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.