“If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that, if it is comfort or money it values more, it will lose that too.”
— William Somerset Maugham 
At first blush, the question above seems almost like nonsense. You would think that teachers with Masters Degrees do a better job with students.
Well, guess again.
A report released about four months ago by the Center on Reinventing Public Education says,
“On average, master’s degrees in education bear no relation to student achievement. Master’s degrees in math and science have been linked to improved student achievement in those subjects, but 90 percent of teachers’ master’s degrees are in education programs—a notoriously unfocused and process-dominated course of study.” (note: reference numbers removed)
The Center’s report goes on to cite the amount of extra money Kentucky pays for those apparently unproductive Master of Education degrees. It comes to a really tidy sum, $143,867,668 every year.
I should note that this problem is well-known in some Kentucky circles. The Kentucky Education Professionals Standards Board will actually cancel approval of all existing Master of Education programs in the state on December 31, 2010. Every college in Kentucky that wants to continue to operate Master of Education programs will have to reapply for a new certification under new guidelines. Hopefully, those guidelines will lead to revised programs that cover what really improves learning for kids.
“Medicare was 10 times more expensive than first forecast and a part of Medicaid cost 17 times more than taxpayers were led to believe. No wonder the American people do not trust Congress and its supposed forecasting experts.”
- Conduct the efficiency study to eliminate wasteful spending that the governor promised during his campaign. To this date the study has not been done.
- Repeal prevailing wage legislation.
- Re-prioritize time within state organizations that spend a lot of their resources keeping tabs on state think tanks. The Kentucky Department of Education and the Commonwealth of Kentucky Department of Information Systems combine to account for nearly 9% of the traffic at the government transparency site FreedomKentucky.org, sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute. Even more they combine for nearly 15% of the traffic to this blog!
– NOT backing up success
Rules for the ‘Race to the Top’ federal education fund are out, and as the first figure shows, there are big points in this state-versus-state competition for states that do things to create and nurture great education leaders.
Thus, the story I’m about to tell should upset many here, and maybe a few in Washington, as well. It’s a story about how Kentucky did nothing to support an education leader who made dramatic improvement in one of our schools.
Back in 2005, it was viewed as one of the most hopeful and aggressive attempts anywhere in Kentucky to breath life into a seriously failing school.
The Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Lexington was in terrible shape. Reading proficiency rates were terrible, and math proficiency was scarcely higher. This heavy minority school clearly needed a turn-around, and it looked like the Fayette County School System was serious about making that happen.
Fayette County’s Superintendent transferred one of his top performing principals, Peggy Petrilli, to the troubled Booker T.
Petrilli had posted a great track record at another high minority school in the district, and she looked like the perfect choice – except to the minority parents at Booker T. They were demanding a black principal – period.
Petrilli is white.
Petrilli was sent in, anyway.
As the two graphs below show, the turn-around in Booker T’s scores for reading and math were dramatic. Even though some of the increase from 2006 to 2007 can be explained by the inflation caused by new CATS scoring standards, the total rise is far too high to be solely due to that issue.
But, then the roof fell in.
Friction grew between Petrilli and her minority parent population. They wanted her out. They wanted a black leader – period.
Results didn’t matter, apparently.
In August 2007, the parents won. Despite posting the dramatic score improvements shown in the figures, Petrilli got the axe. And, just to add insult to injury, the district accused Petrilli of cheating on the state tests.
Well, we now know a bit more.
For one thing, we know that there has been a noticeable decline in performance in Booker T. Washington in recent years. That is even more unsatisfactory because we also now know that the state tests in math got even easier in this time frame.
We also see something else. If Petrilli really had been cheating, then the scores after her departure should have sunk right back to near the levels of 2005. That didn’t happen. The scores did decline slightly in reading in 2008, but proficiency actually went up a bit more in math.
So, there was still some lasting impact from the Petrilli years. Moreover, the scores could not look like they do if Petrilli had cheated.
Sadly, by 2009, the proficiency rate trend in both subjects is in decay at Booker T. With Petrilli’s team and programs now largely replaced by other people and ideas, Booker T. Washington is losing ground, again.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is no way to nurture educators.
I wrote yesterday about how the results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress grade 4 math assessment concern me that KERA, 20 years later, isn’t performing nearly as well as we need it to.
Here is how Kentucky stacked up at the eighth grade level on the same assessment. As with the fourth grade example, I look only at white student scores here because about 85 percent of our students are white. It makes sense to examine how the vast majority of our students compare to their peers in other states. This also prevents giving Kentucky an unfair advantage in the comparison against states like California where there has been a huge influx of non-English speaking immigrants in the past few years.
Note that green is NOT GOOD NEWS for Kentucky on this map! States shown in green got math scores for their whites that were statistically significantly higher than our eighth grade whites got.
One of those ties was Mississippi, by the way. As with fourth grade, they caught us in the new NAEP math assessment.
That’s why, I must repeat, as KERA closes in on its 20th anniversary, I am concerned.
Note: Map assembled with the NAEP State Comparisons mapping tool