Monday, August 31, 2009
Here's my first brainstorming list:
1. Professional learning communities are the right way to move SB 1 standards into robust classroom practice. Over several years, we ought to be able to graft both the standards and the PLC approach into the "DNA" of how Kentucky schools do their work.
2. Future teachers should start work with a firm foundation in state standards, assessment, and instruction targeted to use the data and meet the statewide goals. RTTT support may be the way to get us the transformation we know is needed.
3. Strong interim assessments can provide teachers and principals with diagnostic data multiple times a year. If RTTT can cover the start-up costs for testing tools that match our new standards, we can develop a test design, a bank of test items, and statewide skill in using the test results--and then use those assets for decades into the future.
4. Infinite Campus offers us better P-12 data that should be linked to early childhood and post-secondary to get the fullest picture of what does and does not work. Those links would allow much richer analysis of student progress, seeing what is and is not working well to meet the new state standards. Again, doing the needed design, hardware, software, and start-up training in the next few years can pay dividends long afterward.
All four ideas aim directly at building teaching quality. The first three are directly about helping educators build their skills and implement the new SB 1 standards. In the fourth idea, the data system ought to provide insight that allows more effective individual professional growth for educators as well as information on school practices and other questions that matter to our statewide learning goals.
There's lots of discussion ahead, with people already hard at work in Frankfort and elsewhere on the vision that should guide our RTTT application. I toss these ideas out as one small piece in what will be a huge conversation in the months ahead.
The Chronicle is reporting (here) on a lawsuit filed against several loan providers who received the same sort of subsidies:
I can't find any more information tonight on what other companies might be named as defendants. Does anyone have information on whether the Student Loan People are or are not included?
A former Education Department researcher has filed a lawsuit seeking the return of $1-billion in excess student-loan subsidies to the federal government.
Jon H. Oberg, who retired in 2005, says he warned his superiors in 2003 about a loophole that was allowing some of the nation's largest lenders to reap windfall profits from the federal government, but was brushed off and told to work on other things.
* * *
The lawsuit, which Mr. Oberg filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, takes aim at several student-loan companies, including Nelnet and Sallie Mae.
For more on the Best-in-Class debacle, my earlier posts are here, with the specific one on the subsidy income here.
[The word ineligible should have been in the original post, and I've inserted it above.]
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Among other areas, the NEA says it cannot support the fund’s endorsement of using test scores for evaluating teachers, increasing the number of charter schools, and bolstering what the union calls “fast-track” alternative routes to teacher licensure.Respectfully, I think that overlooks NEA's actual effort to find middle ground on test data and evaluations.
In the full comments (here), NEA suggests amending a key application rule to say:
A state must not have any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers to linking student achievement or student growth data to teachers for the purpose of planning individualized activities designed to strengthen teachers’ instructional skills and principals’ instructional leadership.In Kentucky law, the process of using data to identify needed professional development is called formative evaluation. It is (or ought to be) one of the most important ways each school builds teaching quality. NEA's proposal would accept test scores used for that kind of evaluation of individual educators.
NEA rejects using test scores for some other aspects of evaluation, saying it cannot support:
the use of these narrow performance measures for high-stakes decisions (evaluations, compensation, promotions, transfers, tenure, dismissals).And yet, here's NEA's proposed approach:
For any high stakes purpose associated with personnel decision making or compensation, multiple measures should be used in combination, as all measures give a partial picture of teacher performance. These measures should include evidence of 1) teacher practices, 2) teacher performance, and 3) teacher contributions to student learning.My added emphasis there confirms that NEA is willing to accept use of student data in combination with other information even for career-ending decisions. The other information is in fact about professional competence, and it does provide knowledge that tests alone could not fill in.
In short, NEA can support student performance data being:
- used to plan professional growth for individual educators.
- combined with other information for blunter employment decisions.
- correlated and analyzed by statewide student information systems.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
By ethnicity, the number of students with successful scores increased:
- 27 percent for Hispanic students.
- 25 percent for African American students.
- 20 percent for white students.
- 16 percent for Asian students.
Monday, August 24, 2009
- 50th for our one-year change in full-time equivalent enrollment, with our enrollment dropping more than two percent while national enrollment increased.
- 44th for five-year change in full-time equivalent enrollment, with a one percent increase while the national figure grew seven times as fast.
- 6th in adjusted net tuition paid by students and their families.
- 11th in adjusted public appropriations.
- 4th for adjusted total education revenue.
These new results come from State Higher Education Finance 2008, the newest in a long-standing series of annual reports from the State Higher Education Executive Officers, available here. In April, I blogged the “early release” version of the enrollment decline here.
For number-lovers, here are the Kentucky enrollment and funding numbers:
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
In that graph, I see two main things.
First, I see no reason to accept Kentucky's current results. Of the five states being compared, we're fourth in English, fourth in reading, fifth in math, fifth in science, and fifth in the combined result for students meeting all four benchmarks. I am completely confident that with focused standards and a strong commitment to teaching quality, we can raise all those results noticably.
Second, I see no evidence for the belief that Kentucky or any other state will ever see all its graduates meeting all four ACT benchmarks. Colorado has 22 percent of its graduates meeting those benchmarks. If Colorado doubles, triples, and quadruples those levels, it still won't reach 100 percent.
[I'm sorry I left the links out yesterday, and they've now been added above.)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Secretary Duncan is out visiting some not-so-like-Chicago parts of our great big country. Yesterday, he spoke in Hamlet, North Carolina, with a population of 6,000 or so. EdWeek's Politics K-12 got some of why location matters:
Now, if we can only get him to visit Jones Fork....
School leaders I spoke with from Richmond County Schools, in Hamlet, talked about the difficulty in getting young promising leaders to move to, and stay in, such rural, out-the-way places. (There isn't even a movie theater in Hamlet, for example.)
And another hot-button education reform issue that Duncan has championed—charter schools—also wouldn't likely flourish, either, in somewhat remote places where there isn't a big concentration of students, rural educators say. (No one asked about charter schools during yesterday's town hall; however, one man did ask about vouchers—to which Duncan talked up charter schools instead.)
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The Sherry/Weston/Kashap/Etc. family's 43rd annual vacation week starts tomorrow. I'm planning on puzzles and board games, spring-fed pools, great country cooking (all by others), huge helpings of loved ones, and small helpings of internet access.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
When people talk lightly of adding market-like incentives to education, it's worth remembering how many entrepreneurs try things that don't succeed. For example, they plan to build a better mousetrap, but it turns out not to work very well. Or it works, but at too high a price. Or it works at a good price, but when stores order it, they receive their shipments late or incomplete, or not at all, until they finally stop ordering at all. Or it works, and it ships on time, but when the credit market freezes up and the company loses its line of credit, the business goes under.
Educators, being human, can operate on a similar basis. Offered incentives to improve, they can choose a good strategy or a bad one, and they can apply their strategies well or poorly. They can focus effectively, or try a dozen scattershot approaches that bewilder students and end up with falling scores rather than growth. They can also just operate as though they didn't hear the promise or the threat, continuing what they've always done. General Motors rode tradition right into bankruptcy, and Hometown High has the exact same option.
Bluntly, I'm not willing to make incentives our main strategy for promoting better instruction. To me, that's waiting around to see who succeeds and who fails, and planning to accept many failures. Having read about how our global competitors deliver higher levels of learning, it's clear to me that direct work on teaching quality is the most important way to get much higher levels of success.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The steering committee at the top will include Senator David Williams, Representative Carl Rollins, Secretary Helen Mountjoy, CPE President Bob King, EPSB Director Phil Rogers, Commissioner Terry Holliday, WKU President Gary Ransdell, and Fayette County Superintendent Stu Silberman. That's a potent group of leaders, capable of hammering out almost any issue that emerges as the work moves forward.
For mathematics, a practitioner committee will make recommendations this fall on adopting or revising the Common Core standards, with P-12 and postsecondary members working both together and as separate subcommittees.
For language arts, a similar committee will work this fall, with committees on other subjects (not yet shown in the diagram) doing their work during 2010.
For college readiness, the workgroup will include postsecondary administration and staff along with KDE representation, working to increase the number of students who graduate from high schools ready for college work and the number of students who start college needing developmental course work and go on from their to complete their degrees.
My thanks to Michael Miller at KDE for sharing the PowerPoint he and his colleagues used to explain how all this will work!
Commissioner Holliday shared his vision of education with lightning speed. He wants the strongest possible high-level skills for students, he knows strong collaboration is the only way to make it happen, and he thinks Senate Bill 1 is the core way for Kentucky to get it done. He said that much clearly, stopped for questions, received none and closed with "Thank you for this honeymoon period."
KDE and CPE staff gave a tag team presentation of their SB 1 work to date and plans to keep the work on track in the months ahead. Either they're really on the same page or they're doing excellent work handling any disagreements they've encountered.
Professional development and support for teachers to implement the standards is one area where both agencies are concerned about capacity and resources. Representative Flood responded supportively, saying "PD funding is where we are your partners."
Formative assessments for classroom use is another area where KDE is concerned. Associate Commissioner Ken Draut described that "daily, weekly, monthly" data source as "what chances teacher behavior," but as also area where it may be difficult to provide the help schools and districts want. Senator Dan Kelly and Representative Harry Moberly did not sound supportive to me: the Senator argued that KDE should let local people handle that, and the Representative saw the issue as fundamentally one of building teachers' skills, not a need for any added assessment tools to track performance during the school year.
Overall impression: We're on a strong path to develop standards and back them with assessments. Equipping teachers to meet the standards will be a harder climb, and legislators may not yet see quite how steep a hill it's going to be.
State Budget Director Mary Lassiter announced today Kentucky’s General Fund receipts for July, the first month of Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10), totaled $620.5 million, a 4.0 percent decline compared to July 2008 receipts.
That's from the newest monthly report on state revenue. In that statement, the key thing is that the shrinking revenue is not a surprise. It roughly matches the estimates that went into the budget. It doesn't, by itself, suggest that we'll need yet another round of budget cuts.* * *The revised consensus General Fund revenue estimate for FY10 (adjusted for the impact of legislation from the 2009 Regular and Special Sessions of the General Assembly) calls for revenue to fall 1.5 percent compared to FY09 actual receipts. Based on July’s results, General Fund revenues can fall 1.3 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year and still meet the official estimate.
Instead, if the next several months show smaller losses compared to late 2008, and then the months after that start to show growth compared to early 2009, we'll be on track to match the estimates for the year as a whole.
Monday, August 10, 2009
That's from the Herald-Leader report here, with my emphasis added.
Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said that the state's educational bureaucracy is trying to figure out how to align high school curricula so that students will arrive at college better prepared. The step is one of several educational changes required under legislation passed by the General Assembly this year.
As things stand now, King said, Kentucky students can do everything that's asked of them in K-12 and not be competitive in college. The goal, he said, is for colleges to communicate what they expect incoming students to know, and for Kentucky's elementary and secondary education system to teach it.
President King is right to say many students are not ready for college-level work.
He is wrong to imply that most of of those students have been meeting KBE's standards for P-12 work by doing proficient or distinguished work.
Here's a comparison of the percent of students meeting CPE's standards for ACT scores and KBE's standards for CATS results, using the most recent results now available.
- 38 percent of 2009 11th graders met the CPE standard in reading.
- 38 percent of 2008 11th graders met the KBE standard in social studies, the subject ACT uses to benchmark reading skills.*
- 34 percent of 2009 11th graders met the CPE standard in mathematics
- 39 percent of 2008 11th graders met the KBE standard in mathematics.
- 46 percent of 2009 11th graders met the CPE standard in English.
- 30 percent of 2008 12th graders met the KBE standard in on-demand writing.
Kentucky has have a deep problem with weak student performance. Let's not compound it with high-profile misunderstandings of our student performance data.
* 60 percent of 2008 10th graders met KBE's standard in reading. I didn't use that for the main comparison for two reasons. First, I think it's a mistake to look for reading-divorced-from-content-area in the upper grades. Second, I'm following ACT's lead in looking for best evidence of readiness to succeed in a social science class.
English results include:
- 17.3 was the average score, unchanged from last year.
- 46 percent scored 18 or higher, meeting ACT's benchmark for college readiness and CPE's systemwide standard to enroll in credit-bearing courses without developmental work--also unchanged from last year.
- an 18.2 average score, up from 18.1 last year.
- 21 percent scored 22 or higher, meeting ACT's benchmark, up from 20 percent last year.
- 34 percent scored 19 or higher, meeting CPE's standard for credit-bearing work, unchanged from last year.
- an 18.5 average score, down from 18.4 last year.
- 30 percent scored 21 or higher, meeting ACT's benchmark, down from 33 percent last year.
- 38 percent scored 20 or higher, meeting CPE's standard for credit-bearing work, down from 41 percent last year.
- An 18.7 average score, down from 18.5 last year.
- 16 percent scored 24 or higher, meeting ACT's benchmark, up from 15 percent last year.
- (CPE has not set a science standard.)
Mind, I do not expect to see all Kentucky juniors score meet any of those college benchmarks. There are no examples, anywhere, of any state ever getting anywhere close to that, even for college-bound seniors.
Still, I am confident that our students could do significantly better with consistent, standards-based, data-informed, high-quality instruction than they did this year.
So the big question remains: what are our strategies to build stronger teaching quality?
Friday, August 7, 2009
- the Algebra II mathematics content
- the examples to clarify the expected level of student work
- the use of footnotes to clarify terms for a lay audience
- the explanations of how international benchmarking factored into the draft
• Curriculum and instruction
• Formative and summative evaluation
• Professional development and teacher support
• Administrative leadership support and monitoring
Practitioner panels will develop up to ten indicators of strength under each standard.
As specified under SB 1, the state will review each school's program every other year, while districts check the programs annually. Pilot reviews will occur over next two years, followed by full implementation in the 2011-12 school year.
How? NCLB requires an additional indicator beyond reading and mathematics. Since 2002, we've used each year's Accountability Index as the additional elementary/middle indicator for the next year, and we will the 2008 results that way for 2009. But under Senate Bill 1, there will be no 2009 Accountability Index, so we need a new solution.
Yesterday, KDE staff reported on the issue to the Kentucky Board of Education and recommended using some combination of scores from the other tested subjects, following advice from district assessment coordinators and the School Curriculum, Assessment, and Accountability Council.
Commissioner Holliday pointed out that with school already underway in some districts and starting soon elsewhere, all educators will want early information on the likely direction Kentucky will take. Accordingly, he asked Board members to share concerns and questions or to give an initial indication of support for the recommended approach.
Nods all around indicated that Board members are currently inclined to support the idea. Initial action will not come until October, with a final decision scheduled for November, which means change is still possible and details of how the scores will be used must still be decided.
Still, science, social studies and writing now seem likely to matter for elementary and middle school NCLB results. (Graduation rates will still be the added indicator for high schools.)
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
As a Danville parent, I'm getting ready for textbook fees and supply fees, and I remember some years back a technology fee on top of that. The fees can be waived for students who qualify for free lunches and reduced for students who receive reduced lunch-prices, but I've accepted fees as a fact of life.
Still, Karem is right not to be so accepting. Our state constitution makes our legislature responsible for our common schools, and the Rose decision reminded us that, since education is a right, the state must provide it equally for all students. Widely varying fees undermine that equity, and ought to worry us all. Here's hoping today's question will be the start of an important conversation!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The technical case made by testing expert Rick Stiggins is that we need "balanced assessment" with different tools to support three different kinds of decisions:
- Classroom learning decisions need evidence about individual students continuously.
- Program planning at the school and district level requires data on which standards are being mastered, looking at groups of students, on a “periodic but frequent” basis.
- Accountability testing must check, from outside, whether enough students are meeting the standards, annually.
The "sunlit vision" part is about what can happen when the three elements are properly balanced: teachers can show each student clear expectations, help each student make steady progress toward those standards, and (in the process) break the cycle of growing despair that currently leads many students to stop trying when the goals seem both mysterious and out of reach. Stiggins cites research evidence of powerful results when classrooms work that way:
When assessment for learning practices like these play out as a matter of routine in classrooms, as mentioned previously, evidence gathered from dozens of studies conducted around the world consistently reveals a half to a full standard deviation gain in student achievement attributable to the careful management of the classroom assessment process, with the largest gains accruing for struggling learners.My take is that balanced assessment is the testing element of the consistent high quality teaching nurtured in professional learning communities and in the world's top school systems.
For more on this valuable report, here are the links to my earlier posts:
- An assessment manifesto worth our attention (January 22)
- Manifesto: Engaged students, profound learning gains (February 9)
- Manifesto: Three decisions, three kinds of data (February 10)
- Manifesto: Students! Parents! Participating in decisions (February 11)
- Manifesto: Lean standards (and SJR 19) (February 12)
- Manifesto: Classroom implications (February 13)
The New America Foundation proposes some steps (here) to create a better balance, including:
- Requiring transparent reporting on real dollar spending on teachers and other instructional resources at each school in a district.
- Requiring districts to show whether per-pupil funding is be comparable between schools, allowing only a five percent variation to be counted as comparable.
- Using federal Title II funds on teaching distribution efforts in districts that miss the five percent standard.
- Allowing federal Teacher Incentive Fund dollars to be used for base salary increases for teachers who agree to teach in high poverty or high-minority schools.
As a Kentucky aside, our school council allocations use actual salaries for current employees, but they leave out some other key elements of instructional spending, including pay for extra duties and extended employment, for itinerant teachers, and for special education.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Regardless of the method used to analyze equity, all show that in the past several years, the equity gap has been widening.That's the conclusion reported by the Office of Education Accountability last year, based on funding data through 2006. OEA supported that claim using several different approaches to equity, but for a basic sense of what's happened, here's a simple way to see the problem:
The graph shows two groups of districts each serving one-fifth of Kentucky students: the group with the lowest assessed property value per pupil and the group with the highest such value.
1997 was Kentucky's best year for funding equity, with the least wealthy districts having nearly 88 percent of the state and local funding available in the most wealthy schools. In the years since, we've only gotten above 84 percent once, and 2006 was our weakest equity year of the ten shown here.
Source: the 2007 School Finance Report, released in February 2008, is available for download here.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
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.
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.
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).