Will it be strike two for Jefferson County Schools’ Chief Academic Officer manning?

More major problems are brewing for the already beleaguered Jefferson County school system.

On April 21, 2017, an online service connected to the Birmingham News newspaper reported that Lisa Herring, the current Chief Academic Officer (CAO) at the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS), is a finalist to become Birmingham, Alabama’s new school superintendent.

So, it appears Herring, who has been on the job less than a year in Louisville, isn’t exactly in love with her current position in JCPS.

This is no surprise. In fact, the CAO position at JCPS had a highly troubled history even before Herring arrived, and recent events point to a lot more heat headed in the CAO’s way.

[Read more…]

Charter School bill passes another hurdle

House Bill 520, which would introduce charter schools to Kentucky, was passed, with amendments, by the Senate Education Committee by a 9 to 3 vote and will probably go to the full Senate this afternoon.

If the amended bill is passed by the Senate, it will have to meet concurrence action from the House before heading to Governor Bevin’s office.

News release: Groups stand together in support of robust charter-school policy

TFF-2016-Website-LogoFor Immediate Release: Tuesday, BIPPS LOGO
February 21, 2017                                                                    

Contact: Martin Cothran @ 859.329.1919, Jim Waters @  270.320.4376

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — The Family Foundation of Kentucky and Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions have joined forces in calling for state lawmakers to seize the opportunity to pass the nation’s most robust charter-school law.

“Educational innovation is only possible if the conditions allow for it,” said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky. “If a charter law does not allow for innovation, then there is likely to be no innovation.”

Charter schools are innovative public schools in which teachers and administrators are free of many of the regulations that tie the hands of capable educators in regular public schools and where a higher level of accomplishment is promised in exchange for the freedom to innovate.

A winning charter-school policy for Kentucky allows:

  • Authorizers beyond local school districts

For example, Rep. Phil Moffett’s House Bill 103 lets local school districts, mayors of Louisville and Lexington, public or private universities with accredited education colleges and Council on Postsecondary Education authorize the creation of charter schools. Only this freedom will ensure that these innovative schools are not hampered in their mission to provide families a quality education alternative.

  • An unbiased appeal opportunity before the Kentucky Board of Education

Charter-school applicants whose applications are denied by the aforementioned authorizers must have the possibility of another path by appeal to the state education board.

  • A robust process for alternative teacher certification.

Teacher certification requirements should allow for teachers to be trained outside the standard processes now available almost exclusively through teachers’ colleges. This would allow prospective teachers to gain exposure and expertise in content knowledge and innovative teaching methodologies unavailable in many existing teacher certification programs. One of the benefits of charters is their ability to offer innovative alternatives to establishment schools, a benefit that is made difficult to gain if educators are trained in the antiquated progressivist practices common in teachers’ colleges.

  • Charter schools in all public-school districts in Kentucky

Considering that 42 percent of Kentucky’s population lives in rural areas, we must ensure everyone –  from poor rural Kentuckians to minority students in our commonwealth’s urban, low-income neighborhoods –  the same equitable access to an excellent public education.

“A failure to allow for these freedoms could hamstring charters and result in schools no different than the failing schools to which they are intended as an alternative,” Cothran said. “Lawmakers should make sure they pass legislation that does not set up charters for failure, failure the educational establishment will use to prevent further change.”

Both organizations pledged to stand together and work toward bringing the hope and opportunity of a great education to the children and families of the commonwealth.

For comment and more information, contact Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky @ 859.329.1919 or Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters @ 270.320.4376.

C’mon Prichard, let’s get this right

I just ran across an article in the Messenger-Inquirer (subscription) where the Prichard Committee claims that based on its “A Citizen’s Guide to Kentucky Education:”

“In 2002, Kentucky was given $6,316 per student; the U.S. average per-pupil spending was $8,206, and at that time, Kentucky ranked 42nd among the other states. Compare that to the 2013 spending, which says that $9,266 was spent per student in Kentucky. The U.S. average was $11,254 spent per student, and Kentucky ranked 37th out of 50 states, the report indicates.”

So, according to Prichard’s numbers, in 2013 Kentucky would have spent $1,988 less per pupil than the national average.

Going to page 5 in the Citizen’s Guide, I learned the ultimate source for these financial figures is supposed to be the annual Public Education Finances documents from the US Census Bureau.

OK, we use those Census documents, too.

But, Prichard’s 2013 numbers didn’t look right. So, I went to Table 11 in Public Education Finances 2013 where this data and ranking information is found.


Kentucky’s “Current Spending” for 2013 was actually $9,316 per pupil while national average spending was just $10,700. That is a spread of only $1,384 per pupil. That difference is over 30 percent lower than Prichard’s numbers show. That’s a pretty big difference.

Oh, the real Census information also shows that Kentucky ranked 35th, not 37th, for its spending in 2013.

Prichard’s numbers don’t agree with the 2002 Census report, either.

But, I guess a 30 percent error is OK when you want to push the state to spend a lot more than it can afford.

You see, Table 12 in the 2013 Public Education Finances edition shows how Kentucky supports education in relationship to taxpayer average income. We ranked 15th in the nation in 2013 for education spending once you allow for the fact that we are not exactly the richest state in the country!

Wow! In 15th place!

You’re not hearing that from Prichard, sadly.

Do Kentucky’s KPREP school assessments do what they are supposed to do?

If so, why is the evidence not available after five years of KPREP testing?

The Bluegrass Institute has discovered a rather extraordinary January 6, 2017 letter from the US Department of Education to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt.

This letter says evidence provided by the Kentucky Department of Education only shows that the state’s public school assessments just partially meet requirements of federal education legislation.

The letter lists the following general comments:

  • Reading/ language arts (R/LA) and mathematics general assessments in grades 3-8 (Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP)): Partially meets requirements
  • R/LA and mathematics general assessments in high school (ACT QualityCore EOC for R/LA and math): Partially meets requirements
  • R/LA and mathematics alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-8 and high school (Alternate K-PREP for R/LA and math): Partially meets requirements

The letter continues:

“The partially meets requirements designation for a component means that it does not meet a number of the requirements of the statute and regulations, and Kentucky will need to provide substantial additional information to demonstrate it meets the requirements. The Department expects that Kentucky may not be able to submit all of the required information within one year (underlined emphasis added).”

Keeping in mind that the Kentucky KPREP and End-of-Course tests have been in place since the 2011-12 school term, the letter’s expanded details about the missing evidence are very disturbing.

For example, Under Critical Element 1.2, the US Department of Education says Kentucky needs to provide:

“A description of State stakeholders involved in the development and/or adoption process for the R/LA, mathematics, and science content standards that includes detail on subject-matter expertise, individuals representing English learners (ELs) and students with disabilities.”

This might be really hard to do. Kentucky basically just adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics (CCSS) at a high level. State stakeholders really had no say in the final decisions about what went into the CCSS. The adoption was made by the Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Subject matter experts were not involved in this widely televised, media event joint meeting of these three boards.

In fact, the adoption of Common Core took place about 3-1/2 months before the final version of the Common Core was even published. It is hard for experts to have looked at something that didn’t even exist at the time of adoption. In fact, the public comment draft of the Common Core didn’t even come out until March 2010, weeks after the three Kentucky boards had already adopted the Common Core, sight unseen.

Under Critical Element 1.5, Kentucky still needs to provide:

“Evidence that the State has procedures in place for ensuring that each student is tested and counted in the calculation of participation rates on each required assessment.”

How’s that? Kentucky can’t provide evidence it really is testing all students with KPREP? Not even after the test has been in used for five testing cycles? That is a real problem.

And, the letter doesn’t stop there. To learn still more, click on the “Read more” link.

[Read more…]

Quote of the Day


“One thing I will refuse to do is chase money.”

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt February 8, 2017

Let’s hope this holds. Chasing Race to the Top money brought the Common Core State Standards and a lot of other dubious education programs to Kentucky.

Bluegrass Institute welcomes Director of Digital Marketing

For Immediate Release: Monday, Jan. 2, 2017

Contact: Jim Waters @bipps or (859) 444-5630

folu-elegbede(LEXINGTON, Ky.) — The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, is pleased to welcome Folu Elegbede as its new Director of Digital Marketing.

Elegbede, a Lexington resident and Nigerian native, will oversee the expansion of the Bluegrass Institute’s digital presence by fully utilizing all available social media platforms to advance free-market solutions to Kentucky’s greatest policy challenges.

“It’s a great honor to join the distinct team here at the Bluegrass Institute with special thanks to board member Aaron Ammerman for his facilitating role in introducing me to this important and exciting endeavor,” Elegbede said. “I look forward to helping increase the Institute’s pivotal influence on the battlefield of ideas towards a peaceful, freer and more prosperous Kentucky.”

Elegbede studied at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he majored in Liberal Arts (Philosophy and History of Math and Sciences), was a Hodson Trust Scholar and served as a Student Government Delegate.

He’s currently completing his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Georgetown College leading to a Master’s degree in Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Along with his academic studies, Elegbede has worked as an author and activist for pro-liberty groups in Africa and served as an intern with both the Charles Koch Institute and Atlas Network, where he addressed barriers to trade between the U.S. and African countries.

“Folu’s wide-ranging experience and commitment to the principles of free markets and free peoples will advance the cause of liberty in our commonwealth in ways we have not seen to this point,” Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters said. “His network of liberty lovers worldwide combined with his significant ability to skillfully use the tools of technology will serve to grow the institute’s impact in furthering the principles of free enterprise, individual liberty and limited – and transparent – government.

Elegbede can be reached at @FElegbede or (859) 270-6566.


Where have all the school tests gone?

As Kentucky and other states continue using the Common Core State Standards for K to 12 education, it has never been more important to have accurate trend information from valid and reliable assessments to evaluate whether these controversial standards are really working for our kids.

But, almost all testing trend lines of use in Kentucky from ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE, PLAN and COMPASS to even the nationwide data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ (NAEP) “Long Term Trend” assessments (LTT) have been severed.

How convenient for Common Core supporters who might be worried about what those discontinued tests might reveal.

How BAD for our kids.

[Read more…]

Gaps and trends in Kentucky’s graduation rates and readiness rates for white and black students also problematic

I recently blogged about the overall trend in high school graduation rates found in Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning school accountability results for 2016. Now, we separately examine graduation rates for Kentucky’s whites and blacks. We also examine the white minus black graduation rate gaps and the changes in those gaps over time. As we did in that earlier, more general blog on all student graduation rates, we also take a look at the proportion of Kentucky’s whites and blacks who didn’t just get a piece of paper but actually got an education that effectively prepared those students for what comes next, either college or a career.

To briefly overview, while the official graduation rates for white and blacks have increased since the 2012-13 school term, there has been no notable improvement in the gap for white minus black graduation rates. However, when we look at the percentages of those graduates who were found to be college and/or career ready, the gap for whites versus blacks notably increased.

Furthermore, when we examine a far more credible graduation rate figure – namely the proportion of entering ninth grade students who leave high school after four years with an effective education that allowed them to qualify as college and/or career ready, the trend in the gaps gets even larger, resulting in blacks being left even farther behind.

Those who have the interest (courage?) to click the “Read more” link will find disturbing stories lurk behind the official numbers. Basically, the official numbers don’t begin to provide the full picture about dramatic slowdowns in improvement – especially for blacks – and the white minus black graduation rate disparities in Kentucky.

[Read more…]

More fiscal misbehavior in our schools

It looks like Whitley County is the latest school district to have insider school adults make off with money meant for our students.

The Times-Tribune reports a “‘Forensic audit’ planned for Whitley Co. Schools” following the firing and arrest of the district’s former chief financial officer, Leigh Burke.

Over the past few years, we have been dismayed to learn of multiple cases of school system personnel thinking they have some sort of right to snatch money meant for kids.

Former superintendents in Mason County and Dayton Independent apparently helped themselves to their school district’s coffers, as well.

The Dayton scandal went on for about a decade before the state auditor finally caught up with this criminal activity.

A district finance person in Shelby County also stuck her hands in the kids’ goodies, too.

When the Shelby County incident broke, I commented about annual audits in each district that I thought were supposed to catch such nonsense. Obviously, that isn’t happening. And, our kids continue paying the price.