Founding father John Adams warned: “There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
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The Washington Post wasn’t messing around when it called the situation in Kentucky – one of 10 states without charter schools – “ridiculous.”
The Post also did readers across the nation a service when it explained the different atmosphere at charter schools, which are publicly funded, privately managed schools: “Freed from the constraints of union contracts and one-size-fits-all school policy, they’ve been able to innovate successful new approaches to learning.”
Little wonder, then, the most determined opponents to charter schools in Kentucky, is, has been and will continue to be, teachers unions and their enablers in the Legislature.
I did a little of my own research after posting a blog earlier today about two school districts that were questioning data in their 2009 No Child Left Behind Reports (NCLB). Instead of looking at district level data, I looked at the counts statewide for students tested under NCLB for reading in 2008 and 2009. The table shows what I found.
Most of the changes from 2008 to 2009 don’t look out of line, but there are two exceptions – the students with learning disabilities, and the students with limited English proficiency. Both groups showed very large one-year increases.
Most definitely, the increase in the count of students with learning disabilities looks out of line. This 11,000 plus jump in one year looks highly unreasonable.
Even worse, an increase that large can’t be due to one or two school districts having bad data. This must be spread out over more districts, maybe all of them.
The limited English proficiency number increase in one year of 1,443 students isn’t a big increase by itself even though on a percentage basis it is indeed a very large jump. However, the increase in the two groups that are likely to create this increase, the Hispanic and Asian students, in total was only 1,213 students. Where, exactly, did the other 230 limited English proficient kids come from? Whites? Not likely.
So, it looks like the Kentucky Department of Education may indeed have some problems. In fact, there may be some massive problems that could impact many schools that either did, or did not fail NCLB due to learning disabled kids who may not even exist.
This, indeed, is getting interesting.
This E.D. Hirsch commentary in the new “The Chronicle of Higher Education” should be required reading for every educator.
Hirsch explains how a major focus on “child centered” instruction often acts to prevent those children from being able to participate in our republican form of government. Hirsch knows that one of the key goals of education must be to teach every child the core of knowledge that is assumed by adult writers. Without that core of knowledge, a person is doomed to live forever in the “linguistic shadows,” unable to effectively communicate and participate in society.
The new Kentucky No Child Left Behind (NCLB) scores for 2009 have been out less than a week, but at least two school districts are already questioning their reports.
The most recent situation was covered by the News-Graphic from Georgetown. Under the title, “Schools score 94.7 percent, fail No Child Left Behind” (Subscription), the newspaper includes comments that the Scott County Public School District found mistakes in the number of its learning disabled students in the new report.
Per Scott County, the NCLB report shows 188 more learning disabled students than are actually in the system. I calculate that figure would be more than 30 percent too high, based on the number of learning disabled students in the system one year earlier.
This error could point to a number of problems, but the leading suspect at this point is the Infinite Campus student tracking computer program. This is a program with teething pains, as we have noted before.
Scott County isn’t the only school district with concerns. The first school system to question the new NCLB results is the Barren County School District. According to the Glasgow Daily Times, the district’s director of Instruction and Techonology, Benny Lile, spotted some “discrepancies” which the paper didn’t discuss further.
I called Mr. Lile, who has a long history of service to state education as the past chair of the statewide School Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability Committee. He indicated the problem in Barren County also concerns questionable numbers of students who were reported as learning disabled.
It will be interesting to see if more districts have similar problems.
As an aside, I also talked to Mr. Lile about how Barren County is handling the new testing data. He is going to be doing a good job with that task. His district will take a detailed look at the data broken down by individual test and by student subgroup performance. I think that is exactly what the legislature intended when they disbanded the CATS accountability system with its overly simplistic single-score-for-everything approach, which just wound up hiding lots of problems.
Lile’s district isn’t going to do anything with the unofficial, CATS-like number called the “Transition Index” that a consortium of private groups concocted this year. Lile recognizes that single number can hide all sorts of underlying problems and mostly just serves to confuse the public about what is really going on in their public schools.
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