Kentucky’s ‘Academic Standards Review and Revision Process’ gets under way

But, there are problems

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) recently held a press conference to announce the plan of attack related to the new Senate Bill 1’s requirements to review and revise the state’s academic education standards. There is going to be a lot of action in this area over the next few years for subjects like science and social studies, but the process of review for the state’s English language arts (ELA) and math standards has already started. The first step involves a public comment period that will run until September 15.

However, there may be some challenges with getting this public comment period right.

In fact, it appears things might be getting stacked to preserve the status quo as much as possible. That might not be in the best interests of our kids.

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Seven Myths About Education

Bluegrass scholar Prof. Gary Houchens has his own, great blog, and one of his new entries is a really though-provoking winner. In “Seven Myths About Education,” Houchens discusses a book with the same title that takes a lot of what we hear are “proven facts” about education to the wood shed.

Check out what the book and Houchens believe about these seven myths:

• facts prevent understanding
• teacher-led instruction is passive
• the twenty-first century fundamentally changes everything
• you can always just look it up
• we should teach transferable skills
• projects and activities are the best ways to learn
• teaching knowledge is indoctrination

If you are a parent, ask yourself if any of these myths are driving what happens in your child’s classroom. Your child’s future could depend on it.

New Education Week/NPR reporting shows Kentucky’s education spending is low

BUT, school spending in Kentucky doesn’t correlate to better academic performance

Some of the more radical public school supporters in Kentucky are complaining on social media – again – about the state’s relatively low spending per pupil compared to the rest of the nation. This time, they point to a recent article from Education Week with a map that color codes education spending in each school district across the country. Districts shaded in red and orange spend below the national average while those coded in shades of green spend above the norm. Kentucky, of course, is heavily shaded in orange and red.

But, there is a dirty little secret those spend-more-on-education-even-if-we-can’t-afford-it social media folks aren’t telling you – there is no correlation between higher education spending and better school performance.

And, Kentucky’s financial and testing data for the very same year cited by EdWeek and NPR – 2013 – proves that.

The PDF table I created, the Correlation for Spending and Math and Reading P Rates in 2013, shows total per pupil expenditures in each Kentucky school district in 2013. The table also shows the average proficiency rate in math and reading combined for each district in 2013 KPREP testing. I calculated that overall average for each district from the simple average of each district’s elementary, middle and high school math and reading scores. For districts without high schools, the average only was computed across elementary and middle school results.

I then ran a standard statistical calculation called a “correlation” to determine the relationship between those district spending amounts and their combined math and reading proficiency rates.

That correlation was -0.070, which is about as close as it gets to no correlation what so ever.

So, in Kentucky at least, spending more, or less, in 2013 didn’t have any relationship with better school performance.

This means simply throwing more money at education isn’t going to get us what we really want, which is much better performance for our students.

It would be MUCH better if our educators looked at those districts which are getting above average results with modest amounts of funding to try and figure out how to do the job more economically, not more expensively.

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Private school vouchers help level the playing field

An Op-Ed from the Cincinnati Enquirer offers some interesting counters to those who criticize the use of school vouchers that allow former public school students with low family incomes to attend a private school of their choice instead.

The Op-Ed’s author, Aaron Churchill, points to a number of positive impacts from vouchers such as an opportunity for students who are not being well served by their public school to seek an alternative with higher potential. He also takes issue with critics that claim voucher programs don’t really do better with these students, pointing out that 14 of 18 top quality studies do show vouchers improve results.

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State looks for legal help to examine JCPS collective bargaining agreements

The Courier-Journal reports that the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is now advertising for legal help to dig into collective bargaining contracts with Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) as part of the department’s ongoing and massive management audit of this troubled school system.

According to the Courier, the KDE

“…said it wants an analysis as to whether the contracts were negotiated in good faith, followed best practices and focused only on areas that were permissive subjects of bargaining, among other things.”

It certainly seems like KDE already smells smoke here and wants to see if there is a real fire behind it.

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Teacher staffing in Kentucky still very problematic

We have written very frequently in the past about Kentucky’s very abnormal and low ratio of teachers to other staffers in our public school system (such as here, here and here, to cite only a few examples).

The problem is that when other staff members bloat up the manning in a school, teachers’ salaries inevitably suffer.

Recently released data in the latest Digest of Education Statistics for 2016 allow us to update our ranking graph for teacher staffing in Kentucky versus other states’ and Washington, DC’s schools.

As you can see in the graph below, we have not improved the situation.

Teacher to Staff Ratio to 2014 for Kentucky

In fact, back in 1989, the year before Kentucky’s education reform act was passed, teachers in Kentucky’s public schools made up 50.1 percent of the entire school staffing and we ranked No. 43 for our staffing ratio. As of the latest data for 2014, Kentucky’s teacher-to-other-school-staff ratio shrank to only 42.8 percent.

Thus, as of 2014, Kentucky now ranks No. 49 for its very low teacher-to-total-school-staff ratio a ranking virtually unchanged since the early 1990s. And, that has bad implications both for teachers’ salaries and educational performance, too.

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Gov. Matt Bevin declares May 8-12 ‘Teacher Appreciation Week’

Governor Bevin’s proclamation says:

“Teachers are responsible for educating and guiding Kentucky’s children and the future of the Commonwealth and use their vast expertise and talents to give our children a solid foundation for their entire lives,” Gov. Bevin said in the proclamation. “Kentucky is grateful for the love and sacrifice our teachers give to make our children and communities flourish.”

We at BIPPS add our salute to the many teachers in Kentucky who do their best for our kids.

More evidence Kentucky’s single salary schedule for teachers is problematic

A news report from the Paducah Sun says something that’s no surprise to us: “Recruiting teachers can be a challenge in some fields” (subscription). The article quotes McCracken County Assistant Superintendent Heath Cartwright saying:

“We’ve been fortunate and have been able to find quality applicants for vacancies within our district. However, we do see there is a very limited number of teacher candidates in the areas of math and science.”

That is in no small measure due to the fact that unlike the situation in most areas of our economy, teaching in Kentucky generally pays the same regardless of how many people have the skills needed to teach in the different academic areas. Thanks to a basically one-size-fits-all salary structure, shortages in specific academic teaching areas like those mentioned by Cartwright are typical across Kentucky.

Clearly, Kentucky needs to rethink the way it pays teachers.

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Charter School Stories: They provide superb educations in Boston

Even though Kentucky’s charter school law is now on the books, we continue to hear vehement but ill-informed attacks from opponents.

For example, about two weeks ago former Jefferson County School Board member, Stephen P. Imhoff, sounded off in the Courier-Journal with some off-target comments about charters.

Said Imhoff, “The entire concept fails.”

Well, parents of some students in Boston’s Brooke Charter Schools clearly know Imhoff is spreading nonsense, as you can hear for yourself in this very short You Tube.

So, which would you prefer, a school like a Brooke Charter School or the recent Jefferson County Schools’ disaster that occurred in Maupin Elementary School?

I think the choice is clear – and that is Kentucky’s students need choices like charter schools.

Strike two it is for Jefferson County Schools’ Chief Academic Officer manning

I wrote on April 26, 2017 about the surprise announcement that the Lisa Herring, Chief Academic Officer (CAO) in the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS), was a finalist to become Birmingham, Alabama’s new school superintendent. The surprise here was that Herring, who has been on the job less than a year in Louisville, was even considering a move.

Well, it’s now clear that Herring can’t exactly be in love with her current position in JCPS. The online news service connected to the Birmingham News just announced that Herring has indeed accepted that top spot in the Birmingham school system.

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