Rewarding Failure

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Rewarding Failure is a commentary released by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions discussing the broken process of evaluating school district superintendents in Kentucky.


Four districts - Jefferson, Knox, Carter and Newport Independent - are profiled with copies of their actual performance evaluations.

Full commentary in PDF


rub-ber-stamp [ruhb-er-stamp] -verb (used with object) 1. To imprint with a rubber stamp. 2. To give approval automatically without consideration: to rubber- stamp the president’s proposals.

Nothing more accurately portrays the concept of rubber-stamping than the performance evaluations of Kentucky’s school district superintendents. Kentucky’s recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) proficiency rates in math, reading and writing were abysmal. According to the NAEP, little more than one out of three fourth-grade students are proficient in math and reading, while in eighth grade, the most recent data show scarcely more than one in four students are proficient in math and writing.

Furthermore, a 2010 news release from the Kentucky Department of Education identified 13 school districts that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind for an astonishing eight years or more. Eight years! Think about how many students graduated in that time and suffered through their school district’s underperformance.

Still, regardless of performance, Kentucky superintendents generally receive rave reviews that are not based on the achievement of goals and school performance. For example, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman, whose salary is $260,000 a year plus benefits, was praised by his board in May 2010 for his talent as an “engaging public speaker” and in the area of labor relations. Meanwhile, thousands of children are getting left behind in their educational opportunities in the 41 schools in Berman’s district that failed to make AYP in 2009. The JCPS school board’s evaluation of Berman is long on flowery language about Berman’s speaking qualities but short on measurable results. Yet somehow – despite the results – these evaluations almost always are accompanied by a salary increase.

More evaluations

You can view all of the requests/evaluations obtained in 2010 here.

2011 Follow-up

See Also
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