Standardized Testing

As first reported by Toni Konz, WDRB, a state audit recently forced JCPS to reassign many of its non-certified instructors to supporting roles instead of supervising classrooms, since state law does not allow them to do so without a certified teacher present. This has apparently resulted in modification or discontinuation of certain optional classes in many schools.

We have heard that 270 instructors were affected, so we want to hear what kind of impact this has had on your school and your child. Please take a moment to complete the following survey. Your information will be aggregated into a report for others to view, but personally identifiable information will be kept confidential.

This article also came out in the Courier Journal yesterday and contains a link to the letter Dr. Pollio sent to the state in response to the audit findings and the action the district is taking.

We are interested in learning from all who have been affected, instructors included, and see if we can’t compile your responses and propose solutions to district leaders and state legislators. We believe this is a problem that has been evolving over time as a result of district leaders’ admirable attempts to make quality programs available under tighter and tighter budgets. As with many public education issues, when unintended consequences like these occur, some grassroots advocacy work may be required to get everyone back on the same page.

Dear JCPS’ goal is to find commonality among all groups affected and use that messaging to communicate to try to bring state and district leaders to a solution that benefits our students and staff, instead of losing valued programs and putting unfair burdens on our beloved instructors.

    Let us know if they have canceled these programs or if they are being continued. In the comments below you can provide more details.
    Let us know what has happened to the teacher(s). In the comments below you can provide more details.
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  • What would you like to see happen, and what suggestions do you have for district leaders or state legislators that you believe can make this happen?
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Click here to join our support group for SBDM members.

Tomorrow, the Kentucky house and senate education committees will be holding a joint meeting to discuss, among other things, taking power away from SBDMs. Read more from KASC’s post: Keep Your Voice.

Koch-Brothers aligned “free-market” proponent BIPPS is one of the anti-SBDM speakers tomorrow. In an opinion letter that appeared in several papers across the state recently, they say teachers and parents are not equipped to make curriculum decisions. That’s ludicrous. Teachers are among the BEST equipped persons to do this. They have master’s degrees and certifications in education, are current on what’s going on in education and classrooms, and they know their students. A superintendent who, in a district the size of ours, may not have taught in decades and may only set foot in our building maybe once a year. A school in a high poverty area has many different needs and learning styles than a more-affluent magnet-only school. A superintendent has their own “adult-centered” agendas and when the state puts demands on them that force them to pay more attention to how things “look” than what they know to be right, they don’t always have the ability to do what’s best for the school. And depleting power from the local school level will only make matters worse.

I know this first hand.

My son graduated from an “Advisory SBDM” school. As a high-poverty school, we were in the first cohort to hit priority status under the new regulations, and the SBDM was made “advisory” prior to our arrival. When we found the school, the principal was dynamic and the school was in the midst of a turnaround. Despite being the lowest performing school in the state at the time, the energy was electric, and my son absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, at the end of my son’s first year there, because the principal did not get the school out of priority status in the state’s allotted 3-4 years, he was forced to resign.

His school went the next several months with interim principals, each having to leave after completing 6 weeks of service so they didn’t jeopardize their retirement plans. Soon into the school year, JCPS considered reimagination of several schools with innovation in mind and a district-devised “plan” was proposed and pitched to board members as something “everyone loved.” We were told the plan was necessary in order to “prevent us from being taken over by the state,” even though we had no leadership and no one representing the students or teachers or parents had been consulted in crafting “the plan.” And it was FAR from being “loved.” Finally, after numerous objections from parents, teachers, staff, students, alumni and community members, and speaking at board meetings and to the media, by Christmas break, JCPS Halts Redesign Of Shawnee High, Considering Principal Applicants. Soon, we had a new principal. SBDM meetings resumed and capacity was beginning to resume. However, our new principal left abruptly a year and a half later (two weeks before the end of the school year) and the next principal was not selected until 36 hours before the next school year started. Shawnee was the FIRST school to know they needed a new principal and, despite repeated appeals to the superintendent, it was the LAST one to get one. That would not have happened if we had an empowered SBDM.

Each principal selected by the superintendent was loyal to her, not the students and parents and teachers in the building. With the most recent replacement, the superintendent overlooked the overwhelming support from the SBDM advisory council to name one of the HIGHLY qualified APs in the building who knew the kids and could keep the momentum going. Instead, she put someone she either owed a favor or who she knew would do her bidding in the open slot. And she did so at the last possible moment. Our SBDM implored the superintendent to realize that our kids needed consistency. We even asked if this had been communicated to the new principal. Instead, this new principal changed EVERYTHING. She killed our mentoring program. She realigned the staff and put them in jobs that they weren’t suited for. Not knowing what worked or didn’t work, and not being given time to prepare, she got her marching orders from the superintendent who only saw us as “failing.” Our new principal clearly intended to make her mark, even if it upset the apple cart for these kids, AGAIN.

One week, when student fights had gotten out of control, the principal denied it was a problem. She also apparently didn’t log them in the system, because she didn’t want to look bad or she was following a directive to not report. When pressed, our superintendent claimed she couldn’t help us with added resources, because the “data didn’t support it.” So, our students videotaped the fights and sent them to the media. A few days later, we got the support we needed. Unfortunately, in the school that already had the highest turnover in the district, and where relationships matter, we also got an unwelcome consequence. Three of our most beloved staff members were intentionally moved to different schools. Intimidation tactics were employed that sent the message that more retribution would be necessary if these “factions” continued. One of the displaced staff members was our only high school counselor during critical scholarship and college application window — in a high-poverty school that NEEDS help with college applications and scholarships more than most. This retaliation would never have been able to happen if the SBDM had been involved in staffing decisions.

Our new principal also was able to select members to serve on the advisory SBDM who were not engaged enough to ask hard questions, and often missed meetings. Business could not get done. She chose what she wanted to share for input, and made the important decisions behind closed doors. At one point, I had to do an open records request when we wanted to simply see the budget. This lack of transparency is one of the reasons we have been opposed to charters. We do not need it in our public schools too. It almost seems like someone has an agenda to make public schools on par with charters, doesn’t it? So charters can be more competitive.

My son’s school met its AMOs for several years in a row, but because they couldn’t get out of the bottom 5%, they couldn’t get their SBDM powers back. Such an arbitrary and moving target should not be used to hold decision makers hostage. However, the superintendent could have helped his school meet this goal by simply changing the student assignment plan, since the inequities had never been made right after being assigned the highest poverty levels in the district in 2008, and since test scores are an indication of wealth, nothing more. (Makes you wonder if his school wasn’t set up that way so other schools could be more successful.) Anyway, who is held accountable for the failings of a school when decisions are not in their control? The superintendent is supposed to be, which is why you say you want to give them this power. But there is no evidence anyone is paying the price at my son’s school except the kids.

So, while one county has indicated that there are problems at their schools, there is no reason to abandon parental and teacher involvement in decision making at the local school level in other districts. I can assure you doing so will create many, many more opportunities for delays, lack of transparency and corruption than it solves. Not just here in Jefferson County, but in districts across the state.

Sincerely,
Gay Adelmann
Parent of 2016 JCPS Graduate
Former SBDM Member

Want to share your thoughts on SBDMs? Click here to contact the education committee members, or email them all at the same time.

White privilege is real. So is generational, institutionalized racism. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in our public school system. But often, those who make the rules have a hard time seeing how those rules can limit access to opportunity for others. While these issues are nothing to make light of, sometimes you need a hands-on approach to help white students or family members understand their privilege. We hope this example is of benefit to those who wish to approach these sensitive, yet undeniable, issues with an open heart and open mind. (Download a PDF of the flyer here.)

RULES:

Set up your GAME BOARD. Give yourself cash, properties and hotels and houses, totaling $18,000. Your opponent gets the traditional $1,500 to start. This 12:1 disparity represents the median amount of wealth transferred from whites to their heirs, compared with African Americans.

There are two sets of CARDS. Educational injustices experienced by students of color go in the FAT CHANCE pile (click here to print your own cards). Tax breaks, stock market gains, work bonuses, opportunities due to “who you know,” etc. go in the PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST.

They choose their TOKEN (the IRON, because it’s the only one that’s left), and the game commences.

When they notice that the board is not set up equitably, they complain. You respond with, “That’s in the past. We’re all equal now. Let’s play!“ You roll and proceed to move forward the correct number of spaces.

When a player lands on a “DRAW A CARD” SQUARE, you draw from PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST. Your opponent draws from the FAT CHANCE pile. These distinctly different stacks of cards represent the systemic disparities still in place from generations of targeting, profiling and redlining of the black community reflected in policies and norms throughout society today.

When your opponent lands on YOUR PROPERTIES, they pay you RENT. If you own all properties in a COLOR GROUP, their rent is DOUBLED.

When you land on THEIR PROPERTIES, same thing. Except, they probably don’t own any properties, you bought most of them (or inherited them) before they got there.

Eventually, they will inevitably land on one of your HOUSES or HOTELS and they won’t have enough cash to continue. If they happen to have purchased a property, they have the option to MORTGAGE their property to the bank in order to stay in the game. However, they only get half the LOAN AMOUNT on the back of the card.

When your opponent runs out of cash, they have to GO TO JAIL, while you continue to roll the dice until all assets have been acquired. If they complain about any of the rules, you say, “That was one of the rules that was decided on before you got here. Don’t like it? Get here earlier next time.”

OBJECT OF THE GAME:

To inspire whites to understand their privilege enough to research it and develop talking points so they can respond to others who try to marginalize it by saying racism or privilege don’t exist, and to commit to fight to create equitable learning opportunities for our children of color.

Credits: Created by Gay Adelmann. Inspired by Shelton McElroy and Jane Elliott.

Disclaimer: We realize this post will probably upset some of our white followers. However, in this current climate, and the increasing suffering of our students of color, we believe it’s a chance we must take. If you disagree with the examples presented in this post, it’s possible that you are not one of the ones impacted by them. The FAT CHANCE CARDS were created based on actual examples experienced by students of color in our district. These hurdles continue to happen every day in our schools. And we cannot end them until we acknowledge they exist.

The following letter was sent to @BradyJCPSBOE on April 23, 2017 from a Maupin parent:

Mr. Chris Brady,

I am following up on our conversation on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 after the Townhall meeting w/ Pruitt.

As I recall you had stated that you thought this year would have been the 1st year to consider since last year was a transition year. Also that you thought that the implementation at Maupin was horrible. That you had set up a meeting with Mr. Leffert and were going to discuss my questions and concerns with him.

You also stated that at that time no one had released any information regarding the audit or the parent meetings that occurred afterwards to the board. That you were requesting that as well as the questions/concerns that the parents/caregivers sent to Joe Leffert and/or Maria Holmes.

Lastly I recall you stating that once you received that information you would fight for this program to both the School Board and KDE if need be.

So now I’m asking:

1. How did your meeting with Mr. Leffert go?

2. Are you still going to try to save this program and convince the school board and possibly KDE if needed to support it?

There has been so much misinformation and piece-mealed information lately that I feel that I have to ask you my District Representative where you stand in regards to this program.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Also for all you do for the children in the communities you serve by being on the School Board. I know it can’t be easy continually dealing with some parent and their schools’ issues. So I thank you for doing it.

Very Respectfully,
Mrs. Shanna Miller

Dear Dr. Willner:

Please vote “NO” tomorrow night for the removal of magnet status from Maupin Elementary School’s Catalpa School of Innovation Magnet Program and the discontinuation of the Catalpa Waldorf model for the 2017-18 school year.

I have spoken to a number of individuals who share my concerns about the discontinuation of the Magnet Program and Catalpa Model and the likely impact on the students who are presently enrolled in the school. Parent engagement is up, attendance is up, the number of behavior issues are down, and test scores are trending back up. But the message being communicated publicly is that parents don’t participate, students are poorly behaved and failing, and teachers have given up. We must use extreme care and ensure that yet another effort to close the achievement gap and improve the lives of students and their families in Louisville’s West End is not terminated before it has a chance to deliver on its promised results.

The application for designation as a School of Innovation clearly spells out the change that is required and the need for a strong well-trained staff to execute the vision. How is it then that the principal appointed to lead the school is not trained in the Waldorf method? And, that the training that was to occur for teachers throughout the school year has not been done—not to mention that in the first year of implementation 8 of the teachers were in their first year of teaching? Is it no wonder that some of the teachers are encountering problems teaching the new curriculum and managing student behavior in the new instructional environment? Not to mention, being forced to perform under the watchful eye of State administrators whose focus is on student testing and Common Core standards and call for bolder thinking but who fail to do their part in creating the conditions for this to happen. Unfortunately, it is the children and their families who will suffer if the program is terminated prematurely as is currently proposed by Dr. Hargens and her executive staff.

As a Board you have taken steps to address the divide that exists between JCPS administrators and the communities they serve by negotiating Dr. Hargen’s resignation. I ask you now to take the next step in voting NO at tomorrow night’s meeting. I implore you and the other Board members to step back and look anew without prejudice at this program and its performance. Please allow adequate time for parent and community input and counter-arguments. And, before you decide to terminate it, first ask what it would take to make it successful. We need to demonstrate through our actions that we recognize the potential of each and every student who resides in West Louisville—and that while we too often have labeled them and their families as the “problem” (e.g., the students poor behavior and lack of parental involvement), it may in fact be our own impatience and lack of commitment that are the problem.

In these times where we are witnessing an assault on public education, I so value your stewardship over our public schools. Thank you for your service to our community and your commitment to our children and youth.

Sincerely,
Theresa Glore. MS

This email was sent to Kentucky Board of Education Members. Their email addresses are:

grboyd@bigsandybb.com,
cundifffarms1979@gmail.com,
RFGimmel@atlasmachine.com,
sdhiv1234@gmail.com,
gary.houchens@wku.edu,
alesag.johnson@gmail.com,
Robert.King@ky.gov,
rlmarcum22@gmail.com,
nawannap@aol.com,
ceemore1@gmail.com,
wtwyman@scrtc.com,
marygwenw@cflouisville.org

Dear KBE Members,

As a parent of a recent JCPS graduate from one of our district’s Cohort 1 “priority” schools, I implore you to exercise extreme caution when vote tomorrow to recommend charter schools, and if you do decide to do so, be equally judicious with which elements you can support.

One of the things that makes Kentucky schools special is its emphasis on local control, as exemplified in the innovative decision under KERA to provide SBDM power to local schools. However, the conversation revolving around helping these high poverty gap students via way of charters is invalid if you take into account that my son’s priority school lost its SBDM powers 5 years ago when it entered into priority status.

Another thing that no one seems to be able to genuinely answer is how “school choice” will solve our problems in closing achievement gaps. JCPS is already a district of choice. This choice, combined with overemphasis on high stakes test scores, has been devastating to our students in poverty, who don’t have the same abilities to navigate the system and overcome the hurdles we put in front of them. Our student assignment map that discriminates against our most vulnerable citizens is just one of many examples. There is no sense of community behind my son’s school because they backfill the students who attend there from other communities. Perhaps you should know more about hurdles like these before we assume that they just need MORE choices. Competition has not been proven to improve outcomes in Jefferson County. We need more reasons to work collaboratively instead. Let’s work to make our existing schools better before we throw more variability and competition into the mix.

Speaking of local control, our local school board is should have the final say as to which charters will be permitted in our community. They are democratically elected and have the ability to garner feedback from their constituents about the proposed schools and whether or not the charter proposals and the underlying assumptions, hold water when it comes to how they will address the needs of the students in our community.

Perhaps instead of looking at charters as a solution for persistently low achieving schools, we should look at ways to remove some of the handcuffs we’ve placed upon them. I’m happy to share a litany of these items, should you be interested, in addition to a few I hinted at above. No, these problems are not solved by simply introducing charters as a way of “working around” the system. When we have a leaky house, we must fix the roof, not build a new house down the street.

Furthermore, should charter schools move forward, I would like to reiterate the following provisions that should be a requirement in any charter school legislation in the state of Kentucky:

• SBDMs need to be in every publicly funded school, both public and charter (especially priority schools!)

• The local school board, which is democratically elected by the community it serves, should serve as authorizers

• Non profit. Truly non profit not an arm of for profit company
Should not take tax dollars from existing schools. (Since this year is not a budget year, making funding a sticking point could buy us time.)

• Not closing schools just because they are low performing. Need latitude to serve special needs, at risk, etc without being held to same standards as a school like Manual.

• Remove the unhealthy fixation we have on high stakes testing for all schools, public and charter, but finding less intrusive accountability measures, such as sampling and dashboards, and even self reporting of portfolios of accomplishments

• Schools must be open to all, and should not have ability to refuse applicants or weed out. Barriers to entry already create self selection bias. How will that be eliminated?

• Must provide transportation and free and reduced lunch the same way public schools do.

• No use of public funds for religious schools. (No vouchers for St X, for example.)

• Accountability and transparency is a must. Open board meetings, open records, published minutes, budgets and salaries of all employees, contractors and operators

• There needs to be a minimum enrollment in a charter before it can be funded, demonstrating community need and support.

• There should be a limit to the number of new charter schools opened per year.

• There should be safeguards in place to prevent taking resources from public schools to fund the charters. One of the reasons public schools are currently failing is due to lack of supports and resources. Stripping away funding, or even “high performing” students, or highly involved families, from the mix, creates even greater burdens and hardships on the schools that stay.

• There needs to be equitable access to quality schools in every neighborhood. Closing low performing schools is not an option if there are no other schools in the vicinity.

• We need to treat our teachers with respect and support if we wish to attract quality educators. The idea that we can work them more hours for less money is going in the wrong direction and will see less than qualified individuals with higher turnover than we are currently experiencing in public schools. This is a fallacy with no evidence to support it.

• JCPS is already district of choice. You must demonstrate, without a doubt , not just from selective evidence, that “school choice” does more to fix existing problems. Proponents must provide conclusive evidence before we move forward with implementing a solution that doesn’t fix an existing problem, but only layers on more complexities.
This is a quick list I threw together in the hopes that you will have a chance to review it before you vote tomorrow.

I found the presentations at the work session last week to be one sided. They did not provide an opportunity to cross-examine the evidence by those of us who represent the more cautious approach to charter school implementation. What were the unique qualities of each of the success stories and what made them a success? What specific laws did they implement, which we could we emulate, to make sure we have the same successes? Claims that Nashville was a success story was quickly discredited by Tweets from school board members in Nashville. Arguments that charters serve gap students in urban areas has been disproven time and again by other research groups. Parents, teachers, community leaders, including NAACP, have made it clear that charters are doing more harm than good in many of the communities all over the country where they have entered. THESE VOICES CANNOT BE DENIED! Perhaps it is due to one or two factors that good legislation can and will prevent, but the information presented to the board at the work session was unclear what those specific items are, and therefore you do not have conclusive enough evidence at this time to justify forcing us to implement unproven charter schools in our major cities. WE DON’T WANT THEM! No one has been able to demonstrate to me that any version of charter schools will magically address the needs of the students attending my son’s school and schools like them. Since they represent our district’s most vulnerable, don’t we really need to come up with the best plan for them, regardless if it’s introducing charters or fixing existing schools, before we move forward with any plan?

Please help those who are doing the work at the ground level dig into the ways we can stop failing our most vulnerable students in the Commonwealth BEFORE moving forward with some fancy new idea, which will only create a distraction and drain on resources and energy. I look forward to continuing the conversation. We have work to do.

Gay Adelmann

This is an email that was sent by an Academy @ Shawnee Sophomore to Dr. Hargens on Sunday, Nov. 27. She asked that Dear JCPS publish it our our open letter forum.

Dear Dr. Hargens,jessica

I wanted to follow up with you in regards to my speech that I gave at the JCPS Board meeting on November, 15th. On your way out the door when my mother mentioned a possible follow up email being sent about #BringBacktheColonel your response was “think about the programs as a whole, not just one person.” So, I went home and read again the letter that was sent home by Ms. Benboe on November 9th, explaining the personnel changes that happened at my school, the Academy@Shawnee, over a 4 day break for the students. What I noticed was the statement about the magnet programs. The following was taken directly from the letter:

FINALLY, OUR MAGNET PROGRAMS HAVE NOT CHANGED; STUDENTS WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES FOR ALL OF OUR CURRENT MAGNET PROGRAMS.

When Ms. Benboe and the District transfers the magnet coordinator, Col. William Vander Meer with no plans to replace him, then to say that the magnet programs will not change is a contradiction. The programs changed at 2:30 in the afternoon on Nov. 4 when the Colonel was told that he was being transferred to Central High School, effective immediately. We, the students, will not continue to receive ALL the support and resources that were available to us with the Colonel gone. I’ll share with you an example about the aviation program. On November 5th, the day after his transfer, there were about 15 Shawnee Middle and High school students that were to meet him at Hanger 7 at Bowman Field, to take plane rides. Only because he holds a seat on the Board of Directors for Hanger 7, were those students, myself included, still able to go on the plane rides. I actually got to fly a plane and logged air time for the first time that morning. Those types of outings and programs were the direct result from the Colonels passion for the kids, for learning and for the excitement of aviation.

Another example that maybe you are not aware of, is a new program with UPS, which the Colonel was able to arrange for our school. The freshman this year will be paired up with UPS pilots. The pilots will follow and mentor, one on one, the students for their entire 4 years in high school. What an opportunity. Once again it was because of the Colonel’s connections with the community and his drive for the success of the Academy@Shawnee.

I could you give example after example, if you care to listen, of how the Colonel’s 19 years of experience and his community connections promotes all of the students attending the Academy@Shawnee’s Middle and High Schools. He was one of a few administration personal that was bridging the Middle school to the High school.

However, I would like to share with you how I felt when I was attending the Board meeting that night. During the first part of the meeting when schools were getting recognized, I was sitting in the audience getting frustrated, hurt and then angry. All of these schools were talking about teacher relationships with their students and how awesome of an experience that is. Our school has teachers leaving to go to different school to teach every single day. So, to have the few remaining in our building meant the world to me and to the other 150 children that signed our petition. The swift and quiet transfer of the Colonel just feels like a punishment. A punishment in which our school does not deserve. I have already had the experience earlier this year of a teacher being fired by the District and then just 6 days later she was reinstated by the District to her teaching position. So, that is why I am asking you again: Dr. Hargens, will you please transfer Col. William VanderMeer back to the Academy@Shawnee?

Regards,
Jessica Bennett

Trump’s latest appointment is the Secretary of Education. She is pro charter school. Making my career in education I think I’d like to weigh in on this and give my opinion. Having been subject to the deluge of opinions and memes over the past two weeks, why not throw one out there myself?

This post is my own opinion, not on work time, and not to be confused as anything but my opinion as a voting aged, tax-paying American.

I am opposed to charter schools and voucher systems. Not shocking, as I work in education. I’d like to outline why I am against them, and what I think can be done instead. Perhaps it will help you form an opinion on the matter and since on facebook we all love to tell each other what to think, might as well weigh in on something that I know a little something about.

Hidden behind the innocuous name “school choice” are charter schools. Here is a basic fact most don’t know about Kentucky. In most districts you already have a great deal of choice. Outside of a variety of public schools, you have private schools. Before you say that’s a rich man’s game – it’s not. There is a wealth of students in private school backed by charitable ventures. The term “school choice” is used because it sounds positive, and it doesn’t at all point to the inequities that charters can bring to the table. I am 100% in favor of private schools – you want to put one together and fund it, by all means. But if you want to fund it with the collective pot of money known as taxes, I am not for it.

In brief I am opposed to charters because of the following reasons:

  1. Charter schools are an easy buzzword answer to a complex problem. Complex problems never have easy answers. In this case we are playing with the futures of kids. I won’t stand idly by with that much on the line to be decided by a simple answer.
  2. In Kentucky our funding model for schools is not optimal. It relies on average daily attendance rather than enrollment for basic funding and as the years go on the state shifts the burdens of unfunded mandates back to the districts. This creates inequity for the smaller and poorer districts. If the system is not right to begin with, the answer is to fix the system rather than look to an alternative.
  3. Charters can choose who they educate with my tax dollars. They can say no to a poor kid, a special ed kid or whomever they wish. If I am going to pay for the system, then the system has to take all kids. I think that’s an equitable use of my tax dollars. I am not interested in funding a selective school with my taxes. If I want to fund a private school, that is a choice I can choose to make. If instead I am going to toss money into the collective pot for all – then it needs to serve all.
  4. They are not subject to the same mind-numbing bureaucratic red tape public schools are. This red tape is killing our schools. I can go on for days on the amount of inane busywork the state and federal government foist upon teachers and administrators.
  5. Because the current endeavors surrounding “for profit” education should be an indication of the quality of service one could expect.nochoice

The current “for profit” endeavors mostly center around testing. Right now public education is making a lot of folk’s money. It’s not the teachers, or even the administrators (an easy punching bag) and it sure isn’t the kids. Corporations hiding behind “accountability measures” and “intervention programs” are getting rich off the backs of students and schools. Look up how much Kentucky spends on KPREP, ACT, Industry cert exams, and the litany of accountability measures we are all subject to. Look at what your local school or district is forced to pay for these things and ask yourself is that a wise expenditure of funds? I am not opposed to testing, in fact in many instances it serves as an excellent diagnosis tool both in terms of the program provided, and the individual student’s competency level in a given area. However, we are awash in testing to the point where it has become too much. Again, ask your local school or district how much of a student’s year is spent in assessment. Then ask the state ‘why’, and for what purpose is this being done? Then ask how much. Divide that number by the cost of an average educator and ask if that money would have been better served elsewhere. Rather than more money flow into the coffers of Pearson, ACT, or another edu-corp it would make more sense to put that money on the front line in buildings and districts, working with students.

This system of accountability and the dollar signs attached to testing is one of my chief complaints of public education. Trust me, I love public education. It is what I’ve dedicated my adult working life to, and I believe in it, value it, and am champion for it. I will also be the first to say we have gone off the rails as a state and moreso a nation on the altar of testing. It’s too much and it’s doing a disservice to students, teachers, and administrators. I am not against accountability, but we’ve gone to far. I don’t want my kids spending 5-10 days a year doing standardized tests, and I don’t like the fact that we do it to students right now. I could say no (and then lose my job rather quickly) or use my not at work voice and advocate to anyone who will listen to be voices to change that aspect of our system.

My fear is that introducing private enterprise into school business will be much the same as the edu-corps and their introduction into the money making business of accountability. Right now they’re making wheelbarrows of money off testing. I can’t imagine the harm that will come when they get into the classroom. I’m sure it will look but under the hood will be hidden some darker things. If you want an example go google some charters. Look at their results, and then at their admission policies. If they are killing it in the for profit world and they are educating ANY kid (ESL, ELL, Special ed, impoverished) that walks off the street- more power to them and they need to share their special recipe. Until I see replicable models of charters that work with the same students as the public school has to take, I won’t believe they’re anything more than a private school with selective enrollment being paid for by my tax dollars. I’m not OK with my taxes paying for some kids to be successful, and some not by design. If I’m going to pay for it I’d like them to have an even shot.

The argument for a charter and “school choice” is an inviting argument. It’s built on the narrative that public schools are failing. In some places they are. Either through poor funding, poor management, or other issues, they are failing. However, in many places they are chugging along just fine. When was the last time you read a story “local public school is doing just fine” or instead saw “Detroit schools are falling apart and are full of mold.” Ask yourself which one is more provocative to report on? Rather than critically look at the system we rely on short snippets and sensational stories to guide our opinions. Again, these are the lives of students and their futures. I’d urge you to take a broader view of the system. If all you see is at the local level and you pay your taxes and feel anger that the local school isn’t doing well. I get it. So you hear the talk of school choice and it sounds good. I’ll ask you to consider instead improving the system in place. It’s not broken, and in many cases it’s great. It does however have numerous problems, some of its own design, and some out of its hands. In the hands of the voters are many of these decisions.

I would urge you to become informed about some of the systemic issues facing public education and be an advocate to change them, and in some cases outright fix them before you look at charter schools as a solution.

The second argument for charter schools is “I’d rather be able to direct my tax money how I see fit”. I can understand that sentiment, but I believe an educated society is a benefit to all. I would instead say you are paying to have kids educated in the democratic process, become thinkers, doers, and contributors to society. While it might be ok to look at a voucher in your pocket as a better means to self-govern what happens with your kids I’d ask you to consider the whole first. I believe a well-funded public system is a benefit to all. If you do not, you have options- private school and homeschool. Both can require sacrifices to achieve. I’m willing to say the benefit to the whole of the community (paying taxes to fund public schools) than the benefit to the individual (a voucher in your pocket). You may not agree with that, and you may not agree with the two alternatives I listed and that’s OK. You probably wouldn’t agree when I further say I think we need *more* tax money being funneled to education. If I had my way we’d spend far more on education than we would many other things. The beauty is we can both be advocates for what we believe in, and I will hope that those who feel as I do outvote those who feel as you do.

Outside of the basic taxes for the individual versus taxes for the collective good if you want some suggestions to improve the system rather than look at charters as the silver bullet I’d be happy to give some.

Here’s my take based on my experience. It’s only my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth:

  1. Equitably fund schools based on need. Divest yourself of the idea that all schools in a district should be funded equally. It doesn’t work. We know this. We see it every year. Instead if you want a more equitable outcome- put more money to places that have more need. Provide the school with the educational resources to educate the clientele that walks in the door. Advocate for this. Points 2-9 really are 50% of the battle, and this one is the other 50%. If you need proof look at a couple of things. Pick our state or any state and look at the bottom 5 schools by the available metrics. If they were the same bottom 5- 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago AND they were funded relatively on the same model over the years- then the problem lies with the system of funding, not with the school.
  2. Cease summative end of the year testing in favor of interim, shorter assessment to look at student growth. Move away from the accountability altar and instead spend the massive amounts of money spent in its name on improving the direct education of students, rather than creating data for praise/ blame and to categorize schools. If you are a non-educator and can explain to me our current accountability system correctly- I’ll give you a dollar. If you are an educator I’d almost challenge you to the same. We have gone in 15-20 years from relatively no accountability to dying at the altar of testing. There MUST be a happy medium that can satisfy the politicians and public who want results, and the educators and students who have to spend instructional time on this endeavor.
  3. Advocate to the state department to stop any mandated change/ law/ procedure unless it comes with state funding to make it happen. Districts are being crippled by state mandates that they must dip into their local tax based coffers to pay for.
  4. Provide the resources for real behavior intervention. That means different places (re: schools) for chronic offenders so that they can get real help AND resources and support inside of existing schools as a frontline. A good alternative school works. There are several in the state- Oldham, Bullitt, many others. It can’t be set up like a prison, it must have the resources in place to teach replacement behaviors. Also in the same vein have a court system that isn’t overburdened with cases. Our judges don’t have enough time to see the issues that come in front of them. The answer isn’t limiting reporting the issues, the answer is putting more people to the problem in terms of adjudication, and support to change behaviors. I am 100% in favor of holding a kid accountable, but we can’t take the pithy approach of “whoop em, it worked for me”. No, it probably didn’t. you probably had more support in place. Many of our students don’t have the supports in place to succeed and if we force them (which we do with compulsory attendance laws) then the burden comes to society to put the structures in place to support them.
  5. Drop the agrarian calendar. We aren’t farmers anymore. The summer break we have doesn’t serve kids in terms of retention of content. Summer slide is real. Instead to give students needed breaks, go to a calendar that is year round with more one to two week breaks interspersed in it.
  6. Take a hard look at IDEA and current special education laws and have an honest look at whether or not they are truly helping students with diverse learning needs, or creating even bigger gaps. Do not take this as anti-special education- instead hear me when I say that this area requires much work.
  7. Take a hard look at any union or employment contract that doesn’t give administrators a non-cumbersome way to part ways with poor teachers. On the other side of the coin, create a structure that does the same to remove poor administrators before their damage is measured in years. Don’t take this point as being anti-union, it’s not. Take it as being pro-effective teaching. Truth is some teachers and some principals aren’t suited for their roles. When it is apparent it should not take years to remove them from their positions. I am pro union. I think it protects workers from mismanagement and exploitation. I do think though we have in many cases swung the pendulum too far away from that and have protected folks who have no business working with students. Like accountability there has to be a happy medium.
  8. As a society figure out a way to hold parents to more accountability for involvement in schools. I don’t know what this would be, but we all know we need it, and it starts at home. Solve that and you’ll get a nobel prize I think.
  9. Lastly: Stop demonizing the outliers. By that I mean the sensational article about the random kid who does something bad. Or the teacher that makes a bad choice. Or the administrator who does something unpopular. Realize that the outliers aren’t the norm. Celebrate the good things that are going on every day in schools.

This post was written by a principal within JCPS who has asked to remain anonymous.

Opinion letter submitted to the Courier-Journal

The public education community – made up of students, parents/guardians, teachers, staff, and community leaders – is fighting a difficult battle, playing out locally as well as nationally, to save our public schools from a well-funded, well-orchestrated movement to privatize public education.

While some of these efforts may be well-intentioned, most are uninformed, self-serving, or downright evil.  These outside groups range from politicians (many of whom don’t even have kids in public schools), to venture capitalists, to religious groups. Some are simply looking for a silver bullet. Others believe replacing highly qualified, certified teachers with less expensive, easier to bully personnel, or denying services to students who are more costly to educate, will help them put more cash in their pockets. Kentucky is by far the largest state yet to open the flood gates to access to our tax dollars earmarked for public education by way of charter legislation, so others are scurrying to secure their piece of the pie. While yet another group perceives an opportunity to use public funds to create schools that will promote their regressive or non-inclusive agendas, and these opportunists are even positioning themselves on boards that can influence the direction of this legislation.

True proponents of public education view it as the single most important pathway to success for every child, and we want to ensure that it remains equitable and accessible. Fighting this noble fight, day in and day out, to stave off these wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing, is hard work – especially when there is no money to be made, and no slick collateral or full-time marketing departments to support our efforts. Therefore, your endorsements for these candidates, who represent everything we are fighting against, felt like a punch in the gut.

One of your endorsed candidates for JCPS school board, Fritz Hollenbach, just moved back to Louisville last year, after having lived in another state for the last 28 years. Yet, this dark horse, newcomer candidate has already received around $250,000 in financial backing in the form of TV advertisements and mailers from an outside organization that is funded by a handful of millionaires, not stakeholders, pushing their own agenda. Meanwhile, the incumbent, Chris Brady, is truly a local candidate, which is what school board representation should be. His campaign budget is 1/10th that of your endorsed candidate. He a JCPS parent, educator and has lived here most of his life. He has demonstrated that he is willing to take a stand against the status quo and that he is a true defender of public education.

Similarly, your endorsement for David Jones, Jr. seems to overlook that this is another candidate – a venture capitalist no less – who is also spending 10 times the amount of his competitors to maintain a position that is essentially a “volunteer” job. He has been very supportive and “hands off” with our superintendent, despite repeated evidence that the data her team reports to the board members is erroneous, and we have seen a further decline of school safety and a widening of achievement gaps under his leadership. Chris Kolb, a JCPS graduate, a JCPS parent, an experienced educator, an active school volunteer, and a community leader with a track record of advocacy for children, intricately understands the problems plaguing our schools and our district and is passionate about public education. He will put public education ahead of profit.

Does your editorial board understand:

  • What it’s like be demonized and demoralized due to the overemphasis of the fallacious metric of high-stakes test scores?
  • How it feels to live under the constant threat of a state takeover or closure or having to shake things up every two or three years if gains are not made fast enough?
  • The harm that is done when we force educators to endure a competitive environment over a collaborative one?
  • The frustrations of dealing with a district that is constantly trying to implement “ivory tower” solutions when teachers’ and parents’ voices are not sought at the local school level?
  • The culture of fear, top-down bullying tactics, erroneous data used to guide decision making, and cover-ups and denial, and many other outrageous things that continue to take place in our district on a daily basis?

I do. Which is why I have been attending practically every board meeting and work session for over a year, and our group is in constant communication with our board members. We know which board members ask tough questions, speak up and even vote against the grain when student needs are not put first. So, I know how I came to my opinions. Having not seen your editorial board members at any of these meetings, I can’t help but wonder how they arrived at theirs.

TRUE public education advocates, who have been staying up-to-date with the educational crisis we are in, encourage support for Chris Kolb in District 2, Chris Brady in District 7, and Ben Gies in District 4.

Just remember this slogan: We ALL win with Chris, Chris and Ben!

Thank you,
Gay Adelmann

meGay Adelmann is a parent of a 2016 graduate from the Academy @ Shawnee, and co-founder of Dear JCPS, a stakeholder advocacy group that solicits feedback from constituents and amplifies that information to the JCPS Board of Education so that they are able to make more informed decisions.