Flynn to Take Helm at KASA

Simpson County Superintendent of Schools Jim Flynn will takeover the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) next year after he ends his tenure in public education.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports:

Flynn, who is in his 16th year as superintendent, will become executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents on July 1. In his new role, Flynn will help shape education policy in the state and help support Kentucky’s 173 school districts and superintendents who lead them.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity,” said Flynn, who also called his tenure at Simpson County Schools an honor and a privilege. “It’s going to be a change for me.”

 

Flynn previously served as the group’s president in 2013-14, and he was named Kentucky Superintendent of the Year for 2015.

A 1986 graduate of Western Kentucky University, Flynn holds a bachelor’s degree in science, with a major in biology and minor in chemistry. He earned a master’s degree in biology and secondary education from Texas A&M University, a Rank I in high school administration from WKU and a doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Kentucky University.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

 

Bevin Bashes Teachers

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is again bashing teachers and the largest association representing them, the KEA, instead of taking responsibility for his own failures as Governor.

Here’s more from the Courier-Journal:

Bevin said on WKCT Radio, of Bowling Green, that his budget proposals have fully funded Kentucky’s pension systems but that his efforts to save the pensions have been muddled by the teachers’ union.

And a response from KEA:

“It’s true that the last two state budgets approved by the legislature funded the pension system.  But remember, the Governor vetoed the 2018-2020 budget, which included the pension funding appropriations for which he’s now taking credit. The provisions of his ironically titled “Keeping the Promise” proposal from last fall and SB1(2018) speak for themselves; KEA didn’t create those documents, the Governor and legislators sympathetic to his cause did. Those proposals created the “discord” to which he refers.  All state employees, including educators, are also taxpayers.  Every participant in any of Kentucky’s public pension systems pays twice: once as a direct, personal mandatory contribution to their individual account and again as a taxpayer …  So yes, KEA and other advocacy groups believe state employees and public school educator voices should be heard on policy issues that will affect the pension benefits they earn and pay for.”

The fact that Kentucky teachers and other public employees consistently pay into a system as both employees and taxpayers seems lost on Bevin. That those who pay into the system and are promised a return would want to have a say in any changes clearly is an affront to the paternalistic Bevin who seems to want to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll manage it… ”

Fortunately, educators and others are speaking up and speaking out. Most everyone agrees the pension system needs an element of reform — and that reform should be carried out in a transparent manner that is fair to all parties to the system.

MORE on the pension situation.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

Strip Mining Kentucky Pensions

Fascinating tale of what’s going on behind the scenes with Kentucky’s pensions. Here are a few excerpts:

In April 2008, a longtime investment adviser named Chris Tobe was appointed to the board of trustees that oversees the Kentucky Retirement Systems, the pension fund that provides for the state’s firefighters, police, and other government employees. Within a year, his fellow trustees named Tobe to the six-person committee that oversees its investments, becoming the only member of the committee with any actual investment experience. It was an experiment in fiduciary responsibility that ended badly. “I started asking questions when things weren’t sounding right,” Tobe said. “And a secret session was held where they voted to kick me off.”

Several weeks after he was removed, the remaining members of the committee approved a $200 million investment in a hedge fund called Arrowhawk Capital Partners. Tobe, though he remained a trustee, only learned about the deal after the fact, while reading the magazine Pensions & Investments.

The Middle Man

Tobe had never heard of Arrowhawk, and he quickly figured out why: Arrowhawk was a new fund whose first investor was the Kentucky Retirement Systems, or KRS. During his tenure as a trustee, KRS staff had proposed moving 5 percent — roughly $650 million — of the pension’s total holdings, then invested almost entirely in a mix of stocks and bonds, into large, established “funds of funds” — vehicles that allow investors to buy a basket of hedge funds, rather than risking everything on a single fund. Instead, the staff had steered the investment committee in 2009 to a startup fund with no track record. Tobe pressed the issue at several public meetings of the KRS board and eventually, in 2010, an internal audit revealed that Arrowhawk paid more than $2 million to a middle man named Glen Sergeon to land Kentucky as a client. KRS’s chief investment officer resigned during the course of the investigation (only to land a private-sector job as a managing director at a giant investment consulting firm). “Bad publicity, along with mediocre performance, sealed the fate of Arrowhawk,” Tobe wrote in his self-published book, “Kentucky Fried Pensions.” Two and a half years after Kentucky selected the firm for its first-ever hedge fund investment, Arrowhawk shut its doors.

Big Fees

Yet Kentucky’s heavy reliance on alternatives has come at a steep cost. Hedge funds and private equity typically charge “2 and 20” – 2 percent of every dollar invested, plus a 20 percent share of any profits. That works out to fees roughly 10 times what a pension fund would pay to invest in a plain vanilla stock fund. In 2009, the year it began investing in hedge funds, KRS paid $13.6 million in annual management fees. Five years later, that figure had ballooned to $126 million, according to a study KRS itself commissioned — more than twice as much as it had publicly disclosed in its 2014 filings. And that higher figure still didn’t capture all the millions of dollars in those 20 percent “performance fees” that hedge funds and private equity collect — sometimes many years into the future, after the sale of a successful venture — before distributing profits to investors. That same study underscored a second cost: Kentucky’s gamble on alternatives has proven a lousy investment. Had KRS simply matched the performance of the median pension fund in the five years ending in December 2014, the pension would have produced an additional $1.75 billion in earnings. If it had invested in a basic index fund matching the Russell 1000 (the country’s 1,000 largest public companies), KRS would have earned another $9 billion. Even investing the entire pension fund in a long-term bond fund — as safe an investment as there is, short of leaving it all in cash — would have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits during those five years.

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It’s a damning story of gross mismanagement. Combine that with a General Assembly that didn’t regularly meet obligations, and it’s not difficult to see why there’s a crisis of sorts now.

Here’s what else is clear: The teachers and public employees who paid (and still pay) into this system are not at fault. They didn’t make these decisions and they did meet their obligations.

Sorting out a path forward should be done out in the open with the transparency that has been lacking in the pension system for far too long.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KyEdReport


 

KY Teachers Part of Award-Winning ESSA Strategy Team

Kentucky teachers and Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows Cassie Reding and Carly Baldwin are part of a team being recognized for development of an ESSA Strategy Plan.

Here’s more from a press release from Hope Street:

This week, a cross-state coalition of Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows will join 11 other teams in Chicago as finalists of the Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future’s Agents for Learning Challenge. The challenge, which called upon educator teams across the country to create plans that detailed innovative uses for federal funding for professional learning and student outcomes under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), named the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellow team of Trey Ferguson (NC), Cassie Reding (KY), Carly Baldwin (KY), Natalie Coleman (TN) and Debbie Hickerson (TN) as finalists. The “Game Changers” team from Hope Street Group is the only team with representatives from three different states to receive this honor. Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows will also be strongly represented: current Fellow Sarah Giddings and former Fellows Debbie Hickerson and Rebecca Wattleworth will also be in attendance to present their innovative proposals with their respective teams. Trey describes their team’s initial incentive to throw their hat in the competition ring:

“My teammates and I felt too many professional learning opportunities were happening to us, not for us, and definitely not with us. Too many systems are being developed from the top down and do not provide adequate resources or accountability to enhance good teaching practices.”

The finalist teams represent a diverse and knowledgeable group, among them 56 teachers, administrators and learning leaders from 12 different states. When asked about their strategic approach, team member Natalie Coleman tapped into the need for collaboration among educators:

“Our proposal focuses on collaboration and learning from excellence, and we have proposed a model of professional learning that makes it possible for teachers to learn from one another through observations, peer feedback and ongoing follow-up sessions.”

Hope Street Group, a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity, was given the unique opportunity to plan and sponsor the event:

“We were honored to be asked to co-sponsor this event and help plan it,” commented Dr. Tabitha Grossman, the National Director, Education Policy and Partnerships for Hope Street Group. “Giving teachers an opportunity to share their insights and innovative ideas about how educators can learn together and individually is something we hope to do more of in the coming months with the partners who are involved in this event.”

Dr. Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, weighed in on the call for teachers to lend their leadership–their expertise, experiences, and input–in the distribution of ESSA funding:

“States tell us they are looking for ways to capture stakeholder input, and the creative and bold ideas in the applications show how much these engaged educators have to offer as we enter the implementation phase of ESSA.”

In addition to the proposal presentations, the Chicago event will feature opportunities for the team members to engage to receive coaching to refine their plans and build skills in advocating with policymakers. As evidenced by the insight offered in the proposals, the challenge further demonstrates the need for teacher voice in education policy on the school, district, state and national levels. Educators can provide a firsthand perspective into what is effective and needed by students, themselves and their colleagues. A unique perspective only they can offer.

The presentations from the top 12 finalists will be live-streamed from 1:00pm to 3:30pm (CST) on July 22nd and can be viewed from this URL:http://www.learningforward.org/agentslivestream. If you are not available to watch on July 22, the recorded presentations as well as the teachers’ plans will be available online.

To learn more about Hope Street Group’s Teacher Fellows Program, please visit http://hopestreetgroup.org/impact/education/teacher-fellowships/. For additional information or questions, or to request interviews, please send an email to outreach@hopestreetgroup.org.

About Hope Street Group

Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

The Prichard Blog on Student Writing

Prichard is out with a post today on student writing.

Here’s an excerpt:

Some writing makes an argument to support a claim. Other pieces inform or explain, and still others provide narratives or real or imagined experience. Our Kentucky Academic Standards call for students to become skilled in all three, but that still leaves room to puzzle about how much teaching and learning time should be invested in each kind.

Read more on this important facet of teaching and learning.

For more on education policy and politics in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

JCTA to Picket Today

From the Courier-Journal:

The Jefferson County Teachers Association is urging its members to wear red and picket outside school district headquarters Tuesday afternoon ahead of a special meeting the school board is holding to discuss union negotiations.

The Jefferson County Board of Education is meeting at 4 p.m. at the Van Hoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road, to “discuss contract negotiation strategies.” Portions of the meeting will be in closed session, as union negotiation strategies are allowed to be discussed behind closed doors. Such meetings are not unusual during union negotiations.

“We’re asking members to attend the special-called meeting to show their concern about getting a fair contract with salaries and benefits,” said JCTA President Brent McKim.

Union leaders are concerned as teacher salary step increases have been frozen pending new contract negotiations.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

 

Kentucky Teachers Lead, Grow Through Hope Street Program

From a Hope Street Group press release:

“If teachers became more engaged in self-advocacy and policy development, their classrooms would reflect those changes.”

These words were spoken by Angela Gunter, a Daviess County English language teacher. This year, Gunter is leading 55 teachers across southern and western Kentucky’s Green River Regional Educational Cooperative region in implementing Student Growth Goal action research in English Language Arts classrooms. She also counts this school year as her first as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow.

Through the Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program, Hope Street Group, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, is working in close partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Teachers Association (KEA), the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky to provide a group of public school teachers, who are chosen through a rigorous selection process, with skills around peer and community engagement, data collection, and communication strategies, while giving them opportunities to amplify positive teacher voice to inform policy decisions. Hope Street Group launched the program with great success in Kentucky in 2013, replicating it in Hawai’i in 2014 and then in North Carolina and Tennessee in 2015.

Last year, in a statewide data collection in collaboration with the KDE and KEA, Kentucky State Teacher Fellows (STFs) sought teacher solutions from their peers regarding optimizing teacher time, using teacher leaders to impact professional and student learning, as well as utilizing the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, the state’s educator evaluation system. The Kentucky STFs led focus groups and gathered survey data with their peers across the state and, ultimately, engaged over 20% of all Kentucky teachers. Their findings were turned into actionable recommendations to further support educators in the state. KDE has taken these recommendations and begun acting upon the solutions.

“KEA is glad to partner with Hope Street Group to make sure that policymakers take seriously what the real education experts–Kentucky’s classroom teachers–know about what works to improve student learning,” KEA Executive Director Mary Ann Blankenship said.

The work of the first cohort of the Kentucky STFs has led to their growth as teacher leaders and advocates for their profession. In addition to providing recommendations to KDE, they have met with legislators and hosted school visits, and have written op-eds and essays that have been published in news outlets across the state and nation. The way in which the STFs have contributed to the state’s education policy decisions reaffirmed the decision by Carrie Wedding, a 5th and 6th grade special education teacher, to remain in the program.

“During my time as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow, I feel that I have built bridges among teachers to positively impact student learning,” Wedding reflected. “When teachers open their doors and hearts in order to have open dialogue about students, cultures and minds shift.”

Wedding, who is among 24 other teachers in Hope Street Group’s Kentucky STF program this year, is collaborating with Gunter to create a series of teacher articles for the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer around critical education topics that impact the local community.

“The 2015 Hope Street Group Kentucky STFs are about the business of leveraging the expertise and cumulative voice of teachers to shape policy at the local, state, and national level,” Brad Clark, Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program Director stated. “By working with our local and state partners, STFs accelerate the opportunities for Kentucky teachers to develop the dispositions, knowledge, and skills necessary to deeply impact teaching and learning.”

Kentucky educators can participate in the work of this year’s 25 STFs and contribute their voice to meaningful policy action by finding the 2015 Kentucky State Teacher Fellow in their region here.

Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity. For more information, visit: www.hopestreetgroup.org

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

No Silver Bullets

Prichard Committee Associate Executive Director Cory Curl offers some thoughts on powerful concepts that can help change and improve education — not one silver bullet, but several key ideas that can help make sense of what works and what doesn’t.

In this post, she highlights the need for a focus on quality work:

The challenge for all of us is to ensure that students throughout Kentucky are engaged in quality work that leads to real learning – particularly for students of color, students in poverty, students with disabilities, and those in other student groups that so urgently need access to the most stellar opportunities to learn, to grow, to succeed – to absolutely captivate their teachers, their families, and their communities.

READ MORE

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Commissioner Pruitt

The Kentucky Board of Education has come to terms with Stephen Pruitt and he will become the next Commissioner of Education.

Here’s the press release:

Today, the Kentucky Board of Education officially named Stephen L. Pruitt as the sixth Kentucky Commissioner of Education. Pruitt is currently senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., an independent,
nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, where he has served since 2010.
Following a five-month search process, the board extended an offer of employment to Pruitt last month and directed Board Chair Roger Marcum to negotiate a contract.
At today’s meeting, the board ratified Pruitt’s contract. It calls for him to be paid $240,000 annually over the course of the 4-year contract.
“The Commonwealth has a rich history of and commitment to improving the lives of its children through public education. I am honored to serve as Kentucky’s next commissioner of education and be able to continue that tradition,” Pruitt said after signing the contract. “I am excited to work alongside Kentucky’s educators and education shareholders to support our students, so they can graduate college/career-ready, realize success in their postsecondary endeavors,
get good jobs and help Kentucky prosper.”
In addition to working at Achieve, Dr. Pruitt’s prior experience includes chief of staff, associate state superintendent, director of academic standards, and science and mathematics program manager with the Georgia Department of Education; and high school chemistry teacher in Fayetteville and Tyrone, Georgia. He earned a
bachelor’s degree from North Georgia College and State University; a master’s from the University of West Georgia and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Auburn University.
Pruitt is a native of Talmo, Georgia. He and his wife have two children, a son in college and a daughter who is a high school junior and will be attending public school in Kentucky once the family relocates.
Dr. Pruitt’s first official day on the job will be Friday, October 16.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

High School Scores Rising

The Prichard Blog has the story on improving high school scores and an analysis of the results at all levels.

Here’s a key excerpt:

In Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning system, overall scores are the quickest summary of results for a public school, district, or the entire state. An overall score combines multiple measures to calculate a single number on a 0 to 100 scale that sums up student and program performance.

For our state as a whole, the high school overall score rose 1.5 points from 2014 to 2015, but the elementary and middle overall scores declined.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport