Friday, August 17, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Graduation Rates and Goals

Technically, the new data on Kentucky graduation rates is a year old: the Kentucky Department of Education has traditionally released each year's nonacademic results a year later to address various challenges in data collection.  With that caveat, here's the statewide progress of recent years:
Under our new Unbridled Learning accountability system, 2011 graduation rates will be used to set a graduation goals for each school.  Starting from its 2011 rate, each school will be asked to take 11 equal steps up to a 98 percent graduation rate in 2022.   For the state as a whole, those goals will look like this :

Those goals will require improvement of 1.8 points a year, noticeably faster than the 1.3 point growth from 2010 to 2011.  

Source note: Trend chart reflects graduation rates reported by the Kentucky Department of Education.  Goal chart applies the formula set in the new Kentucky Board of Education regulation, 703 KAR 5:225, Section 1(7).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What do teachers make?

Taylor Mali's video at Teaching Channel is three minutes of power and bliss.  There doesn't seem to be a way to embed it, but please do follow the link, enjoy for yourself, and pass it on.

Jefferson County Prospects

My remarks to the Louisville Forum included the historic data I blogged yesterday, followed by some thinking about recent developments and future prospects.   Because Dewey Hensley had already described some of the district's strategies, I shortened and changed some of what I had planned to say, but the substance was the same as this prepared version:

Watching from a distance, I see multiple signs that you are on a stronger track: 
1. Your school board and your superintendent are now setting numerical goals for specific years.  If they follow through with annual reporting, celebrating goals met and confronting goals missed, you’ll be developing a culture that expects improvement year over year. 
2. Dr. Hargens has reorganized your district administration and used the savings to fund assistant principals.  That’s an impressive focus on making resources follow priorities. 
3.  Dr. Hargens has also brought a major shakeup to the Gheens Academy, designed to ensure more responsive professional development and support for your teachers. 
4.  Dewey Hensley, the man without excuses who turned around Atkinson Elementary and provided KDE leadership for your recent high school turnaround, is now your in-district chief academic officer.  
Now, let me add a "theory of action" on what will matter most in the next several years.  I’m sold on the research saying that the approach that raises scores and closes gaps involves a particular kind of learning culture.  It’s one where educators work together regularly, looking at student work to understand what the learners need next, designing changes, and coming back together to see what worked and decide what to improve next.  That approach travels under multiple names: 
·      It’s called "formative assessment "by those emphasize how teachers use the evidence. 
·      It’s called "professional learning communities" by those who emphasize the shared way the evidence gets considered. 
·      It’s called "job-embedded professional development" by those who emphasize the cycle of learning. 
·      And it’s called “instructional leadership” by those who emphasize the roles of principals in building and sustaining that focused work. 
When you read any of the accounts of what’s been changing in your historically troubled high schools, you hear versions of that teachers gathering that evidence, sharing the exploration, and staying in the cycle of identifying needed changes together.  You also hear principals focusing on helping that happen—and that’s where adding those assistant principals can be an excellent first step. 
In the coming year or two, the central issue will be making or solidifying that change in school after school. That’s a tough kind of priority because no school board can do it by policy and no superintendent can do it by memorandum.  It takes lasting engagement, with the central leadership making sure it’s a priority for school leadership, fending off distractions and sending in resources—and dedicated people in each building doing the most important work for themselves. 
So, the way to find out what’s happening, without waiting for the state scores, will be to ask teachers and principals what’s happening. Listen for reports of teams working together to examine work and plan instruction. Listen for reports of having time for that because other requirements have been pushed aside.  Listen for principals spending more time in classrooms.  Especially, listen for examples of students making breakthroughs their teachers hadn’t previously thought were in reach—because when teachers find the ways to do that, they’re excited and they’re exciting. 
It can be done.  Your children need for it to be done, and to be frank, the rest of Kentucky needs Jefferson County back in a leadership role. You’re the leading engine of our statewide economy, and in an information age, we need you as the leading engine of our learning economy as well.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jefferson County Update: High school progress, with elementary and middle difficulties

The Louisville Forum took a fresh look at the Jefferson County Public Schools this past week, and I was honored to be on the panel with Dewey Hensley (the district's Chief Academic Officer) and David Hawpe (former editorial director of the Courier-Journal).

Before sharing my analysis of JCPS test scores, I want to emphasize that Superintendent Donna Hargens has been on the job for one year and scores for that one year have not yet been released.  These numbers define the challenge she accepted and do not reflect on her strategic choices.

I began by pointing out the district's huge strengths: an adult population with substantially higher educational attainment and a community willing to support its schools at substantially higher levels than the rest of Kentucky.  And then (with small adjustments as I spoke), I said this:

To me, all of that says that Jefferson County ought to be in a leadership position.  Your schools should be delivering results in the top third of the state, and educators from elsewhere should flocking here to learn about your successful innovations.
 Unfortunately, that is not what is happening academically in your elementary and middle schools, and it wasn’t happening in your high schools until the state stepped in aggressively.
 Our statewide assessment shows results for grades 3-8, but I’ll keep things short with two subjects and one grade from each level.  I’m going to compare your districts rates of proficiency to other districts rates for similar students.
 In 2011 fourth grade reading, comparing percent of students reaching proficiency
·      89 percent of Kentucky districts had stronger results than Jefferson county for all students
·      92 percent had stronger results for low-income students
·      84 percent had stronger results for African-American students
 In 2011 fourth grade mathematics:
·      86 percent had stronger results for all students
·      90 percent had stronger results for low-income students
·      76 percent had stronger results for African American students
 In 2011 seventh grade reading
·      84 percent had stronger results for all students
·      87 percent had stronger results for low-income students
·      77 percent had stronger results for African-American students
 In 2011 seventh grade mathematics
·      87 percent had stronger results for all students
·      92 percent had stronger results for low-income students
·      79 percent had stronger results for African American students
 Of those comparative twelve results, only two are better than they were two years ago. Seven are worse, and three are flat.
  Now, I’m glad to be able to report that your high schools look much healthier.
 In 2011 tenth grade reading,
·      Only 31 percent of districts had stronger results than yours for all students
·      Only 42 percent had stronger results for low income students
·      Only 26 percent had stronger results for African-American students
 In 2011 eleventh grade mathematics,
·      Only 17 percent of districts had stronger results than yours for all students
·      Only 33 percent had stronger results for low-income students
·      Only 23 percent had stronger results for African-American students
 Those are big jumps into the lead.  Since I spoke here about 2009 results, you passed between 18 and 26 percent of other districts in those subjects for those kids.
 So, between the districts that are outscoring you and the districts you’re rapidly proven you can outscore, enough already with saying you’re urban and your children can’t handle the work. They can, and what’s happened in your high schools is a down payment on what you should expect across the board.
 More than that, from here on out, you shouldn’t need either the state or the federal government to tell you it’s time to turn things around.  That high school turnaround owes a lot to state pressure, but the middle and elementary steps should come from your own community’s demands.
Tomorrow, I'll share from what I said about the strategies that have been deployed in Jefferson County and the key things I hope citizens will listen for as signs that the strategies are taking effect.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Impact of Top Teaching Talent: Watch this video of Ali Crowley, teacher in Lexington, Kentucky

Monday, August 6, 2012

Higher Education Graduation Rates

In today's "Doonesbury" strip, Walden University's top administrators worry over by an 18 percent four-year graduation rate--plus reports that 65 percent never graduate at all.

Inspired, I've pulled both four-year and six-year rates for Kentucky's public private universities from the NCES College Navigator.   Half our state schools outpace Walden in four years, and all but one do better by their students in the long run.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A framework for Kentucky teaching

Kentucky's new Professional Growth and Evaluation System (PGES) is being designed around five major domains of strong teaching:
  1. Planning and Preparation
  2. Classroom Environment
  3. Instruction
  4. Professional Responsibilities
  5. Student Growth
For the first four items, the design is building on Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, using the 2011 edition.  Ms. Danielson is a widely respected expert on effective teaching and on the creation of evaluation systems that can identify teaching quality and encourage growth.  

The last item, Student Growth, will require careful Kentucky-specific design work.  It's easy to imagine comparing test data from one year to another to decide how much a particular teacher added to student achievement--but it's actually very hard to make that happen. Some reasons:
  • Kentucky's new assessment system can produce year-to-year comparison data for reading and mathematics in six of the thirteen K-12 grades: grades 4-8, using grade 3 scores as a starting point, plus grade 11 by comparing that year's ACT scores to the previous grade's Plan results.  That means that most grades and most subjects need another solution.
  • Matching teachers with students can be surprisingly difficult.  If a student changes schools two months before testing, is the old teacher or the new one responsible?  What if the switch happens two days before the test?  Even within a school, students may switch classes for many reasons, and the student data system may not be quite up to date on which changes have been made.
  • Small numbers can yield weak data.  In general, the more students are tested, the more confidence testing experts have in the results.  Data on thousands of students will be more trusted than data on hundreds, which is why state and school accountability calculations are fairly sturdy.  An individual teacher may have just two dozen students, making it very uncertain whether a particular set of results represent that person's overall effectiveness well.  For students with disabilities, class sizes can be even smaller, and the needed learning approaches can be hugely different from one student to the next.
To tackle these challenges, the Teacher Effectiveness Steering Committee is looking at ways for teachers and principals themselves to take the lead in identifying appropriate measures where test data is not a good option.

This earlier post shares the basics of how and why PGES is being developed.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Starting Teacher Salary $100,000?

Check out the blog Public Engagement and Ed Reform on Ed Week to read the post about $100,000 as a starting salary and the reactions to it:

Aiming higher, scoring lower

Within a few months, we'll see the first scores from Kentucky's new assessment and accountability system, which means we'll be taking a frank look at where our students now stand compared to strong standards of readiness for college and career.

One good way to imagine what's coming is to think about one of those four-foot-high Fisher-Price basketball hoops.  Anyone who switches from one of those to a regulation court is going to score fewer goals the first season.

Kentucky testing is about to go through the same sort of shift, moving from an old definition of proficiency to a new one that fits better with what students will need in global competition.

While the Department still has some work to do to finalize the scoring system and calculate the statewide results, Commissioner Holiday is now sharing initial estimates that involve big drops.  Here's a comparison, reformatted from numbers shared by the Kentucky School Boards Association:

This is a hard thing, but a good thing: we're now aiming for what our children need, with an honest look at how much we must change to make those higher goals reality.

Friday, August 3, 2012

PGES: basics of a new approach to teacher growth and evaluation.

With a new school year beginning, many Kentucky schools will be participating in deeper field tests of a new Professional Growth and Evaluation System for teachers, often called PGES.

That system is being designed on a multi-year timetable that has already included:
  • Sustained involvement from 54 districts providing ideas, feedback, and field-testing work.
  • Guidance from the Teacher Effectiveness Steering Committee, with a parallel group steering work on principal effectiveness. (Cindy Heine and I represent the Prichard Committee at the teacher meetings.)
  • Creation of "framework documents" identifying the overall description of the qualities to be sought and developed in all teachers and principals.
  • 2011-12 field tests of some of the multiple measures that will be used to determine where individual educators stand and how they can further develop their skills.
The major next steps in the process will include:
  • 2012-13 field-testing of all of the multiple measures.
  • 2013-14 statewide piloting of the new system
  • 2014-15 statewide implement of the new system.
Kentucky is doing this work for multiple reasons:
  • Because it allows Kentucky to qualify for $17 million in Race to the Top funding.
  • Because it allows Kentucky to qualify for flexibility under No Child Left Behind.
  • Because the new Unbridled Learning accountability system is designed to include data on "Next-Generation Professionals"
  • Most of all, because it's the right work to strengthen our students by strengthening the educators who guide their learning.