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Kentucky Submits Waiver Application for NCLB on Monday

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says he feels positive about Kentucky’s application to waive federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Several states will be turning in applications Monday for exemptions from NCLB regulations that many consider outdated and unrealistic. Kentucky was one of the first states to announce its decision to ask the federal government to use its own accountability measures.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in Louisville last week and met with Holliday to discuss the state’s application. Duncan expressed some concerns, including parts of NCLB that keep track of low-income and minority student performance, said Holliday.

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Academy at Shawnee Impresses Education Secretary Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in Louisville to promote President Barack Obama’s jobs bill onThursday, which would invest around $390 million in Kentucky schools and create thousands of jobs.

Some suggest Duncan should use his position to change education assessments.

States will have the chance to submit applications to waive the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements next Monday. Duncan said NCLB is broken and many requirements are outdated. Approved states will be given flexibility to create their own standards, he said.

“We frankly want to get out of the way. Give them a lot more room to move, hold them for a high bar, but let them be creative, let them be innovative. And so we hope to get a great application from Kentucky on Monday,” said Duncan.

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U.S. Secretary of Education Visits Louisville Next Week

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will visit Louisville next week as a keynote speaker at the 38th National Conference for Middle School Educators.

Duncan will be joined by Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. Duncan’s speech will focus on federal education policy and goals. Holliday will address state issues, including changing accountability measures and next-generation learning.

The education officials will also be joined by actor Henry Winkler, who has written a number of children’s books about dyslexia.

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Beshear Requests Waiver From No Child Left Behind Standards

by Angela Hatton, Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky officials want to replace federal education standards with new state measurements.

Governor Steve Beshear sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today requesting a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability model. State Education Department spokeswoman Lisa Gross says Senate Bill 1, which passed in 2009, forced Kentucky to develop new state standards which will go into effect this year.

“The governor is requesting that instead of having a two-tiered system, which is what we had in the past—we’ve reported schools’ standings under the state accountability system, and we’ve also reported their standings under No Child Left Behind. The governor is asking that we are able to use just one system for that purpose,” she says, adding that the state accountability model is more progressive than current federal standards. It focuses on college and career readiness. “Looking at what we call disaggregated data which is data reported by groups, so we would report data by ethnicity, by gender, by disability, that sort of thing,” she says. So all of these principles kind of describe Kentucky’s accountability system, and we believe that it’s a good, strong accountability system that other states could probably learn from.”

Gross says Kentucky is the first state to request a waiver. Secretary Duncan has called on Congress to revamp No Child Left Behind. Duncan has said if the federal government does not move forward, states should be allowed to implement changes this fall. Kentucky has requested a quick response on its request because many schools resume classes in early August.

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Kentucky-In; Indiana-Out for Race to the Top Funds

Kentucky was on the list of 16 finalists the U.S. Department of Education announced today in the running for more than $4 billion in Race to the Top funds. But Indiana is out. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement Thursday and said the department would interview representatives from the 16 finalists in mid March and announce the eventual winners in April.

Kentucky has applied for $200 million in Race to the Top funds. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says his department is already preparing for its presentation.

“What we’re doing is trying to make sure that we have all the right team members,” Holliday says. “And we’re looking at all the other applications and saying, what’s different about Kentucky that we can make sure to reinforce at the presentation, and just making sure that we have good, clear deployment plans ready to go to work.”

Holliday says the state’s application included a lot of work that is already underway.

“We have a very comprehensive reform package that was led pretty much by our reform legislation in 2009 called Senate Bill 1,” he says. “And it pretty much mirrored exactly what Race to the Top was looking for.”

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 to revamp the state’s K-12 education system.

Some political observers and education experts had doubted that Kentucky would make the cut given that it doesn’t have a law allowing charter schools. Holliday says he didn’t see that as an obstacle.

“Our Kentucky Reform Act of 1990 actually created 1.200 charter schools in Kentucky,” he says. “All of our schools have site-based councils that are composed of parents and they make curriculum decisions. They hire the principal. We could find nothing that a charter school does that our site-based councils couldn’t already do.”

Holliday says the news is encouraging at a time when education is facing budget cuts.

Indiana, however, did not make the cut. Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett says he got the news via e-mail and Twitter messages. He says it was disappointing, especially after the state worked to meet criteria the federal education department gave states that applied. It included having charter schools and policies linking student data to teacher evaluations.

Bennett says the news doesn’t mean the Indiana plan is dead.

“We have told school corporations across the state of Indiana that we will implement this reform plan whether we are funded or not,” he says. “And the fact is we don’t believe money will solve the problem. What will solve the problem is for us to have the political courage, the political will to truly reform education in this state and we’re going to implement our reform agenda as we have planned.”

Bennett says he’s not sure how Indiana will handle its application in a second contest for funds due in June.

“We’re going to wait and see what we get back from the federal government, what feedback we get back from our technical advisors,” he says. “Obviously our interests will always be to pursue this reform money, but again, I’ll always back that up and say I don’t believe this is about money.”

Nearby states also on the list include Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.

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Charter Schools: A Tale of Two States

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has been making noise lately about charter schools — and he’s announced he wants to see more of them. Duncan’s enthusiasm is encouraging those in the charter school movement nationwide, but the appeal of these schools in this region is mixed. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke on Monday to the annual convention of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C.

“I’m a big, big supporter of these successful public schools and so is the president. And that’s why one of our top priorities is a $52 million increase in charter school funding for our FY 2010 budget,” Duncan said to applause from the audience.

arne-duncan-02Duncan’s last job was the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools. His reform efforts aided the opening of most of the city’s 67 charter schools that studies show have performed well. These private schools get taxpayer money but are exempt from many rules regulating public schools.

There are 4,600 charter schools across the country, but their achievements have been mixed. And there is only one in the Louisville are —  just north of the Ohio River.

At Community Montessori in New Albany, Indiana, students are out for the summer, but Glen Fondren is demonstrating a math lesson for visitors.

“This is a hundred square,” he tells them. “So, there are 100 ones on here. There are 10 ten bars. So, which one’s bigger? A hundred or ten?”

Fondren is the assistant director here. And he’s using small beads to show Gena and Jason Johnson Montessori methods for teaching students — like their five-year-old son, Aiden, whom they’re thinking of enrolling here. The Johnsons also are learning about charter schools, which the Indiana legislature authorized in 2001.

Community Montessori’s director is Barbara Fondren; she’s married to Glen. Like Arne Duncan, she sees charters as a place for innovation

“I think competition’s a good thing in education,” Barbara Fondren says. “I think when different options increase for families — when we’ve had families move here from Kentucky — I think that helps all of our schools.”

She says six families moved to Indiana to attend this school. But she’s worried Indiana lawmakers will obstruct the charter school movement here.

“One of the things that we’re trying to address to the legislature now is — stop talking about a moratorium.

Indiana Democrats have proposed halting charters for new schools. It’s part of the debate on the state budget now being drafted in Indianapolis. Critics supporting that move are citing last week’s study from a Stanford University research center that found students at charters didn’t perform any better than those at public schools.

But there are really no heated debates about charters in Kentucky, which is one of 10 states with no charter schools.

Jack Buckley teaches at New York University and co-wrote Charter Schools: Hope or Hype? He says charters are popular in urban districts with large failing schools serving significant impoverished populations. Charters become part of the landscape after free market economists, frustrated parents and education organizations band together to make them a reality.

Buckley says beyond those districts, it’s another story.

“As you move away from major cities, urban districts that have problems over the years, you don’t usually find as much support,” Buckley says. “And a lot of charter school initiative in suburban districts have failed.”

Even in Indiana’s most of the 50 charter schools are in Indianapolis and Gary, while the charter school movement has never taken hold in Kentucky. But people in Frankfort were listening to Arne Duncan’s speech this week, including Education Cabinet Secretary Helen Mountjoy. Ask her about charter schools, and she lists Kentucky’s efforts on education reform.

“We certainly feel that we have an alternative that is meeting many of the same things,” Mountjoy says, “particularly in the areas of autonomy and being able to make decisions at the school level, in managing a budget, in hiring staff, in choosing instructional materials, and on and on.”

Those facets of the state’s education system grew after the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, or KERA, was enacted to reduce economic disparity between schools.

But it’s not clear if those and recent efforts to improve education will be enough to satisfy Arne Duncan to give any of the $5 billion in federal grants to Kentucky — even though Gov. Steve Beshear met with him earlier this month to extol Kentucky efforts.