Next week the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) considers progress reporting requirements for Kentucky’s three worst performing school districts (Jefferson County, Christian County, and Covington Independent). Signaling where the worst of the worst problems lie, the Kentucky Department of Education recommends that Jefferson and Christian County should only have to report to the KBE twice a year, while the clearly more problematic Covington district will have to report four times a year.
But, is this really sufficient oversight for chronically low performance?
To explore that question, I talked to Rick Loghry, past president of Mason & Hanger – a high-tech firm previously headquartered in Lexington that has extensive expertise and experience in improving production plant management. Loghry was very emphatic that seriously under-performing organizations need much more frequent oversight – monthly – to create an effective turn-around in a reasonable amount of time.
Then, I asked Loghry a key question – given that our highly criticized CATS assessment only provides results for schools and districts annually, and actually only provides a final judgment on schools and districts every other year, what could be used as a basis to make meaningful reports on monthly progress? We both quickly realized that Kentucky’s current school assessment system is totally inadequate to support any sort of meaningful monitoring function, be it monthly, once a quarter, or even once a year.
As things stand, any monitoring in these troubled school systems will have to rely on other indicators and testing programs. However, there has been lots of controversy about how well other tests and measures do, or do not, mirror Kentucky’s curriculum and core content for assessment documents. Who knows if the results from these alternate measures will have any validity?
It’s obvious that Kentucky’s failure to establish an effective school assessment program has implications that run far deeper than questions about how frequently failing schools or districts need to report on progress. It’s the development of the measurement tools to make such reporting meaningful, not how often they are used, which should be the KBE’s first priority of business.
“Measuring Up 2008, The National Report Card On Higher Education” from The National Center For Public Policy And Higher Education in San Jose, California, provides some really disturbing evidence about the slide in the relative competitiveness of US education compared to the rest of the world.
Finally, Figures 3 and 4 make it clear that the overall the US postsecondary education level is coasting along on the backs of our older citizens, aged 35 to 64. Those older citizens’ education levels rank second in the world.
Note: All figures are from “Measuring Up 2008, The National Report Card On Higher Education.”
Measuring Up does indicate that Kentucky is making some progress relative to the rest of the country in some areas, but after digesting Figures 1 to 4, that may only be because the rest of the country isn’t making much progress at all, so we are shooting at a low target while the country as a whole is clearly falling behind.
The Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions is thumping its chest today for helping extract a $1 million fine from — and shutting down — a web-based company that helps people lend or borrow money.
Great. Sure wouldn’t want anyone getting ripped off by an unregulated financial institution.
Kathy Gornik, CEO of Thiel Audio and Board Chair of the Bluegrass Institute, challenges the conventional thinking that assumes manufacturing is in serious decline in the attached interview with Investors Business Daily last Monday. Kathy “isn’t against outsourcing manufacturing to China. She just thinks her employees can do a better job.“
Kudos to Kathy Gornik, the hero of every productive worker in Kentucky!
An avowed supporter of free markets and global capitalism, she also warns, “The worst concept that is perpetuated by political leaders is that economics is a zero-sum game — that China’s gain in manufacturing jobs is a direct minus in the U.S.”
“Zero-sum game” thinking is what perpetrates the Frankfort attitude that the productive companies in Kentucky must “give back” to the unproductive ones, that the school districts with the most funding must be forced to subsidize the worst ones. What Kentucky institutions need is more courageous competitors like Kathy Gornik.
What if she were Gov. Beshear’s Economic Development Secretary?
Tough times have a great way of inspiring some people to see the world more clearly and sharpen their focus on things that really matter. And then there are those who send out press releases urging contributions to charity:
“In these tough economic times, we must remember those less fortunate and in need of everyday items that many of us take for granted. I encourage state employees and visitors to the Capitol to participate in our Feed a Family – Canned Goods Drive,” said Gov. Steve Beshear.
If Gov. Beshear’s words stir you up to donate to the needy, then more power to you. But Kentuckians are charitable people who don’t need a politician telling them to help out the needy when lower corporate taxes and better schools would create more opportunities for Kentuckians than holiday charity ever could.
And better schools doesn’t just mean more money for schools. Not until we make the schools accountable for the money they already have.