Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Giving Challenge


I'm writing today with a time-sensitive request that may give the Prichard Committee an enormous boost in reaching our fundraising goals.

At 7:59 a.m. today, Blue Grass Community Foundation and Smiley Pete Publishing (Chevy Chaser, Southsider and Business Lexington Magazines) officially launched their GoodGiving Guide Challenge, and we're thrilled to be a part of it. These two organizations have combined their efforts to promote scores of Kentucky nonprofits and have set a goal of raising over $100,000 before the end of the year. They've also lined up several challenge grants to award bonus money to the nonprofits who raise the most donors and dollars.

Can you help us win those challenges by giving right now at

In addition to the challenges for nonprofits, Smiley Pete has lined up a ton of thank you gifts to individuals who give at different levels.

Give now to receive some of these fabulous gifts donated from the GoodGiving Guide Challenge's sponsors.

If you're planning on including us in your charitable giving plans this year, please consider making your donation today.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Rachel Belin

PS - If you don't feel you can donate at this point, will you consider forwarding this email to 5 of your friends? Many of the prizes are based on number of donors, and we'd greatly appreciate the introduction to your friends and family.

Monday, October 24, 2011

NCLB waiver? Or a new law?

Kentucky is quickly developing an application for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind accountability rules.  Our plan will ask to use our new "Unbridled Learning" system of scoring and consequences in place of the current "Adequate Yearly Progress" or "AYP" method.  Though the proposal still needs feedback and another round of revisions, we know it will include commitments to intervention in our lowest achieving schools and to new professional growth and evaluation procedures that include attention to student achievement results.

But what if the waivers never happen?

Last week, the Senate Education Committee reported out the "Harkin-Enzi" bill designed to replace NCLB.  Under that bill, states would not be required to set separate goals for disaggregated subgroups and would not be required to go nearly as far on professional growth and evaluations.  Key players in the Senate are explicitly saying they want to pass the bill this calendar year so that the waiver plans never go into effect.  I'm following these developments through EdWeek's Politics K-12 blog, which often provides several updates a day.

In short, there's a live political process underway that could short-circuit the waiver plans and replace them with new rules that are currently being negotiated in Congress.

For Kentucky students, teachers, parents, and citizens, this means that we really do not know which accountability rules will apply at the end of the current school year.

Fortunately, we do know our overall goals for students.  I'm pretty sure that strong work to meet our new Kentucky Core Academic Standards will pay off no matter which scoring rules apply.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Preschool for social justice

Nicholas Kristof has a great new piece up in the New York Times, arguing that "the single step that would do the most to reduce inequality has nothing to do with finance at all. It’s an expansion of early childhood education."  It includes a great overview of the research on the importance of students early foundations, and is definitely worth a read.  The title "Occupy the Classroom" plays wonderfully off of current political mobilizations!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seeing those gaps

Graphs like these are supposed to be painful: please do take a look and see where we're letting students get less than they need.  Snapshots like the ones below are why an index calculation matters: when all the results for each group are combined in a single number, the disturbing parts are hard to miss.

Achievement gaps remain severe:

From Monday's press release, with graphs to follow in upcoming posts:

Achievement gaps continue to impair Kentucky’s overall education progress, according to an analysis of state test scores released today by three statewide groups. Kentucky schools are falling especially short with students with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and African-American backgrounds. Low-income and Hispanic students also scored well below their peers.

The analysis, presented in a "Disaggregated Index Report," was developed by the Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence to monitor school performance while Kentucky made a three-year shift from the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System to the Unbridled Learning system based on new state standards and assessments. 2011 is the last year of that transition, and the last year the three groups will issue this type of report.

The Disaggregated Index is based on a formula similar to the one used in past years by the Kentucky Department of Education to compare student results based on race, income, and other factors. The partner groups applied the formula to state test scores results, and found that:

  • Of all groups studied, only Asian elementary and middle school students and gifted students at all levels have reached a score of 100, equivalent to the average student being proficient in all tested subjects under the state’s old standards
  • No other student groups are on track to reach 100 by 2014
  • Students of both sexes and all ethnic backgrounds are improving, but improving too slowly
  • Students with limited English proficiency had flat or declining results at all levels
  • On the 0-140 scale used in the analysis, gaps of 10 points or more separate African-American students, students with disabilities, migrant students, and students with limited English proficiency from their classmates at every level.

"The goal is to deliver proficiency for each and every child," said Ronda Harmon, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Councils. "These disaggregated index results allow schools to evaluate strengths and tackle weaknesses now, before the new assessment scores arrive."

"The gaps remain painful and too many of those gaps are growing wider, reminding us that we still have major work ahead to provide an equal quality of education for all Kentucky’s children,” said Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton, president of the Council for Better Education. "Plus, to be competitive in the global economy, we need every single student to be learning at very high levels aiming to meet Kentucky’s new goals for college and career readiness."

Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee, saw the report as “a call to action for all Kentucky adults on behalf of all our children.” Silberman added that the point of the report was to see the trends clearly and encourage all stakeholders to keep attention on raising performance during the testing transition.

The full report is available at, along with results for each school and district in Kentucky and an earlier report on overall results and subject-level trends released by the same groups in September.