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School board wants higher standards
More evidence of problems with school councils in Kentucky
The latest squabble between a locally elected board of education and that district’s teachers, who control the School Based Decision Making Councils (SBDM) in the district’s schools, is playing out in the Frankfort Independent School District.
Thanks to Kentucky’s incredibly ill-advised SBDM laws, the teachers are winning the fight, and kids are losing.
The crux of the argument is that the board wants to adopt an educational program from the College Board called “Springboard.” It is aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, which are now mandated statewide. Those new standards focus on getting kids ready for college and careers.
Teachers in the district fuss that Springboard is too demanding and will leave some kids behind. Frankfort’s teachers apparently have no sense of urgency about dealing with the fact that recent readiness testing shows dismally low numbers of the district’s students are on track for success.
So, the real question might be: Are teachers controlling the SBDMs worried about kids, or are they mostly just upset about having to make some significant changes in the way they teach in order to reach higher, badly needed standards?
As we mentioned back in late March, after the US Department of Education determined that someone at the Kentucky Department of Education had taken too many KERA math classes and didn’t calculate the number equal to five percent of our schools correctly, two more schools had to be added to the state’s official list of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
Newport High School from the Newport Independent School District was one of those additions.
Now, findings from the resulting audit of Newport High’s staff have come in, and the news is rather stark.
Recommendation: Both principal Scott Draud and Newport High’s School Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) have to go. They both lack the ability to turn this chronically low-performing high school around.
Low performance in this school is no surprise. Newport has under-performed the rest of the state and especially other Northern Kentucky region school systems ever since KERA began.
What is a surprise is how this obvious situation was allowed to go on, unchecked, by the Newport District’s superintendent, Michael Brandt, and his local school board.
Brandt did have authority to replace the principal.
According to our analysis of the KDE’s Excel spreadsheet, “SUPERINTENDENT SALARIES (2001-02 THROUGH 2010-11 SCHOOL YEARS,” Brandt’s 2010-11 salary of $174,344.34 ranks him the seventh highest paid superintendent in Kentucky. That is over $56,000 higher than the state average salary for superintendents. Newport’s fall student membership for the same school year ranked it below the middle of the pack, with over 100 districts having larger membership (often loosely called enrollment) and only 66 having fewer students.
Learn more about how Newport’s school board ranked Brandt in our recent study, “Rewarding Failure,” on line here.
Education Week (subscription?) is reporting that a new study from Thomas Mortenson, who has supplied graduation rate data to the Prichard Committee and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, makes some dramatic charges about the failure of our schools to educate boys.
Very simply, the ‘politically correct’ idea that boys and girls have to be educated in the same way to preserve equal opportunity actually is having opposite – and devastating – effects on the nation’s young men.
The impacts from the politically correct notions of teaching boys and girls in the same ways are startling. Mortenson found:
• In 2010, 62.8 percent of young men who graduated from high school enrolled in college, but the girls enrolled at a much higher rate of 74 percent.
• Boys ages 6 to 14 are more than twice as likely as girls to have a developmental disability and are three times more likely to be labeled as mentally retarded.
Not mentioned in the EdWeek report, but found on line in a Mortenson Power Point presentation about “Economic Change Effects on Men and Implications for the Education of Boys,” is this stunning slide, which also shows something is going terribly wrong for young men in the United States.
We found some evidence of that in our report, “How Whites and Blacks Perform in Jefferson County Schools.”
Table 2 in that report shows that across Jefferson County in 2006-07:
• White females had a high school graduation rate more than 10 points higher than white males.
• Black females had more than an 8 point graduation rate advantage over black males.
• In fact, black females had a high school graduation rate that was scarcely more than one point below the white male rate.
I know our better teachers are starting to come to grips with this problem, reaching out to boys with educational approaches that appeal to them. It’s way past time for all of our teachers (75 percent of whom are women, according to another slide from Mortenson) to move beyond the politically correct nonsense of past decades to insure that every child gets the education needed to succeed in this new century.
And, that most definitely includes boys.
Medicaid spending across the country continues to grow at an unsustainable rate. We know this all too well in Kentucky.
The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate creates perverse incentives for states to grow their Medicaid programs unnaturally and beyond state capacity in order to receive more federal funds. The matching rate’s design intends to provide a greater percentage of funds to the most impoverished states.
However, new research by Pamela Villarreal and Michael Barba at the National Center for Policy Analysis shows that the federal government’s funding has led to significant disparities.
Despite the fact that poor states like Kentucky receive a higher matching percentage from the federal government, more populous states with larger programs actually end up receiving more funds. Because there is no limit to federal Medicaid funding, states can continue to grow their Medicaid programs without facing any penalty.
A 2008 comparison of states’ poverty rates and their percentages of federal funding shows the discrepancies in spending. Villarreall and Barba write, “On one end of the spectrum, high-spending New York state receives 87 percent more federal funding than it would based on its poverty population.”
ObamaCare only worsens the problem with its massive expansion in 2014 of Medicaid eligibility standards to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL). The federal government will fund 100 percent of this expansion at the outset, but the matching rate will decline in the years to follow. States will continue to feel the burden of strapped Medicaid budgets, but with no real incentives to stop spending.
The solution? The authors suggest increased state flexibility and capped federal funding.
Kentucky desperately needs increased flexibility and spending restraint if our Medicaid program will ever get on a path towards fiscal solvency.