Friday, May 29, 2015

Maker Spaces: A Rising Idea for Deeper Learning?

"Maker space" is a term for our decade, proposing flexible access to up-to-date technology, including the chance to explore 3-D printers and other tools and to work with others who are also figuring out what those new technologies can do.

Can school libraries become maker spaces? EdWeek is reporting on school libraries working to promote "education through tinkering and creating" through maker spaces for student use.

For example, a Missouri elementary school has stocked its space with "craft supplies, sewing machines, snap circuits, Lego sets," as well as a 3-D printer for student use.  A Michigan effort is developing after-school opportunities for students to develop technology skills and finding, according to a faculty coordinator, that "there is a real hunger; there is a sense that there's something about this that's powerful for them."

On a first read, this looks like a savvy new approach to familiar challenges. To use these tools, students will have  to apply and develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.  To complete their projects, they'll need to use math and science skills in systematic, productive ways. And if we want to see students engage with their full energy, these kinds of resources certainly seem likely to draw them in.

On a second read, it's clear that the approach is in its early days. So far, there's not much formal research to confirm or disconfirm learning results.  Still, that's how engineering is supposed to work. A sound design process identifies a need, proposes solutions, and tests them out, check to see which ones best meet the criteria for meeting the need and revising many times to find an approach that fully succeeds. 

Here, there are two clear needs: developing students' STEM understanding and developing those capacities to participate effectively that we often call "21st century skills."  Maker spaces look credible as possible solutions to both needs, and definitely worth multiple, vigorous trials.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

High School Attainment: Five Years and Five Decade Change

Here's a quick look at rising Kentucky educational attainment, using data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Census data will include private school and home school diplomas, along with equivalency degrees, so this chart can never be a straightforward match to our reported cohort graduation rates.

Still, this is a clear indication that our state is making sustained progress on high school attainment.

It's also worth pausing to trace the evidence of a huge educational change decades ago. 

You can see the difference if you compare Kentuckians 65 and older to any other cohort, and notice how much lower their completion rates were. 

You can see the shift even more sharply if you look at how that age group changed from 2008 to 2013. That's the transition from the youngest members of the group being in 1943 to the youngest being born in 1948, and roughly from 1961 eligibility for high school graduation to 1966 eligibility –and moving through those years has quickly given Kentucky a dramatically better educated group of older citizens.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finding Solutions (New Prichard Report On Implementing Standards in Kentucky Classrooms)

Important news fresh from Tuesday's Prichard Committee press release:

A first-hand look at how Kentucky’s academic standards are spurring innovative teaching and learning in classrooms is the focus of a special report from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Finding Solutions: Standards Push Students Toward Real-Life Problems” features eighth-grade math teacher Christa Lemily’s approach to introducing her South Warren Middle School students to mathematical formulas by determining the value of investing in a classic car. Such connections between challenging math and real-world situations have grown as a result of Kentucky’s academic standards.

“The standards focus not just on repetition, but on understanding and applying mathematic reasoning,” Lemily said. “These standards help teachers focus on how students are taught to reason and think through math as much as they focus on the skills that students are taught. The goal is math thinkers, not just math do-ers.”

Teachers at Pembroke Elementary and Millbrooke Elementary, both in Christian County, also share their experiences with the standards. Pembroke teacher Jettie Payne said the standards are prompting her fifth-grade math students to gain a solid understanding of fractions and decimals.

She also said her classroom represents a change from the way she learned to teach. “I remember sitting in class thinking, ‘When will I ever use this?,’” she said, adding that her lessons now draw clear connections between math and everyday application.

Millbrooke’s Cindy Wyatt said the standards have prompted her to select more challenging books for her second graders, leading to more interesting reflections and conversations in reading groups and stronger vocabulary development.

Kentucky's academic standards are also the focus of a second Prichard Committee report released today on “Progress in Kentucky Education: Higher Standards, Assessments and Teaching." Together, the reports provide an overview of progress in Kentucky education and how that is reflected in both policy developments and classroom practices.  Both are available at

New Prichard Report: Progress in Kentucky Education: Higher Standards, Assessments and Teaching

And more important news from Tuesday's release:

LEXINGTON, KY –Kentucky’s academic standards are the focus of a new Prichard Committee report, which shares additional information about the state’s assessment and teacher evaluation systems.

Progress in Kentucky Education: Higher Standards, Assessments and Teaching” describes the interconnected elements of the state’s education system:
  • academic standards that establish what students should know and be able to do as they move from grade to grade toward graduation
  • an assessment system that measures how well students and schools are meeting those standards
  • a professional growth and effectiveness system to ensure that educators are able to improve their skills every year and equip students for steadily higher levels of performance
The report points out that higher academic standards are critical because Kentucky’s students face a future where jobs will require that they can adapt and learn new skills on a continuing basis; in other words, they must learn how to learn. Kentucky’s state standards help them do that, the report notes.

Making sure schools and students are on the right track is essential, and Kentucky’s statewide assessments provide evidence about the learning that is taking place in schools. The report notes that assessments are particularly important for spotting and addressing achievement gaps between groups of students – a continuing, significant challenge for Kentucky.

The report also emphasizes the relationship between effective teachers and student success, pointing up the need to give educators ongoing feedback and opportunities to develop stronger professional skills. Kentucky’s new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System looks closely at both the quality of what teachers do and the learning that takes place in the classroom.

The system identifies areas where each teacher is already effective and where improvement is needed, and it promises consistent support for making those improvements, the Prichard Committee report points out. It also sets clear criteria and quick timelines for ineffective educators to improve their practice or move out of the profession. A matching system is in place for principals, and similar approaches are being developed for counselors, librarians, instructional supervisors, and other professional education positions.

“It’s clear we are on the right track in Kentucky. Our students are performing at higher levels and teachers are meeting the standards by providing deeper learning opportunities in the classroom. Staying the course and working together will ensure continuous improvement for our students and for our state,” said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Progress in Kentucky Education” was released today along with a special Prichard Perspectives report on  implementing the standards in Kentucky classrooms: “Finding Solutions: Standards Push Students Toward Real-Life Problems.” Together, the reports provide an overview of progress in Kentucky education and how that is reflected in both policy developments and classroom practices.

Both reports are available at

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Mathematics We Need

Here's a challenge:
• You are planning to make and sell ice cream cones at a school sports event.
• You expect to make and sell 300 cones.
• You buy ice cream in 1 liter tubs.
• Each tub costs $2. 
• You can fill ten cones from each tub. 
• Each empty cone costs 5¢.
• You plan to sell each filled cone for 80¢.
• Before buying the ice cream, you survey 60 people to find out what flavors they like. Here are the results of the survey:
    In this situation:
    1. Work out the quantities you need to buy and the costs
    2. What profit do you expect to make on the day?
    You know that if you try to work through the task above, you'll have to do more than remember what you learned in seventh grade.  Instead:
    • You'll have to figure out how the information fits together, and show some tenacity to work through to a solution.
    • There's a good chance that after you've been working on a problem like this for a couple of minutes, you'll erase something in order to change your strategy.  
    • When you've worked through the whole thing once, there's also also a good chance that you'll realize one of your steps wasn't done quite right, and for precision you need to do some of the work a second time.  
    • If you've been around this sort of block a few times, you know you want to make notes next to the calculations so someone else can look over your thinking and help you see if it's clear and sound.
    Most of all, you know you didn't learn the "one right way" to answer this task in school, and you know this kind of task above is the stuff of real life, relevant both for large scale capitalism and for local PTA leadership.

    To be ready for college and career, Kentucky's students need preparation for mathematics with these kinds of demands.

    That's what we're building by implementing Kentucky's academic standards.  Along with ability to do particular kinds of equations,  we're working to build eight mathematical practices, including four illustrated in my bullets above:
    • "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them"
    • "Use appropriate tools strategically"
    • "Attend to precision"
    • "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others"
    This kind of readiness is also what we're building by participating in the work of the Mathematics Design Collaborative.  The task comes direct from a set of "summative tasks" developed for MDC that allow students to show and teachers to see how well student can put their mathematical learning to work.  It's a middle school task, confirming that we're aiming very high indeed for our high school graduates.

    Source note: No claim about standards should come without source specifics.  You can download a copy of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for yourself, and check pages 56 and 57 to see the language quoted above.  You can see the same expectations without a download at the Common Core State Standards site by looking under Standards for Mathematical Practice.

    Geek note: The rubric for the task shows it as sound to round up on liters of strawberry and down on chocolate chip, based on assuming that the survey was accurate.  I myself would discount the survey substantially because it did not include chocolate and because I can't tell if the 65 people surveyed were a good sample of the kinds of people coming for the sports event.  Mind, I'd still end up with the same profit estimate, but I'd bring a different set of wares to the game.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    What is Assessment? (GCIPL Fellow Video)

    Parents Want to Know: What is Assessment on Vimeo.

    This clear, simple, accurate, kid-focused video is part of a GCIPL leadership project by Jenny Hobson and Katie Starzman, and it's seriously great.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    HANDS: Kentucky’s Home Visiting Success Story

    Liza Holland, a consultant working with the Prichard Committee, shares this post:

    Health Access Nurturing Development Services, or HANDS, is Kentucky’s home visiting initiative to support at-risk families and give babies and children a better start in life.

    HANDS is funded through Kentucky’s Master Tobacco Settlement at $9 million and leverages that money to access an additional 17 million in federal Medicaid funds. It is a program carried out by health departments in all 120 counties.

    HANDS has demonstrated great maternal and child outcomes. A sample of the recent findings includes these maternal outcomes:
    • ADEQUATE PRENATAL CARE – 14% more than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • PREGNANCY-INDUCED HYPERTENSION – 49% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • MATERNAL COMPLICATIONS DURING PREGNANCY – 40% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    And also these child outcomes:
    • PREMATURITY – 26% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • LOW BIRTH WEIGHT INFANTS - 46% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • INFANT DECEASED IN HOSPITAL – 94% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    • CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT – 47% less than similar high risk families that did not participate
    The U.S. Senate recently approved a two-year extension for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month. This federal-state partnership, which provides critical family support and coaching, has a long history of bipartisan backing at the federal and state levels. The extension of funding through September 30, 2017—$400 million a year for fiscal years 2016 and 2017—will mean that more of our nation’s vulnerable children will have the opportunity to grow up safer and healthier and to be successful in school and life.

    These good results for children and families are made possible in part by the strong national advocacy work of Prichard partners like the Pew Charitable Trusts and ReadyNation, as well as the work across Kentucky of many dedicated citizens.  HANDS and other early childhood initiatives are important Prichard Committee priorities.

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Past and Future of Home Visiting (From the Pew Summit)

    Liza Holland, a consultant working with the Prichard Committee, shares this post:

    At the recent Pew Quality in Home Visiting Summit 2015, Deb Daro, a Chapin Hall Senior Research Fellow at the University of Chicago, shared a brief history of home visiting, along with thoughts on next steps to strengthen this highly effective strategy for early childhood support services.

    Home visiting as a means of providing support to parents has it roots in rural history, harkening back to Mary Breckinridge out on a horse in Kentucky at the turn of the 20th century doing home visiting. Building on a long tradition, in the early 1980’s, states began to implement government-supported programs targeting a variety of intervention strategies. This decade saw the development of a wide array of models across the US.

    In the 1990’s, there was a trend towards new national models, which could be replicated, and a need for real data to support outcomes. This time period saw an impressive expansion in home visiting, but a growing friction among the various models being implemented.

    The first decades of the 2000s brought a spirit of collaboration, and a focus on high quality evidence for policy and practice decisions. The Pew campaign began and allowed true discussion at a national level. Advocates began to initiate efforts for broad federal policy in this area. After the introduction of a few bills that did not get anywhere, the Obama administration included home visiting in the 2010 agenda, eventually leading to the inclusion of Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) in the Affordable Care Act.

    The MIECHV program was set up as a state and federal partnership and brought several key innovations, including supporting replication of evidence based programs. it required a shared management plan, emphasized improved home visiting quality, and focused the field on outcomes and benchmarks. MIECHV funding allowed states to vastly expand their infrastructure and take proven programs to scale in their states.

    Today, Daro shares some concerns for the field. She feels we may be pushing Home Visiting as a solution to everything. Although a quality strategy, it will not solve all of societies complex problems. She is concerned about the field loosing focus and experiencing a bit of mission drift. She worries we are using data for accountability rather than learning. This is still a fairly young field and we need to keep exploring the best options for delivery. And finally, we may be too focused on federal funding – “The cake is the state level - fed is the icing”, said Daro.

    Going forward, we need to keep making basic improvements in the revision of benchmarks and continue with the Pew Data work. We need to expand learning opportunities and support new research findings. Daro would like to see improvements in MIECHV dynamic elements and greater collaboration. She supports more critical thinking and better balance. We need to dispel the myth that only some families need help. EVERYBODY needs help with parenting.

    Overall, would like to see the same investment into entrance to life as we do for exit (aged services).

    Daro’s walk through history was a rousing kickoff to 2 days of learning, networking and collaboration around home visiting issues, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew has had a significant impact on the home visiting field since the campaign initiated. Working in the areas of public advocacy, having developed a model policy framework, research and information sharing, Pew has been a true leader in the development of home visiting nationally.

    Pew chose to work with Kentucky as one of their key states to ensure that legislation was enacted to ensure support of a continuing, quality home visiting program in Kentucky's HANDS initiative.

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Making the Grade: How to Become a Teacher in Kentucky

    Here's a guest post from Gabe Duverge at Campbellsville University:

    Politician Brad Henry once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.” Teachers can have a truly profound impact on their students, from pre-K to adulthood. But there are requirements to be considered qualified to teach. Although these requirements vary by state, Kentucky has some of the most stringent standards in the nation. This guide will help you navigate the complex, and occasionally confusing, world of Kentucky regulations so you can understand what you need to do to follow your passion and change the lives of others in the classroom.

    In Kentucky, as with any state, the proper credentials are needed to become licensed as a teacher. The Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB) manages the certification process and distributes teaching licenses. Their process involves several steps and requirements.

    Undergraduate Degree
    Each teacher in the state of Kentucky must have at least a bachelor’s degree to teach; the coursework and type of degree required depends on the type of teacher. Here are the basic coursework requirements:
    • Elementary School Teacher (Grades 1-5): To earn certification, teachers must have completed coursework in all subject areas taught in elementary school, including English, math, social studies and more.
    • Middle School Teacher (Grades 6-9): To become a middle school teacher, teachers must have an undergraduate major in English, math, social studies or science, with the major being equivalent to 30 or more semester hours of coursework. Most education degree programs fulfill this requirement by offering concentrations in various areas of teaching.
    • Secondary School Teachers (Grades 9-12): As with middle school subjects, a teacher must have a major in their subject areas. Specialty subject areas like art and music have specific requirements.

    Thursday, May 14, 2015

    Department Rethinking Its Teacher Tech Platform

    What is CIITS?

    CIITS is short for the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS), Kentucky's online technology platform for improving teaching and implementing our statewide push toward college and career readiness.

    From its launch in 2011, CIITS has been billed as a new and better way to:
    • share education resources for classroom use
    • provide online professional development for teachers, principals, and other educators
    • develop and implement school and district improvement plans
    • gather and track evidence for PGES (our new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, designed to replace older approaches to evaluating individual educators)
    CIITS has been an ambitious statewide investment, featured heavily in Kentucky's applications for Race to the Top funds and for waivers of No Child Left Behind requirements.

    And CIITS may be in some trouble.

    According to Kentucky Teacher, the Department of Education is now consulting education leaders around the state about which parts of the system are worth keeping and which should perhaps be dropped.  

    The biggest frustrations has been over the PGES-related tools, known as the Educator Development Suite or EDS. There, recurring software problems have added technical challenges to a process that was already complicated and potentially stressful for participants. The Department has already agreed to reduce the data entry requirements. Now, the state may drop the statewide platform entirely, which would give each district responsibility for creating its own record-keeping system.

    The professional development component seems never to have been a big draw. Long known as PD360 and now called Edivate, it has only attracted 9% of CIITS users over the last two years--and that one component carries a $4 million annual price tag.

    The teaching resources have gotten greater attention: 66% of teachers have used the IMS (Instructional Management System) part of CIITS to develop and share at least some of their own lesson plans.  The Department publishes reports on the number of IMS log-ins for each school, so there has definitely been strong encouragement to explore that part of the platform

    The final element, known as ASSIST, is a format for improvement planning by schools and districts.  Kentucky Teacher mentions that element, but does not offer a summary of what's being said about its effectiveness. (From my own limited experience studying the planning documents, ASSIST-based plans seem to include a wide array of objectives, but offer limited clarity about implementation or follow up and some definite difficulties with making and publicizing annual revisions. I cannot tell how ASSIST has been working for principals, and I especially don't know whether the online approach has made it easier or harder for school leaders to think through and act on worthwhile changes to teaching and learning.)

    A CIITS decision is scheduled to be finished by May 30, according to the article. The outcome may be an important milestone in Kentucky's current work to equip our next generation for success, so stay tuned.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Kindergartners Reading Closely

    EdWeek is sharing a lively example of students (very small students) figuring out story details:
    The book recounts how the author's grandmother taught her to manage her fear of thunderstorms by learning to tell how far away they were and hurrying to bake a cake before the rain began.
    The teacher asked a cluster of questions aimed at helping the children understand that the author is also the narrator. "I wonder who's telling this story? Turn and talk to your buddy," she said.
    And then: "Oh, so the character is also the author?"
    When the narrator described the "sharp crackling light" that frightened her, Ms. Landahl said: "What is she scared of?"
    Hands shot up. "Thunder!" some children called out.
    "Well, that's the sound," Ms. Landahl replied. "She can see the light, right?"
    There was a momentary pause, and then a girl said: "It's lightning."
    The article on "New Read-Aloud Strategies" offers a great look at ways to take students deeper into reading.  For this kindergarten class, it's done through reading out loud to enjoy the story, then reading again to enjoy more deeply, with attention to how the parts fit together.  A video portion of the story shows students talking in pairs to figure out some of the answers and identify the specific part of the story that is the evidence for the answers they choose.

    At this age, the goal is to ensure that the young learners can"with prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text."

    That's laying a foundation so that in two years they'll be ready to "ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text," and in four years they'll be able to "refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text."

    Those three italicized standards are  kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade versions of Reading Standard 1 from Kentucky's academic standards, and they are also expectations for those three levels in Nevada, where the EdWeek article found Ms. Landahl and her students studying the book Thundercake.

    Parts of Ms. Landahl's teaching plan came from designs shared by teachers across the country and shared through the Read-Aloud Project, jointly sponsored by  Student Achievement Partners (based in New York) and the Council of Great City Schools (serving students and schools in urban areas all across the country).  In turn, Kentucky teachers from Pikeville to the Jackson Purchase can draw from those resources and contribute their own teaching plans.

    It's a great example of how sharing standards can contribute to excellence for individual children in local schools all over the country.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    Kentucky State Preschool Rankings

    Kentucky just received some strong rankings for our state preschool efforts, placing us...

    17th in percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten, with 30% of 4-year-olds enrolled in our state-funded program

    10th in percent of 3-year-olds enrolled in state kindergarten, with 7.4% of that age group enrolled in the state program

    30th in  resources based on state spending of $3,469 per enrolled child

    11th in resources based on all reported spending, which totals $6,818 per enrolled child

    Those rankings and numbers come from The State of Preschool 2013-14, just released by the National Institute for Early Education Research, which also credited Kentucky's state program with meeting...

    9 of 10 state pre-k quality standards, missing only the one that calls for assistant teachers to have child development associate or equivalent credentials.

    Do note that the participation rates above are just for the state program. Adding in federal Head Start, the report shows 17% of three-year-olds and 46% of four-year-olds in Kentucky benefit from publicly supported programs.

    It's also worth noting some uncomfortable one-year changes shown in the report. In 2013-14, Kentucky state preschool enrolled 90 fewer three-year-olds and 169 fewer four-year-olds than in 2012-13.  In the same period, state funding did not keep up with inflation, so that preschool buying power went down $186  per enrolled child.

    However, there is good reason to expect those trends to turn around in 2015-16, when the state budget will add nearly $19 million in funding, estimated to be enough to allow another 5,000 children to participate in our state preschool program.

    Those results show Kentucky doing better than most states, definitely a cause for a moment of genuine pride in our investment in the futures of these young Kentuckians.

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    Big New Idea: Next Generation Instructional Design

    Next Generation Instructional Design (abbreviated as NextGen ID or NGID) is an ambitious new education effort underway in Kentucky, and I've spent part of the morning reading up.  Here, I'll offer short basics gleaned from the project webpage, followed by my own italicized notes on why each element seem important.

    In daily student experience, NGID learning units will provide new opportunities for "project-based and problem-based learning," designed to develop high levels of knowledge, skill, and understanding and meet Kentucky's academic standards.  
    The project/problem part means students themselves will be actively figuring out how to use what they learn, and they'll do the learning in ways that make its usefulness clear from the beginning.  The standards part means it will be the right kind of challenge, equipping them with capacities they can use for further achievement in college, careers, and community participation. Overall, this is a new push toward learning approaches that students often find meaningful, engaging, effective, and (dare I say it?) fun.
    In daily teacher experience, these units will provide useful tools and common assignments for helping students learn, designed with built-in ways to check whether the learning is on track.
    That's also great.  It's a plan to help educators with the demanding new expectations we've asked them to take on.  "Common assignments" also means they're designed for teachers to be able to collaborate with one another on development, implementation, and examining the resulting work to think about best next steps for students.  And, of course, engaged students are far less likely to cause  behavioral problems, so this sort of approach can also promises help with the whole discipline/classroom management challenge that teachers must address in order to support student learning.
    Meanwhile, data on student growth is going to be essential for Kentucky's new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System. The NextGen ID effort will also examine how "student work samples and other artifacts may provide information related to educator effectiveness to complement, supplement or provide alternatives to existing test-based measures of student performance."
     In other words, there's hope that the work students turn in can be used for teacher evaluations.  If this succeeds, it will mean that judgments don't have to rely solely on assessments that measure only a fraction of what we really want students to know and be able to do: it'll be possible to look at fully-applied, hands-on, very-nearly-real-world use of students' knowledge and skills. It's a chance to get most closer to what students have really learned and much closer to what teachers have really achieved.
    The work is also new and starting quite small.  Coordinated by the Fund to Transform Education, it involves about 60 Kentucky educators working to think through how the units can be used and what kind of impact they will have, while developing the skills to lead the development of additional units and help colleagues put the units to work across the state.
    The good news there is that the plan is to move at the pace that allows deep work and lay good foundations for effective expansion in the years ahead.  The limiting factor is that moving at that pace means this exciting effort launch in all schools right away: it'll take patience and commitment to see how richly we can put it to work statewide.
    For added information on NextGen ID, check out the Fund's webpage and press release, and for a livelier idea of the kinds of work these units may involve, check out this recent Kentucky Teacher report on the common assignment work begun in 2013.

    Friday, May 8, 2015

    Science and Tech Integration at Jeffersontown High (and in Forbes magazine, too)

    Forbes Magazine has a great new article on next-generation learning at Jeffersontown High School, integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics in collaboration with the Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers.

    It's a great snapshot of active students and supporting teachers that go with the deepest sort of  engagement:
    Working in small groups, boys and girls are on their knees, or sitting cross-legged on the floor, cutting 30 square feet of cardboard sheet into parts they designed on the computer and then placing them at carefully planned angles before taping them into position. Their math, science and engineering teachers are circling the room, helping when needed.
     And it also features:
    • Professional development, including "teacher externships, which bring teams of teachers into Ford facilities to gain first-hand workplace experience that they can take back to their classrooms."
    • Mathematics in active use: "In the welding classroom, sparks are flying while students assemble a metal security gate for a real customer. But first, they had to use quadratic equations and parabolas to design the gate’s arch."
    • And a Prichard Committee voice: Sam Corbett (PC member and former chair) gets the next-to-last word in his role as director of the Jefferson County Public Schools Foundation.
    It sounds like the complete picture of a big change underway, and an article not to miss.

    Thursday, May 7, 2015

    Private school enrollment decline continues

    Two years back, it was surprising to spot Kentucky's rapid decline in private school enrollment. In the graph above, the downward trend continues.  The 2% reduction over the last two years was slower than the drops ranging from 3% to 7% in each of the five previous two-year periods, but continues the pattern of losses.  Over the twelve years, enrollment went down by just under 20,000 and by 22%.

    For a quick comparison, Kentucky public school enrollment grew by nearly 34,000 and 5%.

    Source note: numbers are from the Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 and 2014 charts.

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    Income Effects of Growing Up in Different Places (Amazing Map!)

    This great map is a quick national view of how growing up in different counties affects one's household income at age 26 (compared to growing up in an "average county").  The New York Times is offering a fascinating interactive look, with options for seeing impacts on all children, male versus female children, and children from families with different income levels. 

    One small warning: the article itself is interactive.  For about one second, the text was about Manhattan, and then it changed to being about the Danville area.  It was reading me while I was reading it! 

    That said, it's engaging enough to share quickly, before mining it for deeper Kentucky insights.

    Puzzling Losses: National New Teacher Study Looks Different Than Kentucky

    A new federal study of 2007-08 beginning teachers shows that 12% were not teaching in 2009-10. That's a sharp contrast to Kentucky data discussed in Friday's PrichBlog post, showing that 30% of teachers who began in 2009-10 were not teaching in 2011-12. The big difference in two-year losses seems worth puzzling about.

    The Great Recession probably played a role in the story. If you started work in 2007, the options at the end of your first and second school years may have seemed bleaker than for any class in a long time, perhaps leading the teachers in the national sample to hold on tight. In contrast, Kentucky teachers beginning in 2009 likely saw improving job markets as they made their choices about whether to continue: moving to another field may have seemed much more possible.

    The data gathering methods may also play a role. The federal study tracked a sampling of teachers, surveying the same individuals each year except for those who could not be reached. An obvious risk there is that the people who could not be found again were heavily people who left teaching –maybe yielding too low a report of leavers. The Kentucky numbers reflect "3,452 traditional school teachers with teacher job codes" using data from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.  A risk there is not knowing about people who moved to other states but are still teaching –maybe producing too high a report of those no longer teaching.

    On the other hand, the difference between 12% leaving (calculated one way) and 30% leaving (calculated another way) may partly be a reflection of other differences in new teacher experiences. The data may partly be a signal that Kentucky has room to improve our new teacher retention rates.

    The new federal data and the state numbers discussed last week do not offer answers about what kinds of improvements would be helpful to teachers or to students, but they do clarify some questions that may be deserve systematic attention.

    Friday, May 1, 2015

    Astonishing Losses: What Happens To Our New Teachers

    From last month's Kentucky Board of Education meeting, the slide below deserves some attention.
    It shows that for every 100 teachers who were new hires of the 2009-10 school year:
    • 18 were out of Kentucky teaching by the next year
    • 12 more were gone by the year after that
    • 7  were teaching in a different district by their second year
    • 7  were in the same district, but at a different school
    • 56 were still at their original schools
    That's a huge dropout rate and a huge amount of moving around for those who stay in the profession!

    For teacher preparation programs, it brings up questions like these:
    • Do we equip our graduates with the best skills for a sound start in teaching careers?
    • Do we give them a meaningful understanding of the work they'll be taking on, so they aren't surprised and and disappointed by the actual experience?
    • Do we recruit students with a deep capacity to engage children and learning with passion and effectiveness, or are we just taking everyone who knocks on our door?
    • Do we ask students and new graduates what parts of our program are helpful, and take action to improve the things that don't work?
     For school leaders, it raises other issues, including:
    • Are we giving our new teachers the best support we can provide?
    • Are we offering the kind of working environment and professional community that makes them want to stay on our team?
    • Are we asking our recent hires (both those who stay and those who leave) what we can do better?
    For Kentuckians generally, the overarching puzzle may be:
    • What must we change in order to attract and keep young people of energy and talent in this important work?
    Source note: the slide is from the Kentucky Teacher Equity Plan Power Point that was part of the April 1, 2015, KBE Agenda.