Thursday, September 18, 2014

KSBIT and millions of dollars being charged to Kentucky districts

The Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust (KSBIT) used to offer school districts two self-insurance pools: one for workers' compensation insurance and one for property and liability insurance. 

For many years, the costs of participating seemed lower than the premiums charged by commercial carriers and many Kentucky districts signed on.  "These self-insured pools allow school districts to combine their resources while sharing the risk," according to the KSBIT board of trustees.

The part about "sharing the risk," highlighted above, has always been the catch.  If this kind of risk-sharing pool doesn't have enough money to pay expected claims, it can send the members an additional assessment to fill the gap--and KSBIT developed some big gaps.

The problems became very public in January 2013 and has been in the headlines pretty much ever since.  KSBIT no longer runs the pools, and the Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance (KEMI) has taken over handling claims by the former members, but KSBIT's former members are still on the hook to contribute enough to cover claims for the years they participated in each pool.

In May, the Franklin Circuit Court entered orders that specify each participating district's required payments for the $37 million worker's comp gap and the $8.8 million property and liability hole. 

Now districts are working out how to pay those shares off in varying ways, all of them painful.  For example, Fayette County will pay off its $3.1 million assessment over five years, and Madison County will pay $1.2 million over time as well.  Fleming County will pay $351,803 over 10 years, and Harlan Independent is working out plans to pay $258,728.

Unsurprisingly, many district leaders are concerned about how the hole got so deep and whether better choices by KSBIT leaders could have avoided these difficult new payments.  All reports seem to agree that the problems built up over multiple years.  I found this report on a briefing from Kentucky Commissioner of Insurance Sharon Clark helpful, but I still don't know enough to say much about how responsibility should be apportioned.  

Here's the question I most wish I understood: if KSBIT had charged the right amount every year, so that no district would be facing unexpected billing now, would it still have been a better deal than other insurance options?  Or, put another way, if districts could have known then what they know now, would they still have decided KSBIT was the best deal on offer at the time?

What I do know is that these payments are currently consuming resources I'd rather have available to serve kids now in Kentucky schools: the KSBIT collapse is definitely not good news!

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Which AP tests do Kentucky students take and pass?

On Advanced Placement tests, scores of 3, 4, or 5 can qualify a student for college credit, placement in advanced courses, or both.  Monday, while posting on the Leaders and Laggards report,  I realized that the subjects where students earn those credits deserve closer attention.

So, below, two additional thoughts on AP test success in Kentucky.

First, a look at the major areas where 2013 public school students received successful scores, combining multiple tests in disciplinary clusters. The green shades identify science, math, and world languages, the subjects that Leaders and Laggards included in their economic competitiveness ratings.  The very small slice for world languages stands out as a weak result in the overall picture.

Second, a look at the top 12 tests where Kentucky students succeed, showing the number of students passing each test.  It isn't really a surprise to see the English tests at the top of this list, but it would definitely be good to see the science, math, and language numbers move up.

Source note: These numbers come from the page for "AP Program Participation and Performance Data 2013" at the College Board website.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Monday, September 15, 2014

Expanding options for earning high school credits

To earn a Kentucky high school diploma, students must earn at least 22 credits (or more if a district expands the requirements.   Increasingly, students have options about how those credits are earned.  The Kentucky EdGuide on High Schools offers this summary:
Increasingly, students have choices about how they will earn those needed credits: For example:
■ Most high schools still define a credit by the time spent in class: passing a course that takes 120 hours of class-time counts as one “Carnegie Unit” and earns one credit. However, some high schools are now implementing performance-based credits, in which students earn credits based on mastery of the content and skills defined in the course standards, not just seat time or time in the classroom.
■ Some credits that count for high school can also count for college. State law requires that every district offer at least four such courses. Those may be Advanced Placement courses with a year-end test to show college-level understanding. They may also be courses taken at nearby colleges or given at the high school by teachers who meet college-level requirements.
■ Digital learning is another option. Students can take courses taught solely by on-line teachers or hybrid courses that combine on-line work with face-to-face teaching. The Kentucky Virtual Campus for K-12 Students ( allows students to register for courses offered by Kentucky Educational Television, JCPSeSchool, or the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL).
■ Technical centers offer high school courses for their district or a multi-district area (see the Technical Schools EdGuide for more information).
■ The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky offers a residential program where students spend their junior and senior years at Western Kentucky University taking college classes in math, science, and other subjects, with more information at
■ The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics is scheduled to open in August 2015, with more information at
The High School EdGuide also includes charts of 2012 and 2013 K-PREP results and answers to these other questions about how schools work across the state:
  • How is high school likely to differ from middle school?
  • Are students required to finish high school?
  • Can students graduate from high school early?
  • How are Kentucky high schools funded?
 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Sunday, September 14, 2014

U.S. Chamber Grades for Kentucky Education

The map above rates states on achievement, one of 11 grades given by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its newest report on Leaders and Laggards: A State-By-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness. Here come the full set of Kentucky ratings from that report, annotated with definitions from the report and a variety of quick reactions from my first reading of the document.

C in Achievement
  • Definition: Student performance on NAEP, including gains from 2005 to 2013.
  • Clarification: The ratings use reading (where Kentucky is relatively strong) and mathematics (where we are less strong), but leaves out science, where we have shown signal successes.
  • Celebration: Kentucky did receive an A for “Progress made from 2007 Leaders and Laggards.”
C in Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students
  • Definition: Student performance on NAEP, including gains from 2005 to 2013; disaggregated for African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students.
  • Dejection: For these students, Kentucky only received a C for"Progress made from 2007 Leaders and Laggards.”
C in Return on Investment
  • Definition: NAEP scores divided by state education expenditures, adjusted for cost of living.
  • Fascination: The Chamber has made an adjustment for regional cost of living, reporting that its method “was derived from the work of the Missouri Department on Economic Development.” In principle, I agree that Kentucky should acknowledge some of the lower costs faced by our families, and I hope to study this approach a bit to see if it seems like a sound way to consider that factor.
C in Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency
  • Definition: State-reported proficiency rates compared with NAEP proficiency rates.
  • Frustration: The analysis comes from 2011 data, meaning it’s still reporting on Kentucky’s old tests based on our old standards.  A repeat of the same study would surely show Kentucky as notably stronger.
C in Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness
  • Definition: Advanced Placement (AP) exams passed by the class of 2013, high school graduation rates, and chance for college at age 19.
  • Anticipation: The second two numbers are based on estimates of the number of students starting grade 9, reflecting some of the last years the estimation step will be necessary.  Soon, soon, we'll be able to discuss these questions on the basis of much firmer actual numbers. Just as a sample of why this matters, the report shows a Kentucky 82% graduation rate, but our first graduation report tracking a full cohort shows us at 86%: better numbers will give us a better sense of where Kentucky and other states really stand.
C in 21st Century Teaching Force
  • Definition: Preparing, recruiting, and evaluating the teacher workforce
  • Modification: In this list, a C does not mean a score between 20th and 30th.  The grades come straight from the National Center for Teaching Quality, which sets a high bar and did not give any A grades at all the most recent report.   
  • Amplification: Kentucky’s C actually puts it in a three way tie for 20th among the 50 states.
F in Parental Options
  • Definition: The market share of students in schools of choice, and two rankings of how hospitable state policy is to greater choice options.
  • Confirmation: Yes, this one is about Kentucky not having charter schools.
A in Data Quality
  • Definition: Collection and use of high-quality and actionable student and teacher performance data.
  • Exploration: Kentucky has implemented 9 of 10 steps recommended by the Data Quality campaign—and only two states have all ten.  The one we haven't fully applied is the one that calls on states to "Implement policies and promote practices, including professional development and credentialing, to ensure educators know how to access and use data appropriately."
D- in Technology
  • Definition: Student access to high-quality computer-based instruction.
  • Irritation: This rating is not about the learning technology available for students to use in varied classes across the state, and it's not about students' opportunities to use advanced technological stills. It's only about whether students can step away from existing classrooms to take classes on-line.  It’s about a second form of options for parents and students, like the Parental Options entry above. It's reasonable for to value that kind of option, but less reasonable to treat it as the main issue in technology in education.
D in International Competitiveness
  • Definition: State scores on NAEP compared with international benchmarks, and AP exams passed by the class of 2013 on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and foreign language exams.
  • Recognition: This measure is one Kentucky should value, moving beyond AP opportunities in general to a look at AP courses in fields where we definitely need to expand our workforce capacity. 
F in Fiscal Responsibility
  • Definition: State pension funding.
  • Consternation: Kentucky is hit hard, for long-term failure to fund our pension obligations to educators and also for more recent failure to take big enough steps toward resolving the problem.  
 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Yes, we do Shakespeare!

Here's a great, detailed study of the "original pronunciation" of Shakespeare, complete with rhymes and puns we can't even hear in our modern English:

 I love it because the Bard is alive and kicking, right here in the Kentucky Core Academic Standards:
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.) 
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
In our Reading Standards for Literature, Shakespeare is the one required author, with the first two standards above applying to grades 11 and 12.  The third entry is for grades 9 and 10, and it lists Shakespeare as an example rather than a mandate--though I dare anyone to come up with a better author than Shakespeare to use for this sort of analysis.

 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston
[Hat tip to Cindy Baumert!]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Technology for learning: a Kentucky commitment

The Kentucky EdGuide on "School Technology and Digital Learning" spotlights Kentucky's long-running work to make technology a consistent feature of education across the state:
Since 1990, Kentucky has been committed to strong technology implementation under a series of statewide Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) master plans. KETS sets standards for school technology purposes, provides technical services, ensures high speed network access, and funds technology strategies to support the learning environment. Because technology innovation is so rapid, that system needs regular upgrades to allow students and teachers to use current software and applications. Annually, Kentucky also offers matching funds to help school districts make purchases to keep up with those rising standards.
Because technology innovations come so rapidly, it's important to note both how many devices are available and how many meet minimum standards for current use. The EdGuide chart at the right shows student student instructional devices (desktop, laptop, and tablet computers) in Kentucky schools, using Technology Readiness Survey data from the Kentucky Department of Education and showing separately the devices that did and did not meet that year’s KETS minimum standards.

The "School Technology and Digital Learning" EdGuide also  answers these key questions:
  • How does Kentucky support active use of technology in education? 
  • Can students use their own devices at school? 
  • What is digital learning? 
  • What kinds of digital learning opportunities are available? 
  • What evidence shows digital learning results for Kentucky students? 
Do check it out, along with the other EdGuides available for easy download from the Prichard Committee website.
--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What does student voice look like?

Check out this great introduction to the Prichard Committee Student Voice team!

What does student voice look like? from Rachel Belin on Vimeo.

A bornlearning boom

The bornlearning strategy for early childhood parental education is growing fast across Kentucky, both in its work with families and its visibility in statewide media.  From articles appearing just this week....

From Prichard Perspectives
The bornlearning academies are school-based workshops. Across six sessions, parents of young children up to age five engage in hands-on activities and discussion about what it means to be ready for kindergarten and learning strategies they can use to maximize their child’s early learning and development.
From the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown:
“It’s about learning about the opportunities that are in your every day environment that you might just miss,” said North Park Principal Beth Brandenburg. “Parents are so busy when they come home with dinner or getting everyone cleaned and to bed that they aren’t thinking that it’s a great learning opportunity. It’s taking advantage of those everyday opportunities.”
[Carlena Sheeran, director of early childhood for Hardin County Schools] said the creators of the program wanted to design workshops in a way that would be similar to a normal evening at home, which is why a dinner is included. The dinner provided is a healthy meal that encourages a well-balanced diet. Both schools are working with various restaurants and businesses to help sponsor parts of the dinner and workshops. 
From Herald-Leader coverage of bornlearning work in Lexington:
On Thursday, the children went to one room and, under a teacher's guidance, made tambourines that they later played for their parents. Parents in another room learned how playing board games, singing songs and reading the children's books found in most homes could get a child ready for kindergarten. Before the workshop ended, parents and children reunited to sing songs and read a story before taking home a gift bag of games and books.

Read more here:
From the Ledger & Times in Murray :
East Calloway Elementary School will be kicking off its third year of the program on Sept. 18, while Murray Elementary School will begin  its second year on Sept. 25...
ECES and MES are among 20 veteran schools and 14 new schools with academies funded by Toyota across the state through a five-year, $1 million investment. Officials say that every dollar spent on preschool and early childhood education programs carries a return on investment ranging from $2 to $17. According to the Prichard Committee, children who attend high-quality preschool are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings as adults.

Now in its third year, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America are committed to provide funding to United Way of Kentucky to expand Born Learning Academies to 70 schools by 2016.
And from KyForward:
Expansion of the “United Way Born Learning Academies, driven by Toyota” means more youngsters will be prepared for school.

“Our goal is for them to start on the playing field ready to go. It gives them a better chance to succeed,” said Veda Stewart, principal at Booker T. Washington Primary Academy, one of four Fayette County schools offering the free program.
--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Perspectives: Big work from our big team

The fall 2014 edition Prichard Committee newsletter is out now, offering a full panorama of the work underway and the many different groups engaging in the effort.  Headlines include:
  • Students’ Input Elevating Policy Issues
  • N.Ky Advocate Joins Prichard Staff (Brigitte Ramsey!)
    Staying in Touch Across a Diverse State (Thought from Stu Silberman!)
  • Jobs Report Shows Limits Facing Non-College-Bound
  • Prichard Member Hinkle Appointed to State Board
  • Change is Difficult: It is Much Easier to Maintain the Status Quo (An Interview with Cindy Heine!)
  • Program Grows to 5 Institutes
  • State Allocating $1.2 Million Locally to Advance School Readiness
  • Toyota, Beshear Support New bornlearning Sites
  • Congress Extends Home-Visiting Funding
  • Remembering Pamela Papka Sexton 
With so much going on, it's great to get this overview and connect with all the folks making it happen.  Download your copy now, and enjoy!