Archive for Sunday, January 6, 2013

Governor sets sights on boosting reading

January 6, 2013


Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback says he has seen progress toward some of the goals for Kansas he outlined as a candidate, but he acknowledges more must be done to address another one: boosting the reading levels of younger students in the state.

The Republican governor is preparing to lay out an agenda for the 2013 legislative session that includes putting more focus and perhaps resources into fourth-grade reading.

“We just have not done enough about the reading issue. I was serious about it when I ran on it. I’m going to push harder on that,” Brownback said.

According to the Kansas Department of Education, 64 percent of Kansas fourth-grade students scored below the proficient level on the National Assessment of Education Progress tests in 2011, the most recent figures available.

By comparison, 16.6 percent of students tested scored below the standard on the Kansas assessments, which are different from the NAEP exams in scope and content.

Fourth-grade scores were among the five issues on Brownback’s so-called road map that he campaigned on when running for office in 2010. He said progress was being made on three items — increasing net personal income, creating jobs and focusing more on career and technical education. The governor says improving reading scores also would help address the fifth, childhood poverty, by preparing students with skills after high school.

Diane DeBacker, commissioner of the Kansas Department of Education, said research has shown school readiness is improved by more words spoken at home — including through reading to children. Confidence in public education is at historic lows while achievement continues to improve, she said.

“We are just living in an age when people want more and are expecting more,” DeBacker said. “It’s not something that we can shy away from.”

One example she cites as working to address the early learning problem is The Opportunity Project in Wichita, a public-private partnership established 10 years ago to provide education to low-income children.

Janice Smith, executive director of the centers, said the model has worked because of the partnership between private entities and the public sector to meet the needs of children. Three schools provide learning to more than 500 students this year.

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that it’s important to get all the parties to sit down and discuss their vision and mission,” Smith said. “We all agree on what we want to do and who we want to serve. The question is then what are the nuts and bolts to make it work?”

Studies conducted by The Opportunity Project found that students who have been through the centers score an average of 10 points higher on state reading assessments and nine to 10 points higher on math than students who didn’t attend who are demographically similar.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis said he supported the governor’s goal for the session, calling it one “that we all should share.”

“The question is can you improve outcomes while slashing funding and sending a message to teachers that they aren’t valued?” the Lawrence Democrat said. “I think we probably have disagreements on just how we obtain that goal.”

Democrats and others have been critical of cuts to school funding in recent years that have resulted in the elimination of staff and support structures that help teachers get more out of their students.

Legislators are awaiting a ruling in Shawnee County District Court brought by school districts and parents challenging cuts imposed since 2008. The plaintiffs are asking a three-judge panel to rule the state must restore the cuts.

Brownback tried in 2012 to advance a new formula for funding schools but was met with resistance in both chambers of the Legislature. He’s hopeful that new leadership in the House and Senate education committees will be receptive to his desires and consider changes during the 90-day session.


question4u 5 years, 5 months ago

Achieving reading proficiency should be easy. All Brownback has to do is appoint a panel of bankers and real estate agents to study the issue. When they reach the conclusion that eliminating teachers' bargaining rights will solve everything, then it's just a matter of carrying out that plan and Kansas fourth-grade students will all be reading at a sixth-grade level or above.

cowboy 5 years, 5 months ago

I commend the governor for wanting to learn how to read and think think that would help the legislators also.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 5 months ago

The main reason there is such disparity between state results and the NAEP scores is that the US Dept of Education says Kansas has some of the lowest reading standards in the nation. Their most recent analysis found that 40 states have higher 4th grade reading standards than Kansas.

Kansas sets its reading standard (cut score) for Proficient below what USDE considers Basic. Kansas first participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 1998. Then, 34% of Kansas' 4th grade students were Proficient. In 2011, the last year NAEP was given, 36% of 4th grade students were Proficient. In the meanwhile, taxpayer support of public education increased from $3.1 billion to $5.6 billion.

Spending a lot more money hasn't...and won't...change this unfortunate situation. The system has to change. We do kids no favors by pretending to have high achievement.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Trabert,

Do your dollar figures take into account inflation in costs? I know it is inconvenient to your point, but what are the inflation-adjusted numbers?

Dave Trabert 5 years, 5 months ago

$3.1 billion in 1998 is the equivalent of $4.4 billion in 2012...that's over a $billion in real spending increase...and no improvement on independent national exams.

mcallaigh 5 years, 5 months ago

That's inflation only. What about population increase and demographic changes - an increasing urban population and decreasing rural population???

BTW, it would be 4.6 billion using 2.8% avg rate of inflation.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 5 months ago

You are using an average...I'm using the real numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics . Total enrollment growth is only 1.6% over the last 13 years.

Some urban districts have had small increases. Wichita, for example, is up the same as the state average at 1.6% but KC dropped by 3.9% and Topeka is flat.

Shelley Bock 5 years, 5 months ago

Or, maybe, the additional funds were used to bring substandard programs that suffered from neglect for decades up to improved levels? And, since reading is enhanced by a basic foundation of knowledge, were the funding increases sufficient to improve all grades throughout the State?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

By your logic, we should cut spending on schools altogether, right? Then we can get some of those jobs back from countries where what would be fourth-graders are sewing up t-shirts for Wal-Mart-- no reading skills necessary (unless your parents are rich enough to own the sweatshops.)

Great Plan.

mcallaigh 5 years, 5 months ago

When you factor in inflation (3%) and population growth in Kansas (1%), 3.1 billion in 1998 dollars is 5.2 billion in 2011 dollars. So its really only about an overall 8% increase in spending over 13 years - or 0.6% per year.

If you factor in that KS population is becoming more and more urban, where it is likely to be more costly to educate compared to rural areas, that might compensate for the 0.6% increase per year, and maybe we really haven't spent more at all.

But I do agree that we need to spend it in a smarter way, but the funding level does have an effect on the results in education.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 5 months ago

Your math is way off. $3.1 billion in 1998 dollars is the equivalent of $4.4 billion in 2012. Even factoring in a negligible 1.6% increase in enrollment, there is over $1 billion in real (inflation-adjusted) spending increase...and no improvement on independent national exams.

mcallaigh 5 years, 5 months ago

3.1 billion x 1.04^(13) = 5.2 billion

if you use 2012 instead of 2011, i.e., 14 years: 3.1 billion x 1.04^(14) = 5.4 billion

avg rate of inflation = 2.8%, I used 3% plus 1% for population increase

future value = current value x (1 + i) ^ years

no tricks here, you're wrong... look it up!!!!!!

Dave Trabert 5 years, 5 months ago

yes...please do look it up at the Bureau of Labor Statistics $3.1 billion in 1998 dollars is $4.38 billion in 2012 dollars

texburgh 5 years, 5 months ago

Ah, here's Dave Trabert, a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. Dave wants public schools privatized so Brownback (another wholly owned subsidiary of Koch) can eliminate taxes on the Kochs, simultaneously raising taxes on the middle class and working poor. This way, there will barely be enough tax revenue to afford basic police and fire protection let alone the enforcement of environmental regulations so Koch can maximize HIS profits and income without regard to the public good. Everything Trabert says is a lie intended to advance the Koch Industries agenda.

mcallaigh 5 years, 5 months ago

3.1 billion x 1.04^(13) = 5.2 billion

if you use 2012 instead of 2011, i.e., 14 years: 3.1 billion x 1.04^(14) = 5.4 billion

avg rate of inflation = 2.8%, I used 3% plus 1% for population increase

future value = current value x (1 + i) ^ years

no tricks here, you're wrong... look it up!!!!!!

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Is there room for improvement? Sure.

The way to change the system is NOT vouchers. It is not privatization of services. It is not any of the solutions you're proposing, so you just keep on complaining without offering evidence based solutions, mmkay?

hujiko 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey LJW, are you sure you didn't leave out "The Bible" at the end of your headline?

mushroompepperbyrd 5 years, 5 months ago

it would be better for Brownback if less people could read

Orwell 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the name-calling. It adds so much to the discussion.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Brownback,Koch and the Wal-Mart familiy want to own the so called privatized schools because they see trillions in profits guaranteed by our tax dollars. Simple as that. These people are not experts in education only at stealing our tax dollars.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Food for thought.

Every state constitution in the country enshrines the right to a free and public education for all children—an honor that is not bestowed on other requisites for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whether housing or employment or healthcare.

In the current debates on vouchers, there is strikingly little discussion of the relationship between democratic values, civic responsibility, and public education. Instead, education is treated as a mere commodity, with parents and children reduced to mere consumers.

Do our urban public school systems have deep-seated problems? Without a doubt. But at the end of the day, they are the only institutions with the commitment, capacity, and legal obligation to teach all children.

In Milwaukee, vouchers have created separate and unequal school systems. The education of students with special educational needs is just one example. The percentage of special ed students in Milwaukee’s public schools is about 20 percent. At the private voucher schools, the comparable figure is less than 2 percent.

“All together, the 102 voucher schools are serving a special education population that is equal to what the Milwaukee Public Schools serves in just one of its district schools: Hamilton High School,” Milwaukee superintendent Gregory Thornton noted last year.

Vouchers were promoted in the 1990s as a way to help poor black children escape failing schools. But that rhetoric has disappeared in Milwaukee. Voucher supporters have expanded vouchers to middle-income families and have made clear they want to make vouchers available to all, including millionaires. Vouchers for poor children was just a first step.

For more than twenty years, I have listened to the voucher movement’s seductive rhetoric of “choice” and “parent power.” If I didn’t know better, I might proclaim, “Sign me up today!” Milwaukee, however, has more than two decades of reality-based vouchers. The lesson from this heartland city?

Vouchers are a vehicle to funnel tax dollars into private schools. Using the false promise of “choice,” they are an unabashed abandonment of public education and of our hopes for a vibrant democracy.

Barbara Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for almost forty years, writing for publications ranging from the New York Times to the Milwaukee Journal. The former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, she has co-edited numerous books on education, including Selling out Our Schools: Vouchers, Markets, and the Future of Public Education.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

BTW the Kansas City Star has been covering Sam Brownback for awhile. I would go there daily to get more data on Kansas reckless politics.

MaryFSinclair 5 years, 5 months ago

The sky is falling, the sky is falling… Pundits like Mr. Trabert would have you believe the Kansas public schools are failing. While we all want our children to achieve more in order to successfully participate in our ever more demanding society, I have found that most Kansas parents and communities share a well-founded sense of pride in their neighborhood schools. Mr. Trabert’s diagnosis is inappropriate and his flawed argument leads to an erroneous conclusion. Consider a medical analogy. Do we want all our children to be as fit as competitive athletes – running 4 minute miles? This achievement would be welcome. Yet, no competent doctor would declare an individual to be ‘healthy’ based solely on cardio-vascular capacity. Why does Mr. Trabert insist on labeling all our other children who run a 10 minute mile as unhealthy? Further, on what basis does he conclude that the ‘nutrition’ (aka operational budget) our children received was overly abundant, when he ignores all but one tangentially related indicator of health or fails to account for the pace each child could run a year ago or whether that child can even walk? The NAEP 4th grade reading scores he continually cites do not assess the same students from year to year, do not take into account whether students have reading problems or whether students started the year reading below grade level, nor is NAEP designed to test students’ depth of understanding on the standards we determined as most important for Kansas students to learn. Kansas ranks in the top 10 states in reading and math on NAEP assessments. Kansas student proficiencies on state assessments in reading and math have increased 40% over the past decade and exceed 80% at every grade level. Comparing similar systems and students, Kansas public schools do better or as well than private schools in Kansas and nationally. Kansas scores for college-bound students rank in the top 10 of all states and have improved over the past 15 years. I for one will continue to expect our elected officials to invest in our public schools and will work with our public schools as we raise the bar of expectations and hope for our children’s future.

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