Thursday, March 23, 2017

First Charter Schools Open In 2018? That Seems Likely

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

WDRB is reporting that Commissioner Pruitt thinks Kentucky's first charter school is likely to open in 2018-19, rather than this summer. Based on House Bill 520's requirements, that estimate seems pretty sound. Kentucky's newly-signed legislation sets up the process for opening a charter school:

1. An applicant submits a detailed application to an authorizer (a school board, a collaborative of school boards, or the mayor of Lexington or Louisville) and the Kentucky Department of Education

2. The authorizer approves or denies the application within 60 days after the application is filed

3. The approved application goes to the Commissioner for final approval

4. Members of the charter school's board of directors takes their oath of office as government officials within 60 days after the Commissioner's approval

5. The charter school board and the authorizer agree on and sign a charter contract within 75 days after the Commissioner's approval

6. The charter school receives student applications and conducts a lottery if there are more applicants than spaces, following a lottery regulation that will be set by the Kentucky Board of Education

7. The charter school opens its doors and begins teaching the admitted students

That looks like a process of at least five months. In theory, the application could be approved and the contract signed more quickly than the allowed 60 and 75 days. In practice, both will be long documents that need careful review and could easily need the full allowed time for action. The Commissioner's final approval probably cannot be given the day the application reaches his office, and gathering student applications will certainly take a few weeks.

Plus, those five months start at the end of June. HB 520 will become law 90 days after the General Assembly adjourns at the end of March. That makes late November the earliest time a school could notify students of admission.

Bottom Line: HB 520 says charters can happen in 2017-18, but HB 520's calendar says it'll take a bit longer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Success off the Court: Graduation and Gaps at UK and Elsewhere

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

In the midst of March Madness, the Education Trust has taken to Twitter to push Sweet Sixteen schools on their graduation gaps between black students and white students.  Here's their tweet to the University of Kentucky:


The statistics there are pretty small, but they show a 45.2% graduation rate for black students and a 60.6% rate for white students, with both figures drawn from EdTrust's new Black Student Success report

The report's data files include eleven Kentucky institutions, so here's a comparison of that full group.  Only Berea has essentially gap-free results for the two groups of students, and it's painful to see that UK's graduation rate for black students, low as it is, is still the fourth highest of this set.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Charter Funding: About $7,178 Per Student Total?

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

In addition to calling for charter schools to share in SEEK funding and categorical funding, House Bill 471 specifies that "any state appropriation for retirement, health, or life insurance benefits made on behalf of a local public school employee shall also be made on behalf of a public charter school employee."

For 2016-17,  those on-behalf payments average out to:
  • $1,027 per student for school employee health insurance 
  • $574 per student for certified employee retirement
  • $2 per student for employee life insurance           
  • $1,603 per student for the three kinds of benefits

Those can also be added to the estimates in earlier posts:
  • $4,672 as the average per student from SEEK base and add-ons
  • $758 as the average per student from categorical programs
  • $1,603 as the average above for the three kinds of benefits
  • $7,178 as the average per student combining all those sources

All of these numbers are, of course, estimates based on the most recent figures available. Budgets and enrollments change every year, so these amounts are sure to shift at least a little before the first Kentucky charter schools open. Still, they're an early shot at estimating the resources charter applicants will be able to use to implement their programs.

Sources and Methods:
1) The on-behalf averages simply divide entries from the 2016 state executive budget by 676,796 (the 2015-16 enrollment total for 173 districts reported in school report card files). 

2) The categorical average was explained in this earlier post.  
3) The SEEK average takes a different approach than an earlier post on this topic. The Department of Education's FY 2016-17 final SEEK summary lists a total calculated base SEEK amount of $3,259,961,132, and that amount has divided by the same 676,796 enrollment figure just described. Finally, the per-pupil result has been reduced by three percent to reflect the amount that will be retained for use by the charter authorizer. Calculated base SEEK includes the base guarantee plus add-ons for at-risk (free lunch), disabilities, home and hospital,  limited English proficiency, and transportation, and the total amount is funded with a combination of local and state funding.

Charter School Funding: The Categorical Portion

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Following up on yesterday's post about SEEK funding for charter schools under House Bill 471, here are some estimates of what Kentucky charter schools may receive from state and federal categorical programs.

Some categorical programs are focused on students with specific needs, and a charter school's share is likely to depend on its enrollment of eligible students. Those figures may include:
  • $1,614 per student with a disability (from federal IDEA)
  • $511 per low-income student (from federal Title I)
  • $60 per gifted and talented student (from state gifted and talented)
Other programs target students at particular stages in their educations, so that a charter school's share may depend on how many students at that stage it enrolls.  Those amounts may include:
  • $50 per elementary student (from state read to achieve)
  • $36 per elementary or middle school student (from state instructional resources funding)
  • $29 per high school student (from federal Perkins money)
Other amounts, less dependent on student traits, may include:
  • $49 from federal Title II, Part A for teacher quality work
  • $36 from state extended school services
  • $14 from state safe schools
  • $13 from state professional development 
  • $71 from an array of smaller state and federal programs
Overall, combining all those programs, Kentucky charter schools may be working with the SEEK funding discussed yesterday plus average categorical funding of:
  • $758 per student
I've used the word "may" steadily above, because each program has additional rules that can result in individual schools receiving or less. Still, I think these estimates give a ballpark idea of what categorical funding will be available to Kentucky charter schools.

Sources and Methods:
For this analysis, I used total funding to Kentucky's 173 school districts from the Department of Education's allocation spreadsheets for 2016-17 state programs and federal programs, along with student counts for the 173 districts from 2015-16 school report card files.  Here's my arithmetic:


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Charter Funding: the SEEK Portions

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

On March 15, shortly after approving legislation to create Kentucky charter schools, the  General Assembly approved House Bill 471, an appropriation bill that was amended to include rules for charter funding. Based on that bill, here’s a rough idea of what Kentucky charter schools may receive from SEEK funding:
  • $3,862 per pupil (counting average daily attendance rather than enrollment)
  • $579 more for each student eligible for federal free lunches
  • $927 more for each student with a communication disability
  • $4,518 more for each student with a moderate disability
  • $9,075 more for each student with a severe disability
  • An average of $346 per pupil for transportation, with the amount varying by district
The funding bill provides that a “local school district where a public charter school is located shall transfer the public charter school's portion of the local school district's funding calculated pursuant to KRS 157.360" and then adds that three percent can be retained for use by charter school authorizer. The amounts above show this school year's SEEK fund base guarantees and add-ons as set in 157.360, reduced by the three percent. A combination of local and state tax dollar provide those amounts in each district.

However, charter schools may not be allocated those exact amounts. House Bill 471 goes on to say that the "public charter school's portion shall be allocated in the same manner as the school allocation model used by the local school district based on applicable data provided by the public charter school.” That school allocation model seems to be a formula each district will create and transmit to Frankfort, where the Kentucky Board of Education will have authority to find models deficient and request revisions.

For transportation, the amount a charter school can receive will depend on whether the school district chooses to transport the charter school students. If the district transports, the district keeps the transportation dollars. If not, that part of the funding goes to the charter school.

SEEK also has two optional parts that allow districts to raise additional revenue:
  • For Tier 1, districts can set tax rates to raise more than the minimum 30¢ per $100 of taxable property, and the state contributes to equalize resulting revenue. This year, Tier 1 revenue averaged $1,101 per pupil statewide, drawn from both local and state funds.
  • For Tier 2, districts can set even higher rates, but receive no state equalization. This year, Tier 2 revenue averaged $1,282 per pupil statewide, drawn solely from local funds.
House Bill 471 does not give charter schools any access to those Tier 1 and Tier 2 dollars. That's clear in two ways. First, the passage quoted above in blue refers to KRS 157.360, but Tier 1 and Tier 2 funding is governed by KRS 157.440. Second, the bill has explicit language saying that the funds allocated to charter schools shall not include “local funds raised pursuant to KRS 157.440(2)(a),” and that subsection sets the Tier 2 rules.

Beyond SEEK, charter schools will be eligible for categorical funding, meaning the kinds of state and federal dollars that come with strings attached. Watch for a future post that estimates those amounts.

For number lovers, here are my calculations for SEEK base, add-ons and the retained 3%:


The Tier 1 and Tier 2 estimates flow from the statewide version of these recent reports from the Council for Better Education.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Charter Legislation Finalized (with an Eight Question Summary)

The General Assembly has agreed on new charter school legislation, and Governor Bevin is expected to sign House Bill 520 into law soon.  The bill approved on March 15 included Senate amendments including:
  • Requiring instruction at charter schools to be given by teachers with state certification
  • Giving charter schools a choice of complying with state purchasing rules in KRS Chapter 45 A or providing monthly reports on spending to their boards of directors 
  • Allowing existing public schools to convert to charter schools three different ways (by petition of 60% of parents at a school in the lowest 5%, by local school board approval of a 60% parent petition at other schools, or by local school board action on its own motion
Major features of the finalized bill are summarized in an new "Eight Key Questions" overview available here.

In a separate action, legislators amended HB 471 to establish funding rules for charter schools. PrichBlog will share more about those rules soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Finding Common Ground on Charter Schools in Kentucky

| By Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Executive Director |

Charter school legislation hangs in the balance in the waning days of the 2017 session of Kentucky’s General Assembly.  At the center of the ongoing debate is HB520 – passed on the House floor after three hours of intense discussion and yet to be heard in Senate committee. 

We agree with strong assertions on both sides of the conversation:  Charters can be a tool to increase student achievement and begin to close achievement gaps. True.  According to Stanford University’s CREDO study, charter effects vary sharply by student background, with the worst losses for white students and the best gains for black and Hispanic students in poverty. True. There are other strategies we can use to increase student achievement and close gaps, instead of charters. True. With current funding, charters will erode funding for existing public schools and compromise the progress that can be made for all students. True.  If we add charters to our system, additional resources will be necessary to support additional fixed costs. True.  Charters can create a dual system, that leaves new cracks for kids to fall through. True. High-performing charters can bring effective expertise into Kentucky and innovation that can spillover to other schools and districts. True. 

We agree with the dialog’s most important assertions: This is a significant change to Kentucky’s public education structure.  If we get this wrong, it could set us back, and worse, our kids will lose hard-won progress. True!  If we get this right, it could help us narrow achievement gaps, and better, we might have kids who are given a new sense of hope that education is their path to a larger life. True!

Our assertion: While charters will ever only affect a handful of Kentucky’s 650,000 students, there are significant opportunity costs and energy spent on this reform measure, that could be spent on other – possibly just as successful reform measures.  We MUST get this right. Our students are depending on us.  I hope this is something to which we can all agree – now, and on whatever path we choose. 

Our commitment: Whatever the years ahead hold for education policy in Kentucky, 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.  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 our next giant leap.  Together, from a place of common ground for every person and group who cares about the future of our children and our state’s prosperity, we must make that leap. 

As the hours pass and we hear the Senate is putting final touches on HB520, I’d like to reassert the Prichard Committee’s research-based findings to support legislation that has the best shot of serving our students well – within the promise of our public school system that must serve each of them well:


  • Authorizers -- Researchers repeatedly point to the importance of authorizers who have been highly trained to support key principles and standards such as those outlined in the NACSA Quality Authorizing Guide (2015)The Prichard Committee supports a moderate approach to charter legislation with authorizing by locally elected school boards and an appeal mechanism to the Kentucky Board of Education as a secondary authorizer in the case of community outcry about persistently low performing schools.
  • Accountability and oversight -- Charter school accountability is a key component of overall quality of the public education system. The Prichard Committee supports monitoring and oversight by the Kentucky Board of Education with default renewal/closure standards that are tied to student achievement and charter contract requirements with clear performance expectations for raising achievement and closing achievement gaps.
  • Enrollment -- Charter schools should not discriminate in the enrollment of students in any fashion. The Prichard Committee asserts that no student or group of students should be prohibited from enrollment on the basis of ability, performance, geography, socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, and also that charter schools must provide free and reduced-price meals as well as services for students with learning differences.
  • Funding -- Funding for charter schools should not diminish the resources currently available to school districts to educate and increase achievement for all students. Federal funding will likely be available to support public charters in Kentucky and, historically, states have been asked to outline their strategy for using charters to increase student achievement (USDOE Public Charter Program). The Prichard Committee supports the expression of an explicit, bold goal in the legislation that seeks to increase student outcomes, particularly for students who are currently left behind, and corresponding investment of public resources to achieve these bold goals.

Lastly, AND THIS CANNOT BE OVERSTATED - instilling collaboration between public charters and traditional public schools, that engages and inspires community support, will be critical to ensuring all children are served well (Center for Reinventing Public Education (2016)). This will happen if local school districts are the primary authorizer of charters – but likely NOT without this approach. Collaboration has been a hallmark of education policy in Kentucky for years and should be leveraged as a position of strength – allowing us to uniquely benefit from some of the most current research on charters. 

As we count the days and wait for negotiation on charters to be resolved this week, we look forward to uniting on common ground -- in a place where everyone who cares about student achievement can work together to focus on quality public schools and the resources necessary to support access and opportunity for each and every one of Kentucky's 650,000 students. That shared aspiration will help move Kentucky toward the ultimate goal of leading the nation in preparing students to achieve in school and in life. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Accountability Changes: A Proposal from the Kentucky Department

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Over recent months, the Kentucky Department of Education has coordinated a wide array of discussions about our next accountability system.  The most recent published proposal based on those discussions was shared with the Kentucky Board of Education at its February meeting. 

Here's a look at how that proposal answers the "six big questions" from my November blog post about accountability change, along with a few notes on topics for further exploration.


1. What should our rising generation know and be able to do?
The proposal does not require revisions to Kentucky’s academic standards.

2. What indicators can we use to track our progress toward those desired results?
The elementary and middle school indicators for school accountability ratings will include:
  • Proficiency on state assessments
  • Student growth data, using progress toward a student’s annual personal target for improvement
  • Achievement gap closure data by income, race, disability status, English learner status, plus a “consolidated group” based on race, disability status, and English learner status
  • Transition readiness, focused on learning about non-tested subjects, career fields, and essential skills, using measures that are under development
  • Opportunity and access measures that include arts opportunities and standards-based teaching and learning in science, social studies, health, physical education and career studies
For high schools, the indicators used for ratings will include:
  • Proficiency on state assessments
  • Achievement gap closure data
  • Transition readiness, shown by graduation rates and by academic readiness (ACT, SAT, AP, IB, or dual credit) or technical readiness (industry certification, KOSSA, dual credit) or military readiness (ASVAB)
  • Opportunity and access measures that consider advanced coursework, arts, writing, global competency/world language, practical living/career studies, and specialized career pathways
In addition to the indicators used for ratings, state reporting will include additional opportunity and access measures (discussed under Question 7).
Topics To Explore
• How will annual personal targets be set?
• When will transition readiness measures be announced?
3. How far and how fast do we intend to raise those indicators?
For students overall, the proposal calls for base goals that reflect recent history, asking for improvement that matches the statewide improvement for the highest scoring student group in 2014-16.

For student groups with lower scores, the proposal calls for additional goals that will cut achievement gaps in half by 2030. Those gaps will be defined by comparing one group to another.
Topics To Explore
• Will there be custom goals for each school?
• Will there be interim benchmarks on the way to each goal?
• If the highest scoring  group declined, how will goals be set?
4. How will we rate (or differentiate) schools each year?
For elementary and middle schools, the proposal calls for public reporting of four performance levels (low, moderate, strong very strong) for:
  • Proficiency and growth
  • Transition readiness
  • Opportunity and access
  • Achievement gap closure
For high schools, the same four levels will be use for:
  • Proficiency and transition
  • Opportunity and access
  • Achievement gap closure
Based on a matrix of all of those results, schools will also receive
  • An overall school ratings using six categories from outstanding to intervention
  • A gap closure designation or a gap issue designation
Topics to Explore
• How will standards be set for the four performance levels?
• How will citizens be included in the standard-setting?
• How will those levels relate to the state’s long-term goals?
5. How will we identify schools for added support?
The proposal calls for:
  • Tier I targeted support (early warning) for schools where one or more student groups have results like lowest 10% of schools
  • Tier II targeted support for schools where one or more student groups has results like the lowest 5% of schools
  • Intervention for schools where 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
Topics to Explore
• How many schools will qualify for targeted support?
• Will all targeted support schools get a gap issue designation?
6. What support will we provide to identified schools?
The current proposal promises an additional document to describe the kinds of support and adds that the “breadth, depth, and intensity of school support will depend in large part on the available resources.”
Topics to Explore:
• When will the support document be available?
7. How will we promote accountability for results not included in the ratings and support rules?
A major innovation in the proposal is a call to report an additional set of indicators that are not counted for the ratings.

For schools, the proposal calls for reporting on:
  • Reading and math proficiency as good or better than kindergarten readiness rates for all groups of third-grade students
  • Global competency and/or world language exposure for elementary and middle school students
  • Proportional identification rates for the Primary Talent Pool and Gifted and Talented services for all student groups
  • Proportional out-of-school suspension rates for all student groups
  • Chronic absence rate (percent of students who miss 10% or more days in a school year)
  • Teachers with appropriate certification
  • Teacher turnover rates
  • First year teachers as a share of all teachers
  • Librarian/media specialists and guidance counselors, with attention to the professional roles they play
For districts, the reporting may also include:
  • ALL STAR ratings for the state-funded preschool program
  • The percentage of of students served in half-day and full-day kindergarten programs