Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stu Interviews KEA Executive Director, Mary Ann Blankenship

Stu interviews Mary Ann Blankenship, Executive Director of the Kentucky Education Association about Kentucky's progress and reform efforts.

Stu Interviews KEA Executive Director, Mary Ann Blankenship

Experience at Education Nation

Experience at Education Nation

Kris Gillis,a Dixie Heights High School English Teacher for Kenton County Schools, talks about three days at EducationNation.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership Opens Many Doors

Julie Pile is a GCIPL (Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership) graduate of the class of 2012 and talks about how this leadership training opens doors for parental engagement.

The Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership Opens Many Doorshttp://bit.ly/1d6mYeA


Monday, October 21, 2013

Working the Plan and Getting Results

Debbie Wesslund is one of seven members of the Jefferson County Board of Education in Louisville - a district of more than 100,000 students. She writes about the results, released last month, of the district's progress in Kentucky's Unbridled Learning accountability system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Just Say No" to Defining Innovation

David Cook from the Kentucky Department of Education talks about the need to build a culture for innovation.

"Just Say No" to Defining Innovation



Monday, October 14, 2013

Nontraditional Achievement Gap Kid Seeks Classroom Engagement

This is a post by Adrienne Thakur, a practicing attorney and active parent in Lexington, Kentucky.  She talks about the nontraditional achievement gap kid seeking classroom engagement.

Nontraditional Achievement Gap Kid Seeks Classroom Engagement

Monday, October 7, 2013

Which groups and subjects moved toward proficiency?

Statewide, which subjects and groups showed growth, strong growth, or decline from 2012 to 2013?

Trying to see a complex pattern fairly whole, I'm trying a format that shows just the change in scores, color-coded with red for declines, white for scores that were flat or improved less than four points, and green for scores that grew four points or more.   Here, I'll share a separate chart for each level of school.

At the elementary level, reading and science showed declines for multiple groups, and small growth for a few.  Writing and language mechanics showed showed strong growth for multiple groups and moderate growth for most others.  Math and social studies showed mainly moderate growth.

Zooming in on groups, the Gap Group and the disability group had growth in every subject, and free and reduced-price meal students had only one decline.

Zooming back out to all students, there were three declines. The writing and language mechanics growth are plusses, but they don't make the reading, science, and social studies results seem okay.

In middle school, reading and language mechanics showed strong or moderate growth for every group.  Math and science, though, showed declines or small growth for every group, and social studies and writing showed declines or small to moderate growth as well.

Among student groups, the Gap Group and students with disabilities or free & reduced price meal eligibility showed growth in all subjects, while Asian students showed a worrisome decline in three subjects.

For all students, there was growth in five subjects and a decline in one, though the mathematics result is a razor-thin 0.1 percent improvement.

At the high school level, mathematics shows a decline for every group except students with disabilities, and social studies shows increases--big increases--for every student group.  Reading and writing are thoroughly mixed pictures with declines, growth, and strong growth depending the group in question.  Language mechanics shows only declines and small improvements.

Looking at group patterns, students with disabilities improved in every subject, and the Gap, free and reduced meal, and African American groups improved in all but one--with most of those results being quite strong.   Students with limited English proficiency declined in all but one subject, and Asian students declined in three of six.

For all students, the pattern is strong growth in science, social studies and writing, moderate growth in reading and a small uptick in language mechanics, but a disturbing decline in mathematics.

Looking at the whole sweeping picture, I think the spotlight developments are:
  • Successes for the Gap group, free and reduced meal students, and students with disabilities.
  • Weaknesses for students with limited English proficiency and African-American, Asian, Hispanic students.
  • Growth in elementary writing and language mechanics, middle school reading and language mechanics, and high school science and social studies.
  • Troubling declines in elementary reading and science, middle school mathematics and science, and high school mathematics.
Finally, one huge caveat about this method: it's about movement.  To make that simpler and easy to see, it leaves out the starting and ending points for each group.  That's not a small matter. In high school math, students with disabilities showed the only growth, but they still have only 11.1 percent proficiency.  Asian students, meanwhile, showed the steepest decline in that subject but have 66.4 percent proficiency after that loss.  Both change in proficiency and levels of proficiency matter, and this approach is  helpful only for seeing the change part of the story.

Engaging Common Core: Writing to Build and Share Knowledge

Susan completes her series on engaging the common core:


Friday, October 4, 2013

Some more on Kentucky graduation rates

See that relatively good-looking 2013 graduation rate and the relatively weaker ones from years past? This post is about why they differ and why the new one is such a great step up.

The 2013 rate comes from tracking a cohort of students from entering high school to leaving, even if they changed schools. That's possible with the new data system we put in place a few years ago.  At last, we can divide our number of graduates by the true number of kids entering high school, rather than by an estimate.   It's the smart way to show what proportion of kids graduate.

The 2011 and 2012 numbers are different.  AFGR is short for Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate, because that method averages together the number of ninth-graders four years back and the number of tenth-graders three years back, and then divides the number of graduates by that.

Scratching your head?  Good.  Here comes some explanation.

Grade 9 is always every state's largest single class, because more kids repeat that grade than any other.  Only, no matter how many times a kid is in that grade, he or she can only graduate once. So every graduation rate has to have some plan for making sure the repeaters aren't counted repeatedly.

AFGR was a way to estimate first-time freshmen when data systems were not able to track individual kids.  In its original form, AFGR was used for whole states, and it included a grade eight count from five years before the graduation count.  Serious research showed those estimates to be pretty good.  To use AFGR for individual schools, the grade eight data had to be dropped--and I have not found any research explaining why that produced close estimates.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that a two-grade AFGR consistently yields too high a number in grade nine,  When you divide by a number that's too big, you get a graduation percent that's too low.

That's why the 2011 and 2012 numbers are so much lower. Each was calculated using a sound number of graduates and dividing by too many ninth graders.

That's also why it's a mistake to compare this year to past years.  The comparison wouldn't be apples to oranges, but apples to marshmallows, because the old numbers were unhelpfully soft.  Again, AFGR was probably the best option with the old data system, but it wasn't as good as we needed or as good as the cohort method we now have.

In short, the new cohort rate is a better way to figure out who starts high school and who leaves with a diploma.  The 86.1% result is more accurate and having it come in higher than AFGR is reason to smile for a minute before we get back to work on moving the rate even higher for future years. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A First Look at 2013 Results

In its second year, Kentucky's new accountability system shows the state as a whole moving up about two points when elementary, middle, and high school are combined, but the three levels shown separately indicate quite different paces of improvement.

In the graph above, the numbers are Overall Scores on a 0-100 scale.  Notice that the statewide elementary results moved a tiny 0.3 points, while high schools moved up 3.7 points. It's a difference worth a deeper look at the components that make up the Overall Score.

For elementary schools, the Overall Score has three components, shown below along with the Overall result that combines all three:
The best growth here is in Gap results, reflecting results in six tested subjects for students with low incomes, disabilities, limited English proficiency, or Hispanic or African-American backgrounds.  Because that group moved up 1.6 points, it's getting closer to the Achievement result that reflects all students.  That gap-closing element is a bright spot in an otherwise worrisome pattern.

For middle schools, the Overall Score includes the three elementary components plus a Readiness score based on the Explore test created by ACT, Inc., and results break out this way:
Again, the Gap group moved more quickly than Achievement for all students, but Achievement also showed a visible step up at this level.  Readiness moved even faster.

Finally, in high school, the state adds in Graduation results, for this set of developments:
Yet again, the Gap group moved faster than Achievement for all students, and seeing that three times makes me think the policy decision to count Gap separately may truly have encouraged some added attention to those students.  Readiness shows impressive growth.

Graduation also looks very good when shown this way, but there's a big caveat: most of that improvement comes from a change in how we measure that rate.  I'll post more on that point next.

What about Growth?  I deliberately left that until last in this analysis, because I don't think those numbers reflect real change. Growth data is based on whether each kid's scores  this year are in the top 60 percent of kids who had similar scores last year.  Kentucky defines expected growth as being in that upper 60 percent of students who scored alike last year.  So by definition, the statewide Growth score is going to be close to 60 percent every year.  It usually won't be exactly 60 percent, because the numbers of kids will rarely be right to yield precisely round percentages.  But the little variations aren't likely to show anything at all about whether there was more or less growth statewide.  For individual schools, Growth above 60 is possible and signals better progress than the state as a whole, and Growth well below 60 is also possible and a sign of less improvement.  But for the whole state, that indicator tells us very little.

Here are some questions I'm puzzling about, shared for anyone who has insight or other ways to think about the issues:
  • Why did elementary schools show so little change in Achievement for all.
  • What did all levels do that helped the Gap Group show quicker movement?
  • What part of high school Readiness is due to changed ACT results and which part to growing participation in the other tests that also count for identifying kids as ready for college, career, or both?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stu interviews Roger Marcum, State Board of Education Chair and Prichard Committee member

Stu interviews Roger Marcum, State Board of Education Chair and Prichard Committee member


Roger Marcum is Chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education and a Prichard Committee member.
Stu: Roger, congratulations on being elected as the chairman of Kentucky's State Board of Education. Would you please share a little about your background?
Roger: Thanks Stu. I consider it an honor to be selected chair of the KBE. When I consider the past chairs of KBE....individuals I greatly respect like David Karem, Helen Mountjoy, and Joe Kelly. Also, to be selected by the current KBE members means a lot to me. This board has a laser-like focus on making student-centered decisions. I consider it a privilege to serve with them.
My career in KY public education began in 1975 after receiving my BS degree from Berea College in 1974. In 3 different school districts, I served 10 years as a middle school social studies teacher, 6 years as a middle school principal and gifted talented coordinator, I year as an assistant superintendent and 10 years of service as superintendent of Marion County Public Schools. After 34 years of service in KY public education, I retired in 2009. I continued my career in education when I accepted the position of Executive Vice President of St. Catharine College in July 2009 and I continue to serve in that position today. From 2003-2009, I served as member of the St. Catharine College Board of Trustees. July 2010, Governor Beshear appointed me as a KBE member. I was selected vice chair in 2011 and served two years in that position. I have also served as a Prichard Committee member since 2010. This is my 39th year as a KY educator/administrator.
Stu: Kentucky is seen as a leader in education across our country. What do you see as the strengths and accomplishments of Kentucky's schools?
Roger: During my career there have been two major reform movements in KY....... The Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 and now SB 1. The comprehensiveness of KERA certainly impacted all aspects of P-12 public education. This is evident in the progress made in equity of funding, improved facilities, professional growth of certified and classified staff and most importantly teaching and learning. I see the passage and implementation of KERA as the time when KY became serious about providing a high quality education for each and every child. SB I in 2009 is moving us forward in the development and implementation of the KY Core Standards for Learning (based on the Common Core Standards of 45 states), an assessment and accountability system focused on each and every student being career and college ready, and a much improved professional growth and evaluation system for the adults who serve KY's children. Because of those two major pieces of legislation, since 1990, Kentucky has been a national leader in P-12 education reform. I am very proud of our progress during the past 23 years!
Stu: With the reductions in funding for our schools what are your thoughts about continued progress and what are the priorities of the state board around funding?
Roger: While I am proud of our progress, my greatest disappointment has been the lack of adequate funding. I keep thinking....with the significant progress made, what would/could have been accomplished if KY educators had adequate resources to meet higher expectations for all children? This has been very frustrating to observe as the funding for KERA dwindled each year since 1994 and most recently with additional funding reductions during the implementation of the reforms required by SB 1.
I expect KBE in the development of a legislative agenda for the 2014 Session of the KY General Assembly will include a call for restoration of SEEK to the 2008 level, restoration of Flexible Focus Funds to the 2009 level and the necessary funding to maintain our current technology infrastructure and replacement of end devices.
KY educators have done a remarkable job during the past 23 years of taking the framework for reform provided by KERA and SB 1 and making the reforms real in the lives of KY's children. As a result, an increasing number are receiving a high quality education. The most recent evidence is the 2013 assessment/accountability results with more than 54% of KY's high school graduates demonstrating career and college readiness. Only two years ago that number was 34%. The 86% graduation rate for the Class of 2013 is one of the highest in the United States.
While KY is a leader in educational reform in the US, we are near the bottom of the 50 states in regard to per pupil expenditure. Again my question remains..."what more could be done for KY'S children, if KY educators had adequate resources to meet the needs of all children?" We cannot continue to expect more in regard to results unless we restore the funding levels and provide the resources necessary to do the important work of educating each and every child.
Stu: As you move forward as chair of the board, what are your goals and major priorities?
Roger: If we are to be successful in implementing more rigorous learning expectations with career and college readiness as our goal for all KY's children, I see two major concerns. First, adequate funding. A good beginning toward that goal would be restoration of SEEK to the 2008 level, Flexible Focus Funds to the 2009 level and providing funding to maintain our technology infrastructure and replace end devices. Second, a united education community. I know we cannot agree on all issues, but KDE/KBE must strive to build stronger working relationships with our educational partners. Those relationships must be based on mutual respect and a laser-like focus on student centered decision making.
Stu: Are there any other items about Kentucky education you would like to share?
Roger: With the passage of SB 1 in 2009, one of my expectations and hopes was we would make significant progress toward a seamless P-20 system of education in KY. While we have made progress, not as much as I hoped for or expected. As we continue to move forward, it is my hope and desire that the working relationship between postsecondary education and P-12 education will become more collaborative and cooperative with the common goal of providing all students the opportunity to receive a high quality education.