will ever support reforms that cut government spending, empower parents or reward hard work and productivity?
Socialism results in government wresting fruits from those who labor to provide products and services and giving it to those with their hands out and their signs – and Socialist Party flags – raised.
Some House Republican leaders seem fully intimidated by these groups to the point of agreeing to implement reforms to the retirement systems demanded by the Senate only if they could raise taxes and restore funding cuts Bevin proposed to free up additional pension funding without tax hikes.
If teachers’ union bosses or protesters tolerating a Socialist Party flag order “jump,” why should mousy conservatives’ response be limited to: “how high and how far?”
Bevin rightly vetoed these tax-and-spending increases; the legislature wrongly overrode his veto.
Responsibility for raising taxes and restoring government programs should be borne particularly by House politicians who voted for them – and state senators who failed to stop them – in the next election when their records will be available to opponents and Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot.
Fewer politicians and more statesmen and stateswomen are needed before the transition to the kind of legislature that not only implements growth-friendly policies but defends them vigorously when they’re attacked is complete.
Why does any representative unwilling to do so even want to return to Frankfort? Surely it wouldn’t be for personal political gain, would it?
President Woodrow Wilson once said, “If you think too much about being re-elected, it is very difficult to be worth re-electing.”
Now, there’s an informed Democrat.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and @bipps on Twitter.
More news you didn’t know
I wrote yesterday about the highly disappointing decay for Kentucky’s black student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Grade 8 math exam. I have now taken time to look at what happened between the earliest and latest NAEP state administrations for Grade 4 math, and the picture isn’t much better.
NAEP first conducted a state Grade 4 math assessment in 1992, and Figure 1 summarizes how that turned out.
As with the Grade 8 testing in 1990, participation in the NAEP Grade 4 Math Assessment in 1992 was voluntary for the states, and a number chose not to participate. Among those states plus the District of Columbia schools that did take part, not one state posted black scores statistically significantly higher than Kentucky’s blacks scored. Among the 34 states and the District of Columbia systems that both participated and got scores for black students, a total of 23 other states statistically tied Kentucky, and 12 jurisdictions, 11 states plus the DC schools, scored statistically significantly lower than Kentucky. No state scored statistically significantly higher than Kentucky for black scores in the 1992 NAEP Grade 4 Math Assessment.
Kentucky’s black students also scored above the national average score for blacks in the 1992 NAEP Grade 4 Math Assessment.
Now, look at Figure 2 to see what happened in the latest, 2017 NAEP.
Without question, Kentucky’s black fourth graders saw a big decline in ranking in 2017.
Now, blacks in 12 states plus the blacks in DC schools statistically significantly outscore the Bluegrass State’s leading racial minority group. Instead of statistically significantly outscoring 12 other jurisdictions in the NAEP, Kentucky’s blacks only bested those in two other states.
Even blacks in the DC schools, which has a lot of charter schools, by the way, outscored our black students.
Worse, instead of scoring above the National public average, Kentucky’s blacks now score below it by a statistically significant amount.
Using the NAEP Data Explorer to rank the state’s NAEP Grade 4 Math Scale Scores for blacks in 1992, Kentucky shows up in the fifth place from the top among the 35 jurisdictions that participated and got scores for black students. None of the four states ahead of us outscored our blacks by a statistically significant amount.
Using the same web tools with the 2017 NAEP shows Kentucky’s blacks now sit way down in 32nd place among the 43 jurisdictions that got black scores in that year.
As you can see in the figures, Kentucky’s NAEP Grade 4 Math Scale Score for blacks only rose from 200 in 1992 to 218 in 2017, a rise of only 18 points.
In sharp contrast, the national public Grade 4 NAEP Math Scale Score for black students rose from 192 in 1992 to 223 in 2017, an increase of 31 points far larger than Kentucky posted.
No matter how you slice this, the 2017 NAEP shows a major performance problem for Kentucky’s black fourth graders in math since state NAEP testing began for this grade and subject in 1992. Kentucky’s leading racial minority is falling behind its peers in other states, and it is clearly time for the Bluegrass State to get serious about this decay in relative performance.
What you probably never heard before
A disturbing thing happened over time to Kentucky’s black students in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Grade 8 Math assessments. It’s not a happy story, but it sure is enlightening.
Way back in 1990, the NAEP conducted its first ever state assessment. The lone subject evaluated was Grade 8 Math. And, Kentucky’s blacks ranked at the top. Overall, the NAEP Data Explorer’s statistical significance tools list Kentucky’s blacks in sixth place out of all the states that got black scores reported in 1990. After considering the sampling errors in the NAEP scores, it turns out no state scored statistically significantly higher than Kentucky.
Flash forward to 2017, and my how time have changed. When the NAEP Data Explorer rank orders state scores for 2017, Kentucky now has sunk to 37th place out of the 40 states and the District of Columbia systems that have black scores reported.
This by any measure, is a huge decay. For more details on how this slide looked over time, click the “Read more” link.