Thursday, April 30, 2015

Student Voice Will be Focus in Clark County Study

In the press release below, the Greater Clark Foundation announces support for a new Student Voice effort:

WINCHESTER, Ky., (April 28, 2014) — How engaged are Campbell Junior High students in creating the environment they want at their new school, and how much of a voice do they have in school decision making? The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence will use a $10,000 Ambition Grant from The Greater ClarkFoundation to find out.

The Student Voice Team ofthe Prichard Committee works to elevate the voices of Kentucky youth on the classroom impact of education issues and to support students as policy partners in improving Kentucky schools. The audit at Campbell will help test key theories about how to support students as partners in making schools better.

“We’ll gather quantitative and detailed qualitative information for parents, teachers, administrators and the broader community about what Campbell students are experiencing currently, and their potential for contributing in the future,” said Rachel Belin, Director of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team. The audit will include meetings with faculty, administrators and students; a student opinion poll and roundtable discussions. The audit will be conducted during May and June, with the final report due this summer.

“Campbell welcomes the opportunity to work with the Prichard Committee to magnify student input so we can improve our school,” said Principal Dustin Howard. “We want our students to know we value their opinions and ideas, and we understand that giving them a say in how the school runs helps improve their own opportunities for success, both while here and later in life.”

The Greater Clark Foundation’s Ambition Grants provide funding for community-driven projects that can be completed and the results documented within 90 days. The projects must take place within the Foundation’s focus area of greater Clark County and relate to one of the Foundation’s three focus areas:
·       Civic and economic vitality;
·       Educational attainment;
·       Health, well-being and quality of life.

Nonprofits, religious institutions or local government entities in the Foundation’s service area are eligible to apply for the grants and can also serve as fiscal agents for other applicants as long as the purpose is charitable; however, project benefits must extend beyond the organization’s own constituents. These quick-turnaround projects empower average people to think and act in extraordinary ways while realizing that their personal ambitions might be shared by others in the community who can work together. Through distribution of small grants, the Foundation encourages an engaged population and a culture of “bright spots” in Clark County.

Application information can be found at  The application process is simple and quick – applicants should submit up to three pages in a letter explaining what they want to see happen and why it is important. The applicant must be clear about the demonstrated community benefits and results, the requested amount, a project budget, the time frame and any partnerships. Applications may be submitted electronically, mailed or hand-delivered to the Foundation. Applicants will receive a response within 30 days.
About The Greater Clark Foundation
The Greater Clark Foundation is about Ambition for a Vibrant Community. A health legacy foundation, its mission is to make the Greater Clark County area of Kentucky one of the best places in the country to live, work and play. Based in Winchester, the Foundation focuses its investments on civic and economic vitality; educational attainment; and health, well-being and quality of life. For more information, visit us on Facebook, or at, or call 859-355-9054.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

College impact even for students with weak scores

Can a large number of students with low admissions scores really complete four year degrees and reap the economic benefits of college completion? The New York Times is spotlighting two recent studies that suggest that, in fact, they can.

Using SAT data,  the studies tracked students who reached an 840 admission cutoff score for their states' universities, and also tracked those who narrowly missed the cutoff.   (Because the studies looked at outcomes over a long period, the original SAT scores used the 0-1600 scale in place when the participants were in high school.)

One study, based in Georgia, fund that roughly half the students who reached the cut  score earned bachelor's degrees within six years, compared to 17% of those who missed.  That's a clear indication that many students with marginal scores can, in fact, complete their degrees.

The other, focused on Florida students, found an average earnings difference of 20% between the two groups.  The Times qootes one of the authors of that study as saying, “If you give these students a shot, they’re ready to succeed,”

For those who make or influence policy, this sort of evidence can be a reminder to use test scores with caution and in combination with other evidence of academic capacity, commitment to work, and tenacity in confronting challenges.   Taken alone, the assessments can miss or underestimate quite a lot of human potential to persevere and succeed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Education leader named Prichard Committee executive director

Here's today's press release from the Prichard Committee: 

LEXINGTON, Ky. – An education policy leader and long-time advocate for Kentucky’s children has been named executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey was chosen by the committee’s board of directors to succeed Stu Silberman, who will retire effective September 4, 2015. She has been associate executive director of the statewide citizens’ group since May of last year.

“We are very excited Brigitte has agreed to serve as our next executive director,” said Franklin Jelsma, a Louisville attorney who chairs the committee’s board. “Above all else, we were looking for a leader who is passionate about improving public education in Kentucky. That is Brigitte in a nutshell. She is driven by her desire to help children.”

Ramsey, a resident of Falmouth, is former director of public policy for United Way of Greater Cincinnati, where she provided leadership on early education initiatives and efforts to improve education funding. She served on the Kentucky Board of Education from May 2008, when she was appointed by the governor, until April 2014, when she left the board to take the Prichard Committee post. She held the position of vice chair during her last year on the state board.

Her background also includes work as an advocate for children and extensive experience as a researcher on state tax and budget issues and poverty in Kentucky. She’s been a member of Kentucky’s Early Childhood Advisory Council since 2010 and was an elected member of the Pendleton County Board of Education from 1998 to 2008. Ramsey holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Kentucky’s Martin School and undergraduate degrees from Northern Kentucky University.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the next generation of the Prichard Committee’s work,” Ramsey said. “The progress in education and citizen engagement over the last three decades has been remarkable. I look forward to working with the committee’s members all across Kentucky to ensure our future success – on behalf of our students, our schools and our communities.”

Jelsma expressed the committee’s appreciation to Silberman, whose retirement will follow four years with the organization and 41 years in education, including work as superintendent of the Fayette County and Daviess County public school systems. “We are deeply indebted to him for his years of service and his tireless work on behalf of education,” Jelsma said.

Silberman expressed strong support for his successor and excitement about the work ahead.

“Brigitte will do a fantastic job and continue the great work that began in 1983” when the committee was founded. “It has been a blessing to work beside her during this year, and I look forward to the four-month transition we will have together. The committee is in good hands as we move into the future.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Scientific Practices: A Big Shift in Our New Standards

Kentucky's new science standards bring a giant shift toward science and engineering practices.  Eight  major practices are to be applied across physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering:
1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Those practices aren't an alternative to content knowledge: students will still need to read, write, study, and thing about scientific insights developed over centuries and those emerging now from current research.

Instead, the practices demand that the content knowledge move off of the textbook page (out of the lecture notes, beyond the PowerPoint slides) and into active thinking and work.  Each page of the standards begins with statements that "students who demonstrate understanding can" do specific things.  As illustrations, the middle school standards say call for students to be able to "undertake a design project to construct, test, and modify a device that either releases or absorbs thermal energy by chemical processes" and "analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem."

For student learning, that will require a big realignment to focus on puzzling through big issues and practical applications and building increasingly skilled use of each practice.  For example, with Practice 1 (asking questions), students may start with open-ended puzzling about phenomena they've observed, but then they'll need to learn to move smoothly into focusing their inquiries on testable questions. For Practice 3 (planning and carrying out investigations), those questions will need to be framed in terms of variables and controls.  The standards also provide progressions from grade to grade, so that students develop expertise over the years--but even the youngest are involved in regular, lively work to develop rich insight into the natural world.

In turn, for the community at large, this shift in science expectations creates a new puzzle: what kind of evidence will show us that students are developing those practices?  It seems hard, probably impossible, for machine-scored tests to give us real insight.  If we want to know how students are doing, we may indeed need to find innovative ways to check on this deeper learning.  To succeed, we may have to take on very active roles in defining problems (Practice 1), designing solutions (Practice 6), and making arguments from evidence (Practice 7).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Most districts losing educators, even as state total grows

From 2004 to 2014, most Kentucky school districts reduced their certified staffs, even as the statewide total increased by 2%. Certified employees include teachers and other educators whose positions require state certificates, including librarians, counselors, principals, superintendents, and some other positions.

The changes can be seen in more detail in this table:

 Thus, three important patterns:
  • The growth tilted toward the larger districts, with smaller districts on average seeing declines and the medium-sized districts taking the greatest losses.
  • The growth was heavily concentrated in the county systems, rather than independent districts.
  • Appalachian districts took heavy losses even as the others grew.
The Appalachian situation is arguably even tougher than these numbers show.  They reflect Appalachian Regional Commission's designation of 54 counties and their 18 independent districts, but a handful of the included locations had very different experiences.

Madison County added 73 certified employees for a 13% growth rate. A set of seven districts (Bath, Clark, Corbin, Laurel, Madison, Montgomery, and Pulaski) together added 247 teachers and 10%.  If those seven were left out of the regional count, the remaining districts would show an 11% decline.

What unites those districts that have been able to add educators over the last decade?  For six of them, you can exit an interstate highway and your off-ramp will put you inside the county seat.  Pulaski doesn't fit that category exactly but it's already at the junction of major east/west and north/south routes, and there's steady campaigning to extend I-66 along that same path.  Roughly, this means the growth zones are in the places most connected to other regions, and the losses deeper in the Appalachian part of the state are heavy indeed.

Here's a second table counting the districts seeing the various kinds of changes:
Over this same period, Kentucky schools saw a 5% increase in the number of students in average daily attendance, so a 2% increase in certified staff falls clearly short of keeping pace.

Monday, April 20, 2015

High School Feedback Reports Show Need for Stronger Supports for Students' Success

Here's a post by Brigitte Blom Ramsey:

Last week, Kentucky released high school feedback reports highlighting the college going and college success rates for students from each of Kentucky's high schools. This is the third year the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics has released these numbers. This year's reports look at college going for the class of 2012 and first year college success for the class of 2011.

Here are some interesting data points and some food for thought:

61.7 - is the percent of 2012 Kentucky public high school graduates going immediately on to college. This is up only slightly over the two years prior.

15.6 - is the percent who earned 30 credits in their freshman year, keeping them on track to be a sophomore their second year in college.

12.1 - is the average number of college credits earned by first year students whose ACT scores showed they were not fully ready for college upon leaving high school.

22.9 - is the average number of college credits earned by students their first year in college who were ready for college based on their ACT score.

These last three data points are particularly concerning. The low number of credit hours earned by so many full-time college students their first year is likely a result of one or more of the following factors: students having to take remedial classes that don't carry college credit, students not being successful in one or more classes their freshman year, or students not taking enough credit hours each semester.

For successful transitions from high school to postsecondary to take place, college/career readiness is critical, but so is appropriate counseling support for all students in both high school and college. College/career counselors can help ensure students pursue the right postsecondary option for them and prove successful in that all important first year after high school.

To view the "Kentucky High School Feedback Report on College Going" and the "Kentucky High School Feedback Report on College Success" for your district or high school, please use this link.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Adding Students, Unevenly

From 2004 to 2014, Kentucky public schools saw a 5% increase in the number of students in average daily attendance, but that growth was far from evenly distributed: more than half of our districts actually saw their numbers decline. Additional differences can be seen in a table of results sorted by district size, type, and region:

Thus, three important patterns:
  • The growth tilted toward the larger districts, with smaller districts on average seeing declines
  • The growth was faster in the county systems (taken as a group) than in independent systems
  • The growth was concentrated outside Appalachia (using the Appalachian Regional Commission's designation of 54 counties and adding the 18 independents in that part of the state)
The Appalachian picture looks relatively tame because a handful of districts on the edge of the region had powerful growth.  Madison County, for example, added 1,653 students to its average daily attendance, growing 19% in one decade. If Madison were not included in the Appalachian list, the rest of the region would show a 3% decline. Clark, Corbin, Laurel, Madison, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Rowan, with excellent highway access and opportunities to act as regional hubs, showed 12% growth --and leaving them out would show the remaining districts with a 6% decline.

Here's a second table counting the districts seeing the various kinds of changes, with one twist on the earlier patterns:
  • Even though independent districts had slower growth as a set than counties as a group, a majority of independents expanded while a majority of counties shrank.
When thinking of those 88 districts with declining attendance, bear in mind that even small losses can bring big challenges. For example, even if layoffs are avoided, people who retire may not be replaced.  Over time,  as those who remain grow in seniority, payroll still creeps upward, making it hard to maintain existing programs and harder still to invest in innovations.  Most Kentucky districts are working in that difficult zone, even while public education as a whole expands.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Performance Tasks, Because Life is not Multiple Choice

Multiple-choice tests are easy to score, and there's a whole science built up around ensuring that results are fairly comparable from school to school and from year to year.  Those are good things.  And yet...

The work students will need to do as adults will be so different. They'll need to create their own solutions, analyzing the problem independently, hunting for their own information, thinking it through, and communicating their conclusions and reasoning effectively.  So I was glad to spot the new, which is promising "articles, discussions, and resources" on some richer ways for students to demonstrate what they know and can do.

In the initial blog post, Jay McTighe offers a definition:
A performance task is any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks yield a tangible product and/or performance that serve as evidence of learning. Unlike a selected-response item (e.g., multiple-choice or matching) that asks students to select from given alternatives, a performance task presents a situation that calls for learners to apply their learning in context.
McTighe also offers four examples of performance tasks students might be asked to take on: one for siting and designing a public park, another for testing a company's claims about its cat litter, a third for choosing where a regional consultant should base her home and office, and the last on developing articles on the role of forensic investigators.

All of those tasks are harder than choosing from prepared answers.  Students have to work harder, and the scorers have to work harder, and public officials using the data have to think harder about the implications.  The trade-off is this: this kind of work offers evidence that really shows whether kids can really do the sorts of things we really want them doing.

Mind, I'm not saying we need to use this kind of task for statewide accountability.   They're expensive, and there's not a lot of public tolerance for the uncertainties that are included in the scoring.  We learned that in the 1990s when Kentucky tried to break new ground with this kind of activity.

Still,  there could be big benefits if we could use this kind of task as evidence for students, parents, teachers, and communities to consider.  We'd have a better idea of what students will know and be able to do as contributors to our shared future.   In those slightly looser uses, we should be open to richer ways of checking for learning and thinking through what's most important in teaching.

From that perspective, is a welcome invitation to new discussion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

EdTrust: New bill needs rules on how states tackle gaps

Kati Haycock at the Education Trust is praising many parts of the Every Child Achieves Act, which the latest proposal for replacing No Child Left Behind, but calling for major improvement in one area: the rules about identifying and intervening in schools where all students or a major subgroup is not on track to graduate ready for college and career.  In an April 7 statement, Haycock wrote:
But even as we celebrate what is in the bill, we must press for attention to what is not. What’s missing is a clear expectation that student progress toward college- and career- ready graduation matters most in the accountability system, coupled with a clear expectation that any school that is chronically low-performing or consistently underperforming for any group of students be identified for intervention and support...

[I]f federal law allows states — when they decide which schools need attention and action — to turn a blind eye to schools that are not making progress toward college- and career-ready graduation for some or all groups of children, then most states will do exactly that. And the children who attend schools that consistently fail to meet some or all of the state-set goals can have no confidence that anybody will act to protect their futures.
I started to type in "Kentucky would never turn a blind eye," but then I remembered how recently we've done just that.  It's public policy that Kentucky only provides state support to turn around 41 persistently low achieving schools at a time, because we say we can't afford to strengthen the other schools where students need rapid change just as badly.  Similarly, in 2013, when it came time to identify the second cohort of focus schools where specific groups of students had catastrophically low scores, Kentucky just didn't identify the schools with those weaknesses, and funding was again offered as the explanation.  I want to believe we're better, but the evidence doesn't really allow me to deny EdTrust's argument.

So, yes, the Education Trust has a sound point about likely state choices if the federal rules are not clear about identifying and supporting schools where many students are still being left behind. 

Check out Kati Haycock's full statement and yesterday's PrichBlog post on the basics of the bill.  The committee mark-up of the draft legislation begins today.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Monday, April 13, 2015

Every Child Achieves Act?

In 1965, it was called  the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and in 2002, it was renewed with the major changes that made it the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Now the"Every Child Achieves Act of 2015" seems to have a shot at becoming law, renewing the ESEA and changing the NCLB requirements.  Last week, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash)  proposed a bipartisan approach.  Politics K-12 reports that amendments are due today for the committee markup that begins tomorrow.

If the current bill became law without changes, states would still be required to:
  • set academic standards
  • assess reading and math once per grade in grades 3-8 and once in high school
  • assess science three times between grade 3 and grade 12.
  • report assessment results broken out by student subgroups
  • establish accountability rules that make use of those assessment results and graduation rates
  • identify low-performing schools
However, if the current bill became law without changes, states would be able to:
  • pilot innovative assessment systems in school districts
  • use additional indicators of student and school performance in accountability calculations (Politics K-12's example of a possible addition is "percent of students taking AP tests")
  • design accountability rules with considerably more flexibility, including an absence of federal requirements about how many schools to identify as low-performing.
In the nature of the legislative process, the current bill almost certainly will see changes, and it may end up never becoming law.  Still, after years and years of failed proposals for ESEA reauthorization, this bipartisan draft may have more potential than most.

Also in the nature of the legislative process, the current bill has many more parts, and I've settled for a few main issues.  You can read the committee summary here, the Politics K-12 summary here, or the full text of the bill here. 

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Friday, April 10, 2015

Community Collaboration – A New Model to Expand Preschool

This week, we released a new brief on collaborative partnerships for preschool designed to provide high-quality, cost-effective early childhood programming. Such collaborations between school systems, private childcare and Head Start typically combine half-day preschool and wraparound quality child care in a single location. The goal is to provide full-day learning experiences for children – and peace of mind for parents.

The report, entitled “Pre-K Collaboration in Kentucky: Maximizing Resources for Kindergarten Readiness,” provides details about elements of successful collaborations. The programs are maximizing such resources as public preschool and child care funding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture meals program and sometimes philanthropic dollars.

States around the country encourage and require collaborative models because they are good for children and families, maximize local resources and help strengthen the child care provider community. Kentucky has an increasing number of these “new models of preschool” and as preschool eligibility expands we hope to see even more local collaboration.

Collaboration can be tricky and it requires thought and conversation among local leaders to figure out what will work best in a given community. But, the benefits can accrue to all parties, making collaboration a win-win for all – especially children.

Benefits of Collaboration:
  • Children – collaboration increases the continuity, quality of care and instruction for children by providing access to high-quality, day-long and even year-round settings. It also avoids disruptive transitions for children during the day - from home to child care to preschool to child care and back home.
  • Parents – co-locating child care and preschool helps parents avoid the difficulty of arranging child care before or after preschool classes. It eliminates the need to transport kids from one place to another which allows for more quality instruction time. When located at a child care center, parents typically have more interaction with child care staff which can be beneficial for parent-child-caregiver relations and child outcomes.
  • Schools – collaboration saves money by decreasing the need to construct new classrooms (approx. $250,000) or retrofitting space (approx. $80,000) and can also decrease transportation costs with mid-day routes.
  • Child care – collaboration can be important for the sustainability of child care in a community. As preschool eligibility expands, children may leave child care to attend preschool instead. This can create a financial problem for child care centers as caring for 4-year olds helps defray the higher costs of caring for infants and toddlers. Over time, expansion of preschool could cause child care centers to cut back or close leaving parents with fewer or no child care options.
We hope the new brief will be a good resource for local leaders to begin to think about the role of collaboration in their community and how they might begin to develop collaborative models that support our youngsters’ early learning and development.

--Posted by Brigitte Blom Ramsey

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Will AMOs Ever Be Bigger Than One Point?

Will Kentucky schools ever have AMOs (annual measurable objectives) that ask them to improve by more than a single point per year?

Short Answer
Under Kentucky's current accountability system, AMOs greater than 1.0 are effectively impossible.

More Detailed Answer
It is mathematically possible for Kentucky AMOs to be bigger than 1.0, but scores would have to change so dramatically that it is simply not a meaningful possibility.

For example, if the top half of elementary schools all raised their scores by 10 points and the bottom half all dropped their scores by 5 points, that would allow AMOs of 1.1 points.

A change like that, with elementary scores changing radically in both directions so that the strong and weak are pulled much further apart, is hugely improbable. Effectively, it's impossible.

Middle and high schools would need even more improbable-to-impossible changes, with even bigger growth in the difference between the upper and lower results.

Technical Answer 
(To Avoid Statistical Details, Skip the Fine Print Below)
In Kentucky, our AMOs are based on standard deviations. A standard deviation is a way of saying how results spread out around the mean.  If results all clump together close to the mean, the standard deviation is small. If they spread out a lot, the standard deviation is large.

Under changes voted on by the Kentucky Board of Education earlier this month, future AMOs will ask most schools to improve their next-generation learner scores by one-third of a standard deviation in five years, meaning one-fifteenth of a standard deviation a year.

That formula means a standard deviation of 15.8 or higher will be needed to allow a 1.1 AMO.

A web-based standard deviation calculator allowed some experiments about what scores would yield that 15.8.

Entering the 2014 next-generation learner results for our 720 elementary schools yielded a 9.2 standard deviation.  One-fifteenth of that would be about 0.6. With a result like that, the new minimum AMO of 1.0 will apply.

A next step was adding 5 points to the top 365 scores, subtracting 5 points from the bottom 355, and entering those results in the calculator.  That change was not big enough to yield a 15.8 standard deviation. 

Moving each group 6 points did not work either.

10 up and 5 down worked.

10 up and 4 down did not, showing 10 and 5 to be one of the smallest elementary changes yielding 15.8 as the standard deviation and 1.1 as an AMO.

For middle and high schools, the 2014 standard deviations were smaller than at the elementary level, so it would take even bigger changes to get to a 15.8 standard deviation and a 1.1 AMO for most schools.

Why did the experiments try scenarios with some schools moving up and others down?  Because, again, standard deviations get larger when results get further apart. Bigger AMOs can only happen when the distance between the top and bottom results gets larger.  

Bottom Line
Under Kentucky's current accountability system, AMOs greater than 1.0 are effectively impossible.  The scale of change that would be required just isn't going to happen.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pending Changes to School Accountability

Last Wednesday, the Kentucky Board of Education took another step forward on revisions to our statewide accountability system.  There are still a few steps left in the "gauntlet" of steps needed to amend regulations, but the changes are now quite likely to be implemented.  Here's a report on the main shifts, backed up by a few notes to clarify elements that are unchanged.

Gap Results
Set novice reduction goals in reading and mathematics for each subgroup that has enough students to allow separate reporting

Report on the percent of those subgroup goals that each school meets
     ... and continue reporting proficiency results for the combined gap group

Growth Results
Report success in moving individual students to higher performance levels (apprentice, proficient or distinguished) and in keeping students at the proficient and distinguished levels
      ... and continue to report student growth percentile results

Combined Learner Results
For elementary schools, count achievement, gap and growth results equally
     ... and keep middle school weights of 30% achievement, 30% gap, 30% growth and 10% readiness
          ... and equal high school weights for achievement, gap, growth, readiness and graduation 

Annual Measurable Objectives
Specify that annual measurable objectives (AMOs) will be at least 1 point for needs improvement schools and at least half a point for proficient and distinguished schools

Set AMOs based just on the learner results (achievement, gap, growth, readiness and graduation) 
     ... and keep calculating overall scores combining learner results and program review results
          ... and using overall scores for schools' percentile rankings
               ... and to identify proficient, distinguished and needs improvement schools
                    ... and to identify priority schools
     ... and planning to add Professional Growth and Effectiveness System results to overall scores

Focus Schools
Identify focus schools based on graduation rates below 80% for two years 
     ... and drop focus based on 60% graduation rates 

Identify focus schools based on subgroup scores in the bottom 5% for that subject and group
    ... and drop focus based on subgroup scores in the third standard deviation
     ... and keep focus based on gap group scores in the bottom 10% of all gap group scores

These changes are shown in two documents approved during the April KBE meeting: the Statement of Consideration on 703 KAR 5:200, dealing next generation learner scores, and the Statement of Consideration on 703 KAR 5:225, on school and district accountability, recognition, support, and consequences.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Monday, April 6, 2015

The New/Old Challenge of High School Relationships

The New York Times is reporting on three-minute parent-teacher conferences at some New York City schools, because that's all that's possible on the limited conference days at schools where many parents actually ask for the meetings and teachers can have up to 150 students at a time. 

I'm sure that Kentucky high schools have very few parents asking to meet with every teacher, and I'm fairly confident that Stuyvesant High is atypical for New York as well. But even so, the article describes a challenge that's worth some Kentucky reflection.  

Here's why.  In our new Teacher Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, we've defined exemplary teaching to include elements like these:
  • "Teacher actively seeks knowledge of students’ levels of development and their backgrounds, cultures, skills, language proficiency, interests, and special needs from a variety of sources. This information is acquired for individual students."
  • "Teacher’s communication with families is frequent and sensitive to cultural traditions, with students contributing to the communication."
  • "Response to family concerns is handled with professional and cultural sensitivity."
  • "Teacher’s efforts to engage families in the instructional program are frequent and successful."
And yet, that's patently impossible for a teacher who works with 150 students a day.

If we seriously want our teachers to work with students on a personal basis and make connections with their families as well, something will have to change.  Twenty years ago, Kentucky was seriously discussing high school restructuring, including schedules that gave each teacher responsibility for just 80 students at a time.  Those changes could have opened doors to deeper learning and deeper relationships, but most schools backed away from those ideas as too disruptive.  Maybe it's time to dust off those old reports and think again about what we want for learners, for teachers, and for families and what transformations we'll need to get there.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

(Source note: Quotes come from the Framework For Teaching, developed by Charlotte Danielson and adapted by the Kentucky Department of Education.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Graduation Improvement (Estimating Our Ten-Year Progress)

Updating three posts from PrichBlog's early days (here, here and here), the chart above compares numbers of students tested at the end of grade 8 and numbers who made it to graduation four years later.

My previous post on this puzzle reported 2010 data, and since then, our graduation count is up 11 students, and the missing eighth grade count is down by 1,120.

Since 2005, the results are even more impressive, with graduates up by 5,598, and missing eighth-graders down by 4,757. 

Naturally, it would be better to be able to compare graduates to exact numbers of fall first-time ninth-graders. Before Kentucky was able to track individual students over time, the testing counts offered the closest I could come to a no-duplication estimate of the students who would make up that ninth-grade class.  Starting in 2009, we've been able to track each freshman through the high school years, which is why 2013 was the first year we could report a four-year cohort rate.  The estimation approach shown above has a trade off: a longer look using numbers that are a less exact match to what we really want to know.  When we have 10 years of cohort rates, it will be great not to need this kind of technique.

Still, this method gives us a sense of our progress over a sweep of years, and it's good to see Kentucky gaining on this challenge.

(Source notes: Eighth grade testing counts come from Kentucky Department of Education assessment results files for 2001 through 2010. 2005 through 2010 graduation counts are from KDE "Nonacademic Data" briefing packets.  2011 graduate counts from KDE's Average Freshman Graduation Rate reporting, while  2012 through 2014 graduations are from the school report cards.)

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Arts Education for the 21st Century: A Bold Proposal

A January 2015 "vision paper" from Kentucky's arts education organizations argues for major new steps to "ensure that all students have access to a high quality arts education; one that truly supports developing students’ artistic talents and abilities as mandated by Senate Bill 1."

In addition to supporting adoption of the National Core Arts Standards, the paper provides detailed recommendations around three major goals:
  • Protect time for discipline-specific, standards-based arts instruction
  • Provide for high quality specialized arts teachers to deliver visual and performing arts instruction 
  • Ensure that statutory, regulatory, and KDE terminology supports high-quality arts education 
The paper provides concrete evidence that arts teaching and learning have been eroded significantly in recent years, and offers this blunt statement about our current accountability approach:
"Improving arts education in Kentucky will call for more than Program Reviews, because the reviews currently lack rigor due to of a lack of statutory and regulatory support, have limited, questionable reliability because they are self-reported, utilize a rubric that is subject to wide interpretation in the hands of non-arts specialists, and lack an auditing process to encourage and ensure honest appraisal."
The Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education issued the paper and a briefer brochure on the same ideas.  The Coalition includes the Kentucky Art Education Association, the Kentucky Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, the Kentucky Music Educators Association, and the Kentucky Theatre Association.  I'm looking forward to seeing this discussion develop!

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston