Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teachers from the top third? Third of what?

McKinsey & Company's new report, Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching, asserts that the world's top-performing nations "recruit 100% of their teacher corps from the top third of the academic cohort." The support for that claim comes from Exhibit 3 in the report, which shows that:

  • Finland has "all teachers recruited from top 20% of high school academic cohort."
  • South Korea has "Primary school teachers recruited from top 5 percent of high school academic cohort."
  • Singapore has "All teachers recruited from top 30% of high school academic cohort.
Notice the word "high school."  The data on other countries is about high school graduates.

However, McKinsey & Company may be suggesting that the U.S. should try to recruit from the top third of college graduates.  I say "may be" because the report systematically simply says "graduates" in each place that it makes a recommendation.  That could mean high school or college.

One reason to think college graduates are meant is that the report says that in the United States,"only 23% of new teachers overall –and about 14% of those in high-poverty schools– come from the top third of graduates."  That finding is "derived from the US Department of Education, NCES, 2001 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Survey," which only included college graduates, In my first attempt to figure out how the report used the survey, I could not find any data that was gathered about high school rank or GPA.  Though I may learn more and have to revise this post, I think the the 23 percent finding is about U.S. teachers as a percent of college graduates.

A second reason is that the report bases an entire chapter on "McKinsey's market research with 900 top-third college students."  That, too, suggests that the report's proposal is that the United States should recruit its teachers from the college top third.

Going beyond the report itself, I did some additional looking at key numbers.

To use only the top third of college students to fill teaching vacancies, the U.S. would need for 24 percent of those students to go into teaching –and that is assuming they would stay for an average of 25 years.  Kentucky, with a lower rate of college graduations, would need 27 percent of top-third college graduates to go into teaching.  By comparison, filling the same jobs from the top third of high school graduates, both the country and the state would need roughly 12 percent of those students to enter teaching.  Drawing from high school's top third seems much easier to accomplish, and since that seems to work for Finland and Singapore, it might work for us, too.

It is also worth asking what puts a student in the top third of high school graduates.  To think about that, I checked ACT results for the six states that test 100 percent of their students and found that for 2010:
  • 31 percent of Kentucky high school graduates had an ACT composite of 22 or higher, as did 33 percent of Tennessee graduates,  34 percent of Michigan graduates, and 35 percent of Wyoming graduates.
  • 35 percent of Illinois graduates and 36 percent of Colorado graduates had ACT composites of 23 or higher.
So, if Kentucky teacher preparation programs regularly require a 21 composite for admission, it is possible that we are already within shooting distance of the top third of high school graduates becoming our teachers –not there, but in reach with moderate effort.  Naturally, there are other ways to figure out who's in the top third in high school, and it would be great to have our new longitudinal data system give us an idea of how close our teachers already are based on those other measures. 

All of which leads me to end with these core questions:  Is McKinsey & Company recommending that we  aim to draw all teachers from the top third of college graduates?  If so, what evidence does the firm offer to support their recommendation?  

Sources: Digest of Education 2009 statistics provided the numbers for my estimates of needed teachers. The high graduate counts are for 2006-07, combining public school data  from Table 104 and private school data from Table 62.  The college graduate count is 2007-08 data from Table 321, and the 2007-08 teacher counts are from Table 65.  ACT composite percentages come from the 2010 state profile reports.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Delays on additional standards

With 2009's Senate Bill 1, Kentucky committed to clearer, higher standards in all subjects.   Reading, writing, and mathematics are addressed by the Common Core standards we now share with most states in the country.  What about the other subjects?

For science, work is underway to develop a shared multi-state approach.  A draft framework of key issues, developed by the National Research Council was released and gathered public comments this summer.   The planned steps ahead include:

  • A second framework draft for more comments.
  • A final framework draft this winter.
  • At least two drafts of a full standards document, with opportunities for vetting and comments.
  • A final standards document in December 2011.
For social studies, the process to develop a multi-state document looks slower.  The Department's ISN newsletter reported last week that the timetable may take two to three more years.

With new assessments scheduled to start in May 2012, it's probably time to discuss whether the Core Content will have to be the basis for that testing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Superman" offers right question, fractions of the answer

Beau and I (and five other people) saw "Waiting for Superman" this afternoon in Lexington.  Like David Guggenheim's earlier "An Inconvenient Truth," the film aims to convert a giant policy issue into a giant popular mobilization, this time focusing on public education.  I'll share my thoughts as pluses and wishes, hoping that both can be helpful in thinking about the movie and the issues.

As a reflection of children's potential and parents' concerns, "Waiting for Superman" does quite a good job.  It tracks a set of children hoping to be admitted to charter schools, four to avoid deeply troubled urban schools and one to avoid the hazards of tracking in a functioning suburban high school.

As a presentation of great teaching, it also does a good job.  In fact, it makes it clear that the founders of the famous KIPP academies got some of their best strategies from their public school colleagues, and Bill Gates' brief interview includes a clear statement (wish I had that sentence on tape) about the role of teachers pulling together to figure out how to deliver.

As a statement of a civic issue, it's also sturdy: how do we provide stronger schools for all students in a situation where nearly all current schools fall a bit short of what we need and some are alarmingly weak?

"Waiting for Superman" makes it too easy to imagine that most elementary schools have teachers who overlook students' actual reading success and ignore parent phone calls and that most high schools are dropout factories that fail to graduate 40 percent or more of their entering students.  I wish that there had been a clearer distinction between the relatively rare calamity schools and the vast majority of schools that need to pick up their game to meet rising economic challenges.

The film doesn't quite say "the solution is to have many more charter schools."  It does say that only one in five charter schools delivers great results.  But all the schools it holds up as worth attending are charter schools.  I can only remember only one model of innovation inside existing public schools--and that consisted of calling for an end to tenure.  The main emphasis is, in fact, on escaping from places where current teaching is not strong enough.  That's a shame.  I deeply wish the film had been more interested in how individual teachers grow in their craft.

Finally, the film simply didn't see what strikes me as the most important piece of the whole education puzzle: creating the shared cultures in which all teachers develop fully effective skills.  You could ask me to design a bridge and give me a stack of engineering books--and you know perfectly well I'd need years and classes and coaches and colleagues to be able to do it.  Same thing for setting bones or removing gall bladders.  Same thing for creating 3-D computer animations.  No one masters any profession without ongoing learning, and no one reaches excellence in any craft without sustained support.  The educators in Kentucky's schools that beat the poverty odds deliver by working together and being that support for one another.  I'm willing to bet the one in five charter schools that make a big difference do it the same way.  Most of all, I wish the film had gotten to that key point: the work that raises achievement and closes gaps happens in teams, or it does not happen at all.

As a nation, we've tried less money, more money, teaching subjects separately, teaching them in combination, open classrooms, closed classrooms, tests with no stakes, tests with high stakes, state mandates, and local options.  What works is direct, hands-on, in-school commitment to teachers who collaborate to study student results, figure out instructional solutions, and develop their skills together.  The key issue is figuring out how to ensure that it happens in one, two, one hundred, one thousand, and eventually every school in the country.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Preparing teachers for standards (or not)

In Cracks in the Ivory Tower, the Fordham Foundation recently published results of a mayor survey of education professors, including one set of the questions that, "Teacher education programs can impart different qualities to their students.  Which of the following qualities do you think are most essential and which are least essential?"  Here are the rates at which respondents ranked some qualities "absolutely essential," as highlighted in a new Flypaper post:

  • 82 percent for "teachers who are themselves life-long learners and constantly updating their skills"
  • 69 percent for "teachers who will have high expectations of all their students"
  • 42 percent for "teachers trained in pragmatic issues of running a classroom such as managing time and preparing lesson plans"
  • 37 percent for "teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom"
  • 24 percent for "teachers who understand how to work with the state's standards, tests and accountability systems"
That last item makes me ache.  Remember that I'm convinced that what works for students is teaching to standards by checking each student's current work and adjusting instruction to keep every student moving forward.  That's the model that raises achievement and shrinks achievement gaps.  It's what "balanced assessment" is all about.

Seeing that approach as essential for students, I hate to see evidence that professors don't see capacity to use that approach as essential for teachers. 

Do note that the survey reflects a national sample, rather than a Kentucky sample.  I'm hopeful that Kentucky programs are already better focused, and even more hopeful that Senate Bill 1 will add further strength to our teacher preparation efforts. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Limits of value-added teacher evaluations

In the debate over how (and whether) to use student test scores in evaluating teachers, the "value-added" approach calls for looking not simply at how students score, but at how much they improve from year to year--at what value having a particular teacher seems to add to a student's academic performance.

The idea has some intuitive appeal, but it comes with some serious problems.

The largest may be that it's hard to get enough student results to be sure we're seeing a fair representation of teacher impact.  The big Sanders studies in Tennessee were, among other things, big studies.  The findings reflect data from many teachers and many many students.  Trying to convert the method to give credible information on individual teachers will be a tougher challenge. Back in July, a report from the National Center for Education Evaluation highlighted how big the challenge could be:
The simulations suggest that, if three years of single classroom data per year are available for each teacher and the system aims to identify low performing teachers, then 1 in 4 teachers who are truly average in performance may be erroneously classified as performing significantly below the district average. They also suggest that 1 in 4 teachers whose true performance is lower than the district average by 3 to 4 months of student learning per year may be overlooked. In contrast, with 10 years of classroom data per teacher (or, for example, two years of data for teachers who teach five classrooms per year), the error rates fall to 11 percent. Similar error rates would be observed if the system aims to identify high performing teachers.
And then, here are three more challenges to consider:
■■ Not all subjects and grades currently have mandated tests. As a result, if teacher effectiveness measures were limited to a score based on teachers’ contributions to student performance on standardized tests, the feedback would exclude the majority of teachers— all of whom have an important role in student learning. This issue could be resolved by additional tests, but tests are resource- and time intensive (for both students and teachers) and are highly variable in quality.
■■ Value-added measures, which determine a teacher’s unique contribution to each student’s performance, offer fair comparisons among teachers within a system, but they do not and cannot help teachers understand why one teacher is more successful than another. Teachers with the highest and lowest value-added scores are both left to speculate about what they did to merit their scores. More important, the scores do not suggest what a teacher would have to change to improve his/her effectiveness in the classroom.
■■ For some teachers, particularly those early in their careers, consequential performance judgments would be made based on the test performance of relatively few students. Though this concern diminishes over time, multiple measures could allow more accurate judgments earlier in a teacher’s career when they could have a significant impact on a teacher’s professional growth.
Those three points are part of the logic behind the Gates Foundation's work on Measuring Effective Teaching, and taken from the report on that work I discussed earlier in the month.

That's four problems: getting enough data for credible statistics, untested subjects, lack of information on how to improve, data that comes later than needed.

Taken together, those problems show that sound evaluation systems will need to include other kinds of information, taken from observing teachers working with students and with colleagues and from looking at student work beyond the data pulled from state assessment systems.

Value-added data is never going to be the main solution to the challenge of helping each teacher become increasingly effective over the course of his or her professional career.

Quick numbers: Public university completions and Pell grants

The College Navigator now shows 2008-09 data for all Kentucky postsecondary institutions.  Here are two quick snapshots comparing our public universities, drawn from those data files.

First, here's how the schools varied in completion rates for full-time students who began their studies in the fall of 2003--counting only students who completed at the school where they started:

Second, here's a very rough indication of students' family resources, as shown by how many were eligible for federal Pell grants awarded to those with the lowest family incomes:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Louisville's big goal (and its big name)

A new public-private partnership in Kentucky's largest city aims to raise college attainment dramatically.  Concretely, they want to see 55,000 additional degrees for adults ages 25 to 64 by 2020, and to make the goal unforgettable, they've named the effort "55,000 Degrees."

The goal reflects what will be needed to have 40 percent bachelor's attainment plus 10 percent associate's attainment, which in turn will place Louisville "in the top tier among its peer cities."

The initiative has launched its new website, but has not yet posted the data details behind its goals.  Being a numbers wonk, I naturally want to see the number they've identified as their starting point and thus the degree counts they're seeking to make up the added 55,000 result.

Overall, it looks like a serious push, with substantial institutional and financial support, to make an important difference in a very important community!

Common Core keeps growing!

Here's EdWeek's latest map, showing 38 states and the District of Columbia committed to the Common Core Standards in both literacy and mathematics, plus Minnesota being on board for the literacy alone:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Digital textbooks or hybrids?

From Tom Shelton on Twitter to a fresh article in the New York Times, I've been seeing new probing about why paper textbooks are not rapidly being replaced with on-line versions.  

My hunch is that full replacement will never happen.   The special genius of books isn't in the individual pages: any given page can be shown just about as well on a screen.  The special genius of books, and magazines, and catalogues, is in how the pages relate.  It's in the way a reader can skim quickly to find an item of interest and flip back and forth to see how the different parts relate.  That's why I can see an EdWeek headline in three different e-mails and two different Google Reader links, and only become intrigued by the story when the paper copy lands on my dining room table.

For that reason, I think students will always need books, actual books to organize the main big picture of each subject they study.  Most teachers will also value that firm organizer of the main content for a given course of study.

The key thing is that the books no longer need to stand alone, and they no longer need to be loaded down with other kinds of learning resources that can be offered better electronically.

I predict a future that uses the strengths of both.

The standard book for a course can be much shorter, designed to convey the key concepts and connections quickly.

Then, as students work their way through the book, they can use digital tools to dig into how those ideas each work.  We're already seeing software that lets students work math problems that adjust in difficulty to provide more practice where needed and more challenge where appropriate.  Think about how much clearer Newtonian physics and animal anatomy can become with interactive videos.  Imagine being able to switch at will from maps of individual battles to the full global view of World War II.

Those options can be easily indexed to the chapters of a textbook, or even to the somewhat different approaches of multiple textbooks.  They can be official parts of a given class, or items students find and use for their own added study.  Students studying the same chapter, with the same teacher, can use different supporting tools to build their understandings.  There can even be room for discussion about the textbooks themselves, so that students can consider arguments about whether any given book gives too much or too little weight to some aspects of a subject.

That hybrid approach, with the textbook still essential but smaller in scale and price, and digital resources important but still related to a core printed structure, looks to me like the the most probable future.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thinking about Bob Sexton (two versions)

Bob Sexton spent a lot of our time together getting me to stop adding footnotes and philosophy to things I wrote and said. So when I was asked to write about him for tomorrow's celebration of his life, I left out the background thinking and did the short edition:
Think back to the late 1980s, when American civic life seemed so frail. So many voices urged us to spend little, aim lower, and expect less from our neighbors and ourselves.
In those years, Bob Sexton chose another course. While others prepared to abandon ship, Bob and his band of colleagues boldly set sail. They charted ways to change Kentucky’s schools—big strategies, to strengthen all our children. They searched out allies to help those changes happen—thousands of Kentucky citizens, hundreds of national supporters.
Over three decades, Bob proved that our civic life was ready for new growth. He cultivated leaders, nurtured understanding, and harvested results, so that today, the trees Bob planted bloom all around us. Nationally, Kentucky fourth graders rank ninth in reading and our eighth graders rank sixteenth. Kentucky colleges produced 9,000 more graduates in 2010 than in 2000. With the new Common Core standards, Kentucky has made a fresh commitment to higher student achievement, and we did it sooner and with greater confidence than any other state in the union.
Results like those are half of Bob Sexton’s legacy. Our engagement as citizens is the other half. Individually and together, we are the people that Bob taught, shaped, and empowered to live out his vision. Loving him and the work he began, we can and will continue building better schools, stronger communities, and larger lives for our next generation.
Having shared that, I adore blogging because I don't have to stop with the short version of a thought, so here's a second take on the same thinking, with both the personal and historical tucked in.

I was in high school during Watergate, the first oil crisis, stagflation and the fall of Saigon.

While I was in college, President Carter diagnosed malaise, Proposition 13 began its steady destruction of California’s public services, and President Reagan took office with promises to abolish the federal education department.

The year I graduated, Alistair MacIntyre offered his memorable prescription for a dying civilization:
What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community in which civility and the moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St Benedict. 
The spirit of that age really seemed focused on accepting decline and finding tiny ways to get by in a time when great building was not possible.

That was 1981—my 1981.

I share all that to so you know why I marvel at Bob Sexton's approach to that same 1981:
The members of the original committee had limited faith that their recommendations would be implemented. As a result, they decided that Kentucky’s political and educational leadership should be emboldened to take daring steps for change in Kentucky higher education. Most important, their work led to a second conclusion, a conviction that, as Ed Prichard said, “Education is a seamless web running from the earliest years through the highest levels of educational achievement.” They were convinced that Kentucky education, from the years of earliest childhood through high school and vocational education, needed radical improvement.
Similarly, the view from 1990 still impresses me:
Thousands of citizens, all over Kentucky, have stepped forward. A quiet revolution has moved through communities. When educational decisions are made, the public is asserting its right to be heard. Kentuckians have made the connection between improved schools and improved jobs –between improved schools and improved lives. In hundreds of communities, our citizens have decided to do something about their own schools; they have joined on the path to a larger life.
The big picture in 2004 is, to my eyes, clearly historic in scale:
These volunteers have shown that commitment, focus, and inclusiveness can produce outstanding results. They shared a deep faith in the power of high-quality education. They trusted in the possibility of progress, even against discouraging conditions. They could envision a better way and knew they and their fellow citizens could reach it. They believed they owned a big share of government and felt personally responsible for making sure it served them and other people well. They were doers, not complainers, who kept their eyes on the prize. Like General Washington, they kept their army in the field. 
While MacIntyre and my favorite college mentors argued that it was time for despair and disengagement, Bob Sexton staked out the opposite claim, marshaled his evidence and made his case.  He strengthened our shared institutions, expanded civic engagement, and accomplished large things through democratic institutions.  He changed our state and inspired new effort across our nation, at a time when many claimed such things were no longer in reach.

These decades, Bob’s decades, have been a time for new planting and fresh growth, bold plans and great building.  The doomsayers in the academy and on the air waves were wrong, and he was right.  Even as we know that there is still huge work to be done, let us celebrate Bob Sexton's vision, his effort, and his successful demonstration that we as citizens can indeed make important new things happen for our children and our communities.

Sources: The MacIntyre quote is from After Virtue (University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), page 245. The next two passages are from the second edition of the Prichard Committee's The Path to a Larger Life (University Press of Kentucky 1990), page xii and xvi, respectively. The last is from Robert F. Sexton, Mobilizing Citizens for Better Schools (Teachers College Press, 2004), page 113.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

South Heights Elementary brings it on!

108 for white students and 108 for African-American students! South Heights Elementary in Henderson County has delivered both excellence and equity in full measure this year.

Those disaggregated index results use a 0-140 scale, with 100 equivalent to the average student being proficient across all subjects.  The index approach is explained here, and results for all schools and districts are available for download here.

I hope to celebrate many other scores as sweet in the years to come, and I know we're getting ready to aim for the higher, college-and-career-ready standards of the future, but thus far, I rank these South Heights results as the loveliest I've seen in my eleven years of sorting through Kentucky results.

Disaggregated index results: mostly forward, nearly all too slow

Here's today's press release:
Achievement gaps continue to impair Kentucky’s overall education progress, according to an analysis of state test scores released today by three statewide groups. Kentucky schools are falling especially short with students with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and African-American backgrounds. Low-income and Hispanic students also scored well below their peers.
The analysis, presented in a "Disaggregated Index Report," was developed by the Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence to monitor school performance during the three years that Kentucky is moving from the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System to a system based on new state standards and testing. The new system was mandated in legislation (Senate Bill 1) enacted by the 2009 General Assembly.
The Disaggregated Index is based on a formula similar to the one used in past years by the Kentucky Department of Education to compare student results based on race, income, and other factors. The partner groups applied the formula to state test scores results, and found that:
• Of all groups studied, only Asian elementary students and gifted students at all levels have reached proficiency.
• White elementary students are the only other group on track to reach proficiency by 2014. White results are improving too slowly in middle and high school.
• Hispanic students, low-income students, and students with disabilities showed improvement at all levels, but at rates too slow to reach proficiency by 2014.
• African-American student results are flat for middle and high school, with a small improvement at the elementary level.
• Asian student results, though high, declined at all three levels.
• Students with limited English proficiency had declining results in middle and high school levels, with slow elementary improvement.
• On the 0-140 scale used in the analysis, gaps of 17 points or more separate African-American students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency from their classmates at every level.
"The goal is to deliver proficiency for each and every child," said Ronda Harmon, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Councils. "These disaggregated index results allow schools to evaluate strengths and tackle weaknesses until the 2012 assessment begins."
"The gaps remain painful and include some worrisome declines, reminding us that we still have major work ahead to provide an equal quality of education for all Kentucky’s children,” said Daviess County Superintendent Tom Shelton, president of the Council for Better Education. "Plus, to be competitive in the global economy, we need every single student to be learning at very high levels, preparing for when the new college-ready standards come into play."
Cindy Heine, interim executive director of the Prichard Committee, saw the report as “a call to action for all Kentucky adults on behalf of all our children.” Heine added that the point of the report was to see the trends clearly and encourage all stakeholders to keep attention on raising performance during the testing transition.
The full report on statewide data, and the file of district and school results are available for download from the KASC website.

A manifesto of lesser ideas

Sunday, the superintendents of some of the nation's largest districts, including New York City and Washington, DC, published a manifesto on "How to fix our schools." I've read it four times, and slept on it for three nights, and I still think it's more wrong than right.

The authors are surely sincere in their desire for school systems that deliver much more for students, and they're certainly right that laying off strong teachers to keep weak ones is bad practice. Likewise, better use of better technology, closer analysis of important student data, and a focus on learning results rather than seat time in class are all good ideas.

What's missing, though, is any serious discussion of the changes within schools that strengthen individual teachers. There's no hint of professional learning communities here. There's no whisper of building the collaborative cultures needed to teach in the ways that actually raise performance and shrink achievement gaps. There's concern about removing teachers who are hopeless, but no matching intensity about building up the much larger group of teachers who can and should do the main work ahead.  The core understanding that the big learning change happens with teams of teachers just isn't there.

That missing element is the essential bridge between education ideas proven in tiny studies and education changes that happen on a scale large enough to change our future.

Add that piece, and American education can reach for historic success.

Leave it out, and we can count on tiny advances, tiny retreats, and an overall legacy of stagnation.

The manifesto's authors left out what matters most.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Testing troubles (in New York)

The Times has a long report up about the assessment uproar in the Empire State.

The basics seem to be that their state department raised the bar this year, so that students who would likely have been counted as proficient on recent past tests are not counted as proficient now.  Where New York City in particular had been celebrating rapid improvement in proficiency levels, the shift came as a shock.

Behind the basics, it sounds like this year's change was driven by weakness in the earlier test design.  The state aimed for a very short and narrow assessment, where everyone knew which content would be included and students could finish quickly. The state also aimed for transparency, releasing each year's test soon after it was given.

As a result, the quick route to higher scores was to drill students on the exact items and other very similar work--and that only equipped students to succeed on that exact test.  When the state switched assessments this year, much of the apparent gain did not carry over.

The most important Kentucky lesson may be about raising standards.   New York in 2010 is working through a shift like the one we have planned for 2012: we're going to test our students against higher standards and need to expect the reports to show lower levels of success.

New Yorkers appear widely shocked by what they've learned from the process.  In Kentucky, we should be aiming for our colleagues and neighbors to be well prepared for the change, expecting for the new results to be a frank statement of the challenges we need to meet in the coming years, but entirely prepared to face those "brutal facts" and get to work changing them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kentuckians starting college

In the fall of 2008:
  • 33,761 Kentucky residents enrolled as first-time students in Kentucky undergraduate programs that award degrees or certificates.
  • 5,500 Kentucky residents enrolled in equivalent programs in other states.
  • 39,261 Kentucky residents total started work toward college degrees or other postsecondary certificates.
  • That's an increase of 1,837 from the matching 2006 numbers.
Also in the fall of 2008:
  • 7,388 residents of other states and 131 people whose residency could not be determined enrolled as first time students in Kentucky undergraduate programs that award degrees or certificates.
  • 41,280 people total started their college studies in Kentucky.
  • That's an increase of 1,279 from 2006.
Those figures come from  Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2008; Graduation Rates, 2002 and 2005 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2008 First Look,  released by the National Center for Educational Statistics in April 2010.

Very loosely, it's worth comparing those 39 thousand Kentuckians starting college to around 46 thousand who finished high school earlier that year (41,275 public graduates, with the rest as an estimate from private schools and home-schools)

It's also worth comparing the 39 thousand enrolling to around 56 thousand who should have graduated (51,339 eighth-graders participating in spring 2004 public-school testing, and the rest as an estimate of nonpublic students that year.)

And, as always, it's worth looking forward to a longitudinal data system that will let us track student progress much more confidently starting a few years from now.

Holliday: Career-ready belongs in the mix

KSBA has shared a great write-up of thoughts that Commissioner Holliday shared with the Kentucky Board of Education yesterday, arguing for our next accountability system to value indicators of readiness of careers as well as for college.  Here's a sample to lure you into reading the whole article:
“Senate Bill 1 didn’t really say ‘career ready;’ it said ‘college ready.’ So we could leave off the whole column (on a chart of proposed scoring percentages) of career ready,” Holliday said, “but I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of support from high schools. They’ll say, ‘Well, I’ve got 34 percent of my kids who don’t go to college.’ You’ve got a lot of high schools who will push back if you don’t have career measurement.”
And here's another.
“The future of Kentucky is on the line here. This, to me, is the big one,” Holliday said. “I’m not adverse to raising the weighting on this one because this ought to be the No. 1 issue for a superintendent of schools – making sure that my K-12 system creates graduates who move on to improve their quality of life and the quality of life in the Commonwealth.”
Click here to read the entire report and consider the Commissioner's full argument.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kentucky education rankings

Here are Kentucky's rankings on the indicators included in the Prichard Committee's new Top 20 update.
New results show Kentucky moving up on nine indicators, either reaching the Top 20 or improving fast enough to get there by 2020. We rank:
  • 9th in fourth-grade reading
  • 12th in higher education funding per pupil
  • 16th in eighth-grade reading
  • 22nd in average teacher salaries
  • 24th in family share of higher education costs
  • 26th in high school graduates starting higher education
  • 28th in completion of associate’s degrees
  • 30th in fourth-grade mathematics
  • 30th in students earning AP college credit
On two indicators, new results show gains too slow to reach the Top 20 on time. We rank:
  • 33rd in high school attainment
  • 42nd in bachelor’s degree attainment
New results show Kentucky stuck or losing ground on five indicators. We rank:
  • 28th in preschool enrollment
  • 34th in eighth-grade math
  • 42nd in bachelor’s degree completion
  • 45th in science, technology, engineering and math as a share of bachelor’s degrees
  • 42nd in elementary and secondary funding per pupil
Four indicators had no new data, with Kentucky still ranking:
  • 9th in fourth-grade science
  • 20th in fourth-grade writing
  • 22nd in eighth-grade science
  • 36th in eighth-grade writing
You can also download the complete report, including scores on each indicator, source information, and key strategies for moving our state all the way into national leadership here.

Pushing closer to Top 20

This afternoon, the Prichard Committee released its first update on its 2008 challenge to move Kentucky into the top twenty states in the country by 2020.  The full report is available at, and here are the core findings:
Most of the new results are good, showing us on track to reach the Top 20 tier of states:
  • Reading results are especially exciting, showing both fourth-grade and eighth-grade Kentucky students reaching the Top 20 for the first time.
  • Student results are moving up quickly enough to reach the Top 20 by 2020 in fourth-grade mathematics, high school Advanced Placement credit, students starting higher education, and the rate of completing associate’s degrees.
  • Our commitment to support student learning also looks strong as we moved forward in teacher salaries, higher education funding and family share of college costs.
However, there are clear grounds for concern in other areas:
  • We improved, but too slowly, in the levels of high school and bachelor’s attainment of young Kentucky adults.
  • We gained no ground in eighth-grade mathematics.
  • We lost ground in preschool enrollment, bachelor’s degree completion, STEM degrees and P-12 funding.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Measuring teacher effectiveness

"Working with Teachers to Develop Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching" summarizes a huge study now in process, in which:
To help identify the best mix of teacher effectiveness measures, more than 3,000 teacher volunteers are participating in the MET project across six predominantly urban school districts: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Dallas Independent School District, Denver Public Schools, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Memphis City Schools, and the New York City Department of Education. Participants teach math and English language arts (ELA) in grades 4–8, Algebra I, grade 9 English, and high school biology. All MET project teachers have agreed to have the following data collected and analyzed:
  • students’ performance on standardized state and supplemental assessments
  • video-based classroom observation (four lessons per teacher per year) and teachers’ reflections on these lessons
  • teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge—an assessment of a teacher’s ability to recognize and diagnose students’ misunderstandings of the lessons
  • students’ perceptions of the instructional environment in the classroom
  • teachers’ perceptions of the working conditions and instructional support at their schools
As the study moves forward, there will be waves of new data on how each of the other factors connects to the core issue of student performance.  Future evaluation systems can then give teachers feedback on their use of the practices that work and more helpful ideas about how they can increase their effectiveness.

The MET study is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and moving on a fast track that calls for preliminary results of the first year's work to be released this fall and final results of the full study to be available by the winter of 2011-12.

Singapore math (good overview)

In contrast to the most common math programs in the United States, Singapore math devotes more time to fewer topics, to ensure that children master the material through detailed instruction, questions, problem solving, and visual and hands-on aids like blocks, cards and bar charts. Ideally, they do not move on until they have thoroughly learned a topic.

Principals and teachers say that slowing down the learning process gives students a solid math foundation upon which to build increasingly complex skills, and makes it less likely that they will forget and have to be retaught the same thing in later years.

And with Singapore math, the pace can accelerate by fourth and fifth grades, putting children as much as a year ahead of students in other math programs as they grasp complex problems more quickly.

That's from today's New York Times article, which also notes that while the books for the Singapore approach have costs in line with other textbooks, equipping teachers to use these methods may need a major professional development investment.

As nearly as I can follow the bidding, our new Common Core math standards share the Singapore notion of studying fewer concepts more deeply, and this approach to teaching will be a credible contender as a school strategy for moving students forward to those new expectations for higher achievement.  There may be some specific elements that do not quite align, but the main thinking truly seems compatible.