Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's this blog about, anyway? (June and July)

Teaching quality and top systems
How the world's best school systems come out on top argued strongly that high student performance depends on strategies to build teaching quality. Countries and states have tried many approaches (including adding funding, equity, tests, testing consequences, mandates and flexibility) that they expected would promote classroom change, but all those indirect methods worked less well than direct efforts to ensure consistent strong teaching. The "round-up" post here provides links to the full list of posts on this topic.

Common Core standards
The national effort to develop higher, clearer standards for language arts and mathematics now has 46 participating states and a first draft of the expectations for high school graduates is being circulated. Kentucky has committed to use the common standards in implementing SB1 and may benefit from a federal commitment to support stronger testing on the new standards. Most Common Core articles are linked here, with the funding for tests noted here.

Race to the Top possibilities
$4 billion in federal funding will be awarded competitively to states with a strong record of past reform and a strong plan for new efforts on standards, teaching quality, data systems, and support for struggling schools. Draft rules for the competition were released in late July and analyzed here, here, here, and here.

College results
2007 higher education graduation rates were lower than we might hope, and showed major variations by group and institution. For example:
  • Three-year associate's graduation rates varied from 54 percent at Bowling Green to 11 percent at Bluegrass.
  • UK delivered bachelor's degrees in six years for 61 percent of full-time students, while Kentucky graduated only 25 percent.
  • African-American six-year bachelor's graduation rates varied from UK's 50 percent to Northern's 21 percent, while male six-year rates varied from UK's 58 percent to Kentucky State's 21 percent.
2009 graduations were up noticeably over the past five years. The 2009 results are here and here, with the more detailed 2007 reporting here, here, and here.

Funding developments
Federal stimulus dollars allowed Kentucky to avoid cutting the SEEK base guarantee per pupil for 2009-10. That's good, but we shouldn't miss the dangers ahead:
  • Freezing the guarantee lets state SEEK spending go down because the local contribution has gone up (predicted here and proven here).
  • The federal stimulus money won't last: it only protects SEEK for this year and next (details here). After that, we'll need state revenue robust enough to cover the full state share.
  • Other state spending on P-12 education is likely to see yet another cut quite soon, based on recent word from the Office of State Budget Development (here).

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!