Friday, December 23, 2011

Race to the Top success!

Kentucky will receive $17 million in federal funding for innovative work to raise student achievement under the Race to the Top program, including investments in the ongoing CIITS and AdvanceKentucky efforts.

CIITS is short for the Continuous Instructions Improvement Technology System, a major integrated approach to supporting Kentucky teachers, personalizing students' learning and educators' professional growth, and coordinating school and district planning.  With the federal funding, Kentucky will implement planned CIITS components that organize educator effectiveness ratings, integrate new models for measuring effective teaching, and support formative assessment.

AdvanceKentucky expands student access to rigorous Advanced Placement coursework, with heavy emphasis on science and mathematics classes and participation in AP testing as a measure of results.

For more information on this exciting news, you can check out:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Accountability and beyond: Adding the collaboration

In yesterday's post, I argued that accountability is not enough: success for students requires sustained, focused collaboration for teachers. Today, I want to flag some key ways we can get that done.

First, let's note that in many places in Kentucky, important parts of that work is getting done.  That kind of collaboration is what sets our high performance, high poverty schools apart.  It's what makes our most exciting districts so exciting.  I believe it's what has moved our students above national average in NAEP science and reading, and to national average in mathematics.

From a state perspective, the question is how we can get that to happen in many more places--in 174 districts and more than 1,200 schools--and how we can get it to happen faster.

Here are some things I think Kentucky is doing well to build that implementation:
  • Networks. As we implement our new standards, the state model for capacity building is built on sustained collaboration.  In regional networks, small groups of teachers from each district are coming together to explore the standards, plan ways to apply teaching strategies that can bring the standards to life, try them out, and then gather again to discuss the results, refine the approaches, and then try them again.
  • Intervention. We've long had an accountability approach to low-performing schools that worked in most places, so that most schools placed in state assistance improved their work enough not to need it after two years or sometimes four.    For the smaller set of persistently low-achieving schools, we've recently changes our approach.  The Department has moved to more intensive assistance, focused on much deeper work with the teachers in those schools.  Along with the assistance, state leaders have also dramatically increased public pressure on those schools and their districts, so that local efforts have also intensified.  So far, I think we're seeing good early results from this stronger approach.
Still, we need to do more, and here are some of the most important challenges to keep the implementation building:
  • Expansion. The regional networks reach a few teachers, but then depend on local leaders to find ways to spread the same opportunities more widely.  At the Prichard Committee's fall meeting, we heard that some districts are doing that very well, but others are doing weaker work.  We need additional ways to get all educators strong opportunities to build their skills.
  • Time. Collaboration needs time, and time costs money.  In the current fiscal situation, that's going to require courage all around.  At the local level, it means doing more with less and doing the most important things first--and I believe that teacher growth is the most important priority for creating student growth. At the state level, it means restoring funding already cut, and moving beyond that to provide truly adequate funding for what we've asked teaches to do.  
  • Culture.  We must move to a shared and intense agreement that professional learning communities are   truly essential to effective educational practice.  By professional learning communities, I mean the full definition: sustained shared effort that analyzes student work in relation to standards, plans effective instructional improvements, implements them, and repeats in an ongoing cycle of collaborative improvement.
Those pieces, combined over a sustained period, can turn goals we've set into goals we meet.

That's why, to close the loop from yesterday's post, consequential accountability is both important and not enough.  The central element we are working add, with some good progress and plenty more to go,  is teacher implementation of sound strategies, built through sustained collaboration with colleagues.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Accountability is not enough

The Fordham Institute is planning a major discussion of the question "Has Accountability Run Its Course?"  The announcement for the January 4 event says:
Ten years ago, George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, the law that has dominated U.S. education—and the education policy debate—for the entire decade. While lawmakers are struggling to update that measure, experts across the political spectrum are struggling to make sense of its impact and legacy. Did NCLB, and the consequential accountability movement it embodied, succeed? And with near-stagnant national test scores of late, is there reason to think that this approach to school reform is exhausted? If not “consequential accountability,” what could take the U.S. to the next level of student achievement?
Here's my answer: accountability plus teacher implementation of sound strategies, built through sustained collaboration with colleagues.

Some accountability plans assume that teachers already know what to do and how to do it.  If that were true, then carrots and sticks would be very likely to work.  Nationally, I think No Child Left Behind has been a huge trial of that theory, producing some progress but nowhere near enough.

Some other accountability plans assume that teachers may not know how to do it yet, but they can quickly figure it out.  It looks me like that was the KERA theory.  The Department would create guidance documents and brief district leaders, district leaders would brief teachers, Regional Service Centers would provide back up support, and four professional development days (or maybe nine for just a few years) would be plenty of time to get the strategies up and running.  We got some important improvement from that approach, but we, too, did not get the full scale of change we wanted and expected.

From accountability efforts to date, I believe we should learn that the teaching strategies that can make the biggest difference are not, in fact, obvious and easy for teachers to implement.  Instead, understanding and applying them requires long cycles of learning: exploring a key idea, applying it in practice, reflecting on what happens, applying it in practice with some new insight, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Further, even if a teacher develops tremendous skill at using that idea with most kids, every group of student will include a few that need a variant approach, so there will always be more to learn and more to puzzle out.  That means teachers will always need one another, and the collaborative learning process will always need to be a central part of how strong schools do strong work.

Winning at basketball requires a scoreboard--but it also requires practice, coaching, and teamwork to develop winning skills.  Winning in education requires matching elements: first goals, assessments, and consequences, and then also sustained, focused collaboration among teachers to develop the deep skills that will move all students to success.

(Tomorrow: some thoughts on how Kentucky can build and sustain that collaboration.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kentucky assessments: which subjects, which grades

The chart above offers a quick overview of how Kentucky students will be assessed under Kentucky's new accountability system, starting in the current school year.   

I take great pride in Kentucky's commitment to assessing that rich array of subjects, something that sets us apart from most other states.  We've done small and large adjustments to our standards and small and 
large adjustments to our assessments over the last two decades, but the key idea that we set standards, measure results, and value performance in a broad set of subjects is still a strong value for our state.

 When I think about our rising science NAEP scores, I think science accountability has to have helped us make that growth. Similarly, when I think about our NAEP reading scores, I think accountability for science and social studies is likely to have helped there as well.  

Like many others, I'm watching closely for developments in arts & humanities, practical living/career studies, and the kind of sustained writing that is included in writing portfolios.  We no longer assess student performance in those subjects, but instead use program reviews to check that schools provide robust learning opportunities in those content areas. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Enrollment, staffing, and a possible option for teacher learning time

In the fall of 2008, Kentucky enrolled 1.35 percent of all students enrolled in public schools nationwide in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Our share of public school staff was at or below that 1.35 percent level in three categories, with Kentucky having:
  • 1.05 percent of student support staff nationwide
  • 1.28 percent of instruction coordinators
  • 1.34 percent of administrative support staff
  • 1.35 percent of teachers

 Our share of public school staff was above the nationwide level in the other categories, including:
  • 1.36 percent of guidance counselors nationwide
  • 1.50 percent of officials and administrators
  • 1.91 percent of principals and assistant principals
  • 1.92 percent of instructional aides
  • 2.03 percent of other support services staff
  • 2.08 percent of librarians
  • 2.13 percent of school and library support staff

If instead, Kentucky schools and districts had consistently had 1.39 percent of each kind of staff, we would have had:
  • 771 additional student support staff
  •  51 additional instruction coordinators
  •  31 additional administrative support staff
  •  62 additional teachers
  •  4 fewer guidance counselors
  •  92 fewer officials and administrators
  •  889 fewer principals and assistant principals

  •  393 fewer librarians
  •  2,212 fewer school and library support staff
  •  4,155 fewer instructional aides
  •  7,990 fewer other support services staff
  • 14,819 fewer total p-12 employees

Back in March 2009, I posted a similar analysis using Fall 2005 data. As I wrote then:
I’m not arguing that Kentucky should staff schools to those averages. There may be important benefits to what we do differently, and our students may have different needs. I do think, though, that this is an interesting mirror to look in, inviting us to think about how we currently staff public education.
Later that year, after updating with Fall 2006 numbers, I added a question I still think is important: 
To build teaching quality, we should want every teacher involved in professional learning community work as part of every workweek. Could we change these numbers, either adding teachers or lengthening teachers’ workdays, to make that collaborative time easier to find?
(Source note: the data for this analysis comes from the Digest of Education Statistics 2010, using tables 38 and 85. The staff analysis is based on full-time equivalents.)

College costs get White House attention

Rapid growth in college tuition will get some new attention Monday.  Inside Higher Ed reports that:

President Obama has invited the presidents or chancellors of 10 colleges or state university systems to a meeting at the White House on Monday to discuss affordability and productivity in higher education. The move is highly unusual: While administration events often feature college leaders in various roles, a meeting called on such short notice, with the president himself in attendance, is rare.

Berea President Larry Shinn is the one invitee going from a Kentucky institution, and there's a second Kentucky connection in F. King Alexander, currently president of California State University at Long Beach, who led Murray State from 2001 to 2005.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Common Core QuickNotes

While Kentucky moves forward rapidly with Common Core implementation, the Common Core now has large growing support, seasoned by smaller but also growing opposition, around the country. Here's some of what's happening elsewhere:

  •  Chicago's Perez Elementary School was very successful on older assessments and moved last year into pilot work with Common Core. The results were a blunt wake up call: roughly one third of elementary and one quarter of middle school students could meet the new expectations. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard see the Perez results as signals about what global competition will require and why the new standards are important. 
  • Alabama's Governor, Robert Bentley wants Common Core repealed for his state, but the state board voted 6-3 to reject a resolution to that effect on November 11. 
  • An American Legislative Exchange Council task force voted December 1 to move forward with model legislation "opposing adoption or implementation of common standards." ALEC develops legislative proposals it sees as supporting free-market and libertarian approaches.Supporters of the drafting work argue that Common Core is an undue federal intrusion. Opponents, including Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, argued strongly that their states made their own local choice to be part of Common Core, but did not prevail in the Task Force vote. The ALEC board of directors will make the final decision

Common Core support from the Chamber

"We believe these more rigorous standards represent the change that employers advocate.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Adkisson shared that judgment with a Paducah audience Thursday, providing a ringing endorsement of the Common Core as a statement of what students need to be career-ready as well as college-ready.

Expect more of that strong backing in coming months. KyChamberBlog reports that Adkisson's appearance along with Commissioner Holliday
marked the beginning of an initiative that will emphasize the importance of business support for improving Kentucky students’ preparation to succeed in college and the workplace. The Kentucky Chamber Foundation is spearheading the effort, which is being conducted in partnership with the Department of Education and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sec. Duncan's Praise and Challenge for Kentucky

For 20 years, Kentucky has helped lead the nation where it needs to go. You have seen dramatic results from your commitment to reform, and you understand the importance of the task at hand.  
Education must be the one great equalizer in America. We can never forget that children have only one chance to get a great education. Working together with creativity, courage, and commitment, Kentucky can provide a world-class education for all children in your state.  
Thank you for your seriousness of purpose. Thank you for your sense of urgency. Thank you for the example you continue to set for all of us. 
Okay, that's the dessert, served first. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke on November 10 at the "Improving Productivity in Kentucky's Schools and Districts" conference in Louisville.

His core message was the importance of finding truly productive ways to transform education, using dollars more efficiently to raise student achievement, with professional development and technology innovations at the center.  Transportation adjustments and consistent building repairs can contribute, but the central work has to transform classroom learning to build excellence in troubled financial times.  Secretary Duncan argued forcefully:
So whether we like it or not, it’s clear that schools are going to be faced with the challenge of doing more with less for the foreseeable future. This is what we are calling the New Normal that everyone involved in education must grapple with. We must be smart, and we must be strategic.
That thinking, the substantive "meal" served up in Louisville, is worth a close read.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 NAEP Scores: Another Step Toward Top 20

Here's the message Stu Silberman sent out yesterday afternoon...

Dear friends and colleagues,

More good news has arrived about our students' scores on reading and math on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (or NAEP-often called the nation's report card). Our results this time are at or above the national average in both subjects for both fourth- and eighth-graders. Additional exciting news is in the disaggregated results for students who receive free and reduced-price lunch, students with disabilities, African-American students and Hispanic students.

Of course, this doesn't mean we can relax our efforts: our kids still need to achieve at higher levels to be sure they can meet future challenges, and our achievement gaps are still clearly too large. We still have a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, these results show Kentucky moving into national leadership, and we should celebrate that fact even as we continue the important work of lifting student achievement even higher.

And now the details, both in graphs and rankings.

In fourth grade reading, Kentucky students ranked:
  • 11th overall (down from 9th in 2009)
  • 3rd   among students qualifying for free and reduced lunch
  • 3rd   among students with disabilities
  • 9th   among African-American students*
  • 2nd  among Hispanic students*
In 8th grade reading, Kentucky students ranked:
  • 13th  overall (up from 16th in 2009)
  • 3rd    among students qualifying for free and reduced price lunches
  • 6th    among students with disabilities
  • 26th  among African-American students*
  • 1st    among Hispanic students*

In fourth grade math, Kentucky students ranked:
  • 25th  overall (up from 30th in 2009)
  • 19th  among students qualifying for free and reduced price lunches
  • 12th  among students with disabilities
  • 23rd  among African-American students*
  • 8th    among Hispanic students*

In eighth grade math, Kentucky students ranked:
  • 31st overall (up from 34th in 2009)
  • 20th among students qualifying for free and reduced price lunches
  • 17th among students with disabilities
  • 26th among African-American students*
  • 27th among Hispanic students*
You can find more detailed information about these results here:    
* Some other states have no reported results for African-American or Hispanic students. The rankings listed here are adjusted to the equivalent of 50 state rankings for fairness of comparison. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Giving Challenge


I'm writing today with a time-sensitive request that may give the Prichard Committee an enormous boost in reaching our fundraising goals.

At 7:59 a.m. today, Blue Grass Community Foundation and Smiley Pete Publishing (Chevy Chaser, Southsider and Business Lexington Magazines) officially launched their GoodGiving Guide Challenge, and we're thrilled to be a part of it. These two organizations have combined their efforts to promote scores of Kentucky nonprofits and have set a goal of raising over $100,000 before the end of the year. They've also lined up several challenge grants to award bonus money to the nonprofits who raise the most donors and dollars.

Can you help us win those challenges by giving right now at

In addition to the challenges for nonprofits, Smiley Pete has lined up a ton of thank you gifts to individuals who give at different levels.

Give now to receive some of these fabulous gifts donated from the GoodGiving Guide Challenge's sponsors.

If you're planning on including us in your charitable giving plans this year, please consider making your donation today.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Rachel Belin

PS - If you don't feel you can donate at this point, will you consider forwarding this email to 5 of your friends? Many of the prizes are based on number of donors, and we'd greatly appreciate the introduction to your friends and family.

Monday, October 24, 2011

NCLB waiver? Or a new law?

Kentucky is quickly developing an application for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind accountability rules.  Our plan will ask to use our new "Unbridled Learning" system of scoring and consequences in place of the current "Adequate Yearly Progress" or "AYP" method.  Though the proposal still needs feedback and another round of revisions, we know it will include commitments to intervention in our lowest achieving schools and to new professional growth and evaluation procedures that include attention to student achievement results.

But what if the waivers never happen?

Last week, the Senate Education Committee reported out the "Harkin-Enzi" bill designed to replace NCLB.  Under that bill, states would not be required to set separate goals for disaggregated subgroups and would not be required to go nearly as far on professional growth and evaluations.  Key players in the Senate are explicitly saying they want to pass the bill this calendar year so that the waiver plans never go into effect.  I'm following these developments through EdWeek's Politics K-12 blog, which often provides several updates a day.

In short, there's a live political process underway that could short-circuit the waiver plans and replace them with new rules that are currently being negotiated in Congress.

For Kentucky students, teachers, parents, and citizens, this means that we really do not know which accountability rules will apply at the end of the current school year.

Fortunately, we do know our overall goals for students.  I'm pretty sure that strong work to meet our new Kentucky Core Academic Standards will pay off no matter which scoring rules apply.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Preschool for social justice

Nicholas Kristof has a great new piece up in the New York Times, arguing that "the single step that would do the most to reduce inequality has nothing to do with finance at all. It’s an expansion of early childhood education."  It includes a great overview of the research on the importance of students early foundations, and is definitely worth a read.  The title "Occupy the Classroom" plays wonderfully off of current political mobilizations!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seeing those gaps

Graphs like these are supposed to be painful: please do take a look and see where we're letting students get less than they need.  Snapshots like the ones below are why an index calculation matters: when all the results for each group are combined in a single number, the disturbing parts are hard to miss.

Achievement gaps remain severe:

From Monday's press release, with graphs to follow in upcoming posts:

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 while Kentucky made a three-year shift from the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System to the Unbridled Learning system based on new state standards and assessments. 2011 is the last year of that transition, and the last year the three groups will issue this type of report.

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 and middle school students and gifted students at all levels have reached a score of 100, equivalent to the average student being proficient in all tested subjects under the state’s old standards
  • No other student groups are on track to reach 100 by 2014
  • Students of both sexes and all ethnic backgrounds are improving, but improving too slowly
  • Students with limited English proficiency had flat or declining results at all levels
  • On the 0-140 scale used in the analysis, gaps of 10 points or more separate African-American students, students with disabilities, migrant students, 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 now, before the new assessment scores arrive."

"The gaps remain painful and too many of those gaps are growing wider, reminding us that we still have major work ahead to provide an equal quality of education for all Kentucky’s children,” said Fayette 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 aiming to meet Kentucky’s new goals for college and career readiness."

Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee, saw the report as “a call to action for all Kentucky adults on behalf of all our children.” Silberman 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 is available at, along with results for each school and district in Kentucky and an earlier report on overall results and subject-level trends released by the same groups in September.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Debates About What Is Really Best

Listed below are some of the topics being debated about educational reform. What are your thoughts about these?

Student Achievement - Everyone wants our students to receive a world class education and be able to compete in the global environment. Here are some of the questions being discussed and debated in this area:

• Where do we rank nationally and internationally? Is that good or bad?
• How bad are the achievement gaps? What needs to happen to close these gaps?
• Does the federal “No Child Left Behind” law help or hurt? Should there be penalties and sanctions for not making 100%?
• Should the U.S. follow what some countries do in only allowing the highest performing students to attend high schools that lead to college?
• With Finland being considered at the top of the international lists for educating students, should the U.S. model what they are doing? What are they doing differently and would that work here?
• How important is “college and career readiness” and do tests like the ACT test truly predict this? Do remedial courses in college really make a difference and are they needed?
• What is the actual and real dropout rate from high school? Is this important and how do we deal with this? What about the dropout rate from college?
• Should the age for compulsory attendance be raised from 16 to 18 years of age?
* Do we need to provide high quality pre-schools for ALL students?
• Is the culture of a school a determining factor in student achievement?
• Is more time in the day and school year needed to raise achievement?
• Should class size be significantly reduced?
• Is a solution gender based classrooms and individualized instruction for all?
• Does the leadership of the school determine the outcomes?
• How should technology and virtual learning be utilized?
• How important is early childhood education? How do we balance developmentally appropriate practices with the need for school readiness data? Should incoming kindergarten kids be assessed?
• What about dual credit courses (with high schools and colleges) and early college enrollment programs? Should they be allowed?
• Competency based or seat time credit? Should students be able to test out of classes in high school?
• Should every child make at least a year’s growth each year?
• Should students be retained if they cannot do the work? Are there a maximum number of times a student should be retained?
• Should schools be responsible for health and wellness of students including issues like obesity?

Curriculum and Standards - There are intense debates about what should be taught and what should not be taught along with the debate about high stakes testing. Listed below are some of these topics:

• Are the new Common Core Standards what we need? Do people know what these are? How do we help teachers, parents, and students understand the standards?
• Are standards needed? What levels of math and science, for example, should be required? Should topics like sex education and evolution be taught in schools?
• Should the arts and humanities be part of the accountability system?
• Is requiring proficiency in a foreign language important?
• Are textbooks needed or can online electronic books and materials be used?
• Should schools, teachers, and students be ranked and compared statewide and nationally for academics, graduation rates, etc.?
• Should homework be part of a student’s academic grade or be a separate grade?
• How should students with special needs both in areas of disabilities and giftedness be served?

Accountability and Testing - There is a lot of debate about high stakes testing. Below are some of the questions being discussed:

• How much should we be testing students using standardized tests?
• What should an accountability system look like? Do we need accountability systems?
• What does it mean to be proficient and who decides what proficiency is?
• Does testing inhibit creativity?
• Is there an alternative to standardized testing and still have accountability?
• Are teachers teaching to the test? Is teaching to the test good or bad?
• What about the Atlanta cheating scandal? Can that happen to us?
• Should statewide end of course exams be part of a student’s grade?
• What about students being required to pass a statewide proficiency test in order to graduate from high school?
• How should accountability be extended to postsecondary, particularly in the preparation of teachers?

Teachers - At the heart of our educational systems is the teacher. These are some of the major questions being debated nationally about teachers:

• How should teachers be evaluated and should those evaluations be tied to student performance and then to pay? Can evaluations be used to significantly improve instruction?
• Should teacher pay be differentiated based on the subjects taught with the highest pay going to areas in most demand or should pay be equal and based upon education and experience?
• Should schools be allowed to hire teachers and administrators from organizations like Teach for America who have not gone through formal teacher certification programs in college?
• Is the pay for teachers too low or too high? What if we changed the benefit structure to make benefits less generous and salary more generous on the front end of a teacher’s career? Would a starting salary of six figures for teachers change the profession?
• What is the impact of the U.S. teacher salaries being ranked 22nd out of 27 countries?
• Why are so many teachers leaving the profession?
• Are teacher unions a help or a hindrance?
• Should tenure for teachers and college professors be abolished?
• How much time is needed for professional development and collaboration, and what does that look like to be effective?
• How can professional development for teachers and school leaders be relevant and helpful for improving teaching and learning? What should it look like and who should decide this?
• Are colleges and universities doing a good job in preparing teachers, principals, and superintendents?

Factors Outside the classroom - There is much debate about the role of influences outside the classrooms and how they impact the educational process.

• Can students who live in poverty learn at high levels? Is poverty the problem?
• What is the role of the parent at home?
• Is parent involvement at school important and what does effective and systemic involvement look like?
• What should be the role of the business community? The faith based community? Coalitions?
• Are before and after school tutoring and enrichment programs needed?
• Should extra-curricular activities like sports, music, drama, clubs, etc. continue?

School Choice - The debate about school choice is very intense. It is very important to look at the data and research before coming to a conclusion in these areas.

* Do we need Charter schools? Do they work?
• Should public funding be used for vouchers to private schools?
• What about schools and programs of innovation within the current systems?
• Are alternative schools with different structures and approaches effective and needed?
• Should home schools be legal?
• Do you favor neighborhood schools? Magnet schools?
• What about vocational and technical schools – are they needed?
• How about having virtual schools available for all students?

Funding - Some say we are spending too much on education while others argue that we are not spending enough. This is also an intense debate.

• Is funding adequate to accomplish the goals?
• Is funding equitable between districts?
• Are schools and colleges good stewards of the funding that is currently provided?
• Is there equity/adequacy in funding for special needs—poverty, transience, disabilities, English language learning, and giftedness?
• Are employee benefits costs such as health insurance, retirement, and sick leave reasonable? What about the minimum number of years of service for full retirement for educators (27 years)? Should this be changed?
• Should Kentucky teachers be required to start paying into the social security system?
• How does Kentucky’s higher education spending compare to other states?
• Should we accept significant federal funding if it means following their guidelines?

Governance - There is also a debate about how to best govern schools in terms of boards of education, site based councils, etc.

• Should the state and federal departments of education be eliminated?
• Do we need to do away with site based councils? Boards of Education?
• Should board members be paid salaries?
• If schools follow the business model will it make a positive difference?
• Should school board members be appointed or elected?
• Should city government (mayors, judge executives) govern the schools?

As you can see from the above, education reform and teaching and learning are very complex. Before anyone makes a decision about any of these issues it is critical that the decision go beyond a general feeling. There is a lot of research and a multitude of data out there about each of these issues that must be reviewed carefully and examined before coming to any final conclusions. We at the Prichard Committee will be coming back to discuss these issues in more depth in the months ahead but would welcome you to share your thoughts at any time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Literacy, math, teaching effectiveness work expands (with Gates support)

PrichBlog readers will be delighted by this news: Kentucky is beginning a major expansion of implementation of the literacy and mathematics strategies being supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to be integrated with work linked to the Measures of Effective Teaching project.  Here's the Kentucky Department of Education's press release:

  (FRANKFORT, Ky.) – An $8.8 million, three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support teachers and students in 12 school districts, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) announced today. 
This investment, known as an “Integration Grant,” will support the integration of several critical streams of work – measures of effective teaching, implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the development of innovative tools and resources to help teachers deliver instruction.  
Kentucky is one of three states, including Colorado and Louisiana, to receive an Integration Grant from the foundation. 
“The 12 school districts involved in this work will be models for the rest of the state,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Their efforts will be crucial to Kentucky’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Students will receive meaningful and rigorous instruction, while their teachers will be supported through high-quality resources and measurement of their effectiveness.” 
Kentucky’s grant will be used to: 
  • build capacity among instructional leaders, principals and teachers to deploy high-quality literacy tasks and mathematics formative assessment lessons 
  • implement a professional growth and evaluation system to measure effective instructional practices and supports for continuous improvement 
  • implement a delivery plan for tracking and monitoring usage of the professional growth and evaluation system
This project will be implemented with 12 partner districts: Daviess County, Fleming County, Gallatin County, Jackson Independent, Jessamine County, Lee County, Owen County, Washington County, Jefferson County, Kenton County, Magoffin County and Simpson County. 
The partnership between KDE and these school districts will allow district and school leaders to collaborate on content and provide instructional support to teachers. It also will be used to validate and implement Kentucky’s teacher and principal effectiveness system. By the end of this grant period, Kentucky will have better student outcomes as a result of more effective teachers, shown by a valid and reliable evaluation model that includes multiple measures of effectiveness.  
“Kentucky is showing the nation how to accomplish thoughtful, deep integration,” said Vicki Phillips, director of College Ready Programs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The Kentucky Integration Grant supports effective teaching in every way: professional development, development of new tools aligned to the Common Core State Standards and real-time feedback that helps teachers improve their practice.” 
The Kentucky work will focus on improving teaching and learning through literacy and math strategies in the partner districts and schools. KDE will use regional networks of English/language arts and mathematics content specialists and Effectiveness Coaches to work with teachers in partner districts to implement the instructional resources and tools in classrooms, in addition to assisting integration districts on the teacher and principal effectiveness component. 
For this school year, 12 school districts have been chosen to serve as integrated strategy districts – demonstration sites that will focus on implementing the math formative assessments and literacy tasks in selected schools. In the second year of the grant, more schools in the 12 integration districts will be added to increase teacher participation in mathematics across grade levels and engage additional content teachers in literacy implementation. In the final year of the grant, teachers from the first and second years of implementation will be videotaped so these resources may be used in professional development and training opportunities for other teachers. Model lesson plans, tasks and assignments related to literacy and mathematics will be distributed. Integrated Strategy Districts were selected in part based on the buy-in of superintendents, district leadership, teachers’ unions and school councils. Another important consideration was commitment to teacher release time and pay stipends for teacher-leader participation. In addition, other factors such as school improvement status, geographic representation and the concentration of students eligible for free/reduced-price meals were considered. 
Kentucky’s Integration Grant builds on earlier investments by the Gates Foundation, including an effort to through the Kentucky Department of Education to support the state’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards through regional networks