In honor of Milton Friedman Day 2011, here is a video of what appears to be a young Michael Moore receiving a few doses of economic reasoning. Enjoy!
Do you trust your government?
A new Rasmussen poll claims that 46% of likely U.S. voters think most members of the United States congress are corrupt and an ever larger number think they seek office to further their own careers rather than defend the Constitution and take up for their constituents.
46% is a pretty big chunk, no?
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Someday, even to your state
This AP news story, which is cropping up like mushrooms in news outlets all over the country, is going to play out in Kentucky, as well.
Bluntly put, now that education agencies around the nation are finally being forced to get honest about high school graduation rates, the inflated claims of the past are about to tumble in most states.
Note, as I have previously mentioned, the AP article correctly says Kentucky will be the last, along with Idaho, to finally get truly accurate high school graduation rate data. The first report with such data won’t be released until 2014, by the way, just shy of a quarter of a century after KERA was enacted.
Because of our laggardly performance, the US Department of Education is requiring us to start reporting high school graduation rates this summer with a new formula that was extensively researched in 2006. This formula was found to work best in states like ours that had not yet developed decent student tracking programs.
Look for Kentucky’s high school graduation rates to drop somewhere around 10 points statewide. Instead of somewhere around 84 percent, we’ll likely fall in the mid-70 percent range.
However, if they don’t ‘alter’ their data (an unfortunate temptation), some individual school districts in the state are going to see their bubbles burst a lot more severely.
BTW, schools that might be tempted to ‘jiggle’ their data this year just to look good might be making a really bad choice. Data to calculate the new formula exists for many previous years in Kentucky for both the state and individual schools, so trend lines can readily be established.
And, the data for prior years already are publicly available.
Any sudden trends of improvement this year are going to stick out – just like, say, a sudden jump in ACT scores in Perry County.
Furthermore, because the US Secretary of Education is breathing fire about cheating on state testing used for No Child Left Behind, and because high school graduation rates are also used for NCLB, messing with the now more easily audited graduation rate data might bring federal as well as state heat.
Anyway, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.
In fact, I started telling Kentucky our dropout and graduation rate reporting was messed up in the mid-1990s. Maybe if people had listened back then, we’d have recognized how serious the problem was long ago and would have fixed much of the problem by now.
Instead, thanks to inaccurate reporting, we’ve probably been losing on the order of 10,000 kids a year since KERA began, every single year.
Over the past few weeks, school districts have been responding to a Kentucky Board of Education decision that new end-of-course exams in Algebra II, Biology, English II and U.S. History should count 20 percent of each student’s final grade.
Local boards that don’t want to weight the new tests that heavily are required to tell the state board why they will use a smaller weighting.
Apparently, local boards have plenty of reservations about the still-to-be-seen end of course exams, and a number of them are choosing to give the new tests far less than a 20 percent weight, as this and this news articles report.
Somehow, I can’t really blame the local boards – for now. Committing 20 percent of a student’s grade to an untried test isn’t student friendly.
Also teachers are still adjusting to the new curriculum that these tests are supposed to be built around, so for the next year or two students might not get all they need in class to get high scores on these tests.
However, over time, assuming the new tests prove out, schools that don’t provide meaningful weight to them will lose an excuse that was often used with the CATS assessments – students had no ‘skin in the game’ and didn’t try hard on those tests.
Probably too many rookie teachers
Management of the turn-around of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools in Jefferson County looks awfully shaky.
The Courier-Journal reports that 60 of the 135 teachers brought in to the second group of the district’s schools to be tagged as Persistently Low-Achieving are first-year teachers with absolutely no prior experience. They are going to face a demanding task: working in some of the district’s most challenged schools with some of the district’s most under-served students.
In addition, 20 more teachers coming into these Persistently Low-Achieving Schools are just transfers from one of the other Persistently Low-Achieving Schools that were identified this year. That might just be moving problems around.
Clearly, not everyone is happy about this, including the new Associate Commissioner for the ‘District 180’ program, Dewey Hensley. Hensley – who has a great reputation for school turn-around in the Atkinson Elementary School in Jefferson County – said he is not sure the district has gone far enough in its efforts to fix problems in these low-performing schools.
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is also unhappy. He questions whether this large group of inexperienced teachers can raise performance fast enough to meet federal and state requirements.
I wonder if these new hire teachers are going to get the kind of mentoring they badly need as they start their classroom careers. With so many brand new teachers, it seems unlikely there are going to be enough experienced teachers in the school with the interest and time to do the job. After all, even experienced teachers in these schools will be facing some of the district’s toughest education challenges.
Swirling around on the periphery of all of this is the fact that at least some factors in the teacher restaffing action in Jefferson County may not be in compliance with House Bill 176 from the 2010 Regular Legislative Session. That bill established the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program.
Among other things, HB 176 said union contracts could not interfere with the placement of teachers in these troubled schools. However, a report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) indicates a Memorandum of Agreement between the union and the school district could indeed be interfering in ways the bill does not permit. Check out the OEA’s comments on page 40 of the report.
One thing seems pretty certain: we are going to be spending a lot of extra money in these schools, about half a million dollars a year per school, to turn them around. Somehow, it seems like more money by itself won’t be nearly enough.