Tuesday, June 30, 2015

College graduations rising (with some wobbles)

As shown in the charts below, Kentucky public postsecondary graduation rates have mostly been rising, though slowly and with some slips backward, both at the associate and the bachelor levels, over the eleven years currently covered by the Chronicle's College Completion site.  For associates, 2012 was the best year on record, with a drop of in 2013. For bachelor degrees, 2013 was the strongest result shown. (One caution: these numbers include only students who started as full-time students and stayed at one institution for their whole careers.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Arts Standards: Creating, Performing, Responding and Connecting

This month, Kentucky took a giant step toward new arts standards, with the Kentucky Board of Education holding a second reading and a vote to adopt the National Core Arts Standards as part of our Kentucky Core Academic Standards.  The documents are attached to item VI in the KBE June 2 agenda.

There are still several more steps towards a final adoption, but this is a good time to start thinking about what these standards may mean for Kentucky students. Accordingly, here are some notes on major features I've noticed in a first round of study, followed by some questions that still puzzle me about how these arts standards will work.

Dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts are included, with media arts as an important and innovative entry.    

Anchor Standards 
Eleven overarching standards apply to all the included disciplines: three each for creating, performing/presenting/producing, and responding, plus two for connecting. As an example, the second anchor standard calls for students to "Organize and develop artistic ideas and work" as part of the creating process.

Performance Standards for Each Level
For elementary and middle school, there are year-by-year standards specifying what students should know and be able to do for each anchor in each discipline. As an example, in the section on visual arts and that second anchor standard:
  • Kindergartners are expected to "Use a variety of art-making tools" 
  • Grade 4 students should be able to "Explore and invent art-making techniques and approaches" 
  • Grade 8 students should "Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art-making or designing"
For high schools, the performance standards describe proficient, accomplished and advanced work for each anchor and discipline, but without assigning elements to be developed each year. That gives high schools the flexibility to set up their schedules in multiple different ways. To complete the visual arts example:
  • Proficient high school students are expected to "Engage in making a work of art or design without having a preconceived plan"
  • Advanced high school students will be able to "Experiment, plan, and make multiple works of art and design that explore a personally meaningful theme, idea, or concept"
To go with the examples above, visual arts also has performance standards for the rest of the eleven anchors, and the other four disciplines also address the full set.

My Current Puzzles
Do remember that this post comes from my first round of study. It's completely possible that there are answers to all these puzzles and I just haven't found them yet. Reader comments or e-mails pointing out what I've missed will be deeply welcomed! 
Puzzle 1: Creative writing isn't in these arts standards and it also doesn't seem to be in our English language arts standards. Is artistic mode now optional while the others are required parts of what students learn?

Puzzle 2: If a student meets the anchor standards, do we say that they are ready for college and career? For participation in the arts? For artistic engagement in their communities?

Puzzle 3: Are we aiming for all students to reach the high school proficiency level in all five disciplines? The accomplished or advanced level?  These are really bold, exciting standards, and reaching all of them could mean big changes in the high school experience.

Puzzle 4: The performance standards do not identify specific artists and works for students to study. By comparison, Shakespeare and the Bill of Rights are included in our standards for English language arts as requirements and a handful others are listed as examples right in the grade-level expectations.  Will students get the connections they need to the greatest works of the past with that kind of silence?

Even while puzzling, I think I'm seeing an opportunity for much greater clarity about what we want all students to know and be able to do under these new arts standards.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


699 is small, painful and worth remembering.

699 is the number of Kentucky students with disabilities who were ready for college, career, or both when they graduated from high school in 2014.

699 is a tiny fraction of:
  • 3,092 graduates with disabilities in 2014
  • 4,051 grade 11 students with disabilities who took our writing assessment in 2013
  • 4,744 grade 10 students with disabilities who took our writing assessment in 2012
  • 7,858 grade 5 students with disabilities who took our assessments in 2007
699 is small, painful, memorable, and worth serious attention.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Kentucky Tonight: Five Key Educational Issues

Here's a link right to Monday night's great discussion, featuring Prichard's own Brigitte Blom Ramsey. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cory Curl! Named Associate Executive Director of Prichard Committee!

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

 LEXINGTON, Ky. – Education advocate and policy leader Cory Curl has been named associate executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Curl’s appointment is effective September 7, 2015. She will succeed Brigitte Blom Ramsey, named recently as executive director of the statewide education advocacy organization.

A graduate of Guilford College in North Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in geology, and the University of Kentucky Martin School, with a master’s degree in public administration, Curl has been a senior fellow for assessment and accountability for Achieve, Inc., since January 2012. Achieve is a national nonprofit organization that helps states achieve their education goals with technical assistance, research and development, and tools for advocacy and communications.

“Cory has the perfect mix of public policy expertise and experience in education related advocacy. She is committed to ensuring the best education for future generations of Kentuckians. We couldn’t be happier that Cory has agreed to help lead the Committee’s efforts,” said Ramsey.

Curl, of Versailles, has an extensive background in education policy. Her experience includes working as a consultant in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement; director of the Tennessee Department of Education’s education delivery unit and director of policy and planning for the department; and as a research analyst and policy advisor for state and national organizations.

She became a member of the Prichard Committee in 2012.

“The Prichard Committee has such a remarkable history of articulating educational aspirations for the Commonwealth – and of harnessing the energy and commitment of its citizens to translate these aspirations into action and impact. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work under Brigitte’s leadership to continue in this tradition, partnering with citizens, policymakers, teachers, parents and students to accelerate Kentucky’s educational progress into the top tier,” said Curl.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Father's Day and Kentucky's Best Heritage

I'm a historian's child, and as a result, a big fan of the work of the Rosenwald Fund, and its long-time leader, Edwin Embree, grandson of Berea's John G. Fee.  Especially, this tale:
In May 1948, one month before the Julius Rosenwald Fund was to close its doors forever, Edwin Embree received a letter, posted in Lexington, Kentucky. It came from a guidance counselor at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Sadie M. Yancey. Ms. Yancey had just won a Rosenwald fellowship, one of the last to be granted. After thanking Embree, she reminded him of an incident involving his grandfather that he had described in Brown America.

Toward the end of the Civil War, when John G. Fee was at Camp Nelson, he entered the faculty dining barracks with a young black woman recently appointed as a student/ teacher. When they sat down at a table, several other diners—all white—moved away; a chaplain from Maine stormed from the building; and the waitress refused to serve the young woman. As the tense scene unfolded, Fee was given a filled plate. Immediately he passed it to his companion and insisted, vigorously, on another plate for himself. That woman, Yancey wrote, was her grandmother, Eliza Mitchell Jackson.

Often she had heard her grandmother tell that story and other stories demonstrating Fee’s “humanitarianism and great courage.” Her grandmother and grandfather, Yancey reported, became “two of the most outstanding contributors to the progress of their race in Lexington.” She told Embree this connection now, Yancey concluded, because she considered it “rather singular that your grandfather was instrumental in the continuance of my grandmother’s education, and you, though unwittingly, have been instrumental in the continuance of mine.”

 In a gracious note, Embree responded that the story remained vivid in his own family. Even as a small boy growing up in Fee’s home, Embree recalled, he had recognized he was “in the presence of greatness.” With his grandparent and Yancey’s in mind, Embree wrote, it was “especially fitting that the grandchildren of these two pioneers should find themselves in association.”
That's from "Living the Fee Legacy: Edwin Embree and the Rosenwald Foundation," published in the Winter 2006 Berea College Magazine.

Even if you don't know the Rosenwald fellowships, you  know the talent they nurtured.  Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial after returning from a fellowship-supported tour of Europe; Charles Drew's work on blood transfusions built on a fellowship-supported final year of medical school, and Mamie Clark's three years of doll-selection research led to the work she published with her husband Kenneth and the most important citations in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.  Here's what I found when I wondered about Ms. Yancey's later work:
Established in 1954, [The National Association of Student Affairs Professionals] has served as a vehicle for student affairs personnel to implement effective and efficient student services and programs for African American and minority students. The Yancey Award was established to honor Sadie M. Yancey, the first president and former dean of women at Howard University, who was instrumental in the development and growth of the organization. 
One more thing: this is post for Father's Day because the Embree article was written by Alfred Perkins, retired Berea dean and professor, known at my house as Dad, and because after pondering all week about how to do more to build up a community where all talents can bloom, I'm looking forward to asking his advice when I call him this afternoon. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Student Voice Team Spotlights Completions (Tripwires in the Courier-Journal)

Check out the great voices in the Courier-Journal's opinion section!  Fresh from the Prichard Committee's Student Voice Team's work on Uncovering the Tripwires to Postsecondary Success, read:
And do let their main argument sink in: college completion results are not what we need them to be, and work to understand and change those results deserves a high spot on Kentucky's education agenda. 

University Graduation Trends (Disaggregated!)

The College Completion web project (spotlighted in yesterday's post) also lets us see more clearly what's changing for students from different backgrounds.

In the charts below, Kentucky public higher education has a clear upward trend in bachelor's degree graduation rates overall and for Asian and white students, with weaker and bumpier results for black, Hispanic, and American Indian students. 

More exactly, these are the rates for students who started school full-time and did not transfer out after that. For example, the 2013 rates are for students who enrolled full-time during 2007-08 year and earned degrees by 2012-13 from the school where they started their college work.

The caveat about enrolling full-time and not transferring does matter a good bit. The 2013 results above reflect 7,826 bachelor degrees going to students who started full time and stayed at the same, institution but the Council on Postsecondary Education reports that 16,568 bachelor degrees were awarded in the 2012-13 school year. That means that the data above tells about half the bachelor graduation story. It's not a complete account of what's happening in Kentucky's efforts to increase bachelor's degree attainment, but it is the part of the story that can be told with the data currently available for public analysis.

(Hat tip to the Student Voice Team for finding the College Completion site while researching its new Tripwire report!)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

College Completion Maps (Bachelor and Associate Degrees)

The College Completion web project (developed by the Chronicle of Higher Education) offers  great detail for all states, with graphics into the bargain.

For example, the site shows vividly that Kentucky's 2013 graduation rate for four-year public institutions is lower than many states, shown by the pink rather than green shading of our state.

On the other hand, our two-year public institutions are doing better than quite a few states, as shown by the shading in light green.

There is a caveat on both maps: they show graduation in 150% of expected time by students who enroll full-time and never transfer.   That full-time, stay-at-one-school information is what each institution reports out, so that's what the maps are able to show.

The 2013 results above reflect 7,826 bachelor degrees going to those students who started full time and continued at the same institution.  However, Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education reports that 16,568 bachelor degrees were awarded in the 2012-13 school year.  For the associate map, the results reflect 2,370 degrees to the full-time, stay-put cohort, but CPE reports 9,713 associate degrees earned in 2012-13. 

That means the maps above tell about half the bachelor story and about a quarter of the associate situation. They're not complete accounts of what's happening in Kentucky public postsecondary completion, but they are the part of the story that can be told with the available public data.

(Hat tip to the Student Voice Team for finding the College Completion site while researching its new Tripwire report!)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Student Voice Team Investigates College Success

Uncovering the Tripwires to Postsecondary Success brings new insight from the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, seeking reasons for Kentucky's low college graduation rates by working both with experts and with fellow students across the state.  The report identifies three major barriers to college completion:
  • The Birthright Lottery: students’ family backgrounds and regional limitations can make college-going easy or hard, in ways that aren't really about their individual potential.
  • Veiled College Costs: some students can pay for coaching on college applications and activities that make them stronger applicants, while others without the family resources for those opportunities are behind before they even start.
  • College and Career Unreadiness: many students miss the habits and abilities that can be even more important than ACT scores in  supporting college completion.
Together, the young Kentuckians who developed the report have made the case that our state needs to engage postsecondary challenges with the same seriousness we have brought to K-12 readiness and completion issues.  Do check out their argument, and do join the conversation they urge us to begin!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Maker Space: Already Live in Northern Kentucky!

When a recent PrichBlog post explained the maker space concept, it missed a pretty important fact: Northern Kentucky already has one!  Last fall, students in Boone County convinced the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Leadership Northern Kentucky Class of 2015 that a maker space was worthy of their support as an approach to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning.  In April, the space opened in Burlington, complete with website, Facebook conversation, and Twitter connections. (Thanks to Julia Pile, GCIPL Fellow, for sharing news of this exciting development!)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Great Graduation Maps (from EdWeek)

As part of its "Diploma Counts" coverage, EdWeek is offering color coded maps of state graduation rates for various groups.  It's a wonderful approach, letting viewers click quickly from group to group and experience the gaps as vivid changes.  The darkest blue is used for the strongest results, while the darkest orange-brown identifies the weakest outcomes.

Above, results for economically disadvantaged students, with Kentucky's 85% rate shown as well above the national average of 73%, tied with Texas, and better (when you mouse over each jurisdiction) than the results in each of the other states.

Below, results for students with limited English proficiency are far lower, though our 64% rate is a bit better than the national 61%.

Do give these powerful maps a close look: they'll make sure that the differences sink into your bones.

(Added note: Consider a cautious viewing of the map for students with disabilities. It shows a 52%  Kentucky graduation rate for students with disabilities, while Kentucky's school report card data file shows a 74% rate.  The SRC 2012-13 file matches EdWeek for every other group, so there may be a data glitch somewhere. PrichBlog will try to find out why the numbers don't match and which statistics accurately reflect results for those students.)

2015 Working Conditions: Improving with Room to Improve More

The newest TELL results suggest that Kentucky educators are seeing improvement in their working conditions. TELL is short for  the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning Kentucky Survey, taken this spring by nearly 45,000 school-based certified educators, asking them how much they agree with a series of statements about their own schools.

Compared to the 2013 results, teachers were more positive on all 80 items. The biggest change: 68% of teachers agreed that "professional development is evaluated and results are communicated to teachers," in 2015, up from just 61% two years back.  The smallest change: whether "teachers have sufficient access to instructional technology," with 82.1% agreeing now compared to 82.0% in 2013.

The greatest promise of the TELL survey is that it can help us figure out how to strengthen learning by supporting teachers, and to get those benefits, we need to pay extra attention to the weakest results.  So, here are the 10 items that got the lowest teacher agreement in 2015, with the 2013 responses included to show both that we've made some progress and that there's room for lots more work:
Much of the work to change these numbers will need to be done locally, so do check out the school-by-school reports available at www.tellkentucky.org/results, and think about what might be the best ways to make your own places stronger.

At the state level, these numbers may suggest that it's time for another, deeper search for great approaches to:
  1. Freeing time for teachers to meet individual student needs, with that time spent both in classroom instruction and in non-classroom work spent analyzing evidence and ideas for making that instruction more effective for each child.
  2. Making sure professional development matters –which may turn out to mean making it an embedded, connected part of that search for evidence and ideas" on how to serve each child.
  3. Engaging parents and guardians more effectively –again with particular attention to collaboration on understanding and meeting individual needs.
  4. Empowering teachers to have deeper, more effective influence on school decisions –especially those that effect items 1, 2, and 3 above.

Friday, June 5, 2015

2014-15 Readiness Results in Grades 8 and 10 Include Some Losses

2014-15 scores are now available for the Explore and Plan readiness assessments, showing an increase in 10th grade students meeting science and mathematics benchmarks compared to last year, but declines in reading and English for both grade 8 and grade 10 and a loss in mathematics for grade 8.  Grade 8 science results were unchanged from 2013-14. The graphs below show detail, and results for all schools and districts are available in the supplemental data section of the Department of Education's Open House portal under the Assessment link.  (2014-15 ACT readiness results for grade 11 have not yet been released.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ms. Lemily's Lesson: Looking Closer at Math Excellence (With Elves!)

Last week, PrichBlog shared some of the “Finding Solutions” account of Christa Lemily’s eighth grade students working on figuring out whether classic Corvettes make good investments. The question can be answered with several different mathematical strategies, so it's a great example of the fluent, flexible problem-solving called for by Kentucky's academic standards.

To explain that, let’s start by spending a minute with the Brothers Grimm and their tale of “The Shoemaker’s Elves.” The first night, the elves turned one piece of leather into a pair of shoes so fine that, after selling them, the shoemaker could afford to leather for two pairs. The second night’s two beautiful pairs brought in enough money to buy leather for four. The third night? You know the answer: enough for eight pairs.

So, how did you figure out that it was eight? Here are five respectable options:
  1. Maybe you used addition.
  2. Maybe you multiplied.
  3. Maybe you’ve worked or played with numbers enough that you just know what happens as you double a small number. 
  4. You probably didn’t use percentages, but you could. If the story was trickier, with two pairs yielding revenue to buy leather for three, multiplying by 150% each morning might be a good choice.
  5. You probably didn’t use an exponential function either, but if the growth was 20% each night, and you wanted to know the result after 10 nights, you might end up using a formula like 
Fortunately, we don't need to unpack that formula to see the point about mathematical options.

Instead, let's swing back to Ms. Lemily's class at South Warren Middle and their question about Corvettes. If the shoemaker story is about growing (appreciating) value, the car story turns out to be about the opposite: depreciation or value going down. On average, Corvette convertibles lose 15% of their value the first year, and between 8% and 10% each year after that. With a $60,000 car, that’s going to produce values like this over time:
Under Kentucky's standards, Ms. Lemily’s students should be ready to work out those numbers by multiplying percentages, figure out that Corvettes are better as transportation than as investments, and notice that the graphed results do not look like a line. Kentucky's math standards for grade 8 call for students to be able to:
  •  "Interpret the equation y = mx + b as defining a linear function, whose graph is a straight line; give examples of functions that are not linear.” [Emphasis added]
From the “Finding Solutions” description, Ms. Lemily's students may have reached that standard and also be closing in on some high school expectations, like being able to:
  • "Recognize situations in which a quantity grows or decays by a constant percent rate per unit interval relative to another," and
  • "Construct linear and exponential functions, including arithmetic and geometric sequences, given a graph, a description of a relationship, or two input-output pairs (include reading these from a table)."
Do notice that the standards are not asking students to remember every formula they see in a math class. The goal is for them to recognize the kind of change involved and construct a function that works for that situation. That's one reason the Prichard Committee report came with a subtitle about how “Standards Push Students Toward Real-Life Problems.”

Overall, South Warren Middle School's strong focus on the math standards seems to be paying off. With Ms. Lemily in the lead, South Warren was one of the first middle schools in the country to join the work of the Mathematics Design Collaborative, and as of last year, their K-PREP scores impressively outpaced the state average for most groups:

One more thought. An even deeper goal in our standards is for students to master these key mathematical practices:
  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
The work happening in Ms. Lemily's classroom embodies those practices, and equips her students to use all eight in high school, in college, and across their careers. It's an impressive step up in how Kentuckians teach and learn math!