Reason Online makes some good points in this article about teachers making excuses for cheating to hide problems with status quo education.
I was on the road when the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce held its annual conference, but a post in the chamber’s blog concerning an education discussion is worth a look.
It was a three-way panel with former US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, international education consultant Sir Michael Barber, and Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday.
Spellings says business people must act as “the point of the spear” in fighting for education reform in order to develop a qualified workforce that meets the demands of a new economy. Both parents and business leaders should demand higher expectations from students and, most importantly, teachers and administrators.
She also said Kentucky had room for improvement in identifying and retaining effective teachers and removing ineffective teachers. She didn’t like the lack of charter schools and noted the disappointing achievement gap between white and minority students.
Barber said, “Any system that wants to make progress has to stop feeling sorry for itself and take responsibility for its own future.” He also pointed out, “Spending money alone won’t fix the system.”
Holliday admitted that a third of our kids are not graduating from high school. He also pointed to another shocking fact: “A meager four counties are graduating the vast majority of our state’s college-ready students.” That means the vast majority of Kentucky’s 174 school systems are not meeting this very important goal.
Clearly, there is much work to be done.
Kentucky not immune
Fox News reports that there is a disturbing rise in school staff and teachers cheating on tests their students take.
And, don’t think that cheating is just happening elsewhere. Right here in Perry County, Kentucky a district-wide cheating scandal on the ACT is still an open and, so far, unpunished issue.
Fox.com summarizes recent reports of cheating in several large metropolitan school systems including Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia.
There are also reported problems in Baltimore.
Secretary Duncan told Fox.com:
“State and local officials share responsibility for defending against security breaches and threats to data quality.”
Fox.com says Duncan urged state and local educators to review “assessment security” and make improvements, if necessary. Duncan also urged “unannounced, on-site visits” when tests are being administered.
Sadly, Kentuckians should not sit back and think this is only happening elsewhere. Back on October 9, 2010, we first commented on a cheating scandal surrounding ACT testing in Perry County’s public schools.
By December 6, 2010 the ACT, Inc. completed its investigation and confirmed there had been cheating in Perry County.
Just Duncan noted about Atlanta, the Perry County situation appears to involve a system-wide culture issue.
By the way, it is now mid-2011. So far, no Perry County educator has faced any consequences for the alteration of student answer sheets.
At present, only one organization, the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB), has an ongoing investigation to hold teachers and staff accountable. The EPSB started that investigation back in March.
Four months later, EPSB has yet to announce any findings, and the office advised by phone today that the matter remains “under investigation.”
Other state enforcement agencies such as the Attorney General and the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability are aware of the Perry County situation, but it appears the EPSB has been given the lead for first investigations.
That puts a lot of pressure on EPSB to do the job well and to be aggressive about forwarding their findings to other agencies if improper activity, such as criminal actions, is determined. The reason is that the EPSB only has authority to suspend or revoke teachers’ and principals’ certificates. However, more aggressive action may be warranted because these ACT tests are paid for by the taxpayer and are used in a number of official ways such as awarding tax-funded KEES scholarships. Inflated ACT scores can lead to higher KEES awards.
In general, the cheating issue is really important. We agree with US Department of Education spokesperson Justin Hamilton, who told Fox.com:
“People want to have confidence in that process. It’s clear that the real crime here is that these kids are being cheated out of the world-class education they deserve.”
To be very clear, we agree with Secretary Duncan that the great majority of our teachers are honorable and undoubtedly deplore cheating on education tests just as much as we do.
However, so far any public expression of outrage from honest teachers and their professional organizations has been rather muted, at best. That does little to put pressure on Kentucky’s education leaders to find and appropriately deal with cheaters who do a great disservice to their profession, to their students and to the general public alike.
And, so long as the cheaters go unpunished, it’s our kids ultimately continue to be cheated, and we don’t want this to continue, whether it happens in Atlanta, DC, Baltimore, or right here in Perry County, Kentucky.
The Beshear administration is touting a budget surplus for this fiscal year and claims that roughly $100 million will be deposited into the rainy day fund.
This is a bit misleading, no? When a state has billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities in public pensions and has to borrow $97 million from a future year’s Medicaid budget to plug a hole in the current year’s, an extra $100 million does not count as a “surplus”.
Until the pension system is fully funded and Medicaid (which is currently on an unsustainable path) is on solid ground, claiming a surplus seems a bit premature.
With Kentucky House leader Greg Stumbo stating that pension reform for new hires is up for discussion, does this mean we may finally get somewhere with state pension reform in the next General Assembly?
While we need to do much more than simply open the discussion about public pensions, this is certainly a step forward from Gov. Beshear’s believe that this problem will take care of itself.
“The free market enables people to go into any industry that they want; to trade with whomever they want; to buy in the cheapest market around the world; to sell in the dearest around the world. But most important of all, if they fail, they bear the cost. If they succeed, they get the benefit and it’s that atmosphere of incentive that has induced them to work, to adjust, to save, to produce a miracle. This miracle hasn’t been achieved by government action – by someone sitting in one of those tall buildings and telling people what to do. It’s been achieved by allowing the market to work.”