Here’s the radio commentary based on Jim Waters’ recent column about the late long-time commentator Paul Harvey.
– It doesn’t happen in Kentucky
Up in Ohio, they take No Child Left Behind seriously. When schools chronically fail to make adequate yearly progress over an extended period of time, the Kentucky Enquirer indicates that the teachers must apply and interview as though they are new hires to keep their jobs.
While the Enquirer article seems to be upset that only about one in four teachers in Cincinnati’s poorest NCLB schools kept their jobs, that would be a miracle in Kentucky. Down here, I don’t think the staff at any school has seen much, if any, replacement due to NCLB. I certainly have not heard of a school in Kentucky where three out of four teachers got walking papers as a result of NCLB.
The commonwealth has serious problems with its public education system. Yet the entrenched establishment apparently is more concerned about the fact that no Kentuckians are among the four finalists for state education commissioner.
It’s understandable that Wilson Sears, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, would feel the pressure to lash out. After all, his constituents are school superintendents, and one of them wasn’t chosen as a finalist.
It’s one thing to claim the candidates aren’t as strong as they should be, as the Prichard Committee’s Cindy Heine does. It’s quite another to say that just because none of the candidates are from Kentucky, they couldn’t be an effective commissioner.
Considering our dismal education record in recent years, not being from Kentucky may be the best thing these candidates have going for them.
Thanks to some extensive data collecting by Strive Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (See the “2009 Striving Together: Report Card”), I just got a chance to compare some performance measures such as high school graduation rates and ACT scores for Kentucky Catholic Schools to those of nearby public schools.
In Northern Kentucky, Catholic Schools offer the major school choice option for those who can afford it. It’s clear in the graph above why many parents take this school choice option, but there are some additional surprises, as well.
First, note that the Covington Diocese, which covers Northern Kentucky, runs away with the best-by-far Freshman Graduation Rate. This rate is the ratio of graduates in the 2007-08 school year (counts obtained from the Graduation Rate Excel spreadsheet here)to the number of freshmen who entered each school system as ninth graders in the 2004-05 term (which can be found in the Excel 2004-05 “Growth Factor Ethnic Membership” spreadsheet here).
Keep in mind that this rate tends to return figures a couple of points below the true graduation rate because of a lot of kids who are held back in the ninth grade, but federal research indicates that this approximation calculation is still among the most accurate available.
The Catholic system also outperforms on the ACT college entrance test.
The graph also shows the percentage of disadvantaged kids in each system, which is derived from the percentage of kids who are eligible for the federal free and reduced cost lunch program. Clearly, most of the Catholic students are well-to-do compared to the public school memberships.
However, here is the first surprise. The Ludlow Independent schools have a much higher school lunch rate than either the Kenton County or Campbell County school systems, but Ludlow does a much better job of graduating its students.
Also, note that Ludlow’s ACT college entrance test Composite Score is quite competitive with other public school systems, as well. Clearly, Ludlow is a district worth watching. Also, as Ludlow borders Covington, it could even be a system of choice for parents of modest means who have the ability to move to this relatively low housing cost area.
In any event, it is clear that while the Covington and Newport Independent school districts face strong poverty issues, that they have a long way to go in educating their students successfully. Graduation rates and ACT scores in both systems are way below what they need to be.
One more note on transparency of data. Covington and Newport both provided a “graduation rate” to the Strive folks. These are based on the “official” calculation used by the Kentucky Department of Education. Covington reported a graduation rate of 90 percent, and Newport claimed a rate of 81 percent.
Notice the sharp contrast to the graduation rates in the graph above. While federally research indicates the rates shown in the graph above are probably a bit low (though they are calculated in the same way the Catholic system uses, so the comparison is fair), there is no reasonable way that the rates in the graph can be so far off from the rates Covington and Newport provided to Strive.
In fact, when the data underlying these rates from Covington were audited in 2006, the finding was that the data was grossly under-reporting the true seriousness of the situation.
For example, Covington had twice as many dropouts as they owned up to, and Newport had five times as many. Because dropouts are used to calculate the Kentucky Department of Education’s untrustworthy graduation rates, the result was that graduation rates for both school systems were grossly overstated by the “official” numbers.
Yet, the deception continues three years later. These bogus numbers even showed up in the new Strive report, though Strive warns not to try to compare them to the graduation rate for the Catholic system.
The first tea party to protest taxation without representation occurred on Dec. 16, 1773. We’ve come full circle and are now almost back where we started.
Congress recently passed a $1.2 trillion bill that members didn’t even have time to read. On June 26, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This bill contained 1,200 pages before another 300 pages were added at 3 a.m. the day of the vote. Representatives did not have time to read, analyze, debate and understand the future ramifications of this legislation before being forced to vote.
In the real world, this type of behavior is called “unconscionable, irresponsible and negligent.”
What if a private company acted in this manner and employees cried that the company was taking money out of their paychecks for things they didn’t want? And what if that company’s leaders had the power to exempt themselves from any consequences and set themselves up for a worry-free life?
Ridiculous? No. Our elected representatives are in the process of setting up this company as our government, and we are the suckers that will be paying the bills. You won’t see any initiative by our elected representatives to quickly move for live media coverage for an untold number of hearings to decry their despicable representation for us. What a shame!
In 20-20 hindsight, nothing is so much of an emergency that Congress cannot take time to read bills, analyze their impact – both now and in the future – and debate from an informed, transparent position. But there is a reason these bills have not been transparent and debated from fact: the political fat cats in Washington know that Americans would not put up with their nonsense.
The Washington legislative approach will have significant ramifications on every Kentuckian. It will negatively impact our commonwealth, its city and county governments and employers.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all knew those ramifications and had elected officials in Frankfort and Washington communicating with us and looking out for our interests – not theirs?
Their approach may be great politics, but it’s bad policy administered with no integrity. It’s time to draw the line in the sand and demand true policy transparency, analysis and debate through responsible representation.
It’s understandable that there might not be a lot of enthusiasm for the public to know that organizations supported partially by taxpayer dollars have garnered the attention of state Auditor Crit Luallen for their “excessive spending” and “inadequate oversight.”
And no … we’re not talking about Congress or the Kentucky General Assembly.
Rather, we’re referring to the top five officials in the Kentucky Association of Counties spending “nearly $600,000 in two years on travel, meals and other expenses.”
Then there’s the matter of Kentucky League of Cities Executive Director Sylvia Lovely’s $315,000 compensation package. It’s very taxpayer-friendly like of Lovely to decide “she would discontinue several corporate perks, including … holding League functions at a restaurant co-owned her husband.
I wonder if she will also now reverse the league’s recent decision to stop complying with reporters’ open-records’ requests. Even if she does, it will be with all the enthusiasm of a vegetarian at an Independence Day hog roast.