Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Explaining SEEK: A New Short Publication

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Following up on a blog post from last fall, the Prichard Committee is now offering a brief “explainer” for the SEEK formula, designed for easy downloading, reading, and printing.

The report summarizes the four main steps of the SEEK funding process:

  • The base guarantee gives all districts matching basic funding per pupil
  • Add-on funding provides extra dollars based on identified student needs
  • Tier 1 offers state equalization dollars to districts that set higher tax rates
  • Tier 2 allows districts to raise further dollars without any state equalization

It also sets out some key concerns about the SEEK formula

  • The base guarantee has not kept up with the cost of living
  • The base guarantee relies more and more on local contributions
  • Transportation add-on funding is far below the state’s own estimate of transportation costs
  • Local Tier 2 revenue is an increasing (and increasingly unequal) part of total SEEK funding

Overall, this new tool is designed to inform Kentucky citizens on the central method our state uses to fund our schools. Please do check it out, and please do share any questions you may have.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

House Cuts to Teacher Development Likely to Weaken Gap Reduction, Learning Growth

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

The budget bill approved last week by the Kentucky House of Representatives included funding for the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (CCLD). Other than that one change, the House voted to follow Governor Bevin’s January budget proposal and eliminate nearly every teacher development program.  That could do big damage to work statewide to build up Kentucky’s teachers and support the instructional innovations that will be needed to raise achievement for all students and reduce gaps for those who have long been underserved.

Under the Governor’s plan, the only teacher development funding was $5.4 million for the Mathematics Achievement Fund. Under the House plan, the only teacher development funding is that Fund plus $1.2 million for CCLD.

Here’s a table showing the development programs the House voted to eliminate:
One further note: the Kentucky Center for Mathematics has long been included in Northern Kentucky University funding, but without a separate dollar amount being shown in budget documents.  As a result, I can’t quantify that cut, but I can report that House Bill 200 explicitly states that the Center is to receive no money from the general fund.

My January analysis of the Governor’s proposal now also applies to the House approach on teacher development:
If teaching were rote labor, those cuts might not matter. If a diligent person could do the work just by following a list of instructions consistently, these reductions might be survivable. Teaching is the opposite. Teaching is supporting young minds, with varied gifts and diverse experiences, as they reach for understanding of a vast universe. Equipping the next generation requires constant study, relentless exploration, and unending creativity. Strong innovation in teaching and learning cannot be developed on zero dollars and sustained in brief moments grabbed in busy hallways.

If Kentucky agrees to strip teachers of learning funding and undermine their learning time, we will slow and maybe halt the learning changes Kentucky needs. The impact will be severe all around, but it will be hardest of all on students who most need upward movement in our schools, including students with identified learning disabilities, students who are learning English, students with low family incomes, and students of color.

Excellence with equity cannot be reached on this budget path.

Monday, March 5, 2018

House votes small increases to financial aid, postsecondary institutions

| Post by Perry Papka |

Under the budget bill passed by the House last week, state funding for higher education will increase modestly over the next two years, with growth both in financial aid resources and institutional funding.

Financial Aid
The proposed House budget would increase state financial aid $71,700 in FY 2019 and add a further $8.2 million for FY 2020. Key steps include:

  • $1 million more for Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships (KEES) merit-based funding increased in FY 2019,  with another $2.3 million added for FY 2020
  • $7.7 million more for College Access Program (CAP) needs-based aid in FY 2019, with another $4.2 million added for FY 2020.
  • $2.5 million more for Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG) needs-based aid in FY 2019, with another $1.8 million added for FY 2020.
  • Unchanged funding for Work Ready scholarships, Dual Credit scholarships, and National Guard Tuition Assistance awards.
  • No funding for two lottery-funded programs: the Teacher Scholarship Program and Coal County College Completion Scholarships
  • No funding for four non-lottery programs: Early Childhood, Work Study, Pharmacy, and Osteopathic Medicine.
100% of net lottery revenue would go to financial aid, with needs-based CAP and KTG receiving only 43% of the total, as compared to the 55% required by statute. 

Institutional Funding
The proposed House budget would also increase overall state funding to public postsecondary institutions by $11.3 million for 2019. For 2020, no additional funding would be added, and part of the total would be allocated among institutions as performance-based funding based on their success at meeting goals.

Looking at individual institutions, the plan for FY 2019 would provide:

  • $2.8 million less for KCTCS than the FY 2017 budget
  • $0.3 million less for Morehead than FY 2017
  • $0.1 million less for Eastern
  • $1.2 million more for Kentucky State
  • $2.6 million more for University of Louisville
  • $2.6 million more for Western
  • $3.9 million more for Northern
  • $4.5 million more for Murray
  • $7.3 million more for University of Kentucky

Want Further Detail?
We’ve created a PrichBlog summary with one page to show financial aid changes and a second to show the institutional budgets. You can download that here, or view the complete budget bill as approved by the House here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

House votes to increase P-12 education funding

 | Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

House Bill 200, Kentucky’s budget legislation for the next two fiscal years, is on the move. The House of Representatives just approved its version of the bill. Here’s a look at the major choices the House has made, along with a note that the Senate usually makes other changes and the two chambers negotiate to decide on a final spending plan.

Compared to the budget for fiscal 2018 (basically, the school year we’re in right now), the 2019 budget the House just voted on includes $45 million more in general fund support for the Department of Education. That includes funding increases of:
  • $44 million for the SEEK formula, with an increase to the base guarantee per pupil and a decision not to make a major SEEK transportation cut that Governor Bevin had recommended.
  • $21 million for school facilities
  • $14 million for health insurance for teachers and other school and district employees
  • $11 million for the employer share of contributions for current teachers’ retirement
  • $3 million for the safe schools program
It also includes some of the major cuts the Governor proposed back in January, including:
  • $17 million from textbooks and other instructional resources
  • $12 million from funding for educators’ professional development
  • $3 million from family resource and youth service centers
  • $2 million from overall Department of Education funding
  • $14 million from a set of smaller programs that each had 2018 funding of less than $5 million
The House version of the budget maintains current funding for some other programs, including:
  • Kentucky School for the Blind
  • Kentucky School for the Deaf
  • State operated vocational centers
  • Extended school services
  • Gifted and talented services
  • Mathematics Achievement Fund
  • Preschool
  • Read to Achieve grants
  • State agency children
Our new PrichBlog summary shows added detail, including changes for the 2020 budget and a detail page on small programs that receive less than $5 million in funding. You can download that here, or view the complete budget bill as approved by the House here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New Report Reaffirms that Education is Vital for Kentucky’s Economic Future

This is a guest post by Michael T.Childress about the 2018 Kentucky Annual Economic Report produced by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky

Michael T. Childress was the executive director of the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center from 1993 to 2010, and has worked at the Center for Business and Economic Development (CBER) at the University of Kentucky since 2010, where he is the managing editor of the Kentucky Annual Economic Report. 
Perhaps the most noteworthy economic trend over the last three and a half decades is the growing importance of education for economic success. Improving educational outcomes and enhancing the skills of Kentucky’s prime working-age adults would, no doubt, help to move the needle on the state’s labor force participation rate, which is one of the lowest in the country. This is especially true in rural areas where education levels and labor force participation rates are generally lower. However, while improving educational outcomes is necessary for increasing the labor force participation rate, it is not necessarily sufficient. For a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, the changing global energy market and high chronic disease rates, many regions around the state are languishing economically. There are two primary factors that drive economic growth and enhance productivity—education and innovation. Kentucky has experienced educational progress over the last several years, but has consistently lagged behind in growth entrepreneurism and innovation.

Education is expensive for both the individual and the taxpayer. In fiscal year 2016, 40.4 percent of Kentucky’s total state expenditures went to either elementary and secondary education (16.3%) or higher education (24.1%), 10.3 percentage points higher than the national average of 30.1 percent (NASBO, State Expenditure Report, 2016). Average tuition across Kentucky’s postsecondary system increased 80 percent from 2005-06 to 2015-16 while per capita personal income increased 28 percent over the same period. Education might be expensive but the lack of education is even more costly.

Investments in education yield multiple dividends. According to a 2016 RAND study, government spending on early childhood education returns $2 to $4 for every $1 invested. And, as one climbs the educational ladder, the resulting economic benefits, such as higher income and lower unemployment, get larger, especially for those with a 4-year degree or higher. Likewise, there is a clear and consistent pattern with higher levels of education associated with better health, less dependence on public assistance, and increased technology use—just to name a few other benefits. And what is generally good for the individual also benefits the wider community—such as lower crime rates and more volunteerism.

Increasing educational attainment, as well as educational achievement, has measurable positive benefits. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and his colleagues published a study in 2016 estimating a strong connection between academic achievement and state-level economic growth. They found, for example, that if Kentucky students performed at the same level as those in Minnesota—the state with the highest performing students in the country—then gains to Kentucky’s GDP over the next 80 years could top $1 trillion or 5 times the current level.

Kentucky’s educational status has improved since the early 1990s when its educational reputation was at a low point. Our analysis shows that Kentucky is statistically higher than 8 states, lower than 17, and statistically no different from 24, based on 12 educational attainment and achievement factors combined into a single index. To improve educational outcomes in Kentucky, we cannot limit our focus solely to the classroom. Kentucky faces many obstacles to cost-effective educational performance, ranging from high poverty to poor health. Moderating the harmful effects of poverty on learning will help to reduce these obstacles and facilitate even higher returns.

We talk about those in the lower, middle, or upper income group, those with one level of educational attainment or another, and those living in one region of the state or another as if they are fixed and static. But they are not—they are dynamic. Individuals can get additional education and training, migrate to another area with more job opportunities, and otherwise improve their standard of living or quality of life by taking active steps to do so. Kentucky has many strengths upon which to build, including a low cost of living, numerous natural amenities, and an enviable location within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population. By enhancing workforce quality, health outcomes, and online connectivity, we can maximize the potential of the state’s most important resource: its people.

To learn more about Kentucky’s economy and the role of education in enhancing the state’s future, see the 2018 Kentucky Annual Economic Report, available online at http://cber.uky.edu/ or send an email to Michael.childress@uky.edu.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Six questions for new statewide tests | Better tests, better learning

| Post by Cory Curl |

Note: We're wrapping up our discussion of what's new and what's around the corner for student tests in Kentucky, focusing on issues of interest to families and communities. Previously, we've explored how tests can help students learn, how they can inform teachers in the classroom, how they can clarify expectations, and how they can be used to benchmark performance to schools across the world. Today, we tackle issues about tests primarily used to measure student learning.

  • Learning
  • Informing
  • Clarifying
  • Benchmarking
  • Measuring

  • Kentucky's families and communities will soon have the opportunity to discover more about elementary and middle school student learning in science. This spring, students in the 4th and 7th grades will be the first to take the state's new science "summative" test.

    (See this post by Susan Perkins Weston from October 2016 for more background on the science assessment system's through-course tasks and classroom-embedded assessments.)

    We don't yet know what the test will look like for students and how results will be given to parents and to the public, but the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) website promises more information this month.

    I'm excited to learn these details not only for the science test but as a hint about what's to come for Kentucky's overall suite of elementary and middle school statewide assessments in reading and writing, mathematics, and social studies.

    Kentucky is poised to apply what it's learned from the development of the new science assessment system, as well as what other states have learned in the last few years in developing new statewide tests. To serve as effective advocates for their children and all children, Kentucky's families and community leaders need solid, comparable information about student learning in the areas critical for their future success in college, careers, and civic leadership.

    Why does the state require these tests? Their purpose is to measure how well students have learned the knowledge, skills, and practices articulated in Kentucky’s academic standards. The measurements from the tests are reported to students, families, and their teachers as numbers (scale scores) and as categories (novice, apprentice, proficient, or distinguished). These scores and categories provide information that can be used, along with evidence from a student’s work in school, to answer big questions such as: does the student need extra support to be ready for challenging work in the next grade or in high school? Because the state’s tests measure learning in the same away for students across the state, families can be assured that these scores mean the same thing across schools and districts.

    The information from these tests holds value beyond an individual student and their family. When put together, the scores can illuminate patterns and trends that help people who lead schools, school districts, and the state make better decisions about all the resources that go into student learning.

    You can think about state tests as a ruler used to measure pieces of fabric for a quilt. Not the fabric or the quilt itself, but simply the measurement tool.

    Simply? Those of you who have been in a quilting shop recently may have discovered that rulers vary a great deal in terms of quality. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and some have quite advanced measurement systems. Quilters know that measuring with accuracy and consistency matters.

    So too, state tests have varied in terms of quality and other critical attributes. Here are a few questions to ask about Kentucky's new statewide tests:
    1. What information will families and communities have about student learning in science and in other subjects, and for individual students and for schools and districts? By when? What information will teachers have? How will teachers and families talk together about student results?
    2. How will the tests provide meaningful information about student readiness or need for extra support for their next steps, such as the next grade?
    3. How well do the tests capture the full set of Kentucky’s academic standards, not only those standards that are easier to evaluate?
    4. Do the tests use a variety of strategies to evaluate student learning at different degrees of challenge?
    5. Does the state provide transparent, public information about the test, including information about the test design and released items from previous tests?
    6. How have educators from K-12 and higher education, as well as other critical shareholders, been involved in the development of the test? Has it been reviewed by outside assessment experts?

    You can find more about questions to evaluate test quality through these resources:

    This blog series has explored five different rationales for student testing – to help students learn, to inform educators, to clarify expectations, to benchmark performance, and to measure learning to help leaders make better decisions. But learning is at the heart.

    I leave you with a quote from Ron Berger, chief academic officer of EL Education, from an article in The 74 Million:

    “A defining thing about our schools is the quality of our work. In education, what’s talked about mostly are the test scores. Our schools do well on test scores; otherwise, we couldn’t stay robust in our work. However, what inspires kids is not those test scores. What inspires kids is their beautiful writing, their beautiful math work, their beautiful project work. They do work that they’re truly proud of.”

    Monday, February 5, 2018

    Future Unclear For Key K-12 Equity Programs

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    Budget recommendations so far offer few clues to the financial future of seven P-12 programs that target support to Kentucky students with distinctive needs:
    • Extended school services programs that provide additional instructional time outside the regular school day for students at risk of not meeting academic expectations. ESS funds may also be used during the regular school day with permission of the commissioner of education.
    • Family resource and youth services centers that offer preventive and referral services to address student needs that could interfere with their learning.
    • Gifted and talented funding that supports individualized services for students who are able to perform at exceptionally high levels, based on general intellectual aptitude, specific academic aptitude, capacity for creative or divergent thinking, psychosocial or leadership skills, visual or performing arts talents, or any combination of those abilities.
    • Preschool that prepares four-year-olds with low family incomes and for three- and four-year-olds with disabilities to enter school ready to learn.
    • Read to Achieve grants that fund reading diagnostic and intervention programs for struggling primary school program students.
    • Safe schools funding that supports alternative school services for students whose needs cannot be met in traditional classrooms, taking varied approaches to remediate academic performance, improve behavior, or provide an enhanced learning experience.
    • State agency children funding that provides instruction and support for children who are educated in group homes, juvenile justice detention centers, mental health day treatments, residential treatment programs, community-based shelter programs or hospital settings after being assigned to state custody or supervision. These dollars support educational programs that offer a longer school year, intensive staffing ratios, and other services.

    These programs get no individual mention in Governor Bevin’s budget recommendations or the initial version of House Bill 200, this year’s budget legislation. They aren’t on the list of seventy programs to be eliminated, but they also are not shown with line items saying what each will receive.

    If the House follows past practice, it will fill in the line items during committee work on the budget. Sometime in the next month or so, we’ll see an explicit plan for what support each of these seven important programs will receive.

    Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that five of those seven programs have taken substantial cuts over the last decade, as shown in the chart above. Only the preschool program has seen real growth in funding, while family resource and youth service centers have seen an increase far too small to keep up with inflation.

    It’s also worth noting that current preschool funding is not close to adequate. As shown in the Prichard Committee’s recent report, “Building Blocks: The Kentucky Early Childhood Cost of Quality Study,” current funding is not even enough to support programs that meet minimum state preschool requirements.

    Bottom line: for Kentucky’s pursuit of excellence with equity, some very important funding figures are still “to be determined” in the current budget process.