Monday, September 29, 2014

School results coming soon: now with program review data

Friday, October 3rd, is now the scheduled date for 2014 accountability results to be released to the public, and the 2014 school report cards will include program reviews as an additional source of evidence about how students are being served.

Kentucky uses program reviews to check on the quality of students' learning opportunities in subjects that we no longer test, including arts and humanities, practical living and career studies, and writing of the sustained kind that is not easily measured by brief standardized assessments.

The Kentucky EdGuide on "Quality of Learning Programs" explains that:
[A] program review is defined as “a systematic method of analyzing components of an instructional program, including instructional practices, aligned and enacted curriculum, student work samples, formative and summative assessments, professional development and support services, and administrative support and monitoring.” 

Each program review looks at multiple aspects of a school’s program, using a rubric organized around standards for the program and “demonstrators” of strong quality on that standard. For each demonstrator, a school’s program can be scored 0 (no implementation), 1 (needs improvement), 2 (proficient), or 3 (distinguished), based on more detailed characteristics found in the rubric.
You can learn more about program reviews by downloading the EdGuide or by taking a look at the program review rubrics schools use to score themselves.

Many schools' 2014 overall scores may look better now that program reviews are included. 

I say that because we already know how 2013 overall scores would have looked with program reviews factored in, and most scores definitely would have been higher.  In the chart below, you can see examples of the impact.   The lighter bars show the statewide overall scores for each level from the 2013 state report card (without program review data), and the darker ones show the Department of Education's calculation of the same overall scores with program review data included.  The revised versions look stronger because, in general, schools' program review scores are stronger than their state test scores and graduation rates.

However, it is important to know that 2014 accountability will be an apples-to-apples comparison.  Program reviews were included when schools' 2014 annual measurable objectives were set, and they were included in defining the 2014 scores that will qualify a school for a particular percentile rank and accountability classification. 

Source note: the 2013 overall scores that include program review data can be found in the Accountability section of KDE's Open House portal, in a file that also shows the 2013-14 annual measurable objectives for improving on the 2012-13 results.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Will better math tests be good enough?

PARCC and Smarter Balanced are the two multistate consortia working on new assessments for the Common Core State Standards. After four years of design and pilot testing and field testing, they're nearly ready for prime-time use--meaning administration to large groups of students for use in statewide accountability systems.  Since Kentucky hasn't chosen to use either assessment yet, I've been noticing news about both, including a rising debate about the ways they approach mathematics.

The consortia argue that their new versions are definitely better than existing multiple choice math tests because of new on-line options.  As an EdWeek report recently summarized:
Unlike previous state assessments, those being developed by the two federally funded consortia will include complex, multipart word problems that students will answer on screen. While some of those questions will provide built-in tools that allow students to put points on a graph or draw lines on a ready-made picture, other questions will ask them to write their answers in narrative form, using a keyboard.
But others argue that the computer tools still aren't close enough to the real work of using math to solve problems.  In the same EdWeek account, David Foster of the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative shared his concerns:
"I'm a mathematician, and I never solve problems by merely sitting at the keyboard. I have to take out paper and pencil and sketch and doodle and tinker around and draw charts," he said. "Of course, I use spreadsheets all the time, but I don't even start a spreadsheet until I know what I want to put in the cells.

"All Smarter Balanced and PARCC are going to look at is the final explanation that is written down," he said, "and if there's a flaw in the logic, there's no way to award kids for the work they really did and thought about."
Mr. Foster added: "I've played with the platform, and it makes me sick. And I've done it with problems I've written."
I'm suspect they're both right.  PARCC and Smarter Balanced are offering some big steps forward in how students answer math prompts, and yet they are also far from inviting students to use math in ways that are close to real life applications on the job, in the home, or in civic life.

For the long-term education discussion, this debate turns yet another spotlight on an enduring puzzle: how can schools develop a balanced commitment to the skills that are easy to measure and the skills that matter at least as much but don't fit easily into standardized assessments?

Do note that Kentucky is not signed up to use either PARCC or Smarter Balanced.  Our current K-PREP assessments use methods that were in use years before we adopted Common Core, and any changes from that will occur when the Department of Education seeks new bids for our testing contracts.  The consortia will be eligible to submit proposals, in open competition with other companies that think they can provide the data we need.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

International Benchmarks for Kentucky Scoring

If Kentucky 2011 students had taken the international TIMSS and PIRLS assessments, the American Institutes of Research estimates that:
  • 46% of Kentucky fourth graders would have reached the high benchmark in mathematics (in a system that gives scores of low, intermediate, high, and advanced)
  • 60% of Kentucky fourth graders would have reached the high benchmark in reading
  • 27% of Kentucky eighth graders would have reached the high benchmark in mathematics
AIR used a "chain linking" method to develop those estimates, reported in a new report on International Benchmarking: State and National Education Performance Standards.

The report also shares analysis of how Kentucky defined proficient work on the old KCCT assessment and the new K-PREP tests.  On the old test, Kentucky's proficient lined up with TIMSS and PIRLS scores of at the intermediate level.  In our new system, launched in 2012, AIR concludes that Kentucky proficient lines up with the high score level on the international assessments.  That's an excellent step up for helping us understand how our students' learning compares to success rates around the globe!

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Professional Growth and Effectiveness System: Some Basics

Across Kentucky, schools are moving rapidly to implement of our new statewide approach to teaching quality.  The new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System will replace past evaluations and provide a much deeper attention to feedback and support for individual teachers to grow steadily stronger in their craft.

The new approach will look at teaching from two different angles:
First, professional practice will matter, using evidence from multiple sources, including:
■ Observations of the teachers work by administrators and peers
■ Student voice surveys
■ Professional growth plans and self-reflection
■ Possibly, additional district-determined sources of evidence.
That evidence will be used to identify each teacher’s practice as being at one of four levels-- exemplary, accomplished, developing, or ineffective practice....

Second, student growth will also matter, looking at how students improve from year to year in each subject. For most teachers, that evidence will all be gathered locally, using student growth goals, professional judgment, and district-defined rubrics. For those who teach reading and mathematics in grades 4-8, some evidence will be gathered that way and added evidence will come from state assessments of those two subjects. Depending on the evidence, each teacher’s student growth will be rated at one of three levels: high, expected, or low growth
Those two sources of understanding will be combined to identify next steps for each teacher's further development as a professional.  You can learn more about the teacher system and the related system for principals from the Kentucky EdGuide on "Educator Growth and Effectiveness" (quoted above), and you can learn much more from the Kentucky Department of Education's PGES webpage.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sweet results: Allen County AP work and college readiness

The Citizen-Times is sharing some great student results at Allen County-Scottsville High School.  In 2011, the school signed up with AdvanceKentucky--a systematic approach to engaging students in Advanced Placement work.  Early evidence on students enrolling at Western Kentucky University this fall is very impressive:

In the fall of 2012, almost 66 percent of AC-S graduates entering WKU had to take some form of remedial classes, because, at least in some subject areas, they weren’t academically prepared for collegiate-level work. That year, the state average was 54.2 percent.

A year later, things had changed little for AC-S, at 66 percent, though the state average had actually worsened, climbing to 63.4 percent.

But this fall marked the first incoming WKU freshman class to see AC-S students who had been through the entire three years of Advance AP courses. The change was dramatic: 90 percent of incoming AC-S graduates needed no remedial courses. As [
Director of Instruction Rick Fisher] put it, “We’ve gone from only 30 percent who didn’t need remedial courses to only 10 percent who did need them.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

KSBIT and millions of dollars being charged to Kentucky districts

The Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust (KSBIT) used to offer school districts two self-insurance pools: one for workers' compensation insurance and one for property and liability insurance.

For many years, the costs of participating seemed lower than the premiums charged by commercial carriers and many Kentucky districts signed on.  "These self-insured pools allow school districts to combine their resources while sharing the risk," according to the KSBIT board of trustees.

The part about "sharing the risk," highlighted above, has always been the catch.  If this kind of risk-sharing pool doesn't have enough money to pay expected claims, it can send the members an additional assessment to fill the gap--and KSBIT developed some big gaps.

The problems became very public in January 2013 and has been in the headlines pretty much ever since.  KSBIT no longer runs the pools, and the Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance (KEMI) has taken over handling claims by the former members, but KSBIT's former members are still on the hook to contribute enough to cover claims for the years they participated in each pool.

In May, the Franklin Circuit Court entered orders that specify each participating district's required payments for the $37 million worker's comp gap and the $8.8 million property and liability hole. 

Now districts are working out how to pay those shares off in varying ways, all of them painful.  For example, Fayette County will pay off its $3.1 million assessment over five years, and Madison County will pay $1.2 million over time as well.  Fleming County will pay $351,803 over 10 years, and Harlan Independent is working out plans to pay $258,728.

Unsurprisingly, many district leaders are concerned about how the hole got so deep and whether better choices by KSBIT leaders could have avoided these difficult new payments.  All reports seem to agree that the problems built up over multiple years.  I found this report on a briefing from Kentucky Commissioner of Insurance Sharon Clark helpful, but I still don't know enough to say much about how responsibility should be apportioned.  

Here's the question I most wish I understood: if KSBIT had charged the right amount every year, so that no district would be facing unexpected billing now, would it still have been a better deal than other insurance options?  Or, put another way, if districts could have known then what they know now, would they still have decided KSBIT was the best deal on offer at the time?

What I do know is that these payments are currently consuming resources I'd rather have available to serve kids now in Kentucky schools: the KSBIT collapse is definitely not good news!

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Which AP tests do Kentucky students take and pass?

On Advanced Placement tests, scores of 3, 4, or 5 can qualify a student for college credit, placement in advanced courses, or both.  Monday, while posting on the Leaders and Laggards report,  I realized that the subjects where students earn those credits deserve closer attention.

So, below, two additional thoughts on AP test success in Kentucky.

First, a look at the major areas where 2013 public school students received successful scores, combining multiple tests in disciplinary clusters. The green shades identify science, math, and world languages, the subjects that Leaders and Laggards included in their economic competitiveness ratings.  The very small slice for world languages stands out as a weak result in the overall picture.

Second, a look at the top 12 tests where Kentucky students succeed, showing the number of students passing each test.  It isn't really a surprise to see the English tests at the top of this list, but it would definitely be good to see the science, math, and language numbers move up.

Source note: These numbers come from the page for "AP Program Participation and Performance Data 2013" at the College Board website.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Monday, September 15, 2014

Expanding options for earning high school credits

To earn a Kentucky high school diploma, students must earn at least 22 credits (or more if a district expands the requirements.   Increasingly, students have options about how those credits are earned.  The Kentucky EdGuide on High Schools offers this summary:
Increasingly, students have choices about how they will earn those needed credits: For example:
■ Most high schools still define a credit by the time spent in class: passing a course that takes 120 hours of class-time counts as one “Carnegie Unit” and earns one credit. However, some high schools are now implementing performance-based credits, in which students earn credits based on mastery of the content and skills defined in the course standards, not just seat time or time in the classroom.
■ Some credits that count for high school can also count for college. State law requires that every district offer at least four such courses. Those may be Advanced Placement courses with a year-end test to show college-level understanding. They may also be courses taken at nearby colleges or given at the high school by teachers who meet college-level requirements.
■ Digital learning is another option. Students can take courses taught solely by on-line teachers or hybrid courses that combine on-line work with face-to-face teaching. The Kentucky Virtual Campus for K-12 Students ( allows students to register for courses offered by Kentucky Educational Television, JCPSeSchool, or the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL).
■ Technical centers offer high school courses for their district or a multi-district area (see the Technical Schools EdGuide for more information).
■ The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky offers a residential program where students spend their junior and senior years at Western Kentucky University taking college classes in math, science, and other subjects, with more information at
■ The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics is scheduled to open in August 2015, with more information at
The High School EdGuide also includes charts of 2012 and 2013 K-PREP results and answers to these other questions about how schools work across the state:
  • How is high school likely to differ from middle school?
  • Are students required to finish high school?
  • Can students graduate from high school early?
  • How are Kentucky high schools funded?
 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Sunday, September 14, 2014

U.S. Chamber Grades for Kentucky Education

The map above rates states on achievement, one of 11 grades given by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its newest report on Leaders and Laggards: A State-By-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness. Here come the full set of Kentucky ratings from that report, annotated with definitions from the report and a variety of quick reactions from my first reading of the document.

C in Achievement

  • Definition: Student performance on NAEP, including gains from 2005 to 2013.
  • Clarification: The ratings use reading (where Kentucky is relatively strong) and mathematics (where we are less strong), but leaves out science, where we have shown signal successes.
  • Celebration: Kentucky did receive an A for “Progress made from 2007 Leaders and Laggards.”

C in Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

  • Definition: Student performance on NAEP, including gains from 2005 to 2013; disaggregated for African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students.
  • Dejection: For these students, Kentucky only received a C for"Progress made from 2007 Leaders and Laggards.”

C in Return on Investment

  • Definition: NAEP scores divided by state education expenditures, adjusted for cost of living.
  • Fascination: The Chamber has made an adjustment for regional cost of living, reporting that its method “was derived from the work of the Missouri Department on Economic Development.” In principle, I agree that Kentucky should acknowledge some of the lower costs faced by our families, and I hope to study this approach a bit to see if it seems like a sound way to consider that factor.

C in Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

  • Definition: State-reported proficiency rates compared with NAEP proficiency rates.
  • Frustration: The analysis comes from 2011 data, meaning it’s still reporting on Kentucky’s old tests based on our old standards.  A repeat of the same study would surely show Kentucky as notably stronger.

C in Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

  • Definition: Advanced Placement (AP) exams passed by the class of 2013, high school graduation rates, and chance for college at age 19.
  • Anticipation: The second two numbers are based on estimates of the number of students starting grade 9, reflecting some of the last years the estimation step will be necessary.  Soon, soon, we'll be able to discuss these questions on the basis of much firmer actual numbers. Just as a sample of why this matters, the report shows a Kentucky 82% graduation rate, but our first graduation report tracking a full cohort shows us at 86%: better numbers will give us a better sense of where Kentucky and other states really stand.

C in 21st Century Teaching Force

  • Definition: Preparing, recruiting, and evaluating the teacher workforce
  • Modification: In this list, a C does not mean a score between 20th and 30th.  The grades come straight from the National Center for Teaching Quality, which sets a high bar and did not give any A grades at all the most recent report.   
  • Amplification: Kentucky’s C actually puts it in a three way tie for 20th among the 50 states.

F in Parental Options

  • Definition: The market share of students in schools of choice, and two rankings of how hospitable state policy is to greater choice options.
  • Confirmation: Yes, this one is about Kentucky not having charter schools.

A in Data Quality

  • Definition: Collection and use of high-quality and actionable student and teacher performance data.
  • Exploration: Kentucky has implemented 9 of 10 steps recommended by the Data Quality campaign—and only two states have all ten.  The one we haven't fully applied is the one that calls on states to "Implement policies and promote practices, including professional development and credentialing, to ensure educators know how to access and use data appropriately."

D- in Technology

  • Definition: Student access to high-quality computer-based instruction.
  • Irritation: This rating is not about the learning technology available for students to use in varied classes across the state, and it's not about students' opportunities to use advanced technological stills. It's only about whether students can step away from existing classrooms to take classes on-line.  It’s about a second form of options for parents and students, like the Parental Options entry above. It's reasonable for to value that kind of option, but less reasonable to treat it as the main issue in technology in education.

D in International Competitiveness

  • Definition: State scores on NAEP compared with international benchmarks, and AP exams passed by the class of 2013 on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and foreign language exams.
  • Recognition: This measure is one Kentucky should value, moving beyond AP opportunities in general to a look at AP courses in fields where we definitely need to expand our workforce capacity. 

F in Fiscal Responsibility

  • Definition: State pension funding.
  • Consternation: Kentucky is hit hard, for long-term failure to fund our pension obligations to educators and also for more recent failure to take big enough steps toward resolving the problem.  

 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Yes, we do Shakespeare!

Here's a great, detailed study of the "original pronunciation" of Shakespeare, complete with rhymes and puns we can't even hear in our modern English:

 I love it because the Bard is alive and kicking, right here in the Kentucky Core Academic Standards:
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.) 
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
In our Reading Standards for Literature, Shakespeare is the one required author, with the first two standards above applying to grades 11 and 12.  The third entry is for grades 9 and 10, and it lists Shakespeare as an example rather than a mandate--though I dare anyone to come up with a better author than Shakespeare to use for this sort of analysis.

 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston
[Hat tip to Cindy Baumert!]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Technology for learning: a Kentucky commitment

The Kentucky EdGuide on "School Technology and Digital Learning" spotlights Kentucky's long-running work to make technology a consistent feature of education across the state:
Since 1990, Kentucky has been committed to strong technology implementation under a series of statewide Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) master plans. KETS sets standards for school technology purposes, provides technical services, ensures high speed network access, and funds technology strategies to support the learning environment. Because technology innovation is so rapid, that system needs regular upgrades to allow students and teachers to use current software and applications. Annually, Kentucky also offers matching funds to help school districts make purchases to keep up with those rising standards.
Because technology innovations come so rapidly, it's important to note both how many devices are available and how many meet minimum standards for current use. The EdGuide chart at the right shows student student instructional devices (desktop, laptop, and tablet computers) in Kentucky schools, using Technology Readiness Survey data from the Kentucky Department of Education and showing separately the devices that did and did not meet that year’s KETS minimum standards.

The "School Technology and Digital Learning" EdGuide also  answers these key questions:
  • How does Kentucky support active use of technology in education? 
  • Can students use their own devices at school? 
  • What is digital learning? 
  • What kinds of digital learning opportunities are available? 
  • What evidence shows digital learning results for Kentucky students? 
Do check it out, along with the other EdGuides available for easy download from the Prichard Committee website.
--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What does student voice look like?

Check out this great introduction to the Prichard Committee Student Voice team!

What does student voice look like? from Rachel Belin on Vimeo.

A bornlearning boom

The bornlearning strategy for early childhood parental education is growing fast across Kentucky, both in its work with families and its visibility in statewide media.  From articles appearing just this week....

From Prichard Perspectives
The bornlearning academies are school-based workshops. Across six sessions, parents of young children up to age five engage in hands-on activities and discussion about what it means to be ready for kindergarten and learning strategies they can use to maximize their child’s early learning and development.
From the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown:
“It’s about learning about the opportunities that are in your every day environment that you might just miss,” said North Park Principal Beth Brandenburg. “Parents are so busy when they come home with dinner or getting everyone cleaned and to bed that they aren’t thinking that it’s a great learning opportunity. It’s taking advantage of those everyday opportunities.”
[Carlena Sheeran, director of early childhood for Hardin County Schools] said the creators of the program wanted to design workshops in a way that would be similar to a normal evening at home, which is why a dinner is included. The dinner provided is a healthy meal that encourages a well-balanced diet. Both schools are working with various restaurants and businesses to help sponsor parts of the dinner and workshops. 
From Herald-Leader coverage of bornlearning work in Lexington:
On Thursday, the children went to one room and, under a teacher's guidance, made tambourines that they later played for their parents. Parents in another room learned how playing board games, singing songs and reading the children's books found in most homes could get a child ready for kindergarten. Before the workshop ended, parents and children reunited to sing songs and read a story before taking home a gift bag of games and books.

Read more here:
From the Ledger & Times in Murray :
East Calloway Elementary School will be kicking off its third year of the program on Sept. 18, while Murray Elementary School will begin  its second year on Sept. 25...
ECES and MES are among 20 veteran schools and 14 new schools with academies funded by Toyota across the state through a five-year, $1 million investment. Officials say that every dollar spent on preschool and early childhood education programs carries a return on investment ranging from $2 to $17. According to the Prichard Committee, children who attend high-quality preschool are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings as adults.

Now in its third year, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America are committed to provide funding to United Way of Kentucky to expand Born Learning Academies to 70 schools by 2016.
And from KyForward:
Expansion of the “United Way Born Learning Academies, driven by Toyota” means more youngsters will be prepared for school.

“Our goal is for them to start on the playing field ready to go. It gives them a better chance to succeed,” said Veda Stewart, principal at Booker T. Washington Primary Academy, one of four Fayette County schools offering the free program.
--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Perspectives: Big work from our big team

The fall 2014 edition Prichard Committee newsletter is out now, offering a full panorama of the work underway and the many different groups engaging in the effort.  Headlines include:
  • Students’ Input Elevating Policy Issues
  • N.Ky Advocate Joins Prichard Staff (Brigitte Ramsey!)
    Staying in Touch Across a Diverse State (Thought from Stu Silberman!)
  • Jobs Report Shows Limits Facing Non-College-Bound
  • Prichard Member Hinkle Appointed to State Board
  • Change is Difficult: It is Much Easier to Maintain the Status Quo (An Interview with Cindy Heine!)
  • Program Grows to 5 Institutes
  • State Allocating $1.2 Million Locally to Advance School Readiness
  • Toyota, Beshear Support New bornlearning Sites
  • Congress Extends Home-Visiting Funding
  • Remembering Pamela Papka Sexton 
With so much going on, it's great to get this overview and connect with all the folks making it happen.  Download your copy now, and enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enrollment ethnicity: Kentucky moves in national direction at different pace

For the nation as a whole, the current school year is projected to be the first when white students are less than 80% of the enrolled students.  For Kentucky, diversity is also growing, though at a different rate: last year was the first when white students were less than 80% of enrollment. 

Below, the first chart shows the full trend, while the second zooms in enough to make the rapid increase of non-white, non-black students easier to see. 

Source note: Kentucky numbers come from Kentucky Department of Education summaries of Superintendent Annual Attendance Reports showing end-of-year data, while the starting national figure comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, as quoted in the Atlantic.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Learning at Higher Levels: Active Learning Raises College Results, Closes Gaps

Here's a great New York Times report on how "Active Role in Class Helps Black and First-Generation College Students":
The trend away from classes based on reading and listening passively to lectures, and toward a more active role for students, has its most profound effects on black students and those whose parents did not go to college, a new study of college students shows.

 Active learning raised average test scores more than 3 percentage points, and significantly reduced the number of students who failed the exams, the study found. The score increase was doubled, to more than 6 percentage points, for black students and first-generation college students.

For black students, that gain cut in half their score gap with white students. It eliminated the gap between first-generation students and other students.
As summarized by Richard Pérez-Peña, the study looked at students in introductory Biology classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and compared classes taught using traditional lectures and others using methods that "demanded more participation by students," including on-line exercises to complete before and after class.

This sort of finding will be no surprise to fans of the Gates Foundation's math and literacy investments or the K-12 research behind those strategies.  Deep learning comes from wrestling knowledge hands on, in a productive struggle that lets each learner assemble a clear picture of how the content fits together and the skills can be combined to solve problems.  Lectures, even brilliant ones, rarely engage students at the level that creates strong understanding.

--Posted By Susan Perkins Weston

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Meeting Young Students' Needs: Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention is a relatively new term in Kentucky education law. In the Prichard Committee's Kentucky EdGuide on "Students Who Need Added Support," the main idea is explained this way:
Response to Intervention or “RTI” is a new state initiative, required for the primary years.
Response to Intervention calls for schools to organize instruction by setting up tiers of response that start with a core program that will be effective for most students and then add supplemental support and then intensive intervention when evidence shows which students need different or additional support. For example, a student who consistently struggles with the core program (tier 1) may receive some added opportunities (tier 2) and then if that support is not enough, move to more intensive support (tier 3).
In parent-teacher discussions, it may help to ask what “tier” of services a child is receiving and then for details about how that tier works.
The RTI requirements can be found in a new state statute enacted in 2013 (KRS 158.305) and in the Kentucky Board of Education regulation on "The Use of Response-to-Intervention in Kindergarten through Grade 3" (704 KAR 3:095).

Interested readers may also want to learn about the Kentucky System of Intervention, an approach recommended by the Kentucky Department of Education for students from kindergarten through grade 12, offering ideas for implementing RTI-methods to serve students well even in the grades where the law does not require it.

Or, to learn about Kentucky's other supports for students' varied needs, check out the EdGuides on:

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Reaching Top 20 Will Require Hard Push for Kentucky Improvement

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Moving Kentucky into the top tier of states in key areas of education by 2020 will require a hard push for improvement in the next six years, according to a new report from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

The 2014 update of the Committee’s “Top 20 by 2020” found Kentucky’s performance in six categories to be on track to reach the goal. These include reading scores, Advanced Placement credits and teacher salaries.

But other indicators show reason for concern. The report noted that Kentucky lost ground in the math achievement of eighth-grade students and the share of higher education costs that families must pay. The state’s performance also showed no net improvement in total higher education funding or bachelor’s degrees earned in science, technology, engineering and math.

The state’s ranking in other areas showed some improvement, but not at a rate sufficient to reach the Top 20 by 2020. These include the number of adults with a high school diploma, preschool enrollment, per-pupil funding and adults with a bachelor’s degree.

The Prichard Committee began its Top 20 measurements in 2008, when it issued a challenge to the state to accelerate the improvement of its education system. The latest report is the third update of the initial measurement. The update is available here.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday applauded the report for highlighting Kentucky’s progress in areas like reading, Advanced Placement and teacher salaries, and for also providing a clear roadmap of the areas that need further attention going forward.

“We are proud of the progress Kentucky students and educators have made the past several years as they have embraced more rigorous standards and become more focused on college- and career-readiness,” Holliday said. “At the same time, the report confirms what we already know:  there is still much work to be done. We need to be making faster gains in key content areas like mathematics and science while also continuing to close achievement gaps so that all students have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life. We are committed to making continuous progress, and are grateful for partners like the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence for joining us in this critical work.”

Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, noted the state’s increase in bachelor’s degrees, from 44th to 39th in the last six years, and expressed the importance of partnerships to work toward the Prichard Committee’s 2020 goal. 

“The steady improvement in bachelor degrees or higher and adults with a high school diploma is welcome news to Kentucky’s economic future. We look forward to working alongside Prichard and our other partners to make even greater gains in the future.”

The update also noted the Committee’s three overarching priorities for Kentucky education:
·         A strong accountability system that measures the performance of students, teachers, principals and postsecondary graduates;
·         Adequate funding;
·         Sustained and expanded engagement of parents, community members and businesses in support of schools.

“It is great to see the areas where we are making good progress but we still have a lot of work to do. We will continue to monitor these areas and look forward to evidence of more forward progress in the 2016 report,” said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee.

--Prichard Commitee Press Release
for September 3, 2014 publication

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Study results, adjust instruction: Improving western Kentucky nursing education

Check out a great National Public Radio story: Western Kentucky Community and Technical College figured out that the Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology was a major barrier for many students who want nursing careers--and didn't accept that result.

Instead, WKCTC analyzed the problem and looked for instructional solutions:
"You're not taking this class as just an elective," Dean Karen Hlinka says. "You're taking this class as building the foundation for the rest of your education. So you've got to get it."

Hlinka realized that a lot of her students just weren't ready. They knew how to memorize, but they didn't really know how to think. So the school set up a special class, which teaches just the first six weeks of a whole semester. It began integrating how to read the textbook into class lectures, instead of just what's in the textbook.
With the new approach, WKCTC is reporting passing rates 20 percentage points better than the national average, giving clear evidence of success with an impressive improvement to teaching and learning.  

Added tip: for the fullest excitement, I recommend listening to the broadcast version: I think it's more detailed and energetic than the website text!

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning at higher levels: Content knowledge to strengthen students' reading

How can students learn at significantly higher levels?  To build substantially stronger reading skills, one key step may be to equip students with powerful academic content knowledge.

Karin Chenoweth explains the connection:
If schools aren’t teaching kids an awful lot of content — that is, history, science, literature, and the arts — the same kids who do well on third-grade tests can fail later tests — not because they can’t decode the words on the tests, but because they cannot understand the words once they’ve decoded them. And they can’t understand them because the words haven’t been taught.
Some kids do arrive at school with a lot of background knowledge and rich vocabularies, usually acquired from discussions at home and a set of experiences ranging from being read to from an early age to being taken to museums. The kids with those kinds of experiences tend to be kids from educated and well-off families, which is one of the reasons that reading scores are so highly correlated with family income and mother’s education.
If we are to break that correlation and ensure that all children can read and comprehend well, schools need to have coherent, content-rich curricula that systematically teach history, science, literature, and the arts. This isn’t so that children will do well on fifth-grade reading tests, by the way; it’s so that they can understand the world around them. Fifth-grade reading tests are just proxies for what comes next.
Chenoweth is writer-in-residence at the Education Trust, so it's no surprise to find her pursuing and articulating strategies that can have the biggest benefits for students who may lack many of life's other privilege.  Her article originally appeared at the Huffington Post, and it is now also available at the Core Knowledge blog, which has long argued that rich content and strong reading can grow best when learned together.

-- Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Six basics for Labor Day

1.  Teaching causes learning. (Thank you, Richard Elmore!)

2.  Better standards can contribute to better learning --if they are translated into better teaching.

3.  Smaller classes can allow better learning --if they allow better forms of teaching.

4.  Funding can support better learning --if the dollars enable better teaching.
5.  Changing pay and pensions and job security rules might promote better learning --but only if those incentive structures turn out to be effective in promoting better teaching.

6.  Kentucky education is a huge system involving a vast array of ideas and arguments and dollars and cents and buildings and software and hope and dreams, and the whole giant swirl is only important for a single reason: because the lives of our children are being changed by the work of our teachers.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston