Story sheds light on Kentucky’s learning disabled policies
It’s an interesting story.
Per the Courier-Journal’s article, “Achiever | Manual junior doesn’t need extra time to score 36 on ACT,” Jefferson County Public Schools student Kenny Jackson has been labeled as ADHD and could have qualified to get extra time to take the ACT college entrance test.
Kenny said no to the extra time.
Kenny got a top 36-point score on the ACT, anyway.
It makes you wonder.
Does Kenny really have attention deficit problems, or is he just so far ahead of his teachers that they bore him?
Might what is supposed to be Kenny’s problem instead be evidence of teaching that does not meet the student’s needs?
Adding interesting evidence about what may really be TD, a ‘Teacher Deficit’ problem, the news article says Kenny started taking an ACT prep course but stopped paying attention after he had to correct the teacher’s multiple errors with math problems.
Is it the student’s fault when the teacher doesn’t know the subject? Should the student get blamed for not paying attention to such a teacher?
As I said, this sounds more like a ‘teacher deficit’ rather than a student problem.
Kenny’s story also has larger implications.
At present, some misguided people are trying to prevent Kentucky from tightening up on a serious abuse of a special accommodation on the state’s reading tests. Currently, the so-called state reading assessments actually are being read to about half of the entire number of kids labeled as learning disabled in Kentucky. That abuse undoubtedly inflates test scores, which makes teachers look good. However, this practice also hides what may really be a refusal/failure of educators to teach thousands of Kentucky kids who actually could learn to read – IF they got proper instruction. As things stand, kids get labeled and remain illiterate – teachers get a free ride and may not even know how to really teach reading – and test scores hide it all.
You have to wonder how many of those poorly served kids wind up in jail as adults…because they cannot get jobs…because they can’t read.
Just like Kenny Jackson, a lot of other learning disabled kids in Kentucky could be far more capable than we realize. However, our education system created a system that allows schools to sidestep their responsibility to educate these students. As Kenny Jackson just showed us, that sort of special education policy, which underestimates the potential of learning disabled students and interferes with their proper education, needs to change.
Honest principal in Nevada points to gross error in data for his school
US News and World Report’s (USN&WR) annual ranking of high schools came out only a few hours ago.
Already, controversy is brewing about this dubious ranking program.
This time, part of the problem is that some of the data stored at the US Department of Education is clearly just plain wrong.
Principal Jeff Horn at the Green Valley High School in Nevada says there is a serious error in the enrollment data USN&WR used to show his school ranking 13th best in the nation.
That federal database shows Green Valley High has 477 students and 111 teachers, for a pupil teacher ratio of just 4 to 1. Apparently, that incredibly low ratio didn’t set off any alarms at USN&WR. It should have.
The actual enrollment at the school is 2,850 students, which (IF the teacher count is accurate) works out to a 26 to 1 ratio. Also, the incredibly low enrollment figure apparently messed up the USN&WR calculation of ‘pass rates’ on Advanced Placement tests. Per the magazine, the school’s ‘pass rate’ was 100 percent (another questionable number). The real pass rate is 64 percent.
The Kentucky story
USN&WR also ranks what are supposed to be the top 10 high schools in each state, including Kentucky.
I have problems with USN&WR’s #6 choice of Ballard High School and the #8 choice, the Eastern High School in Louisville.
In the 2010 Kentucky Core Content Test in mathematics, both of those schools had big black versus white proficiency rate gaps. Eastern’s was more than 30 points. Ballard’s was MUCH WORSE – an enormous 50 point difference! Check for yourself in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Gap to Goal Excel Spreadsheet for “Statewide,” “All Districts,” available here.
Blacks are getting left behind in these schools, but USN&WR’s superficial analysis apparently won’t show you that.
Unfortunately, the Kentucky Department of Education does not report disaggregated 11th grade ACT college entrance test results by race, but Eastern doesn’t make the top 10 for its overall average ACT composite score in 2010, and Ballard didn’t do as well as Eastern.
Stay tuned for more about the issue of racial performance gaps in Louisville’s schools. We are getting ready to release a paper on that shortly. Busing fanatics in that city and elsewhere won’t be pleased. Neither will anyone who really wants to see the achievement gaps reduced.
Is it: School revival showing promise, not proof???
An on line story titled “School improvement grant results mixed” dated April 13, 2012 is now on line in the Kentucky Enquirer’s web site. It ran front page, top of the fold in the Sunday print edition of the Enquirer as “School revival showing promise, not proof,” which clearly conveys a different meaning.
To get a better idea about what is really going on, I dusted off a table I created last year on the first 10 schools in Kentucky to get identified as “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools” under the federal government’s School Improvement Grant program. This graph (click on it to enlarge, if needed) shows that earlier table updated with recently released test scores for the 2011-12 school term.
For reference, the statewide PLAN Composite Score average in 2011-12 was 17.0 and the statewide EXPLORE Composite average was 15.2. Every school in this listing scored well below those statewide norms in the current school term.
Based on the uneven up and down score trends in most schools in the listing, coupled with the drops in enrollment in the majority of these schools, I think it is too early to tell what is really happening. Due to the up and down trends in many schools’ scores, I’m not ready to say the results show promise.
Yesterday the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released the testing results from the fall for the PLAN and EXPLORE testing in Kentucky.
These two tests are coordinated at the grade appropriate level with the ACT college entrance test and use similar Benchmark Scores to show if students are on track to be successful in college and careers.
The EXPLORE is given to eighth grade students in Kentucky while our 10th graders take the PLAN.
Since I participated in a panel on charter schools in Louisville last night (more on that later), the first analysis I did on the new data focused on Kentucky’s largest school district. The table below shows what I found.
Among Louisville’s 21 regular high schools (special alternative schools don’t get test results), the majority – 14 of them – had really disappointing results for PLAN mathematics performance. In these 14 schools (highlighted in pink) fewer than 20 percent of the students scored at or above the PLAN Math Benchmark Score.
That means the overwhelming majority of the students in those schools are not on track for college and careers.
In a real shock, six of the schools posted math benchmark performance in the single-digit category. Fewer than one in ten of the students in those schools are on track to survive the first college math course they would take in a two- or four-year postsecondary school.
District wide, Jefferson County’s 10th grade students scored below the statewide math benchmark, as well.
Statewide, the new PLAN 2011-2012 Profile Summary Report shows that our students scored well below the national norm PLAN score for mathematics set in 2010, leaving Jefferson County even farther behind that national norm.
Clearly, a lot more needs to happen for kids in math, both statewide and in the state’s largest school system. PLAN makes that very clear.
And, as I recently pointed out here and here, the relative performance improvement in charter schools versus non-charter schools for math make these schools of choice and innovation look even more attractive for Kentucky.
With the announcement of a new administrative cabinet in the Jefferson County Public School system comes the unhappy news that Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Associate Commissioner Dewey Hensley will be leaving state service to return to his former school district.
Hensley’s new post will be as Chief Academic Officer in the reformed Jefferson County Public School District’s administrative cabinet. There, I suspect he will focus his considerable energy and talent to turn the entire Jefferson County school system around in a manner similar to his former successful efforts in the J.B Atkinson Elementary School. Atkinson is located in that school system.
Hensley will be leaving the KDE’s Office of District 180, which refers to the department’s activities to turn around (as in a 180 degree change) the state’s persistently low-performing school systems. He was also crucial in implementing statewide initiatives on digital learning.
Lisa Gross at the KDE indicates a replacement for Hensley has not been named, and it is possible an interim District 180 head might be appointed while the KDE makes a more extensive search to fill this very crucial position.
While Dr. Hensley’s service at KDE was fairly brief, he definitely made major contributions, including establishing programs to deal with over 40 Kentucky Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
I suspect Dr. Hensley will be sorely missed by Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, but the ailing system in Jefferson County certainly needs dramatic and energetic senior leadership, too. Jefferson County Superintendent Donna Hargens could not have made a more solid selection for her senior academic leader.
However, it remains to be seen if the Hargens/Hensley team can overcome strongly entrenched adult interests in Jefferson County to effect real change for the system’s students.
NO, WE DIDN’T SAY IT (this time)!!!
This week we’ve been taking a look at a new audit on operations in the Jefferson County School District’s central office, “Final Report of a Study of the ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND CENTRAL OFFICE STAFFING, FUNCTIONS, AND OPERATIONS.”
This shocking report outlines a host of major management problems in this clearly troubled school system, which is by far the largest in Kentucky.
Our earlier posts have concentrated on money and management issues, but we now turn to the shocking comments from the audit team about the primary mission of the school district, education of students (No, it isn’t supposed to be provision of cushy, high paying jobs to adults!).
Page 20 of the report pretty much says it all by itself:
“In recent years, achievement has declined. The percentage of students achieving the Kentucky standard of proficiency in reading in spring of 2011 was 63.25 percent, which was actually lower than the percentage achieving proficiency four years earlier in 2007, when achievement proficiency of students was 63.79 percent. By all indications, the initiatives to improve student achievement have failed over the past four years.”
As a note, the Kentucky Department of Education’s 2011 NCLB Expanded Data File (an Excel spreadsheet) actually shows the reading proficiency rate in Jefferson County was 63.79 percent in 2011, not 63.25 percent (which WAS the proficiency rate in 2010, however). However, the fact that at best there has been no improvement in reading in Jefferson County since 2007 is still depressing.
Whether stagnant or in decline, Jefferson County’s reading progress, or lack thereof, since Sheldon Berman signed on as superintendent certainly indicates no-one was paying adequate attention to the school system’s true, primary mission (which WAS NOT busing kids all over town).
By the way, this stagnant or slightly declining reading performance stands IN SHARP CONTRAST to the nonsense the Louisville school system is telling the public about the performance of its Every1Reads program. The home page for Every1Reads claims:
That is deceptive bunk. It is based on calling any kid reading above the level of Novice on the Kentucky Core Content Tests a success story.
Clearly, the auditors would not buy into this deception that there has been reading progress where it counts (getting kids to read at the proficient level).
Getting back to the audit, the report also cites these telling comments from administrators in the Jefferson County system:
• “Our scores have gone down since 2007 when we got the new Superintendent. (During the last) four years there was no focus on assessment or accountability.” (Maybe there is an update to the Excel file mentioned above)
• “In the last four years, the schools have become a distraction and a detriment to the community.”
• “The (district) failed to act (to fill the vacancy of) a Title I Director for four years which may have been in violation of Federal Law.”
• “We don’t use our evaluation process to improve student growth—we find generic evaluations, no walk throughs to monitor teaching that are specific and growth focused. No system to evaluate effectiveness of what we do.”
There is still more. If your stomach allows, you can check it out for yourself in the report, but the comments above nicely outline the problem. Jefferson County is sick academically. Even administrators in the system know it. Let’s hope that this first step, getting a hard-nosed audit of the problems, will now be translated into real action that helps Jefferson County perform its primary mission a lot more effectively (and, NO, that isn’t busing or creating a great, good old boy/girl place to work for adults!!!).
Note to Jefferson County superintendent Donna Hargens: You can generate some quick credibility by changing the deceptive progress reporting for Every1Reads. The basic idea of this program is good, but the metric is pure deception. Sheldon Berman had a chance to make this right in 2007 and flunked the test. You now have a chance to get this program on a new and more accurate footing that might also help you make the case to potential volunteers that many more of your kids need help.
A new audit on operations in the Jefferson County School District’s central office, “Final Report of a Study of the ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND CENTRAL OFFICE STAFFING, FUNCTIONS, AND OPERATIONS,” says on page 28 that “Transportation services were found to be very expensive, amounting to $54,648,585 in 2008-09, $57,085,703 in 2009-10, and $62,544,974 in 2010-11.”
That’s a 14.4 percent increase in just a two-year period. This is different from earlier transportation cost figures for Jefferson County, which the audit says were inaccurate.
Some other interesting points:
• 70.7 percent of all students in Jefferson County are bused.
• Nationwide, only 49 percent of the country’s students are bused.
• Real cost to bus in Jefferson County in 2010 was $902.85 per student.
• An earlier, erroneous, report by the Council of Great City Schools said the per pupil busing cost was only $650 per student.
The auditors did not specifically identify the reasons for the disparities, saying:
“It will take considerable work and study to determine what the problems and issues are in achieving an adequate and efficient transportation system.”
Why hasn’t this obvious and important work already been accomplished? Well, it seems that such management hasn’t been a priority despite the huge sums being spent. Why do I say this? The auditors also say:
“Incredibly, the number of pupils bused is apparently not monitored or tallied by the JCPS transportation department.”
Good grief! How can this incompetently run school bus system not even know how many students it is serving? How can you possibly budget and plan when things are this chaotic.
Is ANYONE paying attention to anything in Louisville?!!!
Jefferson County superintendent Donna Hargens clearly has her work cut out for her.
You can’t lose money – if you’re an educator in Jefferson County
The table below shows what happened to the first nine principals to be removed from the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools in Jefferson County. This table tells a very unsatisfactory tale.
All of the principals were removed from these schools for cause (each principal had been in place at least three years before removal). Never the less:
• The vast majority remained employed (one retired) and
• Most of the transferees got jobs that appear to be lower responsibility positions (3 to assistant principal positions, three to staff jobs).
But, despite the demotions:
• Only one individual experienced a slight loss in these very high salaries after transfer to other positions in the Jefferson County system.
• One person was demoted from principal to assistant principal and got a nine percent pay raise!
The auditors said:
“Why the transfers occurred, despite the substantive failure in remediating achievement deficiencies in the previous school, was not explained to the reviewers.”
The audit also says:
“The practice of moving some principals from failing schools to jobs with lesser responsibilities but with the same salary (raises) serious questions about hiring practices. Moreover, the transfer to a new position without competing or even interviewing, does not assure that the most qualified person available obtains the position.”
Why should the taxpayer have to continue paying six-digit salaries to people who have been demoted? Were other, more qualified, individuals bypassed for jobs?
This highly disturbing information appears beginning on page 13 in the new “Final Report of a Study of the ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND CENTRAL OFFICE STAFFING, FUNCTIONS, AND OPERATIONS” from the Jefferson County audit.
Oh, Boy, is teacher ‘Professional Development’ fun in Louisville!
Professional Development is what educators call continuing education for teachers.
Check this comment:
“(An administrator has in the past provided) professional development (off campus) with a corkage fee for alcohol showing on the invoice for payment, and rebuked financial services for questioning the expenditure.”
In other words, the taxpayer picked up the tab for alcoholic beverages served during a teacher “professional development” activity. Sound incredible?
This gem comment appears on page 31 in the new “Final Report of a Study of the ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND CENTRAL OFFICE STAFFING, FUNCTIONS, AND OPERATIONS” from the Jefferson County audit.
The auditors also took issue with $1.56 million being spent on feeding adult employees in the school system. The auditors said this money “should have been directed to the students.”