Wednesday, May 27, 2015

High School Attainment: Five Years and Five Decade Change

Here's a quick look at rising Kentucky educational attainment, using data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Census data will include private school and home school diplomas, along with equivalency degrees, so this chart can never be a straightforward match to our reported cohort graduation rates.

Still, this is a clear indication that our state is making sustained progress on high school attainment.

It's also worth pausing to trace the evidence of a huge educational change decades ago. 

You can see the difference if you compare Kentuckians 65 and older to any other cohort, and notice how much lower their completion rates were. 

You can see the shift even more sharply if you look at how that age group changed from 2008 to 2013. That's the transition from the youngest members of the group being in 1943 to the youngest being born in 1948, and roughly from 1961 eligibility for high school graduation to 1966 eligibility –and moving through those years has quickly given Kentucky a dramatically better educated group of older citizens.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finding Solutions (New Prichard Report On Implementing Standards in Kentucky Classrooms)

Important news fresh from Tuesday's Prichard Committee press release:

A first-hand look at how Kentucky’s academic standards are spurring innovative teaching and learning in classrooms is the focus of a special report from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Finding Solutions: Standards Push Students Toward Real-Life Problems” features eighth-grade math teacher Christa Lemily’s approach to introducing her South Warren Middle School students to mathematical formulas by determining the value of investing in a classic car. Such connections between challenging math and real-world situations have grown as a result of Kentucky’s academic standards.

“The standards focus not just on repetition, but on understanding and applying mathematic reasoning,” Lemily said. “These standards help teachers focus on how students are taught to reason and think through math as much as they focus on the skills that students are taught. The goal is math thinkers, not just math do-ers.”

Teachers at Pembroke Elementary and Millbrooke Elementary, both in Christian County, also share their experiences with the standards. Pembroke teacher Jettie Payne said the standards are prompting her fifth-grade math students to gain a solid understanding of fractions and decimals.

She also said her classroom represents a change from the way she learned to teach. “I remember sitting in class thinking, ‘When will I ever use this?,’” she said, adding that her lessons now draw clear connections between math and everyday application.

Millbrooke’s Cindy Wyatt said the standards have prompted her to select more challenging books for her second graders, leading to more interesting reflections and conversations in reading groups and stronger vocabulary development.

Kentucky's academic standards are also the focus of a second Prichard Committee report released today on “Progress in Kentucky Education: Higher Standards, Assessments and Teaching." Together, the reports provide an overview of progress in Kentucky education and how that is reflected in both policy developments and classroom practices.  Both are available at

New Prichard Report: Progress in Kentucky Education: Higher Standards, Assessments and Teaching

And more important news from Tuesday's release:

LEXINGTON, KY –Kentucky’s academic standards are the focus of a new Prichard Committee report, which shares additional information about the state’s assessment and teacher evaluation systems.

Progress in Kentucky Education: Higher Standards, Assessments and Teaching” describes the interconnected elements of the state’s education system:
  • academic standards that establish what students should know and be able to do as they move from grade to grade toward graduation
  • an assessment system that measures how well students and schools are meeting those standards
  • a professional growth and effectiveness system to ensure that educators are able to improve their skills every year and equip students for steadily higher levels of performance
The report points out that higher academic standards are critical because Kentucky’s students face a future where jobs will require that they can adapt and learn new skills on a continuing basis; in other words, they must learn how to learn. Kentucky’s state standards help them do that, the report notes.

Making sure schools and students are on the right track is essential, and Kentucky’s statewide assessments provide evidence about the learning that is taking place in schools. The report notes that assessments are particularly important for spotting and addressing achievement gaps between groups of students – a continuing, significant challenge for Kentucky.

The report also emphasizes the relationship between effective teachers and student success, pointing up the need to give educators ongoing feedback and opportunities to develop stronger professional skills. Kentucky’s new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System looks closely at both the quality of what teachers do and the learning that takes place in the classroom.

The system identifies areas where each teacher is already effective and where improvement is needed, and it promises consistent support for making those improvements, the Prichard Committee report points out. It also sets clear criteria and quick timelines for ineffective educators to improve their practice or move out of the profession. A matching system is in place for principals, and similar approaches are being developed for counselors, librarians, instructional supervisors, and other professional education positions.

“It’s clear we are on the right track in Kentucky. Our students are performing at higher levels and teachers are meeting the standards by providing deeper learning opportunities in the classroom. Staying the course and working together will ensure continuous improvement for our students and for our state,” said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Progress in Kentucky Education” was released today along with a special Prichard Perspectives report on  implementing the standards in Kentucky classrooms: “Finding Solutions: Standards Push Students Toward Real-Life Problems.” Together, the reports provide an overview of progress in Kentucky education and how that is reflected in both policy developments and classroom practices.

Both reports are available at

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Mathematics We Need

Here's a challenge:
• You are planning to make and sell ice cream cones at a school sports event.
• You expect to make and sell 300 cones.
• You buy ice cream in 1 liter tubs.
• Each tub costs $2. 
• You can fill ten cones from each tub. 
• Each empty cone costs 5¢.
• You plan to sell each filled cone for 80¢.
• Before buying the ice cream, you survey 60 people to find out what flavors they like. Here are the results of the survey:
    In this situation:
    1. Work out the quantities you need to buy and the costs
    2. What profit do you expect to make on the day?
    You know that if you try to work through the task above, you'll have to do more than remember what you learned in seventh grade.  Instead:
    • You'll have to figure out how the information fits together, and show some tenacity to work through to a solution.
    • There's a good chance that after you've been working on a problem like this for a couple of minutes, you'll erase something in order to change your strategy.  
    • When you've worked through the whole thing once, there's also also a good chance that you'll realize one of your steps wasn't done quite right, and for precision you need to do some of the work a second time.  
    • If you've been around this sort of block a few times, you know you want to make notes next to the calculations so someone else can look over your thinking and help you see if it's clear and sound.
    Most of all, you know you didn't learn the "one right way" to answer this task in school, and you know this kind of task above is the stuff of real life, relevant both for large scale capitalism and for local PTA leadership.

    To be ready for college and career, Kentucky's students need preparation for mathematics with these kinds of demands.

    That's what we're building by implementing Kentucky's academic standards.  Along with ability to do particular kinds of equations,  we're working to build eight mathematical practices, including four illustrated in my bullets above:
    • "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them"
    • "Use appropriate tools strategically"
    • "Attend to precision"
    • "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others"
    This kind of readiness is also what we're building by participating in the work of the Mathematics Design Collaborative.  The task comes direct from a set of "summative tasks" developed for MDC that allow students to show and teachers to see how well student can put their mathematical learning to work.  It's a middle school task, confirming that we're aiming very high indeed for our high school graduates.

    Source note: No claim about standards should come without source specifics.  You can download a copy of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for yourself, and check pages 56 and 57 to see the language quoted above.  You can see the same expectations without a download at the Common Core State Standards site by looking under Standards for Mathematical Practice.

    Geek note: The rubric for the task shows it as sound to round up on liters of strawberry and down on chocolate chip, based on assuming that the survey was accurate.  I myself would discount the survey substantially because it did not include chocolate and because I can't tell if the 65 people surveyed were a good sample of the kinds of people coming for the sports event.  Mind, I'd still end up with the same profit estimate, but I'd bring a different set of wares to the game.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    What is Assessment? (GCIPL Fellow Video)

    Parents Want to Know: What is Assessment on Vimeo.

    This clear, simple, accurate, kid-focused video is part of a GCIPL leadership project by Jenny Hobson and Katie Starzman, and it's seriously great.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    HANDS: Kentucky’s Home Visiting Success Story

    Liza Holland, a consultant working with the Prichard Committee, shares this post:

    Health Access Nurturing Development Services, or HANDS, is Kentucky’s home visiting initiative to support at-risk families and give babies and children a better start in life.

    HANDS is funded through Kentucky’s Master Tobacco Settlement at $9 million and leverages that money to access an additional 17 million in federal Medicaid funds. It is a program carried out by health departments in all 120 counties.

    HANDS has demonstrated great maternal and child outcomes. A sample of the recent findings includes these maternal outcomes:
    • ADEQUATE PRENATAL CARE – 14% more than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • PREGNANCY-INDUCED HYPERTENSION – 49% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • MATERNAL COMPLICATIONS DURING PREGNANCY – 40% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    And also these child outcomes:
    • PREMATURITY – 26% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • LOW BIRTH WEIGHT INFANTS - 46% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • INFANT DECEASED IN HOSPITAL – 94% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT – 47% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    The U.S. Senate recently approved a two-year extension for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month. This federal-state partnership, which provides critical family support and coaching, has a long history of bipartisan backing at the federal and state levels. The extension of funding through September 30, 2017—$400 million a year for fiscal years 2016 and 2017—will mean that more of our nation’s vulnerable children will have the opportunity to grow up safer and healthier and to be successful in school and life.

    These good results for children and families are made possible in part by the strong national advocacy work of Prichard partners like the Pew Charitable Trusts and ReadyNation, as well as the work across Kentucky of many dedicated citizens.  HANDS and other early childhood initiatives are important Prichard Committee priorities.

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Past and Future of Home Visiting (From the Pew Summit)

    Liza Holland, a consultant working with the Prichard Committee, shares this post:

    At the recent Pew Quality in Home Visiting Summit 2015, Deb Daro, a Chapin Hall Senior Research Fellow at the University of Chicago, shared a brief history of home visiting, along with thoughts on next steps to strengthen this highly effective strategy for early childhood support services.

    Home visiting as a means of providing support to parents has it roots in rural history, harkening back to Mary Breckinridge out on a horse in Kentucky at the turn of the 20th century doing home visiting. Building on a long tradition, in the early 1980’s, states began to implement government-supported programs targeting a variety of intervention strategies. This decade saw the development of a wide array of models across the US.

    In the 1990’s, there was a trend towards new national models, which could be replicated, and a need for real data to support outcomes. This time period saw an impressive expansion in home visiting, but a growing friction among the various models being implemented.

    The first decades of the 2000s brought a spirit of collaboration, and a focus on high quality evidence for policy and practice decisions. The Pew campaign began and allowed true discussion at a national level. Advocates began to initiate efforts for broad federal policy in this area. After the introduction of a few bills that did not get anywhere, the Obama administration included home visiting in the 2010 agenda, eventually leading to the inclusion of Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) in the Affordable Care Act.

    The MIECHV program was set up as a state and federal partnership and brought several key innovations, including supporting replication of evidence based programs. it required a shared management plan, emphasized improved home visiting quality, and focused the field on outcomes and benchmarks. MIECHV funding allowed states to vastly expand their infrastructure and take proven programs to scale in their states.

    Today, Daro shares some concerns for the field. She feels we may be pushing Home Visiting as a solution to everything. Although a quality strategy, it will not solve all of societies complex problems. She is concerned about the field loosing focus and experiencing a bit of mission drift. She worries we are using data for accountability rather than learning. This is still a fairly young field and we need to keep exploring the best options for delivery. And finally, we may be too focused on federal funding – “The cake is the state level - fed is the icing”, said Daro.

    Going forward, we need to keep making basic improvements in the revision of benchmarks and continue with the Pew Data work. We need to expand learning opportunities and support new research findings. Daro would like to see improvements in MIECHV dynamic elements and greater collaboration. She supports more critical thinking and better balance. We need to dispel the myth that only some families need help. EVERYBODY needs help with parenting.

    Overall, would like to see the same investment into entrance to life as we do for exit (aged services).

    Daro’s walk through history was a rousing kickoff to 2 days of learning, networking and collaboration around home visiting issues, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew has had a significant impact on the home visiting field since the campaign initiated. Working in the areas of public advocacy, having developed a model policy framework, research and information sharing, Pew has been a true leader in the development of home visiting nationally.

    Pew chose to work with Kentucky as one of their key states to ensure that legislation was enacted to ensure support of a continuing, quality home visiting program in Kentucky's HANDS initiative.

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Making the Grade: How to Become a Teacher in Kentucky

    Here's a guest post from Gabe Duverge at Campbellsville University:

    Politician Brad Henry once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.” Teachers can have a truly profound impact on their students, from pre-K to adulthood. But there are requirements to be considered qualified to teach. Although these requirements vary by state, Kentucky has some of the most stringent standards in the nation. This guide will help you navigate the complex, and occasionally confusing, world of Kentucky regulations so you can understand what you need to do to follow your passion and change the lives of others in the classroom.

    In Kentucky, as with any state, the proper credentials are needed to become licensed as a teacher. The Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB) manages the certification process and distributes teaching licenses. Their process involves several steps and requirements.

    Undergraduate Degree
    Each teacher in the state of Kentucky must have at least a bachelor’s degree to teach; the coursework and type of degree required depends on the type of teacher. Here are the basic coursework requirements:
    • Elementary School Teacher (Grades 1-5): To earn certification, teachers must have completed coursework in all subject areas taught in elementary school, including English, math, social studies and more.
    • Middle School Teacher (Grades 6-9): To become a middle school teacher, teachers must have an undergraduate major in English, math, social studies or science, with the major being equivalent to 30 or more semester hours of coursework. Most education degree programs fulfill this requirement by offering concentrations in various areas of teaching.
    • Secondary School Teachers (Grades 9-12): As with middle school subjects, a teacher must have a major in their subject areas. Specialty subject areas like art and music have specific requirements.