Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kentucky Accountability: Equity Questions For The Revised Regulation

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Achievement gaps get substantial attention in Kentucky’s proposed school accountability regulation. A revised version of the regulation is up for final vote at the August 23 Kentucky Board of Education meeting (see item VI on the agenda). This post summarizes the big approach to tackling gaps and flags some key elements that still need clearer language or further explanation.

THE BIG APPROACH
In Kentucky’s new system, schools will receive overall ratings of one to five stars, and student group results will matter in deciding those ratings, in several ways:
  • Student groups results compared to other groups will be one part of an achievement gap closure indicator that contributes to the overall ratings
  • Student group results compared to proficiency will also be part of that achievement gap closure indicator contributing to the overall rating
  • If student group results are troubling enough, that by itself will enough to limit a school to a maximum of three of the five possible stars
There is impressive consensus around that broad approach, and the questions that follow address specifics of putting that approach to work.

WHICH GAPS BETWEEN GROUPS WILL BE CONSIDERED “PRACTICALLY SIGNIFICANT"?
As revised, the regulation says the Department will calculate the gaps between groups and take a new step to check whether each gap is “statistically and practically significant.” What kind of gap is “practically significant?” The regulation defines “practical significance” by saying it “means a measure of the differences between student groups has real meaning,” but “real meaning” does not seem any clearer. The term matters, because gaps that are not practically significant will not matter for the indicator rating or the five stars.

FOR A GROUP’S GAP TO PROFICIENCY, WHAT “ANNUAL TARGET” WILL BE USED?
The regulation says that group results will be compared to “the current year’s annual target for each student demographic group.” What are those targets? For this question, the regulation could mean the “Long Term and Interim Goals for Public Reporting” that are also on KBE’s August 23 agenda. However, those goals are in a separate document, not part of the regulation, and they are not identified as targets at all.

WHAT WILL BE “A SUFFICIENT PERCENTAGE POINT” FOR A PARTIALLY REDUCED GAP TO PROFICIENCY?
The regulation says that a school can get two gap closure points if a gap is reduced and one point if the gap is partially reduced. In a previous edition, partial reduction meant being at or above the annual target “minus five percentage points.” In the revised edition, partial reduction is explained as the annual target minus “a sufficient percentage point.” What will count as sufficient is not clear.

HOW WILL A “FEDERAL STUDENT GROUP DESIGNATION” BE GIVEN?
Federal student group designation is a new term in this version of the regulation, used in two places:
  • Early on the regulation defines that term by saying it “includes targeted support and improvement, and comprehensive support and improvement as provided in KRS 160.346“
  • Much later, the regulation says a school “shall receive a federal student group designation for statistically significant achievement gaps or low-performing students”
Those two provisions do not seem to match. KRS 160.346 requires targeted support if a student group has results like the lowest 5% of schools for one year or the lowest 10% of schools for two years. It requires comprehensive support if the whole school is in the lowest 5%, graduation is below 80%, or a school stays in targeted support too long. KRS 160.346 never mentions statistical significance. The seeming use of two conflicting rules is an additional puzzle.

WHAT WILL LIMIT A SCHOOL TO THREE STARS?
As noted earlier, there’s broad agreement on limiting a school to three out of five stars based on problems with student group results.

In one place, the regulation says that schools “with statistically significant achievement gaps may not be rated above three stars.”

A bit later, the regulation offers matrix tables showing schools' star ratings will be decided. Each of those tables has a  columns saying “Can receive no higher than 3-Star rating if Achievement Gap Closure is “Low (l), “Very Low (VL),” or if identified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI).”

That seems to set up three different routes to hitting the three-star limit:
  • significant gaps or
  • a low rating on the achievement gap closure rating or
  • qualifying for targeted support
For legal interpretation, the wording appears clear, but having three routes seems unfamiliar from the earlier presentations and town hall discussions. The shift is important enough that it’s worth treating as something that still needs further explanation and understanding.

A CLOSING NOTE
This accountability regulation is a major chance to improve our schools and shape the futures of Kentucky’s students. It sets our course toward excellence with equity. The equity questions above are technical issues but important ones for getting the results we want and need. In effect, they’re final checks to be sure this policy plane is ready for takeoff.

Monday, July 31, 2017

K-12 Accountability: Goals And Questions About Goals

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

For the August 2 Kentucky Board of Education meeting, the Department has posted a set of tables showing “Kentucky Accountability System Long Term and Interim Goals for Public Reporting.” You can download the complete set here.

The document includes goal tables for reading, mathematics, and writing at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, each showing goals that start from a 2018-19 baseline level of proficient/distinguished results and move upward in equal steps for each year through 2030. Elementary and middle school social studies, four-year graduation rates, and five-year graduation rates are also included.

For this post, I'm going to look just at the 2030 math goals, sharing the main questions I have after studying them for a few hours. The yellow highlights flag the goals that I'll give the most attention.
1. How were these goals set?
The document does not explain the method. Each group and each grade moves upward at a different pace to a different 2030 destination. It does look like the gaps between white students and some other racial groups are cut in half. It is possible that the gaps based on eligibility for free/reduced meals, disability status, and English learner status are reduced the same way, but I can’t tell because the disadvantaged group is shown but the more privileged reference group is missing.

2. When did we drop the 75% proficiency goal for elementary and middle schools?
As recently as July 6, Department documents describing Kentucky’s goals said we were aiming:
“To increase student proficiency rates significantly for all students in the state by 2030—for example, the goal is to increase elementary/middle school mathematics achievement from 55% proficient or above to 75% proficient or above, and equally importantly.”
In these new tables, the elementary goal is higher, at 91.1%, but the middle version has dropped to 67.0%. That kind of change from a widely discussed example seems important.

3. Why are we aiming for just 49.7% high school proficiency?
Proficiency for barely half of our students doesn't feel like ambition. It feels like abandoning Kentucky’s commitment to equip each and every child for adult success.

No Kentuckian should agree to lower our sights this far without serious explanation and discussion, and none of us should settle this low without first looking very hard for alternative strategies (instructional shifts, resource changes, other actions) we can use to deliver something better than half-proficiency for our rising generation.

4. How can students eligible for free/reduced-price meals have stronger goals than all students?
Historically, those students have been under-served, with results lower than their more economically privileged classmates. These goals turn that history upside down, with schools asked to move low income students to 75% proficiency in middle school while moving students overall to just 67%. Similarly, the high school goals ask for 54.2% proficiency for low income students and just 49.7% for all students. Doesn't that entail that students with higher family incomes will be expected to score lower than the rest of their classmates?

5. How can the consolidated group have lower goals than any of its member groups?
The consolidated group will be made up of students with disabilities, English learners, and students who are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The lowest elementary goal for any of those groups is 76.6% proficient, but the consolidated group is only asked to reach 70.6%. How can the combined result be lower than any of the groups that are combined? Similarly, the lowest middle school goal for the included groups is 50.9%, but the combined goal is just 42.0%.

ESSA has required Kentucky to “establish ambitious State-designed long-term goals, which shall include measurements of interim progress toward meeting such goals” since that legislation was signed into law in 2015. Yes, it’s late in the process to be raising questions like these, but this is the first time a full set of goals has been made fully public. The method isn’t clear, the expectations are lower than previously described for middle schools, and startlingly low for high schools, and the expectations for low income students and consolidated group students just don’t mesh with the rest of the goals. Serious and sustained discussion of this plan definitely seems appropriate.

K-12 Accountability: Changes to Five Star Ratings

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Kentucky’s new accountability system calls for schools to be rated from one to five stars, based on their performance on a set of dashboard indicators. Earlier today, I shared a quick list of how those indicators have been changed in the most recent (July 27) edition of the proposed regulation. Here, I’ll note recent changes to the five star ratings proposal. The Kentucky Board of Education will hold its second reading of the regulation on Wednesday, August 2, and you can download the full regulation here.

THE MATRIX APPROACH TO FIVE STARS
The proposed regulation now shows a matrix (or table) approach to translating indicator ratings (from very low to very high) into overall ratings of one star to five stars. The matrix concept has been shared widely in the Department of Education’s town halls, presentations, and overview documents, with some minor changes over the months of discussion and public input. It was not included in the previous regulation text, but the July 27 edition includes separate matrix versions for districts, high schools, and elementary/middle schools.

NOT THE SAME MATRIX APPROACH TO FIVE STARS
In past versions of the matrix, a five star rating required very high ratings for most indicators.

The versions included in the proposed regulation change that, saying that:
  • Schools can earn five stars with just high rating on most indicators
  • Elementary/middle schools can earn five stars even if they have low ratings for growth
  • High schools can earn five stars even they have low ratings for transition readiness
These changes will make the star ratings substantially easier to earn. At the end of this post, I’ll share the older and newer matrix versions to allow readers to do their own comparisons.

A MATRIX APPROACH THAT OTHERS WILL BE ALLOWED TO CHANGE
The regulation versions of the matrix say at the top that “standard setting will confirm level of indicator performance necessary for the Star ratings.” That appears to mean that the standard setting participants will have the power to change the matrix rules.

There is also new language that says:
“During the standard setting process, the approximate weights in the following table shall be considered. The proposed ranges in the table indicate the relative emphasis between indicators. The ranges are set to guide Kentucky educators to determine the combination of performance from very high to very low within the indicator during standard setting.”
The table shows weights that could be used for each indicator. For example, at the high school level, the Proficiency indicator is shown with a 15-25 range, and the Graduation indicator is shown with a 5-15 range. The weights look like a formula for combining indicator scores into a single score for the school. I’m puzzled about how the standard setting group or groups could use those weights to change the matrix approach.

On this issue, I hope the August 2 presentation and discussion will provide important clarification on which elements will be decided by the Kentucky Board of Education regulation and which elements will be open to change by the future standard setting process.

A THREE STAR MAXIMUM IF STUDENT GROUP RESULTS ARE WEAK
Even if results for the whole school are very strong, schools will be limited to a maximum of three stars if one of their student groups has troubling results. That approach has been discussed for quite a while, and there are now two different ways the three-star limit can apply.

First, the school can be designated as having a “Gap Issue.” The earlier version of the regulation based the Gap issue designation on “very large” gaps or low performance. The July 27 edition has more precise language:
“A school or district shall be designated as a “Gap Issue School” or “Gap Issue District” for statistically significant achievement gaps or low-performing students. Schools or districts with statistically significant achievement gaps may not be rated above three stars.”
Second, schools that are identified for targeted support and improvement will also be limited to three stars. Under Senate Bill 1, schools will receive that targeted support if any student group has results like the lowest-performing 5% of schools or if any group results has results like the lowest-performing 10% of schools for two years. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), those targeted support decisions must be based on all the indicators, and all indicators must be reported separately for each student group (with an exception allowing progress toward English Proficiency to be reported only for English learners).

That second three-star limit based on targeted support is shown in the matrix for elementary/middle schools and the one for high schools. It appears to meet a key ESSA requirements that all states:
  • Have an approach to identifying schools where any group is “consistently underperforming”
  • Change a school’s rating if a school is identified under that approach (a step ESSA calls “differentiation”)
  • Provide targeted support and assistance to schools identified under that same approach

Finally, as promised, here are the matrix versions shown in the July 27 regulation, along with a version from a July 6 overview document from the Kentucky Department of Education


K-12 Accountability: Proposed Changes To Dashboard Indicators

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Kentucky’s new accountability system is being designed around a planned dashboard that will show how each school is doing on a set of indicators. In this post, I’ll share a quick list of how those indicators have been changed in the most recent (July 27) edition of the proposed regulation. For a little more detail, this PrichBlog one-pager describes the basics of each indicator as well as showing these changes. In upcoming posts, I’ll address the changes to the overall five star ratings approach that will combine these indicators, and share news on proposed goals for schools and groups. The Kentucky Board of Education will hold its second reading of the regulation on Wednesday, August 2, and you can download the full regulation here.

PROFICIENCY INDICATOR
Spins off science and social studies, but still addresses reading/writing and mathematics assessment results

Drops added credit for students who take assessment for a higher grade (but keeps .05 credit for apprentice, 1.0 credit for proficient, 1.25 credit for distinguished on assessment for grade in which students are enrolled)

SEPARATE ACADEMIC INDICATOR
Becomes a new indicator using science and social studies assessment results, with same 0.5/1.0/1.25 credit approach as the proficiency indicator

OPPORTUNITY AND ACCESS INDICATOR
Adds lack of behavior events and restraint/seclusion to school quality component (along with lack of chronic absenteeism)

Drops primary talent pool out of equitable access component

Specifies that essential skills (part of the high school rich curricula component) will be part of a Work Ethic Certification

Will require Kentucky Board of Education approval of measures “including the accumulation of credit”

ACHIEVEMENT GAP CLOSURE INDICATOR
For group comparison:
  • Gives 1 point for each insignificant gap
  • Uses highest scoring racial/ethnic group that is 10% of school enrollment (rather than just highest scoring group)
For goal comparison:
  • Uses “current year’s annual target” as goal (but annual targets not established in regulation)
  • Gives 2 points for at or above target, 1 point for up to 5 points below target
For whole indicator
  • Counts group-to group component as 33% of total, group to target component as 67%
GROWTH INDICATOR (FOR ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS)
Includes value table of points to be given for each student’s current reading and mathematics performance compared to previous year

Calls for but does not provide value table for each English learner’s progress toward English language proficiency

TRANSITION READINESS INDICATOR (FOR ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS)
No changes for composite based on reading/writing, math, science, and social studies results

TRANSITION READINESS INDICATOR (FOR HIGH SCHOOLS)
Gives school credit for each student achieving readiness, career readiness and/or military readiness (which may mean one student can earn several credits for the school)

Gives 1.25 credit for “students obtaining specialized career pathways in state and regional high demand sectors as approved by Workforce Innovation Board,” with 1 credit for students obtaining “other readiness indicators”

GRADUATION INDICATOR (FOR HIGH SCHOOLS)
Adds four-year cohort rate (averaged with five-year rate)

INDICATOR RATINGS
Adds a "very low" rating option and changes "moderate" rating to "medium (keeping the low, high, and very high options from previous editions of the regulation)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Charter Schools: Collaboration, Excellence with Equity Must Drive Implementation

| Post by Brigitte Blom Ramsey |

This year’s robust legislative debate about public charter schools ended in a deep divide about how to improve education for all students. In spite of their disagreements, lawmakers on both sides of the charter issue affirmed three decades of educational progress in our state while acknowledging that achievement gaps persist among historically underserved students.

Now that the debate is over, we must turn our attention to making public charters, and all schools, the best they can be so every child in Kentucky receives the excellent education that he or she deserves.

As we move into this new era of public education, the Prichard Committee will continue to track our state’s progress, as we have for nearly four decades.  We will continue to study, inform and engage policymakers and citizens alike about how to make continued progress toward the goal of bringing Kentucky to the nation’s top tier of education excellence.  The urgency of this moment is to not let a quarter century of progress be pushed to the wayside – but to mobilize, galvanize, energize – for this next leap involving charter schools.  

Kentucky’s newly-passed charter school legislation benefits from 25-plus years of national experience by explicitly stating a desire to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps while bypassing more competitive structures in favor of local authorizing.

Kentucky’s approach intentionally positions locally elected boards of education as primary authorizers, promoting critical collaboration among charters and districts, to inspire and engage community support from the beginning. If local authorizers embrace this approach, they will create and sustain meaningful partnerships that provide alternative paths for students to meet their potential. Collaboration has been a hallmark of education policy in Kentucky for years and should now be leveraged as a position of strength.

Accountability is a key component of overall quality for traditional and charter schools alike. For new Kentucky charter schools, school boards and mayors will play key roles in monitoring and oversight, including default renewal/closure standards, all aligned to student achievement.

Those authorizers must spell out their criteria from the very beginning. Charter schools that fail to meet the ambitious vision set forth in the new legislation should be closed so communities can pursue other innovative options for student success. Indeed, a charter school that fails to improve on the performance of a traditional public school has no reason to exist.

Charter schools will not be right for every district in Kentucky, but in some districts they may prove powerful in lifting up students who have been farthest behind to new levels of proficiency and long-term success. Together, we must recommit to rigorous accountability and proper resourcing of the entire public system with an aim to increase success for all students.

Proper implementation of public charter schools will be the lynchpin of their success or failure in Kentucky. For more details and data on just what that means, please see my June 30, 2017, editorial with John B. King, Jr., president of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education: How to get charters right? Keys to success the same for all schools.

The singular purpose of any school must be to prepare young people for a bright future with an excellent education that allows them to begin to realize their unique potential. Keeping our eyes on that ambitious goal is the best way to ensure Kentucky’s future prosperity. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Draft Accountability Regulation: Support and Additional Data

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

The Kentucky Board of Education recently held its first reading of a new accountability system regulation. My earlier posts looked at how the draft deals with standards and with indicators and how it deals with goals and with ratings. This post takes on a final three questions (identifying schools for support, providing support, and sharing additional data)

For more background, take a look at this quick summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) or at the full regulation draft included in the June 7 KBE agenda (scroll down to item XXI).

5. How will we identify schools for added support?
The draft regulation does not address support, but SB 1 provides identification rules that include:
  • Tier I targeted support (early warning) for schools where one or more student groups have results like the lowest 10% of schools for two or more years
  • Tier II targeted support for schools where one or more student groups has results like the lowest 5% of schools
  • Comprehensive support for schools where overall results are in the lowest 5% of schools, high schools where graduation rates are below 80%, and schools that have qualified for tier II targeted support for three or more years
For ESSA approval, each state needs three tiers of support:
1. Targeted support must be given to schools where any student group is “consistently underperforming,” but leaves states to define that category. Kentucky’s Tier I (like lowest 10%) rule is a viable option for providing that definition.
2. Additional targeted support must be given to schools with groups like the lowest 5% of schools, and Kentucky’s Tier II targeted support rules tightly fits that rule.
3. Comprehensive support must be given if overall results are in the lowest 5% of schools, graduation rates are below 67%, or a school has not additional targeted support after multiple years. Do notice that SB 1's 80% graduation rate sets the bar substantially higher than the federal minimum.
6. What support will we provide to identified schools?
The draft regulation does not address this issue, but (again) SB 1 provides a process for this work. As a very brief summary of those steps:
  • For schools identified for targeted support, local school personnel will work with parents and educators to develop a revised school improvement plan for local board of education approval.
  • For schools identified for comprehensive support, the local board of education will select a turnaround audit team to study the school. Once the report is in, the board will select a turnaround team and collaborate with others to develop a three-year plan, with the Kentucky Department of Education monitoring and reviewing the plan’s implementation.

7. How will we promote accountability for results not included in the ratings and support rules?
The draft regulation does not address reporting data that will not be used for accountability. The Department will, of course, have the option of including additional data in school report cards, and recent discussions across the state has shown substantial interest in seeing and using that added information.

Draft Accountability Regulation: Goals And Ratings

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

The Kentucky Board of Education recently held its first reading of a new accountability system regulation. My earlier post looked at how the draft deals with standards and indicators, matching the first two questions I’ve been using to track accountability ideas. This post takes on questions 3 and 4, and my next post will deal with questions 5-7 (identifying schools for support, providing support, and sharing additional data)

For more background, take a look at this quick summary of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) or at the full regulation draft included in the June 7 KBE agenda (scroll down to item XXI).

3. How far and how fast do we intend to raise our indicators?
For students overall, the draft regulation does not identify any goals or methods for setting goals.

For student groups with lower recent results, the draft regulation mentions goals that will be used to rate achievement gap closure, but does not specify how they will be set.
For ESSA approval, states must set “ambitious state-designed long-term goals” for “all students and separately for each subgroup of students.” For groups that are behind, the goals must call for improvement quick enough to “make significant progress in closing statewide proficiency and graduation rate gaps.” For both kinds of goals, states must also set interim measures of progress on the way to meeting those goals.

The Department’s June 12, 2017 PowerPoint does propose an approach to long-term goals, aiming “to increase student proficiency rates significantly for all students in the state by 2030” and “to decrease the achievement gap of lower-performing student groups by 50% by 2030.”

4. How will we rate (or differentiate) schools each year?
Low, moderate, strong, very strong ratings will be given on each indicator, but the draft does not say how ratings will be determined.

One to five stars will be given to each school based on the indicators, but the draft does not say what formula or rules will be used to award the stars.

In addition to the stars, a gap closure designation will be given for “closing the differences in achievement between students demographic groups” and a gap issue designation will be given for “very large achievement gaps and low-performing students.” The draft does not give specifics on how either designation will be earned.

The draft does not provide for changing schools’ ratings if any student group is “consistently underperforming.”
For ESSA approval, each state’s system for “meaningfully differentiating” its public schools must “include differentiation of any such school in which any subgroup of students is consistently underperforming.” The schools with an underperforming student group must also be offered targeted support.

SB 1 requires targeted support for schools with a student group with results “at or below that of all students, based on school performance, in any of the lowest-performing ten percent of all schools for two consecutive years.”

That SB 1 rule looks like a workable way for Kentucky to fill in ESSA’s call for a definition of “consistently underperforming.” To meet ESSA requirements for differentiating/rating schools, however, that “like-lowest-10%” rule will also have to matter in the school rating system.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Draft Accountability Regulation: Standards and Indicators

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

The Kentucky Board of Education recently held its first reading of a new accountability system regulation, and this post summarizes how that draft addresses two of the questions I’ve been using to summarize accountability issues. I’ll address the goal and rating questions in my next post, and I’ll cover plans for identifying and supporting schools with performance weaknesses in a post after that.

For more background, take a look at this quick summary of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) or at the full regulation draft included in the June 7 KBE agenda (scroll down to item XXI).

1. What should our rising generation know and be able to do?
Kentucky’s academic standards are established in another regulation, and SB 1 calls for each subject to be reviewed on a six-year cycle for “possible revision or replacement to ensure alignment with postsecondary readiness standards necessary for global competitiveness and with state career and technical education standards,” using a process of public input, subject-area committees, legislative committee attention, and KBE final decisions. Accordingly, the draft accountability regulation does not need to address standards.

2. What indicators can we use to track our progress toward those desired results?
For elementary and middle schools, the draft regulation calls for indicators that include:
  • Proficiency on state assessments, with partial credit for apprentice results extra credit for distinguished work, and extra credit for proficient or distinguished work on assessments for higher grade levels
  • Achievement gap closure on state assessments, looking at income, race, disability status, English learner status, and a “consolidated group” based on race, disability status, and English learner status
  • Growth, using state reading and math assessments to check whether individual students move to higher performance levels from one year to the next and also checking English learners’ progress toward English proficiency
  • Opportunity and access, including chronic absenteeism, gifted and talented services, rich curriculum (arts, health and physical education, science, and social studies), and access to counselors, nurses, and librarians. For middle schools, career exploration will also be part of the curriculum data.
For high schools, the draft calls for indicators that include:
  • Proficiency
  • Achievement gap closure
  • Growth, checking English learners’ progress toward English proficiency
  • Opportunity and access, including chronic absenteeism, graduation rate, advanced coursework, rich curriculum (global competency/world language, career and technical), and access to nurses, librarians, and career counselors
  • Transition readiness, shown by earning a diploma, demonstrating essential skills, and showing either academic readiness (college entrance exam, AP, IB, dual credit) or technical readiness (industry certification, KOSSA, dual credit) or military readiness (ASVAB)
One more element:
  • A local measure will be chosen by districts and charter schools and included in district and charter ratings. (The Kentucky Department of Education’s June 12, 2017 PowerPoint http://education.ky.gov/comm/Documents/CTP%206-17%20Accountability%20System2.pdf includes a small modification, calling for the local measure to included as a part of the Opportunity and Access indicator rather than being a separate indicator in the overall design.

For ESSA approval, four-year graduation rates must be used as a measure, with five-year rates and other extended periods allowed as optional additions. Kentucky’s ESSA plan will need to include the four-year approach.

For ESSA approval, indicators must be reported and used “for all students and separately for each subgroup of students.” The one exception is the English proficiency measure, which can be used without disaggregation. In recent discussions, Department leaders have noted that it may not be possible to break out access to nurses, librarians, and counselors that way. Data that cannot be disaggregated by student groups will not be used in accountability ratings, but could still be included in other reporting.

ESSA, SB 1, and Kentucky's Draft Accountability Regulation

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

On June 7, the Kentucky Board of Education held a first reading of a new accountability system regulation intended to encourage rising student performance and to meet the requirement of two new laws. I'm planning a set of posts on the main elements of the draft regulation, but first, here comes a quick look at the two bills that shape how the regulation will work.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act replaces the older No Child Left Behind Act. Signed in December 2015, ESSA changes the rules for how states qualify for Title I funding. States must still set academic standards, create assessments of those standards, and have ambitious goals for raising results on those assessments and graduation rates, along with interim measures of progress toward meeting those goals. The goals must still apply separately for low income students, students with disabilities, and students of color, and states must still plan steps to get the schools with the weakest result back on track. However, ESSA allows states considerably more flexibility in using additional measures of school quality and student success, in choosing their goals and their timelines for achieve goals, and in planning out support for schools with weak results.

ESSA is one reason Kentucky needs a new accountability regulation: it will show our choices about how to use the new federal flexibility.

Senate Bill 1, enacted this year, fills in some of those details. It sets a process for revising our academic standards and calls for matching changes to how we test those standards. It adds new ways to measure college readiness and career readiness, including giving added weight to career tests in fields that are in high demand in each region. It defines three new categories of schools in need of support and new approaches to providing that help, filling in some of the ESSA blanks. Notably, where ESSA requires comprehensive support for schools with graduation rates below 67%, SB 1 commits Kentucky to provide that support anywhere graduations are below 80%.

SB 1 is another reason we need a new accountability regulation: we need to fill in how the changed measures will be used to set goals, rate schools, analyze achievement gaps, and decide which schools qualify for the new support methods.

So, in the posts that follow, I’ll look at the June 7 draft of the regulation, and I’ll also share a few more specific details from ESSA and SB 1 at the points where they matter.

One more thing: I should underline that word draft. During the KBE discussion, the Department recommended additional changes and took input from Board members on upcoming improvements. A revised version of the draft regulation is scheduled to get its second reading at the August 2-3 state board meeting, to be followed by a board vote, a public comment period and reviews by legislative committees. You can see the Department's "Data and Measures" document shared with the Board (including a set of proposed further changes) here, and find a more recent PowerPoint about KDE’s recommendations here. For the draft regulation itself, go to the state board's June 7 agenda and scroll down to item XXI.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Charter Schools: Applying Will Not Be Easy

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Kentucky's new charter school law (House Bill 520) requires those who want to open public charter schools to complete demanding applications. Here, I'll summarize of the requirements, but readers should know that the law itself adds further details for nearly all of the items listed.

The Big Idea
Each charter school application must specify:
  • The school's mission and vision 
  • The student population and community the school will target
  • Ages and grades the school will served
  • The academic program the school will offer
  • The instructional methods the school will use
  • An explanation of how the school's program can improve the achievement of traditionally under-performing students 
Goals and Measures
The application must identify:
  • Student achievement goals and evaluation methods
  • A plan for programmatic audits and assessments
  • A plan for measuring progress on school’s performance framework
(Added note: I'm puzzled about how those three requirements relate to one another, and especially about how the goals and the performance framework are related.)

Students and Services
Next, the application must share the school's plans for:
  • Recruiting and enrolling students
  • Identifying and serving students with disabilities, English language learners, bilingual students, and students who are academically behind and gifted
  • Offering extracurricular and co-curricular programs
  • Offering health services and food services
  • Disciplining students
  • Involving parents and communities
Staff and Leadership
A school needs adults as much as students, so the application must propose:
  • Staffing charts for five years
  • Plans for recruiting and developing staff
  • A draft personnel handbook
  • Ethics rules for staff, officers, directors
  • A governance structure, including initial board members and draft board by-laws
Other Operating Details
In addition, the application must address core business issues, including:
  • Planned, minimum, and maximum enrollment
  • Calendar for the school year
  • Schedule for the school day
  • A five year budget
  • Fiscal policies
  • Facilities
  • Insurance coverage
  • Start-up steps for opening the school
  • Process for resolving disputes with the charter authorizer
  • Process for closing down the school if required
On the one hand, this application process seems likely to require deep expertise, sustained thought and very careful planning. On the other hand, schools are complex organizations doing intense and important work: everything on that list truly needs attention before a new public school opens its doors.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Supreme Court Insists on Education for Individuals with Disabilities

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |
The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”
The words above are from the Supreme Court's March 22 ruling in Endrew F v. Douglas County School District. IDEA is short for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the ruling applies to all states that take IDEA funding.

Under IDEA, participating states commit to providing “free and appropriate public educations” (or "FAPE") for all eligible students. Endrew F confirms that what is appropriate for a particular student must be decided based on individual evidence and dialogue in the committee responsible for that student’s individualized education program (IEP), with options for seeking outside resolution if that group cannot agree.

Frankly, what surprised me in the case was the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which argued that an IEP can be adequate if it offers progress that is "merely… more than de minimis.” De minimis is legal Latin for “too trivial or minor to merit consideration,” so the appellate court seemed prepared to accept any level of progress better than that “too trivial or minor” level. I don't see how that could ever fit what IDEA explicitly says must be done for each student.

The Supreme Court's ruling rejects the Tenth Circuit view, and boils down to insisting that  "appropriate" means nothing less than "appropriate."

Reading with Kentucky in mind, I did notice one other Endrew F feature. The opinion speaks repeatedly of a state’s obligation to implement IDEA for students. States often delegate much of their duty to school districts, but the states themselves take the dollars and pledge to provide the required education. That’s why states cannot create charter schools exempt from IDEA, and it’s why states can’t create any other kind of K-12 school that doesn’t have to provide FAPE and implement IEPs. As Kentucky continues to expand its public non-district educational options, it’s helpful to have a new ruling confirming that states must implement IDEA for each and every child enrolled in each and every one of those schools.