Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ambitions goals, better tests (Prichard statement on accountability)

Here's the Prichard Committee press release issued this morning...

Ambitious goals, greater transparency and better tests are among the recommendations of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence for the state’s new accountability system. The statewide citizens group said the accountability system should be a major driver of education excellence for all students no matter their background or the barriers they face to success.

Noting that a steering committee led by the Kentucky Board of Education is working to design a new accountability system, Prichard Executive Director Brigitte Blom Ramsey urges lawmakers, “to consider legislation to give greater prominence to three elements we find essential to achieving a brighter future for our students and for the competitiveness of our state.”

Those elements are:
  • An ambitious and achievable statewide goal for student performance that is specific and measurable and establishes a clear timeline and expectations.
  • Policies that ensure transparency by making comparable education information at the state, district and school levels far more understandable, accessible and timely for parents, students and the public; accountability ratings should take into account the performance of each group of students.
  • Tests that measure the depth of knowledge expected in higher standards, including what students should know and be able to do to compete in the economy of the future.

Ramsey describes the elements as representing the next essential steps to ensure Kentucky delivers a world-class education for each student. “These steps build on a long tradition of leadership from the General Assembly. … It is because of this strong leadership and shared commitment that we find ourselves now ready to fully embrace the next giant leap.”

Accountability and transparency for student results have long been high priorities for the Prichard Committee, which believes the system should serve the following four essential purposes:

  • Provide information about student performance to parents, policymakers and the broader public that they can act upon to make improvements.
  • Sustain a sense of urgency to improve student learning, including identifying schools and districts that need special support to better serve students.
  • Communicate priority focus areas for statewide improvement.
  • Illuminate the return on investments in Kentucky’s public education system.

“Above all, the accountability system must drive high and consistent expectations for all students, schools and districts,” Ramsey said. “This is the key education issue facing the 2017 General Assembly.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Eight Charter Questions: Senator Neal's Bill Request [NOW A BILL]

| Susan Perkins Weston |

Update: Senator Neal's bill request has now been filed as Senate Bill 70.  An updated summary of his bill, labeled as for SB 70, is available here.

Moving toward the 2017 legislative session, Senator Gerald Neal has a new bill request on charter schools. Using the eight questions from the Prichard Committee's Informational Guide, here's a summary of his legislation.  A two-page version to print out is available here, and you can download a complete copy of the bill request here.

Each charter will have a “performance framework” that includes “indicators, measures and metrics” for student academic proficiency, student academic growth, achievement gaps, attendance, student health and safety (including behavior data, suspensions, and expulsions), recurrent enrollment from year to year, college or career readiness at the end of grade 12, financial performance and sustainability, and board of directors' performance and stewardship. The framework can also include “additional rigorous, valid, and reliable indicators proposed by a charter school or authorizer to augment external evaluations of its performance.”

Each school will also have “student learning performance targets … set, in accordance with the state accountability system.”

  • State assessments and school report card data
  • Health and safety laws (including vaccinations, emergency drills, criminal record checks, weapons rules, student seclusion and restraint rules)
  • Civil and disability rights, including individualized education plans.
  • Plans for identifying and serving gifted students and students who are academically behind “including but not limited to the school's plan for compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations” on serving those students.
  • School staff being school district employees, fitting state certification requirements and receiving benefits and collective bargaining agreement protections benefits (appears to include single salary schedule)
  • MUNIS records, financial audits, and state purchasing rules
  • Open meetings and open records rules
Not required:
  • Program reviews
  • Free and reduced-price meals for low-income students (application must describe “the health and food services to be provided to students attending the school, if health and food services are not provided by the authorizer”)
  • Student learning services, including primary talent pool, primary program, family resource and youth services centers, individual learning plans, college-level courses in high school, and class size caps
  • 2% contingency reserve
Possible Questions: Do health requirements include physical activity in grades K-5? Do civil and disability rights include Title IX gender equality and alternate diplomas? Must school report card data be gathered using Infinite Campus?

Students must live in the school district. If parents apply by April 1, students will be admitted if they already attend the school, have siblings who attend the school or parents who are teachers or administrators there, attend “needs improvement” schools under state accountability rules, or qualify for free or reduced price lunches. If too many students from those groups apply, a lottery will be used to decide who will be admitted. If too few students from those groups apply, additional students who apply by May 15 will be admitted in order of their applications.

Possible question: If there are openings after May 15, will students be able to apply for those slots?

Charters will be authorized by “the local school board of the largest local school district located in a county with a consolidated local government.” In practice that means the Fayette and Jefferson County boards of education. If an application is denied, there can be an appeal to the Kentucky Board of Education about the process for the denial, and that Board can direct the local board to use the appropriate process.

Authorizers will be encouraged to give preference to applicants with “intent, capacity, and capability” to serve students at risk of failure, who go to schools where 65% of students have low incomes, or who have individualized education program for students who are blind or have impaired vision (KRS 158.281).

“Teachers, parents, school administrators, community residents, public organizations, private organizations, or a combination thereof” can apply, with a January 1 deadline. Applications to convert a private school to a charter school or to create a charter school “wholly or partly under the control or direction of any religious denomination or affiliation” will be rejected.

At least half of the members of the charter school’s board of directors must be parents of students who are enrolled or will be enrolled during the member’s service.

Charter school boards can contract with a non-profit education service provider, but budgets for that work must available on line and a provider that is paid more than $10,000 is subject to open records rules for all records related to the contract

Possible questions: Does the charter school board need to be incorporated? Does it need to be a non-profit organization?

Each of the two authorizing school boards will be able to authorize two charter schools each year.

Charter revocation or nonrenewal will be mandatory after three consecutive years when the school misses state student performance measures adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education under KRS 158.6453 and program requirements found in the charter school's contract.

Charter revocation, nonrenewal, or probation will be also be allowed (not required) if the school does not make enough progress on state learning measures and the charter contract’s performance requirements, fails to follow accounting rules, or violates a set of other rules.

The charter school and authorizing school board will negotiate funding, providing at least “levels comparable to funding provided to other schools in the local school district.” The charter school will also receive “moneys generated under federal and state categorical aid programs for students that are eligible for the aid in charter schools in the same manner as distributed for eligible students in non-charter schools.”

The district will keep all transportation funding, and will provide transportation between students’ homes and charter schools if that does not require “expanding existing bus service.”

Possible questions: Will charter schools be eligible for state facilities funding? Will they receive any portion of district funding allocated for facilities operations, maintenance, construction, or purchase?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kentucky's NAEP Strength By Race and Income

In 2015 NAEP scale scores, Kentucky students almost always matched or outscored students of the same race and income levels nationwide. That is:
  • All race/income groups with reported results showed Kentucky statistically tied or ahead in fourth and eight grade reading, fourth and eighth grade science, and fourth grade mathematics.
  • In eighth grade mathematics, Kentucky had statistical ties with the national results for black students with low incomes, black students without low incomes, and Hispanic students with low incomes. 
  • The only groups that were behind at all were white students with low family incomes and white students without low family incomes, and then only in eighth grade mathematics.  
These comparisons do not mean that either Kentucky or the U.S. has delivered on the full potential of students in any of these groups, and they do not mean that the gaps between the groups are acceptable.  They do, however, mean that Kentucky schools are delivering results generally in line with the national outcomes, and our primary challenge now is to pull ahead on a consistent basis for all Kentucky students.

Results for the other subjects are shown below, with a summary chart at the bottom.

Here's the summary version of the same comparisons.
--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Friday, December 9, 2016

PISA puts US near OECD average in science and reading, lagging in math, behind Canada

Newly released PISA results show American results for 15-year-olds to be near OECD average results in science, but clearly behind Canadian outcomes. Shown below, reading results look similar, while mathematics results put the United States behind the OECD member nations (mostly thosewith advanced economies but including "emerging countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey.") Canada's well ahead of the U.S on those subjects as well. Compared to 2009, our science and reading results are pretty flat, and mathematics seems to be losing ground.

PISA identifies seven levels of student proficiency (1b, 1a, and then 2-6). For science, the newly released report specifies that "Level 2 is considered the baseline level of science proficiency that is required to engage in science-related issues as a critical and informed citizen," and the scoring is similar for reading and mathematics. The report treats Level 2 as an important benchmark and notes that:
Only in Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Macao (China) and Singapore do at least four out of five 15-year-old students master the baseline level of proficiency in science, reading and mathematics. These countries show that there are countries on nearly every continent that could achieve the goal of universal basic skills by 2030.
Notice Canada! Starting now, we have a national demonstration of what is possible much closer than past reports on Singapore, South Korea, or Finland. 

PISA reporting identifies students scoring at either part of Level 1 or below as low achievers, while students at Levels 5 and 6 are considered top performers.

So here's the reading pattern, much like science:
Mathematics looks sharply worse.
Looking at trends, Americans do not see what we want to see. In science and reading, results are pretty similar to 2009, but we hoped for noticeable improvement. In mathematics, there's more to worry about, with clear increases in low achievers and decreases in top performers.
PISA does, however, report on one positive trend for the United States:
While between 2006 and 2015 no country or economy improved its performance in science and equity in education simultaneously, the relationship between socio-economic status and student performance weakened in nine countries where mean science scores remained stable. The United States shows the largest improvements in equity during this period. 
The full PISA report is available here, with the data above coming from Volume I of the release.

--Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Top 20: Moving Closer AND Losing Ground

Here's today's press release on the 2016 Update for Top 20 by 2020: 

Prichard Committee report shows KY schools 
moving closer to nation’s top 20, 
but still losing ground in some areas

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky has made important progress toward reaching the nation’s top tier of states on several indicators of education performance, but is flat or losing ground on others. The result: clear evidence that the state needs to work harder to deliver for its children and future.

Those findings are included in a new report from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, “Achieving the Top 20 by 2020: An Update.” The report assesses the progress Kentucky has made since the committee set a “Top 20” goal for the state’s schools in 2008. The new report identifies 19 indicators, showing Kentucky’s past and current rank and comparing Kentucky results to the current state ranked 20th on each measure.

Some of the new results are strong, showing Kentucky on track to reach the top tier of states:
  • Reading and science scores are already in the Top 20 for grades 4 and 8.
  • High school graduation and associate degree completion are also in the Top 20.
  • Results are moving up quickly enough to reach the Top 20 goal by 2020 in grade 4 math, high school Advanced Placement credits, and students starting higher education.
However, there are also reasons for concern about Kentucky’s progress on some other indicators:
  • Preschool enrollment has declined dramatically, from ranking 24th in 2008 to 40th in 2016.
  • Rankings are also down for eighth grade mathematics, higher education funding, and the share of higher education funding paid by families
  • Progress has been very slow on degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as “STEM,” and Kentucky will be far from the Top 20 if the current improvement pace continues.
  • Progress is also too slow on the proportion of young working-age adults with high school diplomas and bachelor degrees and too slow on funding for P-12 education.
“This year’s report confirms that Kentucky can reach the Top 20,” noted Brigitte Blom Ramsey, the Prichard Committee’s executive director. “It also shows that we have significant work ahead to reach that level in all areas. To achieve the goals by 2020, we will need a substantial new commitment, in targeted areas, from educators, community members, business leaders and policymakers to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states.”

The report is available online here.