Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Supporting The Youngest Kentuckians: The Early Childhood Development Fund

Kentucky’s Early Childhood Development Fund uses 25% of Kentucky’s annual revenue from the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to support the full development of our youngest children. Here’s how the 2017-18 funding is being put to use under the budget adopted in 2016:

  • $9,000,000 for the Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS)
  • $8,894,700 for the Early Childhood Development Program
  • $2,050,000 for the Early Childhood Advisory Council
  • $1,100,000 for Early Childhood Scholarships
  • $1,000,000 for the Healthy Start initiatives
  • $1,000,000 for Early Childhood Mental Health
  • $1,471,400 for several smaller programs

That’s a total of $24,516,100 working to strengthen very young Kentuckians, and here’s a further explanation of those important activities.

The HANDS program provides voluntary home visits to support new and expectant parents’ efforts to help their children grow and learn. All first-time parents are eligible for a first meeting to discuss questions and share resources. Parents who are facing multiple challenges can receive regular home visits that share information, link families to health and other services, and build on the strengths of each family. HANDS is short for Health Access Nurturing Development Services. 10,697 children and their families received HANDS support in 2015-16. Starting in 2016, HANDS support is available to families even if it is not their first child.

This line item funds two main efforts:

  • First, the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) helps low-income working families afford quality childcare for their children, with the help being offered on a sliding fee basis for eligible parents and guardians. The Tobacco Master Settlement provides a portion of the funding for CCAP, with other dollars coming from the state General Fund and from the federal government.
  • Second, child advocacy centers provide comprehensive examinations for children who have been sexually abused in clinics across the state that have been designed to make them feel safe and reduce the trauma of the victimization and examination.

This line item supports state and local work to develop and coordinate quality early childhood development. At the state level, the Early Childhood Advisory Council oversees standards and goals for Kentucky’s early childhood system and advocates for quality early childhood services and improved school readiness. Members are appointed by the Governor to represent a broad range of early childhood educators, administrators, and advocates, and the Advisory Council’s work is s supported by the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. At the local level, Community Early Childhood Councils (also known as CECCs) promote high quality early childcare and education by working to identify and address local needs, building up capacity in particular counties or groups of counties. 74 CCECs have received funding for 2017-18.

These scholarships strengthen the quality of early care programs and education. For those who work in early care and education programs or as preschool classroom assistants, scholarship dollars support work toward a child care development associate credential, an associate’s degree in early childhood education, a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary early childhood education or an approved related program, or early childhood development Director’s certificate. 1,374 scholarships were awarded in 2016-16.

Healthy Start in Child Care provides free technical assistance to child care providers, promoting safe, healthy, and nurturing environments for children’s development. Nurses and health educators serve as Healthy Start consultants based in local health departments, and provide support by phone, e-mail, and on-site work.

Regional early childhood mental health specialists help their regions better serve young children with social, emotional and behavioral issues. Their work includes providing evaluation, assessment, and therapeutic services for young children and their families, along with training and consultation to strengthen programs that serve those children. The program supports a specialist for each of Kentucky’s 14 community mental health center regions.

Tobacco Settlement resources also provide:

  • $891,400 to help pregnant women recover from substance use disorders
  • $500,000 for early childhood oral health efforts
  • $80,000 for the folic acid program

Monday, December 11, 2017

Excellence with Equity in the Early Years

| Post by Cory Curl | 

Last week, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released information about the readiness of incoming kindergarten students in the fall of 2017* – the children who will graduate from high school in 2030. The data include results for students overall, but also by gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for free or reduced lunch, learning differences, and English language learners.

The data make clear what Kentucky has recognized for decades:

  1. We need to do all we can in the earliest years to make sure children are ready for kindergarten by supporting families in creating safe, nurturing environments at home and by providing high-quality early learning experiences.

  2. We need to make sure children have early elementary learning environments that meet them where they are and help them achieve at their highest potential, addressing their specialized needs and engaging them in challenging, active, and meaningful work.
From our perspective as equity-minded education advocates, we can look at the statewide results to get a better sense of where schools will need to target resources in the early elementary grades to help each student master reading and mathematics (and well beyond, including social-emotional learning) by the end of the third grade.

For that, let’s look back at statewide results** for last year’s kindergarteners, the mighty Class of 2029.

Overall, four student groups have readiness rates (a composite of academic/cognitive, language development, and physical development domains assessed by teachers) below 40%: students eligible for free or reduced lunch, students with disabilities with an IEP, Hispanic students, and English learner students.

Key findings digging into these domain data (reported as “below average”, “average”, and “above average”):

  • Across all groups, the academic/cognitive domain has the lowest results, with 63% of all students starting kindergarten in the “below average” range. The lowest results here are among the same four groups as in the composite rate.

  • The greatest variation in results is in the language development domain, which ranges from 23% “below average” for female children to 77% for English learner children.

  • Across all domains, African-American children fare higher – in other words, they have lower “below average” rates – than children eligible for free or reduced lunch, students with disabilities with an IEP, Hispanic students, and English learner students. 
The screener also provides information from parent surveys about children’s social-emotional development and self-help. While the overall results for the social-emotional domain are relatively high – 27% of incoming students have “below average” results – they vary from 17% for female children to 43% for children with disabilities with an IEP.

All of these results are important for individual children, their families, and their teachers. The patterns and trends we see in them can also point to where schools are more likely to need to allocate additional support for students – clearly, based on these results, to students with low family incomes (more than 64% of the class of 2029), those with learning differences, Hispanic students, and students learning English. 

This equity data journey would not, however, be complete without walking through the school from the kindergarten to the third grade classrooms. Step inside.

What do we learn? Quite a bit.

In 2016-17, across Kentucky’s third grade classrooms:

  • African-American students had lower reading proficiency rates (33%) than students with low family incomes (47%), students with learning differences with IEP (39%), and Hispanic students (43%).

  • African-American students had lower mathematics proficiency rates (30%) than students with low family incomes (42%), students with learning differences with IEP (31%), Hispanic students (41%), and English learner students (31%).
Kentucky has set ambitious goals to increase reading and mathematics proficiency and close the disparities that have denied equity of opportunity for far too long. While every moment of every day of every grade matters, early childhood and the early elementary grades are an essential part of the equation.


* This readiness information comes from the state’s Common Kindergarten Entry Screener (the BRIGANCE Early Childhood Kindergarten Screen III). I encourage you to check out the recent results, but also keep in mind that 4,500 fewer students were tested this year than in previous years due to the change in the kindergarten enrollment age cut off from October 1st to August 1st. The absence of these younger students in the overall data makes it difficult to compare trends.

**Thanks to KDE for giving rich detail by school, by domain and by student group in the School Report Card – just click on state, the assessment tab, and then K-SCREEN. You can also go to “Data Sets” at the top and download an excel file. This is the most recent year where we have detailed results available to the public.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Needs-Based Aid Has Not Kept Pace with Rising Higher Education Costs

| Post by Perry Papka | 

 Over the last decade, Kentucky’s investment in need-based financial aid has not come close to keeping up with public tuition or with the cost of living.

From 2008 to 2018, Kentucky saw:
  • A 2% increase in funding for the College Access Program (CAP), from $60.5 million to $61.9 million
  • A 4% increase in funding for Kentucky Tuition Grants (KTG), from $32.5 million to $33.7 million
  • An 18% increase in the Consumer Price Index
  • A 41% increase in tuition at Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges, the state’s 2-year institutions
  • A 58% increase in tuition at Kentucky’s four-year regional, comprehensive institutions
  • A 64% increase in tuition at Kentucky’s four-year research institutions

How many students would have used needs-based aid if it had been available? For 2017, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority estimated that:
  • 28,058 more Kentucky students likely would have used CAP grants if funding had been available
  • 3,777 more Kentucky students likely would have use KTG awards if funding had been available
  • $43.3 million in added funding would have been required to meet likely CAP need
  • $10.1 million in added funding would have been required to meet likely KTG need

For 2018, CAP and KTG are slated to receive just 40% of projected lottery revenue. State statutes call for the two programs to receive 55% of lottery dollars, but the General Assembly has regularly used budget bills to change how the money is used. Allocating the full 55% could have made another $37 million for these two needs-based programs this year. Lottery revenue grew 29% and $55 million from 2008 to 2018.

Kentucky needs to better link investment decisions about tuition, state financial aid, and support to colleges and universities. Growing needs-based aid so little while costs grow so much poses a major risk to Kentucky’s ability to equip the next generation to contribute to our economy and our civic life.

Source Notes: The Consumer Price Index increase comes from using this calculator to convert dollars from July 2007 (start of the 2008 fiscal year) to equivalent current buying power, and the Work Ready funding figure comes from HB 303, the state budget bill adopted in 2016. Tuition figures reflect analysis of public tuition data from the Council on Postsecondary Education. Financial aid figures reflect analysis of data provided by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Kentucky Public High School Graduates and Public Postsecondary Completion

| Post by Perry Papka |

Kentucky has set an ambitious goal of 60% postsecondary attainment by 2030.

Here’s a first look at of how Kentucky public high school graduates fare in Kentucky public postsecondary institutions, shown as results for 100 students, using data for the high school class of 2010. Credentials include certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor degrees. Some Kentucky high school graduates. This analysis does not include students who enroll more than a year after finishing high school, and it does not include those who enroll at independent Kentucky institutions or out-of-state schools.

This initial look at pipeline outcomes demonstrates that Kentucky will need bold strategies, steady implementation, and strong investments to meet our statewide attainment goal. The results for students of different backgrounds offer an added emphasis: Kentucky’s progress will require enduring commitment to excellence with equity.

Persistence and earned credentials are shown as a range of numbers to take into account students who may have enrolled in both a two-year and a four-year institution within a year of high school graduation. The lower number shown above eliminates all possible double-counts, while the higher one includes all possible double-counts.

Data for the charts above came from Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (kcews.ky.gov). KCEWS also offers district-level data on college-going, early success, and completion through its new interactive high school feedback report.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Postsecondary Costs Have Shifted Sharply Toward Students, Families

Postsecondary degrees and credentials strengthen individuals and our state as a whole. That is, they have both private and public value.

In 2006, Kentucky’s investment to build that public strength covered 66% of the costs of public postsecondary education. Today, that investment is smaller and covering barely more than half of the cost. Meanwhile, the portion paid by individual students and their families has grown dramatically, increasing by nearly more than $3,000 and 88%. Here's a chart showing the scale of the change:

For many students, this kind of rapidly rising costs may put higher education out of reach. For the state as a whole, this pattern risks another generation underprepared for economic and civic participation.

Source Note: Amounts above are calculated from the “SHEF Unadjusted Nominal Data” file downloaded from www.sheeo.org, using figures that exclude medical students and medical costs. The chart below provides a more detailed look at the yearly numbers and changes, including the odd-numbered years not shown in the chart above.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

K-12 targeted initiatives have lost key funding

In 2008, Kentucky’s state budget supported a thoughtful set of targeted programs that served students directly or equipped teachers to serve students more effectively. By 2018, almost all of those programs have been cut or removed from the budget entirely.

More than $28 million has been taken from programs that had 2008 funding of $1 million or more:
  • -$6.6 million from Read to Achieve grants
  • -$6.3 million from Extended School Services
  • -$5.0 million from Instructional Resources (Textbooks)
  • -$3.2 million from the Professional Growth Fund
  • -$3.1 million from Professional Development
  • -$1.5 million from the Mathematics Achievement Fund
  • -$0.9 million from the State Agency Children program
  • -$0.5 million from the Teacher Recruitment and Retention program
  • -$0.5 million from the Gifted and Talented program
  • -$0.2 million from Teacher Academies
  • -$0.2 million from the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development
  • -$0.1 million from the Commonwealth School Improvement Fund
Three programs with 2008 funding of $1 million or more have held steady or grown slightly, with:
  • No change to funding for the Safe Schools program
  • $0.2 million added for salary supplements for Nationally Board Certified Teachers
  • $0.3 million added for Family Resource and Youth Services Centers
Taken together, the many reductions and the few increases net out at more than $27 million of reductions in state support for learning strategies and for teaching quality.

In addition, programs funded for $33.5 million are no longer shown as budget line items at all. The vanished items included:
  • -$19.5 million from the Kentucky Education Technology (KETS)
  • -$8.4 million from the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS)
  • -$5.6 million from Highly Skilled Educators
It seems likely that the Department continues to spend some dollars on those needs, drawing from the parts of its appropriation that are not controlled by specific line items. For example, the technology part of the Department website reports that “KDE provides a yearly funding stream based on Adjusted Average Daily Attendance (AADA) as reported on the Superintendent's Annual Attendance Report (SAAR).” Whatever the Department is allocating, concerned citizens cannot readily see what those amounts are, whether they are increasing or decreasing, or whether they meet or fall short of the learning needs.

Overall, these targeted investments, meant to sustain statewide strategies for building excellence with equity,  are substantially weaker in 2018 than they were a decade ago.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Readiness investments have been mixed, inconsistent

Since 2009, Kentucky has talked a good game about wanting all students to graduate from high school ready for college, career, or both. Our state budget reveals a mixed record on backing up those talking points with needed resources.

On the one hand, Kentucky has added funding for two kinds of college-level work:
  • $10 million for dual credit scholarships: The 2016 budget created dual credit scholarships for high school students to take one or two college-level courses. Those dollars could allow almost 31,000 students could take two three-hour courses apiece at participating KCTCS schools, public universities, and independent institutions. If Kentucky sustains that commitment, it can make a big difference in student opportunity to understand higher education and show their readiness to succeed at that level.
  • $1.2 million for Advanced Placement incentives: Since 2015, Kentucky has also contributed state resources to AdvanceKentucky, which supports high schools in the initial years of a major push to expand participation in Advanced Placement courses and assessments. Like the dual credit scholarships, AdvanceKentucky gives students a chance to take on college-level work and show their capacity to succeed at that level. At its best, AdvanceKentucky changes the school culture so that AP investments continue long after the program’s startup funding ends.
On the other hand, our state budgets have reduced and hidden other relevant funding, and we've never funded or fully implemented an important 2008 commitment:
  • A 3% cut to state operated vocational schools: Kentucky has cut $700,000 from its funding for Area Technical Centers since 2008, weakening career-preparation opportunities for students in the very years when career readiness was announced as a state priority.
  • Hidden and optional funding for local vocational schools: For many years, the state budget bill included a line item for funding the technical centers operated by local school districts. That line item disappeared in the 2014 budget bill. So far, the Department of Education has continued to send dollars to districts for this work, and the annual totals have been just under $12 million, in keeping with the past budget lines. For legal purposes, though, the money could stop at any time, or it could be reduced to fund other priorities. For citizens, the spending is no longer visible in the budget and only discoverable by downloading “state grant allocation” spreadsheets from the Department’s website.  
  • A 12% cut for college admissions testing: Since 2008, Kentucky has cut $200,000 from its line item funding for admissions testing. 2017’s Senate Bill 1 amended the law so that it requires a college admissions test but no longer specifies the ACT. The Department of Education continues to fund the test as part of statewide accountability assessments, but the funding must be coming from some other reduction in education services.
  • Never-Funded AP and IB Fees: Since 2008, KRS 160.348 has specified that public school students who take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses “shall have the cost of the examinations paid by the Kentucky Department of Education,” but that does not happen. Citing a lack of legislative appropriation of those costs, the Department instead directs districts to waive those fees for students eligible for free or reduced price meals. While the Department was able to locate funds to reimburse those costs for the free/reduced meal students for 2017, it has not announced a commitment to do the same for 2018. For students who do not meet the F/R meal requirements, there appears to be no state assistance available.

Kentucky has a bold vision of transforming high schools so that every student has an accessible on-ramp to further study and/or career skills. We need to back up that vision with clear and consistent investments to make that access a reality.