When it comes to answering tough questions in the public sphere, Kentucky taxpayers simply want to know: Where’s Ben?
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The Kentucky Enquirer reports that a law aimed at increasing safety for students in public schools, “grew into a wide-ranging, omnibus law of too many costly regulations that strayed far from the original intent of protecting school children from obvious dangers.” As a consequence, the Ohio legislature, in a rather remarkable action, repealed legislation known as “Jarod’s Law.”
Impacts of this specific law – which was enacted in an emotional reaction to a child’s accidental death – were, according to Ohio State Rep. Randy Gardner of Bowling Green, “more costly and more regulation” than legislators intended.
Make no mistake – we need realistic and effective rules for public safety. But, those rules need to be carefully crafted to avoid serious unintended consequences. Apparently, in a remarkable all all to rare case of self-appraisal, the Ohio legislature realized that in the case of Jarod’s Law, they had simply gone too far.
A couple of days ago, the Kentucky Department of Education released new public school Advanced Placement Test (AP) data for 2009 along with a notable amount of older data from earlier years.
The table below, which comes directly from the department’s news release, shows that the number of students who got a college credit level AP score (a 3, 4 or 5) rose for all reported ethnic categories. That is certainly good news at a time when the state needs more college-educated citizens to meet the demands of the new economy.
The department’s news release lists a number of the efforts to improve our AP programs but failed to mention the latest, and perhaps most important of all. That was legislation in Senate Bill 2 from the 2008 Regular session.
Senate Bill 2 created a number of new programs to enrich teacher preparation for AP instructor duties and for the first time adds KEES college scholarship award “kickers” for students who qualify for the federal school lunch program – an indicator of low income – who get a 3 or higher. The students covered by the new 2009 AP data were the first ones eligible for the KEES AP boosts, and I see some indication in the results that the plan is working.
This next table might make that a bit clearer. This slide shows the percentage change in the number of students scoring a 3 or more on the AP by racial group. For example, the top left figure shows that in 2001 the proportion of African-Americans getting a 3 or more on the AP rose by 2.4 percent.
Notice in the table I shaded declines in the percentages from the previous year in red. One of the first things that jumps out at me is that in 2009, for the first time since 2005, no ethnic group had a decline in the percentage of students scoring 3’s and above.
The next notable thing is that in 2009 every single group posted at least a double-digit percentage increase in AP successes. In previous years, at least one group had only either single digit positive increases or a decline.
Finally, looking at the bottom line, which summarizes the trends for all students averaged together, the change in the percentage getting a 3 or higher between 2008 and 2009, 19.8 percent, is the largest ever.
So, it looks like the overall effort to increase Kentucky’s AP performance is having a positive effect.
I’ll have some more interesting news on the AP situation tomorrow, so stay tuned.
It’s often easier to talk about problems than take tough steps to fix them.
Creating committees and holding executive summits buys time and diverts attention from the real obstacles. Everyone leaves these meetings feeling good, but often nothing is different tomorrow.
Is this what will happen at Thursday’s comprehensive summit on the link between minority academic success and economic empowerment, and how embracing diversity leads to success in the global economy?
The summit at the Lexington Convention Center is sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Minority Empowerment, Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center.
This appears more an opportunity for officials to appear serious about the problem. Perhaps they are, but how will we know?
A recent Bluegrass Institute special report on ‘State of the School District: How Whites and Blacks Perform in Jefferson County Public Schools’ clearly states Kentucky’s challenge in improving the academic performance of its minority students. But where is the visible action plan to hold people accountable to close performance gaps with a sense of urgency?
Wanna bet those issues won’t be addressed at this summit?
Wouldn’t it be great if the summit attendees issued an Action Alert like the one the Bluegrass Institute issued recently to communicate the first steps to take to close learning gaps now? Just think of the impact if the Governor put his punch behind commitments made at the summit in a similar alert!
Better yet, reverse the order of events: Hold a summit after the challenges have been addressed in order to highlight the positive progress made in improving academic success, increasing economic empowerment and embracing diversity.
But that approach would take leadership and requires courage. Actions would speak much louder than words. Any takers with the responsibility, accountability and power to make a difference?
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