- The pension crisis grows in Kentucky. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported today that newly installed Lexington mayor Jim Gray is facing some opposition about budget cuts. Tough decisions are ahead in the very near future – who is going to make them. Read more about Kentucky Retirement Systems.
- Playing favorites… apparently four STATES have been issued waivers for the new health care regulations. Yes, you read that correctly – four entire states.
- It’s that time again…Operation: Open Records 2011. We will be using this site to track open records requests in 2011! Be sure to check it out. Also, we would be interested in hearing your ideas for records requests…
As I wrote back on February 1, 2011, this story started with an Op-Ed titled “Time to Raise Expectations for Education,” from Bob King, the President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).
Dr. King’s article was mainly meant to introduce parents and general Kentucky citizens to the CPE’s “High School Feedback Reports,” and to discuss how the current school curriculum isn’t aligned to college and workplace needs. Dr. King also encourages support for higher standards and takes a shot at adults in the public school system who tend to protect themselves first before looking to the needs of their students.
Overall, it was a good message, but it naturally raised the ire of those who have pushed the status quo, who don’t like to admit to problems with our current assessment system, and who therefore don’t like the message contained in the feedback reports and other indicators like ACT test results.
A reaction to King’s article was indeed penned by Skip Kifer, a retired professor from UK’s school of education. Kifer played a major role in designing Kentucky’s first reform assessment – widely known as “KIRIS.” He also testified in favor of keeping a CATS-like assessment when this program’s future was being debated, and mercifully ended, in 2009.
Kifer took strong issue with King, saying King implies that the ACT test is used as the sole determinant of whether or not students needed to take remedial courses in college.
Actually, it was Kifer’s implication that was wrong. That may have left a lot of Herald-Leader readers with the wrong idea about how our colleges actually determine the need for remedial courses.
Dr. King now sets the record straight in a new letter published yesterday by the Herald-Leader.
King wrote this second letter so that citizens of the commonwealth are not left with the wrong idea about how the public colleges and universities in Kentucky determine if a student needs to take remedial courses.
As I wrote earlier and King reconfirms, ACT scores are just the first step in the process of determining whether students will have to take a remedial course in Kentucky’s colleges. Says King, colleges also consider a students entire record, including GPA’s, extracurricular activities and other placement exams before making such decisions.
So, the basic thrust of Kifer’s post is wrong. Had Kifer done even minimal research by calling the CPE before spouting off, he could have learned how the college course placement process really works.
Hopefully, anyone who got confused by Kifer’s incorrect assertions will read Dr. King’s latest comments in the Herald-Leader. Our young adults deserve to know that things are not stacked against them as they enter college. If they do get placed in remedial courses, it is only because there is good indication in their entire set of records and test results that they really need the extra help.
And, parents need to know that there is value in the testing information they receive from the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT test scores they now get from our public schools.
Certainly, no test is perfect, and students can have a ‘bad day.’ But, ignoring those test results is ignoring a not perfect, but pretty good, warning signal. That could leave a student exposed for major problems later. Dr. King doesn’t want students and parents to make that mistake, and neither do I.
In a move that looks mostly like forestalling the inevitable to preserve future job opportunities, WAVE-3 reports Dr. Sheldon Berman, superintendent of the Jefferson County Public School District, has asked the local school board not to reconsider their vote in November 2010 to end his tenure.
So far, no news agency in Louisville has indicated enough school board members there are willing to change their November vote to save Berman’s job. Berman apparently realizes that a second, negative vote could mostly just generate more heated discussion about the decline in the school district’s academic ranking among Kentucky’s 174 districts during his three-year tenure.
Meanwhile, in a separate story, WAVE-3 is also reporting that staffing of the Jefferson County superintendent search committee is under fire because full-time Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim is being named as one of the two ‘teacher’ representatives on the search committee. McKim is a full-time union head, and it is reported he is not currently teaching in the classroom. Thus, his appointment does not appear to comply with the requirement for the ‘teacher’ category in the search committee program. The Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) has received a complaint, and the matter may be placed before the Kentucky Attorney General’s office for a ruling.
Having a union leader participate in the selection of a new superintendent could be a serious policy blunder. The superintendent plays a major role in union contract negotiations.
For example, Memorandum of Agreement negotiations between the union and the Jefferson County School District have already been called into serious question by a recent OEA report, “Analysis of Collective Bargaining Agreements in Kentucky Districts.” Under the heading “Teacher Distribution” which begins on page 40 in the report, the OEA indicates the school district and the union entered into a MOA that violated provisions of House Bill 176 from the 2010 Regular Legislative Session. This improperly disrupted the assignment of experienced teachers to Jefferson County’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools. That is the kind of thing that happens when the union helps select ‘tame’ superintendents.
This isn’t the first time the Jefferson County Teachers Association has run afoul of committee staffing rules.
Several years ago, a Jefferson County Teachers Association officer was improperly named to the Kentucky Board of Education. That person was forced to leave after the impropriety became public and the Kentucky Senate refused to confirm the nomination.
Big surprise raises doubts
A surprising revelation in a recent Education Week blog item, “Can the Federal Government Fund Curriculum Materials?” creates more concern that the two federally funded attempts to create Common Core State Assessments are heading for significant trouble.
EdWeek’s blog contains a surprising revelation: federal law prohibits federal money from being used to fund curriculum for schools.
But, it’s not possible to create good state assessments without considering the curriculum. Otherwise, you wind up with tests that don’t measure what is taught, tests which may not even measure material that should be in the curriculum.
As discussed below, Kentucky’s assessment history provides rich evidence in this area. Click the “Read more” link to find out how the attempts to create nationwide education assessments are poised to run afoul of the very same issues that doomed not one, but TWO assessment programs in the Bluegrass State.
I think the people creating the Common Core State Assessments also have come to that realization that curriculum is critical to their effort because. EdWeek reports these people are now talking about developing curriculum materials. However, these specific assessment efforts are massively funded by the federal government, so such curriculum activity appears to run afoul of the law.
Why curriculum control matters
I developed the chart below the future of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Accountability and Testing System (CATS) was being debated in late 2008. It shows that really effective assessment development is a feedback process where curriculum creation is a most important item that must precede initial assessment development.
The process to create solid state assessments starts at the top box, where the statements of desired goals and outcomes for the educational program are established (now, often called standards). The process then moves clockwise around the chart to Curriculum Development. Next, teachers use the curriculum to actually set up instructional lessons. Only then do we encounter the Assessment block, where the assessments get created.
Leave out any block in the process, and the testing program can falter. Set up situations that can undermine feedback, and the process can also stumble.
The process certainly can run into trouble if different agencies control different block items in an uncoordinated manner. That is exactly the problem Kentucky encountered when its 1990 education reform law split up responsibilities for the various block items in ways that impeded feedback and cooperation.
Under Kentucky’s new law, while the state, through the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), centrally controlled the tests and the statements of goals/outcomes, curriculum control was assigned to completely different groups at the local level. The main local group was the powerful School Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) within each school.
The result wasn’t good. People creating Kentucky’s curriculum were never really sure what the different people who created the goals/outcomes really wanted, or what the testers were really looking for, and vice versa.
By the way, in a move similar to that being discussed by the Common Core State Assessment organizations, Kentucky’s state educators did make an attempt to ‘almost create curriculum’ by creating curriculum frameworks. That didn’t work. Teachers need specific, well defined detail to create curriculum that is aligned with standards and assessments. Otherwise, they are left mostly guessing.
As things stand, the Common Core State Assessment process seems poised to repeat the very same mistakes that Kentucky has made over the past 20 years. Why the Common Core consortia think the outcomes for their assessments will be different from our sad experience in Kentucky quite frankly escapes me. In fact, I seriously wonder if the members of the consortia even know about the history of their ideas in Kentucky.
It should be noted that both Kentucky’s KIRIS and then CATS assessments failed after years of expensive effort (read more about that in the institute’s reports on KERA at 20 Years).
Unfortunately, things that went wrong in Kentucky are very similar to the types of things being proposed by the two new Common Core State Assessment initiatives.
For sure, Kentucky’s assessment programs went awry in no small measure because the state’s educators also did not control curriculum.
By the way, EdWeek says that Christopher T. Cross from the education consulting firm of Cross & Juftus raised the legal issue about federal funding for curriculum at a recent conference about the plans from the PARCC and SMARTER efforts to build those assessments.
Says Cross, while both efforts now talk about creating curriculum materials, a law passed a number of years ago (currently found in Public Law 96-88, which created the US Department of Education), makes it illegal for the feds to fund curriculum efforts.
Section 103b of the law reads:
(b) No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.
I’m not a lawyer, but Cross seems to have a valid point unless another law has changed or deleted this language.
EdWeek says the ban came about years ago when a National Science Foundation curriculum generated controversy and adverse reaction in Congress. Cross helped draft the bill.
Quite notably, EdWeek reports that Pascal Forgione, a former Commissioner of Education Statistics at the National Center for Education Statistics, says that the curriculum issue could be “the Achilles heel” of the PARCC and SMARTER efforts.
Given that test creation that ignores curriculum is almost certain to fail – dismally – I’d say that is an understatement. Perhaps a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars in wasted effort understatement.
The bottom line: if the Common Core State Assessment efforts cannot develop common curriculum, and it appears they cannot legally do that, then the resulting tests are very likely going to wind up just like Kentucky’s CATS and KIRIS assessments did – in the trash can.
IF, IF and IF!
Using his logic, you will have to believe politicians will do what they say they will do. You will have to believe a politician committing to do “efficiency” studies will actually do them. 0 for 2.
Others see it differently. We could all go broke if this issue isn’t forced to be seriously dealt with now.
Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, says the current programs are not affordable for state or local governments.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said last year alone, the state government retirement plans added more than $1 billion in unfunded liability, and the local government plans added $796 million.
Mike Burnside, executive director of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, said the unfunded liabilities of both state and local pension systems are worrisome.
It’s time for Governor Beshear, Senator Williams, Senator Thayer and executive director Burnside to put all the facts on the table at the same time, in the same place. Kentuckians get it: Guaranteed state pensions are unsustainable. This is not too complex or too complicated — it’s politics.
Stop the spin. Other states face bankruptcy because of this issue. This is a high stakes game for Kentucky taxpayers that only politicians get to play.
Politicians win if the state pension programs remain unchanged. Taxpayers lose big time. The pension deck is stacked against the taxpayer and Kentucky.
- Operation: Open Records 2011 – The new year is here and you know what that means, it is open records time. The Bluegrass Institute has already begun the search for information this year but we would like your input on what you want to see. What questions do you want answered? Where should we dig?
- Help us spread the word on Facebook and stay in touch with us by becoming a fan of The Bluegrass Institute!
- Great letter via Cafe Hayek regarding the reality of the proposed federal “budget cuts”.
- The Lexington Herald-Leader has done a great job recently making a lot of public records available on their website Kentucky.com. Check out the database page here!