Vice President Biden’s recent trip to Louisville was little more than grandstanding about how stimulus funds have ‘helped’ the taxpayers and the economy.
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An article in yesterday’s Courier-Journal highlights exactly why I am increasingly against a new law that allows school boards to evaluate their school superintendent in secret.
Says Debbie Wesslund, chair of the Jefferson County Board of Education:
“It doesn’t matter what we say or think individually, it matters what we say or think as a board.”
That is absolute nonsense.
This board, like every school board in Kentucky, is an elected body. Managing the superintendent, who is the CEO for the school district, is arguably a school board’s most important function.
Voters can’t make intelligent choices about who represents them on their local school board when that board conducts its most important work in secret, offering only a “consensus” summary to the public. A consensus document will provide no clue about what individual board members really think.
Not everyone agrees with Westslund’s ideas.
Hats off to Jefferson County Board of Education member Steve Imhoff, who abstained from voting on the superintendent’s performance, saying he believes the entire evaluation should have been public. He gets it.
So does Courier-Journal attorney Jon Fleischaker. The Courier’s article points out Fleischaker said last year that, “the public misses important information when portions of the evaluation are closed.”
He is absolutely right.
Unwittingly, Ms. Wesslund’s comment allows informed speculation into the real reason that school boards pushed the legislature hard last year for this public business transparency violation. Those board members certainly know it will be much harder for someone to run against them when they can hide what they are doing from the public that elects them.
Maybe, places like Jefferson County should vote their entire board out of office if their board takes advantage of the new secrecy bill to thwart the public’s right, and need, to know (the new bill does not require secrecy; it just allows it). If the board wants to collectively hide in secret, maybe they should be collectively discharged in public – except for men like Steve Imhoff who clearly understand what the elective process and doing the public’s business is really all about.
Milton Friedman had a true gift for explaining basic economic ideas so that anyone could understand them. Here is Friedman discussing the four ways to spend money (and drawing a comparison to public education spending).
The Bluegrass Institute is hosting a “What would Friedman do?” lecture at the University of Louisville. You won’t want to miss this! You can learn more details here.
Check out the background of the new energy manager for Pulaski, Casey and Rockcastle County schools.
This makes me wonder what these energy managers are really going to be doing and whether a well-designed informational pamphlet for local school administrators could accomplish about the same thing at considerably lower cost.
Over the past few days, I’ve been commenting on KET’s Monday night show on charter schools (which is on line here).
One of the more interesting comments came at 41 minutes and 41 seconds into the on line broadcast version when show panelist Phil Moffett said:
“The real reason that the public schools don’t do well now is because there is no incentive for them to do well. They continue to get the kids. They continue to get the funding regardless of what the results are.”
Is this the case in every school in Kentucky?
I don’t think it applies to a few upscale communities where pressure from well-educated parents insures that schools are motivated, and do ‘carry the mail’ for their students. Those parents can afford to send their kids to private schools, and the public schools know it. That creates real competition – and better schools.
However, in Mr. Moffett’s hometown Jefferson County Public School System, and in far too many other school systems in the state, there are extensive examples that when parents are not well educated, well-to-do and organized, schools have continued to under-perform ever since our expensive education reform was enacted in 1990.
But, those schools still get our money – and our kids.
This is one of the things charter school proponents hope can be changed by creating some competitive motivation with charter schools. Competition works in upscale communities, so why not try it elsewhere in Kentucky?
After 20 years of KERA, given the state’s overall generally very slow rate of progress when data is fairly considered, we need to do something different. If not charters, then what?
Certainly, just throwing more money at the existing system doesn’t seem hopeful. We tried that already for the past 20 years.
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has pushed statistical nonsense about the real performance of our public school system on and off for years. Sadly that trend is continued within this recent Op-Ed from Prichard head Robert F. Sexton.
The Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center (KLTPRC) has been shut down, but that doesn’t stop Sexton from citing statistical garbage in one of their last papers.
Which is really sad. Prichard owes Kentuckians a more honest accounting.
Of course, if Prichard really did that, more would understand that Kentucky’s very expensive education reform, which Prichard played a major hand in creating and nurturing, has not really done that much for the students in Kentucky.
I’ve written plenty about why the KLTPRC’s education rankings are nonsense, so I’ll just do a quick recap here.
For starters, you cannot do state to state comparisons with Kentucky’s current dropout data. It is highly inaccurate, as was officially established in 2006 by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts.
Despite a feeble attempt in the latest KLTPRC report to explain this problem away, the truth is that many other states have already gotten honest about graduation and dropout rate reporting. Those states now have high quality student tracking programs. Their much more honest numbers absolutely cannot be compared to the inaccurate “stuff” Kentucky still reports. The KLTPRC’s nonsense excuse is an affront to those more honest states.
The ACT, Incorporated still says you can’t do state to state ranking with their college entrance test scores either. That didn’t stop the KLTPRC from ranking ACT scores, anyway.
In addition, you can’t simplistically rank scores from state to state for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the way Sexton and his compatriots do (Sexton was on the governing board for the KLTPRC until its demise, by the way).
Student demographics across the nation have changed too much in the past two decades to allow such simplistic comparisons to provide an accurate picture of progress.
For example, Kentucky’s latest NAEP fourth grade reading sample according to the 2009 NAEP Reading Report Card, Table A-9, is 84 percent white, 10 percent black and three percent Hispanic. The other racial groups in Kentucky are generally are so small that the scores are not even reported for them.
By comparison, across the nation the 2009 white proportion was only 54 percent, blacks were 16 percent and Hispanics ran 21 percent. Since blacks and Hispanics score much lower than whites, the fact that we have a much higher percentage of whites inflates our overall average score compared to other parts of the country with more diversity. By the way, a great proportion of those Hispanics are still learning English, but they take the NAEP reading test in English, anyway. This further depresses scores elsewhere.
Once you disaggregate the NAEP data by race, a different picture starts to emerge. Table A-12 in the same NAEP Report Card shows 39 percent of Kentucky’s fourth grade whites were reading proficiently while across the nation 41 percent were. For our black fourth grade students, 13 percent read proficiently in 2009 while nationally 15 percent did.
That blows some holes in Sexton’s claim that Kentucky students scored above the national average in reading, doesn’t it.
As I wrote here yesterday, things look much worse for our kids in eighth grade math.
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