This is an interesting find…
This thread was found on Topix.com here.
An interesting post for sure…wonder if this is true…
Read “Rewarding Failure” here.
During the March 1, 2011 meeting of the Kentucky House’s Education Committee, committee chair Rep. Carl Rollins asked Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday how many high school “dropout factories” did we have in Kentucky.
Dr. Holliday’s stunning answer was – about 50!
The state only has around 230 Class A1 high schools total, which are the only high schools that report graduation rates. If Holliday is right, over one in five Kentucky high schools would be a “dropout factory.”
By the way, the term “dropout factory” was coined by a research team at Johns Hopkins University to identify high schools where the graduation rate is lower than 60 percent based on a formula also developed by Johns Hopkins.
More recently, the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has used that term, indicating across the nation that there are 5,000 dropout factory high schools. Commissioner Holliday informs me his “50” estimate is based on the assumption that Kentucky will have about one percent of that nationwide total of 5,000 high schools.
It isn’t clear if the US Secretary of Education is using the Johns Hopkins definition and data for his 5,000 dropout factory figure or another approach, perhaps based on the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) formula that Kentucky will start using to report graduation rates this summer.
I did some quick AFGR calculations for the 2008-09 school year using the appropriate years’ information on fall membership and on-time graduations from the Kentucky Department of Education. In 2008-09 my spreadsheet shows Kentucky had about 15 high schools with gruesomely low graduation rates below 60 percent (three schools were missing some data for a 2009 calculation and were not included, but at least one of those schools had very poor performance in the past).
Of course, even a 70 percent graduation rate is way too low in my book. We do indeed have about 50 high schools as of 2008-09 with AFGRs below 70 percent. Again, that is more than one out of five of our Class A1 high schools in Kentucky.
Dr. Holliday indicates the Kentucky Department of Education is computing AFGR figures now for several back years so we will be better prepared when this becomes the official formula for graduation rate calculations. I’ll post on those “official” department AFGRs as soon as the data is available.
One thing is very certain – a lot of Kentucky high schools, and the students and parents they serve, are about to face a very rude shock.
In his op-ed in today’s Lexington Herald-Leader, Jim Waters, vice president of policy and communications, discussed the latest attempt by some politicians and pencil pushers at law enforcement agencies to make pseudoephedrine a controlled substance.
An attempt to exempt “gel” or “liquid-gel” caps from requiring a prescription is being called a compromise. But Waters writes it’s no such thing: “It remains what it’s always been: an attack on Kentuckians’ individual liberty. … This new tactic by logically challenged politicians reveals the same intellectual denseness demonstrated all along in this fight. They believe keeping law-abiding citizens from purchasing Sudafed would somehow keep pseudoephedrine out of the hands of criminals who make the destructive drug methamphetamine.
He also points out: “Kentuckians concerned about their liberties should be suspicious that suddenly, these same folks — unwilling to compromise with proposals that would still allow citizens to buy whatever legal cold, allergy and sinus medicines they want while containing the meth problem — now say they could live with this proposal.”
Read Waters’ Bluegrass Beacon column on the original proposal here.
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday made an interesting comment during hearings in the House Education Committee yesterday about House Bill 476.
He said there are encouraging early results since turn-around actions began in Caverna High School, Lawrence County High School, Leslie County High School and Metcalfe County High School. These schools are part of the ten schools in the first group of Kentucky Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
The commissioner gets to look at some testing data that hasn’t been released to the public, but the education department did just release results from the fall administration of the EXPLORE and PLAN tests from the ACT, Incorporated, so I decided to see if Dr. Holliday’s comments were borne out in those tests.
Short answer – yes, they are!
Here is an updated listing of scores for the first group of 10 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools, which were identified in spring of 2010. This listing now includes the two middle schools, as well as the eight high schools I showed you a couple of days ago (click on the table to enlarge).
Notice that in three of the four schools Dr. Holliday cited, there has been an improvement in the Composite Score since last year. In fact, the improvement in Lawrence County High and Leslie County High are quite impressive. The fourth school, Metcalfe County High, held scores even.
Now, look at the other schools, which are all found in Jefferson County. Only one high school, Fern Creek, experienced a score increase from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Only one maintained its score. Four schools, two high schools and the two middle schools, all saw declines in scores.
Now, consider another of Dr. Holliday’s comments. He pointed out that while Jefferson County has exclusively chosen to use the “Restaffing Option” to try and turn around its low-performing schools, all four of the high schools outside of Jefferson County picked the “Transformation Option,” instead.
The Transformation Option doesn’t require a wholesale shakeup of school staffing, but it does put teachers in the troubled schools on a more accountable basis, requiring their evaluations and pay be linked to their students’ performance. The Jefferson County Teachers Association hates that idea and would rather see teachers shuffled all over the place, where they can continue their ineffective teaching, and paying union dues, largely unnoticed.
In any event, one of the ideas behind the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program is to try different approaches to reforming problem schools to see what works best. While the data above is certainly insufficient to start drawing any conclusions, it is exciting that a real difference in the approaches selected may already be appearing. By the time next year’s group of low-performers is identified, we will hopefully have more data. Perhaps that will encourage Jefferson County to try another turn-around option in some of its schools so we can see if some other factor accounts for the differential results we see in the table above.
And, trying to get out of doing even that
Over the past year, 12 of Kentucky’s 20 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools have come from one school district, Jefferson County. But, the district is showing little imagination as it selects options to try to turn around chronic low performance in those schools.
Following earlier audit reports, the Jefferson County Board of Education selected one common turn-around option for all of its first nine low-performing schools, the “Restaffing Option.”
Now, the board of education has voted to continue on that same, unimaginative trail. The Jefferson County board just chose the “Restaffing Option” to turn-around endemic low performance in its last three schools to receive audits: Iroquois, Southern and Waggener high schools.
Thus, all 12 of Jefferson County’s schools will use the “Restaffing Option” to try and rescue all of the district’s low-performers from a chronic history of problems. Exploring the other three options to see if those work better is of no interest to this unimaginative crowd. It’s all about minimum pain for adults in the system.
And, the pain will be even less than the US Government envisioned when it defined the “Restaffing Option.” Because many of the teachers in the last three low-performing schools have only been in those schools a short time (a chronic problem with low-performing schools is excessive staff turnover), those low-time staffers will count against the number that need to be replaced.
The end result is that far fewer than 50 percent of the teachers are going to move from those schools. Again, we are talking minimum pain for adults, but dubious educational improvement for kids.
And, if that isn’t enough, today the Jefferson County schools and their local teachers union failed in an attempt to water down the turn-around process even farther.
This morning the Kentucky House’s Education Committee finally voted on House Bill 476. This bill would have changed and notably weakened the way the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools program is operated. The bill added a fifth turn-around selection that would have been the clear ‘weak sister’ option if it were ever approved by the federal government. The bill also would have reduced the authority of the commissioner of education to make decisions about the turn-around process. Most importantly, the bill would have severely reduced the scope of the program, including only 10 schools in it instead of the 30 or so currently envisioned once the process has run a full, three-year cycle (after which, hopefully, the first identified schools will have improved to the point where they no longer will need to be included).
Fortunately, HB-476 was too much even for the highly union-oriented House Education Committee. The bill failed passage in the committee.
By the way, it should be pointed out that not every Jefferson County Board of Education member went along with doing the “same old, same old.” Debbie Westlund and Carol Haddad wanted to try something different, the “Transformation” option.
Of course, the Transformation Option ties teacher evaluations and pay to academic progress. The union hates those ideas. The union much prefers just to have bad teachers shuffled around to other schools, where they can continue to under-perform while continuing to pay union dues. Sadly, unlike the House Education Committee, the union still holds plenty of sway with the board in Jefferson County.
Even worse, while the evidence is still very incomplete, it is beginning to indicate that the Transformation Option may work a lot better than the Staff Replacement Option. Stay tuned for more on that tomorrow.
Proposal would inflate school construction costs
Basically, PLAs needlessly drive up the costs of school construction by locking out bidding from less costly non-union labor.
Now, FOX-41 reports that the latest attempt to insert a PLA into a construction contract just occurred in Jefferson County when Jefferson County School Board member Larry Hujo tried to get pending construction at the Valley High School restricted to union labor only.
Why would Hujo want to take this position, which would divert money that could benefit schools into the pockets of union labor bosses?
According to election finance records the Bluegrass Institute recently obtained by open records request from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, the Better Schools Kentucky PAC – the Jefferson County Teachers Association PAC – provided over $120,000 in 2008 to Mr. Hujo’s school board race with what are called “Independent Expenditures” (Don’t look for these expenditure records in the on-line information from the Registry – you have to open records request this data). And, current events in places like Wisconsin make it plain that various unions definitely cooperate with each other.
It is difficult to impossible for a non-union candidate for the school board in Jefferson County to prevail against such huge PAC investments.
This raises a very serious concern. Does the current system provide the union too much control in Jefferson County Schools? Inquiring minds want to know.
Fortunately, in this particular case, Mr. Hujo’s costly PLA proposal went nowhere. Apparently, even though a number of other board members in Jefferson County also get union money, they still recognize that educating children comes first. Good for them!
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