Nothing escapes the ebb and flow of the free market — not even the annual thoroughbred sale of fine horses in Kentucky.
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The 2009 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math tests were released this morning, and there will be a lot to discuss.
On a somewhat happy note, Kentucky is one of a handful of states to show overall improvement in fourth grade math.
However, we went nowhere with our NAEP eighth grade math scores, which have not changed from 2007, the last time the NAEP was given.
Furthermore, even the fourth grade news must be tempered by the fact that the rest of the country now takes the NAEP with a significant handicap. Many other states have significant and growing minority student populations, which makes it easier for Kentucky to show improvement on NAEP. Because the other racial groups get much lower NAEP scores than whites do, Kentucky’s relatively high white population tends to make us look good on superficial analysis of NAEP scores when we actually need to be more cautious about the results.
For example, the new NAEP report card shows that in the 1992 NAEP fourth grade math test 90 percent of the Kentucky students were white. In the new 2009 results that percentage has declined only seven points to 83 percent.
Compare Kentucky’s relatively stable population demographics to the national white percentages tested in those two years. Across the nation, the percentage of fourth grade whites tested by the NAEP plummeted from 72 percent to only 54 percent between 1992 and 2009.
In some states such as California and New Mexico, the percentages of students NAEP tested back in 1992 that were white were 50 percent and 45 percent, respectively. In 2009 those percentages sagged to only 28 percent in both states. In these states whites are now a minority, while Hispanics comprise more than 50 percent of the student samples NAEP tested in 2009 in these states and in Texas, as well. And, many of those Hispanic kids are still learning English, while in Kentucky the numbers of English Language Learners, as NAEP defines them, are very, very low at only around three percent.
In fact, half of the states now have a double-digit percentage of Hispanic students in their 2009 NAEP fourth grade math samples. There were only nine states that participated in the 1992 NAEP fourth grade math assessment that had double-digit Hispanic populations.
So, watch out for those who try to make too much out of the fourth grade improvement. It’s not hard to win a battle when all the competition is fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.
And, stay tuned for more. We’re going to see that our Kentucky Core Content Test is still returning highly inflated math scores, and we’ll also talk about an interesting paradox in the male versus female scores on NAEP and our own tests.
First, it’s not as bad as it could be in Kentucky.
The commonwealth improved from No. 34 to No. 20 in the Tax Foundation’s 2010 State Business Tax Climate Index.
Considering the tax increases approved during the 2009 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, how could Kentucky experience such a dramatic increase in just one year?
In an e-mail response, Natasha Altamirano, manager of media relations for the Tax Foundation, explained:
“While Kentucky did enact some tax increases that negatively affected the state’s Index score, its improvement in ranking is due to the fact that states immediately ahead of it in the 2009 Index fell so much as a result of poor tax policies — especially in the personal income tax. In other words, by not doing anything (or by doing less damage than other states), Kentucky’s ranking improved.”
Second, while surrounding states like Ohio, which has been ranked either No. 47 or No. 48 for the past five years, continued to shrink their tax base, Kentucky missed the chance to improve its business climate.
In this podcast about the Tax Foundation’s rankings, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University describes the rankings as “the competitiveness of the 50 states’ tax systems and ranks them accordingly based on the taxes that matter most to businesses and business investment: corporate income, individual income, sales, property and unemployment insurance
If the only news here is “it could have been worse,” then past admonitions produced as a result of such rankings still hold:
By keeping tax rates low and eliminating regulatory policies creating an oppressive business atmosphere, the Bluegrass State could join Florida, Nevada, Alaska, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Treading water is simply not good enough.
Official confirmation of the dimensions of the problem were provided during the Kentucky Board of Education meeting on October 8, 2009.
I learned a little more during yesterday’s Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee meeting. About 120 schools appear to have questionable data concerning students with learning disabilities and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) sent messages to all of those schools requesting a review of the statistics currently in the department’s databases, including the data used for NCLB scoring.
The question of exactly what happened remains unanswered. The problems seem to be entirely random at this point, unrelated to such things as when each school changed over to the Infinite Campus student tracking computer system.
That random problem situation could indicate issues for the stability of Infinite Campus.
Back in May, we reported on an issue impacting the Henry County School District where they were getting unstable answers every time they tried to retrieve their Average Daily Attendance (ADA) figure from Infinite Campus.
Those ADA numbers are critical because they are used with several formulas to determine the amount of state and federal money each school district receives each year. I estimated the errors could lead to this small district getting inaccurate payments of as much as half a million dollars.
Anyway, it looks like the KDE data hounds are on the issue and asking the right kinds of questions. It will be interesting to see how their hunt turns out.
In June, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed an executive order approving collective bargaining by individual providers of home-based support services.
There has been a lot of discussion this year about the lack of progress in Kentucky’s public schools, especially in the most chronically low-performing schools. After attending both Kentucky Board of Education and several legislative committees in the past week, it is my informed opinion that most of our key education policy makers are reaching consensus – what our educators have been doing isn’t working well enough, or fast enough, and people are now open to making major changes.
For example, during last week’s board of education discussion of Louisville’s chronically low performing schools, Joe Brothers, the chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, laid it out plain and simple, saying we have to “face the brutal truth.”
The next day, Brothers provided more evidence of his frustration. As department of education staffers were laying out plans to fix the problems, Brothers impatiently interrupted, saying, “I came on the local board in 1987. What you just said to me is no different than what I heard in 1987. So why should I be hopeful?”
Clearly, Mr. Brothers is ready for something really new.
Our new Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday has quickly grasped the seriousness of the problem. He publicly commented at the board meeting that he has an open mind about change, as well. He freely suggested concepts like charter schools and KIPP Academies could be a way to reform some of the state’s chronic problem schools.
Commissioner Holliday also admitted at the October 13, 2009 Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) meeting that Kentucky’s lack of real education progress calls for changes.
He told the legislators, “We’re not closing gaps fast enough. We’re not moving our students to proficiency as fast as we need to do so. So, our issue is, what are we going to do differently in the future?”
Ken Draut, Kentucky’s Associate Commissioner for Assessment, also admitted to the EAARS members that the state simply isn’t moving fast enough. During his briefing on last year’s test results, Draut, who has a great deal of responsibility for the state’s testing programs, pointed out that the rate of progress on the Kentucky Core Content Tests for reading and math is much slower than the rates that will be required over the next few years under No Child Left Behind.
Legislators are getting the message.
The EAARS co-chair, State Representative Kent Stevens, commented that, “We can’t be afraid to make a major change, because, obviously, what we’ve been doing for the past few years – it isn’t working anymore.”
And, even an old war horse defender of KERA, State Representative Harry Moberly, is clearly running out of patience. He said, “When you look at our scores, it’s sort of the same old song.” He pointed out that scores drop off from elementary schools to middle schools, and then the high schools, “get sort of pathetic.” He continued, “We were seeing these same things last year, and the year before, as I recall.”
Moberly also said, “I notice the disability category, once again, is making no progress, which has been the case for as many years as I can remember.”
Moberly continued, “Let’s don’t be afraid to be innovative.” He then mentioned “the charter school thing” in a way that indicated he is open to considering them as one of those innovations to fix our most chronically low performing schools.
So, from key executive branch people to key legislators, it looks like a consensus is forming – we cannot afford to continue with the “same old, same old” ideas any longer. They are not working where it counts – for our kids.
Key policy makers seem ready to address fundamentally new approaches, and charter schools are on just about everyone’s lips as an idea that deserves very careful consideration.
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