Saturday, August 30, 2014

Low-income access: KCTCS

As a group, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) institutions enroll substantial numbers of students who qualify for federal Pell grants based on family income.  In the graph below, it's clear that the schools of Eastern Kentucky serve some of the highest proportions, but all of these schools have higher Pell rates than any public university except Kentucky State.

The average net price at these schools is also relatively for low-income students, with only one four-year school offering a better rate.

Both sets of numbers are for beginning students, as are those in yesterday's post showing similar data for the universities, and all results come from the College Navigator site.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Low-income access to four year colleges: two notes [Revised]

In two charts, it's clear that Kentucky public four-year institutions vary dramatically how they engage low-income students. Revision note: both charts reflect data for beginning students at each university.  That fact was omitted in the original post

First, Pell grants are the leading federal support to help students afford college, and Pell participation is the easiest way to gauge a university's low-income enrollment (much the way free-and-reduced-price meal eligibility is the quickest indicator for K-12 education).  On this indicator, notice the huge sweeping change from Kentucky State's 75% to UK's much smaller 25%.

Second, net price is an important measure of accessibility, indicating the average amount students pay after all financial aid is subtracted from a university's sticker price.  On that indicator, Northern Kentucky University clearly looks most accessible, charging less than half of what Kentucky State and Western ask from low-income students.

This data and much more is available at the great College Navigator site.

Tomorrow, I'll share a matching look at these two indicators for KCTCS.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Local school revenue: Clarifying "the 4%"

Right now, school boards all over Kentucky are voting on budgets and tax rates for the school year, and the media reports often say the vote was on whether "to take the 4%" or not. 

That means they're voting for a 4% increase in the total amount brought in by local taxes.  If a district brought in $1,000,000 in local revenue last year, they're setting taxes that will bring in $1,040,000 this year.

Here's the tricky part: that may not mean a school board is voting to raise the tax rate on local properties.  In some districts, boards may be able to bring in 4% more dollars by lowering the tax rate on all the property being taxed.  That's because in most districts, the taxable properties become more valuable year by year.   If the assessed values go up enough, a district that wants 4% more revenue may have to lower the tax rate it charges on each $100 of taxable property. In other districts, it may be possible to bring in 4% more revenue by keeping the same tax rate, or raising the rate just 1% or 2%.

What's the magic of 4%?  That number matters because state law says that if a school board increases revenue more than that, voters can call a referendum to consider repealing the increase.  Given that rule, boards are very hesitant to go past the 4% mark.

For individual property owners, the key thing to know is that 4% in the headlines isn't necessarily 4% on your tax bill.  If you read the full article, you may find information on the old and new tax rates--or you may need to wait for your bill to arrive in the mail.

For community members in general, it can also be good to check on whether the new tax rate allows the schools to keep up with changes in prices and enrollment.  Recently, inflation has been lower than 4%, but if it ever went back to double digits, it would be really hard for districts to keep up.  And if 4% more money has to fund 6% more students, schools may be giving each child less support even though there's a larger total being spent.

[Note just for folks who love stuff like this: the rule about a 4% revenue increase only applies to property that's being used in similar ways from year to year.  When property is developed --say, from farm use to homes or from homes to stores-- it isn't included in figuring out the 4%. My friends and colleagues who work on these details at the state or local level will, rightly, want me to mention that nuance.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fantastic LDC task from Simpson County

Ashley Gore of Simpson County has created one of my favorite Literacy Design Collaborative modules ever, now recognized as meeting the "exemplary" standard under LDC's national jurying standards.  She asked her students to address this teaching task:
Is Hester Prynne a virtuous woman? After reading The Scarlet Letter, write an essay in which you discuss Hester's Prynne's character attributes and evaluate her virtues in connection with Proverbs 31. Support your position with evidence from the text(s).
In keeping with the LDC design process, the plain black text comes from an LDC template, but the part I've underlined in blue reflects wording Ms. Gore added to create a distinctive task for her own discipline and students.  Then she supported her students by identifying the reading and writing skills essential to the task and designing "mini-tasks" where students learn and apply each of those skills on the way to completing their essays. (Past Prichblog posts on LDC are here.)

The whole design is excellent, but my special excitement comes from seeing one of my very favorite Bible texts deployed in a way that requires respectful, critical analysis and comparison with a powerful novel.  It's a truly great teacher-created approach to implementing the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in a deep literary study.  

The complete module is available in LDC's CoreTools Library: you'll need to set up a free account to log in to the site, which also offers a complete set of LDC design tools for anyone who wants to try them out.

 (Illustration by By Mary Hallock Foote [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaching quality and time for teacher growth

At The Atlantic, a new and helpful article argues that "mastering the[teaching] craft demands time to collaborate—just what American schools don't provide." 

One compelling piece of the evidence comes from data gathered during the PISA test of student performance around the world.  Using information on school practices, Elizabeth Green has identified an important difference in how countries organize the work of teaching:
How much time do teachers spend on classroom instruction, and how much time do they have outside of class to devote to the other considerable, less visible aspects of the job: lesson planning, paper grading, conferring with students, calling parents, meeting with colleagues to discuss methods and goals. 
Here, the PISA results are not ambiguous. Every single country that outperforms us has significantly smaller teacher workloads. Indeed, on the scale of time devoted by teachers to in-class instruction annually, the United States is off the charts. 
We spend far more hours in the classroom on average, twice and nearly three times more in some cases, than teachers in any other OECD country save Chile.
Finnish high-school teachers, for example, clock 553 hours in the classroom each year. In Japan, home of jugyokenkyu [lesson study], that number is 500. In the U.S., it’s 1,051. (Figures for elementary and middle school show roughly the same skew.)
The whole article deserves a careful read, and so does Elizabeth Green's new book, Building a Better Teacher.

Monday, August 25, 2014

KCAS Core Academic Challenge: How can our standards be improved?

Everyone in Kentucky is invited to provide specific feedback on the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for English language arts and mathematics.  This statewide challenge was announced this morning by Commissioner Terry Holiday and will last through April 30, 2015.

I took a first look at the comment site this evening and was pleased to see that users can sign in, start comments, and return later to complete comments on the full set of standards.  I also found it easy to zoom in on the standards that interest me most: those for "literacy in history/social studies."  Below, you can see a quick sample of the options, including space to recommend replacement language and share reasons for the recommendation.

This is a huge opportunity for public participation: please take up the Challenge!

Thanks for the Engagement

Check out our last blog post on Ed Week.

Thanks for the Engagement

I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to all who have contributed to our public engagement blog. I would also like to thank Education Week for giving us the opportunity to share information and opinions on what has been happening in education over the last couple of years. This will be our last post, and I hope we have helped broaden the public's understanding of developments in education, particularly in Kentucky.
We recently released the Prichard Committee's Ed Guides, reader-friendly information about the work that is taking place in Kentucky schools. We also will release our "Top 20 by 2020" report soon, showing how the state's performance on key education indicators has changed since our last update two years ago. We conducted research on charter schools this summer and will convene a study group to prepare a report we will share with our members in November. We also plan to convene a group to review where we are in early childhood care and education programs. I share all of this with you to invite you to continue keeping up with our work via our website, onFacebook, Twitter @prichardcom, and our Prichard Committee blog.
Clearly, all of us have much to do for our kids. Among the items on the list (and there are many others):
· A focus on early childhood education to prevent the development of achievement gaps and allow all kids to start school on a level playing field. Although there is near unanimous agreement that this is a long-range solution worthy of support, states are still coming up short on funding.
· Initiatives to attract more of the best and brightest to the teaching profession. Teaching is one of the most important and most difficult jobs that exist, but salaries for beginning teachers do not reach the level of professional pay. We must begin to pay a professional wage and bring more top students into the profession.
· Efforts to engage families in schools in ways that improve student achievement. We must encourage and help develop parent/guardian advocates and leaders. When families are truly engaged, supporting our schools and advocating for excellence, kids are the beneficiaries. This is a major focus for us at the Prichard Committee with the Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership.
· Listening to the people on the front lines - students as well as teachers. Given the chance, they can provide the knowledge, resulting from their experience, that we need to move to the next level of educational excellence. We are particularly proud of the Prichard Committee's Student Voice Team and the input they have been providing.
And, of course, there are efforts related to testing, academic standards, funding, governance, teacher evaluation - a long, growing and important list. Yes, we are making progress, but it always seems to be two steps forward and (at least) one step back. I worry that politics continues to drain the energy needed for progress. We must find a way to end the partisan games and focus on doing what is best for the kids of this country.
In closing, I also want to thank our staff for all the time they have devoted to organizing, reviewing and editing the posts to this space. We would not have been able to participate in this endeavor had it not been for your help and wisdom.
For those of you who continue to be interested in sharing your thoughts we welcome you to do so via the Prichard blog.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Success in the First Year of College Suggests Likely Degree Completion

Prichard Committee Statement

KY Center for Education and Workforce Statistics Releases
2014 Kentucky Postsecondary Feedback Reports

The postsecondary feedback reports recently released by the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS) show employment and earnings for graduates of Kentucky’s eight (8) public four-year universities. They also show similar information for students who start college but leave without completing a degree.

The feedback reports provide data for parents and students to make informed decisions about their courses of study given the likely wage and employment opportunities in Kentucky. The report shows that a full 80 percent of Kentucky’s graduates stay in Kentucky to work and live. For these students, and those who plan to stay in a particular region of the state, this is very helpful information. For example, in general graduates with more education make higher salaries, but a deeper look shows graduates with associate degrees from three Kentucky universities (EKU, KSU, NKU) make significantly more than their peers with bachelor degrees and nearly as much as individuals with graduate degrees. 

The Prichard Committee is especially pleased to see a focus on the data related to students who drop out of college. The feedback reports provide good information about students who start college but choose to leave without finishing a degree. In 2013, roughly 10 percent (8,833) of the total enrollment in Kentucky’s 4-year public universities left college and did not transfer to another institution. One year later, their average salary was less than $15,000 a year. Gender does not seem to be a determinate for “leavers” with males and females leaving about equally. However, the data in the report does suggest that these college students were either ill-equipped academically or lacked the dispositions needed to persist in higher-education. Nearly 70 percent of “leavers” left college with less than 30 credit hours earned (the equivalent of one year of college) and more than half (58%) had a GPA lower than a 2.0. 

As we persist in Kentucky to balance an Unbridled Learning Accountability Model that ensures College- and Career Readiness for ALL, policymakers need to be mindful that readiness implies success at the next level.  As we increase the number of students “ready” we need to also ensure that those students have the skills, dispositions and supports they need to persist in their first year of college and beyond. The data show that students completing their first year of college are much more likely to complete their degree. College and career counseling at the high school level and retention efforts at the postsecondary level are both important strategies to help students achieve their potential.

The 2014 Postsecondary Feedback Reports by Institution can be found at: