Sunday, May 31, 2009

What's this blog about, anyway? (May edition)

Here's a round-up of the main issues that got Prichard Blog attention this month.

Transition accountability
While Kentucky develops new standards and tests, students will continue to be assessed in reading, mathematics, science, social studies and on-demand writing, and a voluntary transition index partnership will report on school, district, and state progress toward proficiency.

New state standards
Senate Bill 1 commits Kentucky to higher, clearer academic content standards aligned with college readiness expectations. We'll do that in collaboration with other states on a tight schedule, with major postsecondary involvement. Meanwhile, postsecondary is preparing to consider even more changes to its ACT readiness requirements.

New accountability for arts, practical living and writing
For those subjects, SB 1 will replace tests with state standards, with districts checking each year and the state checking every other year that each school's programs measure up. The methods and standards used in a pilot version of the review were impressive, and should be the model for planned work on the statewide process for future use. All three subjects will continue to be required parts of P-12 education.

The educational attainment pipeline
Good news: High school diplomas are up, both in recent state data and in federal survey results, and so are college applications.

Not so good news: Students who repeat grade nine rarely graduate. Minority students are especially likely to drop out, and the drop out counts miss thousands of students who simply slip. Completion of associates's degrees declined from 2006 to 2007, and bachelor's completion showed only a tiny step up.

Some things I simply didn't know: nearly 4,000 young adults with disabilities, aged 18 to 21, are served by Kentucky P-12 programs with federal IDEA resources, and students who transfer from community colleges to universities graduate more often than those who start out in bachelor's programs.

Loans to math, science, and special education teachers
The Best in Class program promised to forgive their loans, but is not delivering, and the issue is getting Kentucky a grim kind of national attention. Check out the full sequence of posts on this issue, including the sad but important comments from many participating teachers.

Funding ups and downs, mostly downs
While some districts have been able to avoid major cuts, many are reducing staff in anticipation of declining local revenue and possible state funding cuts, with summaries here and here. Higher education has cut a number of expenses and is concerned about how enrollment will go this fall. State revenue is down, and federal stimulus funds may be limited help in offsetting that.

Instructional ins and outs
The Brown anniversary underlined the centrality of public education for all, allowing reflection on why good instruction is so important and how Fayette County has (and has not) moved forward on some key concerns.

On reading skills, a great video explained why content knowledge is essential, but a regional report offered problematic advice.

On professional learning communities, the Black Box study and Archimedes offered new leverage, and a running list will provide quick access to all the posts.

And on other issues, posts roamed through preschool strengths, math weaknesses, special education placements, higher education attitudes, and a great poster project linking arts and science.

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