Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Proficiency over Five Years: Right Direction, Wrong Pace

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

From 2012 to 2017, Kentucky increased proficiency by an average of 6.9 points, or about 1.4 points per year. That’s based on considering results for all students, combined in a weighted average.

That kind of improvement has us moving in the right direction, but at the wrong pace. If we continue at that pace, we will not be able to move halfway to 100 percent proficiency by 2030, which means we will not meet the goals set by the Kentucky Board of Education at its August 2017 meeting.

Put another way, we will not reach 100 percent proficiency until 2053. That will be three generations after the Rose decision and eight generations after the people of Kentucky adopted a constitutional commitment to an efficient system of common schools.

The chart below shows a more detailed picture, showing all subjects tested in both 2012 and 2017.

This is a picture that shows progress, but not the kind of progress we need to deliver for this generation of students, the ones we hope will play central roles in building a stronger future for our commonwealth. To deliver for those students, Kentucky will need bolder strategies, stronger efforts, and deeper investments in learning.

Notes for Number Lovers: Percent proficient or distinguished for each subject come from the school report card portal. For the weighted average I've used above, elementary and middle school writing and language mechanics were combined into one subject score, with writing getting a 80% weight and language mechanics 20%: the same distribution the Department of Education used in Unbridled Learning calculations. Then those two scores and the other 11 subjects were summed together and divided by 13 to summarize the overall trend.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Five insights from the Early Childhood Cost of Quality study process

by Cory Curl 

Today, the Prichard Committee released the results of its Early Childhood Cost of Quality study. The study has been a year-long effort to provide state and local leaders with solid information they can use when making budget decisions designed to increase access to quality learning environments for Kentucky’s youngest children.

Throughout this year, Prichard Committee staff have worked with a statewide advisory group, national experts, and other partners through the process of collecting data and developing cost models. We also spent a lot of time interviewing school district preschool directors and child care center directors to learn about how they target limited resources to provide quality learning environments.

The highlight of the year, by far, was visiting with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers – and their teachers – throughout the Commonwealth.

Here are five of the insights we learned through this journey:

1. Quality can come down to two basic factors - encouraging teacher-student interactions that promote learning, and supporting the specialized needs of children and their families. The first factor is well-established in the research, reinforcing the need for smaller teacher-student ratios and professional training and compensation for teachers. Our visits elevated the urgent need for the second dimension of quality. We visited a few child care centers with professional staff and space for therapeutic services for children with special needs. We visited a few school districts with staff who support families in building safe, nurturing home environments for preschool children. The need for both was clear. As a result, we built in these types of staff and services into our cost models at higher levels of quality.

2. The majority of children served in Kentucky’s preschool program have special needs. Kentucky school districts administer the state preschool program, which serves nearly 10,000 3- and 4-year olds with special needs (including around 650 with severe or multiple disabilities) and about 9,200 4-year olds in families with incomes below 160% of the federal poverty level. Classes may include as many as 20 children, and often more than half have special needs. Each classroom typically has one lead teacher and one instructional assistant. The lead teacher must hold a bachelor’s degree and interdisciplinary early childhood education (IECE) credential, which includes special education. Given the population of students served in the program, some districts have prioritized having smaller class sizes and/or additional assistants with training in special education. Our cost model builds in smaller class sizes at higher levels of quality, additional instructional assistants, and specialists to service specific child needs.

3. Quality child care is often out of reach for low-income working families. The study, our visits, and the cost model all reinforced the incredible financial challenge of sustaining a child care center, as well as the personal financial challenge to directors, teachers, and other staff who work in centers with low compensation, often without health insurance or other benefits. Today, 50% of Kentuckians live in child care deserts and many struggle to afford quality care. To help families work and to enhance quality, Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) reimburses child care centers for providing early care and education to about 27,000 babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in working families who earn less than 160% of the federal poverty level. Our child care cost model found that the cost of providing high-quality care and education in child care centers is much higher than the state’s reimbursement rates, particularly for babies and toddlers. This was not surprising. What did surprise us was learning how much CCAP-eligible families still pay for child care through a co-pay and  what we call a “double co-pay”. For example, a center may charge $22/day for tuition for 3-year olds. The state reimbursement rate may be $18/day, of which parents pay a co-pay of $10/day. They may also pay the $4/day “double co-pay” –- the difference between the reimbursement rate and the tuition rate. Ultimately, the state reimburses the center $8/day ($160/month) while the parent pays $14/day ($280/month). Faced with these costs, low-income working families may opt to enroll their children in centers based only on what they can afford rather than quality.

4. Local communities can design options to work for a variety of families. As we interviewed and traveled throughout the state, we saw a lot of variation across local communities in the way they are providing quality early childhood experiences to meet families’ needs. Some school districts emphasize small class sizes in a half-day preschool program while others stretch resources to offer full-day programs. Partnerships across child care, school districts, and Head Start better coordinate resources and provide more flexibility for families. Many districts allocate substantial resources to provide transportation for preschool students to remove barriers to enrollment. We concluded that there is no one-size-fits-all model for quality early care and education, and that local leaders use funds to support options specific to needs in their community.

5. Early childhood leaders want to better serve more families. We designed the study to illuminate the cost drivers for quality early childhood environments. In our interviews with preschool and child care directors, we also asked a general question about their aspirations. If they had more funding, how would they prioritize it? Many times, they answered with a quick and emphatic, “Serve more families and children in need!” This was another reminder to us that both quality and opportunity are essential for Kentucky’s children.

Our hope is that the Early Childhood Cost of Quality study informs the critical decisions in Frankfort and in local communities about the level of investment needed for each child to thrive in quality early learning environments. We are grateful to all of those who provided guidance, assistance, information, and encouragement along the journey.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Transforming school climate & culture (Notes from the annual meeting)

Here's Prichard Committee member Justin Bathon's reporting on some great collaborative thinking at Monday's Prichard Committee meeting, crossposted from www.recode.school.

At the recent annual meeting of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in Kentucky the focus turned to transforming school climate and culture. This focus included a specific desired outcome of culture and climates which specifically promote equity of opportunities.

Over the course of a day and a wonderful agenda, the Committee and guests heard from students, educators, national scholars, journalists, and a former U.S. Ambassador on strengthening school climate and culture. This focus transforming school climate and culture links to a recently adopted three-year strategic plan adopted at the meeting by the 100+ members of the Prichard Committee.

In an effort to translate this learning into specific recommendations for educators and, in particular, the leaders of schools the Prichard Committee and guests worked hard to identify specific suggestions across a variety of domains of climate and culture in schools. The attendees identified the following 11 domains of the challenge.

1. More student autonomy/agency
2. Teacher autonomy & agency
3. Intentional communication with parents
4. More authentic project based learning/projects
5. Nurture and respect educational professionals
6. Authentic/meaningful teacher administrator dialogue
7. Collaborative community partnerships
8. Equal academic/sports emphasis
9. Equity of opportunity and inclusive excellence
10. Engaging all students
11. State accountability of climate

Across eight of these domains, the attendees sought to work collaboratively to identify eight specific suggestions for a total of 64 specific suggestions for educators and school leaders to improve school culture and climate toward equity of opportunity. This task was formatted into Lotus Blossom coordinated through the collaborative use of Google Docs and Google Draw. A picture of the final result is below. In the middle is the core challenge (bright green) surrounded by the 8 domains of the task (yellow). Then, each domain is explored in more detail on the petals of the lotus blossom flower (the yellow box surrounded by mostly green boxes). Finally, the colored boxes within each petal represent our identified practices that we wish to share with school leaders and other educators as the potentially most impactful near-term implementation concepts.

 Full Lotus Blossom (zoom in): http://go.uky.edu/prichard

Once the 64 ideas were generated, we again worked collaboratively to identify our suggestions for the most impactful concepts that educators and school leaders might employ (the blue, red, orange and purple in the image). The following is the result of those impactful suggestions across the 8 domains examined in the full Lotus Blossom activity.

1. More student autonomy/agency
a) Assume all students can do the best work and have high expectations for all learners
b) Employ more student internships and work-based learning experiences

2. Increased teacher autonomy & agency
a) Incentive teacher innovation and creativity through new supports from schools and districts.
b) Encourage teacher ownership of professional learning communities
c) Provide teachers leadership opportunities within schools and districts

3. Intentional communication with parents
a) Ensure ongoing positive communication with parents rather than emphasizing the negative.
b) Co-design a communication plan with parents

4. More authentic project based learning/projects
a) Promote state, district, and school accountability systems that honors this authentic engagement work by students
b) Provide iterative feedback and opportunities for growth to both teachers and students engaged in authentic PBL

5. Nurture and respect educational professionals
a) Promote culturally responsive training and support for teachers
b) Respect educator mental health and personal time

6. Authentic/meaningful teacher administrator dialogue
a) More frequent formal opportunities for teacher-administrator dialogue in both 1:1 and group settings
b) More time flexibility in school schedules to promote dialogue

7. Collaborative community partnerships
a) Encourage reciprocal partnership where both schools and community members benefit.
b) Develop community asset maps to identify key resources for teachers to link to learning
c) Develop trust and partnership through ongoing authentic dialogue

8. Engaging all students
a) Engage students in high expectation, high yield activities such as leadership development opportunities
b) Build relationships with learners by promoting student voice and choice, specifically engaging in suggestions made by the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team across their multiple publications

These excellent suggestions emerged from a day of learning and an hour of work to make our learning tangible and specific. We think these suggestions are superb entry points for educators and schools looking to improve the school culture and climate for both the adults and children who inhabit these spaces. The progress that we collectively seek as Commonwealth for our schools and children is dependent on institutions capable of strong cultures which minimize institutionalism. We are convinced that such improvements to the schools of Kentucky are possible and we look forward to working with students, educators, and community members to make robust, equitable climates and cultures.

Monday, October 9, 2017

2017 KPREP: Mixed results for students eligible for free/reduced meals

Post By Susan Perkins Weston

In 2017 KPREP results released late last month, students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals had mixed results, with improvement strong enough to narrow gaps in six of fourteen assessed subjects. On three other assessments, their results improved while results for their classmates improved faster, yielding wider gaps.

At the elementary level, results for students eligible for free/reduced meals:
  • Improved and narrowed gaps in social studies and writing
  • Improved with a widening gap in language mechanics
  • Declined in reading and mathematics, though by less than results for their classmates
 At the middle school level, results for students eligible for free/reduced price meals:
  • Improved and narrowed gaps in reading, mathematics, and social studies
  • Improved with a widening gap in language mechanics
At the high school level, results for students eligible for free/reduced price meals:
  • Improved and narrowed gaps only in writing
  • Improved with a widening gap in science
  • Declined in reading and mathematics, though by less than results for their classmates
  • Declined in social studies by more than results for their classmates

2017 KPREP Results: Slow but fairly steady progress for students with disabilities

Post by Susan Perkins Weston

Assessment results released in late September show results students for with disabilities improving in nearly all subjects and moving forward at a pace that reduced gaps in reading at all three levels, math in elementary and middle school, social studies in elementary school, and science in high school. Overall, the pattern shows movement in the right direction, though at a slower pace than we should want for a group that has such consistently low results overall.

At the elementary level, results for students with identified disabilities:
  • Improved in all subjects
  • Improved enough to narrow gaps in reading, mathematics, and social studies
  • Improved, though by less than results for their classmates in writing and language mechanics
    At the middle school level, results for students with identified disabilities:
    • Improved in all subjects
    • Improved enough to narrow gaps in reading and mathematics
    • Improved, though by less than results for their classmates in social studies and language mechanics
    At the high school level, results for students with identified disabilities:
    • Improved enough to narrow gaps in reading and science
    • Improved, though by less than results for their classmates in writing
    • Declined in mathematics and social studies, resulting in narrowed gaps because results for their classmates declined more rapidly
    Source note: The results shown above for students with identified Disabilities were provided by the Kentucky Department of Education. In spite of the requirements of KRS 158.649, the Department has not published results for students who do not have identified disabilities. Instead, the results shown for that group reflect calculations I made using the information the Department has released.

    Monday, October 2, 2017

    2017 KPREP: Troubling English Learner Results

    Post by Susan Perkins Weston

    Compared to 2016, English learner results show rising levels of proficiency on only four of 14 KPREP assessments, narrowing only three achievement gaps compared to classmates who are not English learners.

    In 2016, Kentucky's English learners had the lowest proficiency levels and the largest gaps of any student group. Seeing them slip further in 2017 warrants special concern and attention.

    At the elementary level,  English learner proficiency levels:
    • Declined in reading by more than results for other students
    • Declined in mathematics by less than for other students
    • Rose in social studies and writing by less than results for other student improved
    • Declined in language mechanics while results improved for other students
    • Narrowed the gap only in mathematics
    At the middle school level,  English learner proficiency levels:
    • Declined in reading, mathematics, and social studies while results for other students rose
    • Saw no change in language mechanics while other students gained
    At the high school level,  English learner proficiency levels:
    • Rose in reading while results for other students declined
    • Declined in mathematics by less than results for other students dropped
    • Declined in social studies and science by more than results for other students
    • Rose in writing by less than results for other students improved
    • Narrowed gaps only in reading and writing
    Source note: The results shown above for English learners were provided by the Kentucky Department of Education. In spite of the requirements of KRS 158.649, the Department has not published results  for students who are not English learners. Instead,  the results shown for that group reflect calculations I made using the information the Department has released.

    Sunday, October 1, 2017

    2017 KPREP Results: Mixed Results for Hispanic Students and Students of Two or More Races

    Post by Susan Perkins Weston
    Comparing 2017 KPREP results released late last week to comparable, 2016 results, Hispanic students' proficiency levels improved at a pace that narrowed gaps compared to white students on four of 14 assessments, and improved without narrowing gaps on six others. Results for Hispanic students declined on five assessments.

    Over the same period, results for students of two or more races improved at a pace that narrowed gaps on five assessments and improved without narrowing gaps on three others. Results for students with two or more races dropped on six assessments.

    Here comes a more detailed look.

    At the elementary level, Hispanic student proficiency levels:
    • Declined in reading by more than those results dropped for white students
    • Declined in mathematics by less than the drop experienced by white students
    • Rose in social studies, writing, and language mechanics, though by less than white results improved
    • Narrowed only the mathematics achievement gap
    For Hispanic middle school students, proficiency levels:
    • Rose in every subject (hooray!)
    • Rose enough to narrow gaps slightly compared to white students in reading and mathematics
    For Hispanic high school students, proficiency levels:
    • Rose in reading while white results declined
    • Dropped in math and social studies at a quicker pace than white results declined
    • Rose in writing by more than white results did
    • Rose in science by less than white results did
    • Narrowed achievement gaps in reading and writing
    For elementary students of two or more races,  proficiency levels:
    • Declined in reading and mathematics by less than white results dropped
    • Increased in social studies and language mechanics by less than white results increased
    • Increased in writing by more than white results rose
    • Narrowed achievement gaps in reading, mathematics and writing
    For middle school students of two or more races, proficiency levels:
    • Rose in every subject
    • Rose enough to narrow gaps in reading, mathematics, and social studies
    Finally, for high school students of two or more races, proficiency levels:
    • Declined in reading, mathematics, studies, and science, dropping more quickly than white results
    • Rose in writing by more than they rose for white students
    • Narrowed gaps only in writing
    The proficiency results shown here were downloaded from the Department's school report card portal on September 28.  The calculations of changes and gaps are my own.

    Friday, September 29, 2017

    2017 KPREP Results: Bleak Trends for African American Students

    Post By Susan Perkins Weston

    2016 to 2017 KPREP trends were grim for Kentucky's African American students. Out of 14 assessments that can be compared from year to year, eight show proficiency declines, and all but two have widening gaps compared to white students.

    We cannot mobilize to change those results until we face them, so here is a blunt statement of a year when we moved in the wrong direction. In the charts that follow, green highlights good news: rising proficiency or narrowing gaps. Yellow marks flat or declining proficiency levels and stagnant or growing gaps.
    On elementary assessments, African American student results show:
    • Reading and math proficiency going down, and going down faster than proficiency levels for white students
    • Social studies proficiency going down while white results improved
    • Writing and language mechanics proficiency improving, but with less improvement than for white students
    • On balance, an increased gap in every assessed  elementary subject
    Middle school African American student results show:
    • Reading and language mechanics proficiency rising, but rising less quickly than for white students
    • Mathematics proficiency declining slightly while white performance was flat
    • Social studies results declining slightly while white results improved a little
    • On balance, an increased gap in every assessed subject

    Finally, as shown below, high school African American results show:
    • English II proficiency improving slightly while white performance showed mild decline
    • Algebra II and U.S. History proficiency declining and declining more than white results did
    • Writing proficiency improving and improving more than for white students
    • Biology results improving, but improving less than for white students
    • On net, smaller gaps in reading and writing, and wider gaps in mathematics, social studies, and science
    Our challenge is to find the approaches that can change these results: changes in instruction, changes in school climate, changes in resources, changes in leadership and community engagement, changes in whatever must change for African American students to flourish in our schools. I very much hope that work will begin immediately to meet that challenge much more effectively than we did last year.

    Thursday, September 28, 2017

    Kentucky Results: A Look At Some Trends

    Post By Susan Perkins Weston

    Here's how some key 2017 results released today by the Kentucky Department of Education compare to 2016 results on using the same measures.

    In reading, the percent of students reaching or exceeding proficiency declined for elementary and high school students, while increasing 1.7 points for middle school students.
    In mathematics, elementary and high school results showed declines, while middle school results had no change compared to 2016.
    Social studies also had declines at two levels, with middle school showing an improvement of 0.8 points
    Writing offers a contrast with a gain of nearly 6 points at the elementary level and a full 15 points at the high school level, but a 3.5 point decline for eighth grade results.  (In 2016, sixth graders and eighth graders took middle school writing assessments, but this year only eighth grade was assessed. The comparison below uses only eighth grade results from each year.)
    Graduation rates rose again, along with evidence of college readiness as shown by the percent of 11th-graders meeting the benchmark scores established by the Council For Postsecondary Education. (Correction: the initial version of this post identified the data in the chart below as ACT results for graduates, when it actually reflects grade 11 test-takers. The replacement chart below shows the corrected labeling.)

    Senate Bill 1, enacted earlier this year, brought an end to Kentucky's most recent accountability system, including its rules for identifying schools as distinguished, proficient, or needs improvement and its process for selection new focus and priority schools.  As a result, key measures like the ones above remain available for local and state discussion, but there are no legal consequences attached to these statewide results or for the school and district patterns shown in the newest school report cards.

    Prichard Statement on 2017 Results

    Declines in Reading and Math Raise Concerns, Along with Losses for African Americans and English Learners 

    Renewed commitment to high expectations and adequate supports is necessary going forward 

    LEXINGTON, KY –Statewide assessment and accountability results for academic year 2017 released today show declining reading and mathematics proficiency compared to 2016, along with declines in most tested subjects for African American students and English language learners. Although some areas of the annual assessment demonstrate improvement, those lowered results are cause for concern, discussion, and renewed effort across the Commonwealth.

    Good news is evident in rapidly rising proficiency in elementary and high school writing, stronger 11th grade ACT results, and increasing graduation rates.

    Other strengths noted in today’s report:
    • Graduation rates up for most student groups (but down for Asian students and English learners)
    • Rising science proficiency at the high school levels for most student groups (but declining for students of two or more races and English learners)
    • Rising proficiency for students with disabilities across most subjects (exceptions for middle school writing, high school math, and high school social studies), at a pace that can contribute importantly to narrowing one of our widest achievement gaps
    Other causes for concern:
    • Declining proficiency for many student groups in reading and math in high school
    • Declining proficiency for many groups for middle school writing and high school social studies
    • Declining proficiency for African American students in elementary and middle school social studies in a year when most student groups saw gains on those assessments
    • Declining proficiency for English learners in almost every subject
    “As Kentucky schools and communities begin their analysis of local 2017 results, the Prichard Committee encourages citizens and local leaders to ask hard questions, “ said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Prichard Committee Executive Director. “Why are there disparities in student results, why aren’t more students reaching levels of proficiency and excellence, what can schools and communities do to help all students succeed?”

    The Committee remains confident that steady, collaborative effort can equip students from every background and region for higher achievement and for successful participation in college, the workplace, and community life.

    Our new statewide commitment to raise achievement and cut achievement gaps in half by 2030 are an important part of mobilizing citizens to realize the full potential of our rising generation and continue the momentum Kentucky has built over decades of leadership in education reform work.

    To meet those goals, Kentucky must now focus with increasing urgency on building excellence with equity. The Prichard Committee’s 2015 report, It’s Everybody’s Business, identified six BASICS that must be central efforts:
    • Bold leadership at the state and local levels and in every community
    • Accountability to drive substantial improvement in the performance of each student and student group
    • School climate and culture that welcome and support each student and family
    • Instruction in the classroom that engages each student in deep, effective learning opportunities
    • Communities that band together to demand and support excellence with equity
    • Sustainability of reforms

    Today’s results include some reasons for concern as well signs of progress, inviting important conversations at the school, district, and state level about the data, its implications, and the best ways to move forward in providing rich and deep learning for each student. Every Kentuckian has a stake in the success of that work.


    Saturday, August 19, 2017

    Kentucky Accountability: Equity Questions For The Revised Regulation

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    Achievement gaps get substantial attention in Kentucky’s proposed school accountability regulation. A revised version of the regulation is up for final vote at the August 23 Kentucky Board of Education meeting (see item VI on the agenda). This post summarizes the big approach to tackling gaps and flags some key elements that still need clearer language or further explanation.

    In Kentucky’s new system, schools will receive overall ratings of one to five stars, and student group results will matter in deciding those ratings, in several ways:
    • Student groups results compared to other groups will be one part of an achievement gap closure indicator that contributes to the overall ratings
    • Student group results compared to proficiency will also be part of that achievement gap closure indicator contributing to the overall rating
    • If student group results are troubling enough, that by itself will enough to limit a school to a maximum of three of the five possible stars
    There is impressive consensus around that broad approach, and the questions that follow address specifics of putting that approach to work.

    As revised, the regulation says the Department will calculate the gaps between groups and take a new step to check whether each gap is “statistically and practically significant.” What kind of gap is “practically significant?” The regulation defines “practical significance” by saying it “means a measure of the differences between student groups has real meaning,” but “real meaning” does not seem any clearer. The term matters, because gaps that are not practically significant will not matter for the indicator rating or the five stars.

    The regulation says that group results will be compared to “the current year’s annual target for each student demographic group.” What are those targets? For this question, the regulation could mean the “Long Term and Interim Goals for Public Reporting” that are also on KBE’s August 23 agenda. However, those goals are in a separate document, not part of the regulation, and they are not identified as targets at all.

    The regulation says that a school can get two gap closure points if a gap is reduced and one point if the gap is partially reduced. In a previous edition, partial reduction meant being at or above the annual target “minus five percentage points.” In the revised edition, partial reduction is explained as the annual target minus “a sufficient percentage point.” What will count as sufficient is not clear.

    Federal student group designation is a new term in this version of the regulation, used in two places:
    • Early on the regulation defines that term by saying it “includes targeted support and improvement, and comprehensive support and improvement as provided in KRS 160.346“
    • Much later, the regulation says a school “shall receive a federal student group designation for statistically significant achievement gaps or low-performing students”
    Those two provisions do not seem to match. KRS 160.346 requires targeted support if a student group has results like the lowest 5% of schools for one year or the lowest 10% of schools for two years. It requires comprehensive support if the whole school is in the lowest 5%, graduation is below 80%, or a school stays in targeted support too long. KRS 160.346 never mentions statistical significance. The seeming use of two conflicting rules is an additional puzzle.

    As noted earlier, there’s broad agreement on limiting a school to three out of five stars based on problems with student group results.

    In one place, the regulation says that schools “with statistically significant achievement gaps may not be rated above three stars.”

    A bit later, the regulation offers matrix tables showing schools' star ratings will be decided. Each of those tables has a  columns saying “Can receive no higher than 3-Star rating if Achievement Gap Closure is “Low (l), “Very Low (VL),” or if identified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI).”

    That seems to set up three different routes to hitting the three-star limit:
    • significant gaps or
    • a low rating on the achievement gap closure rating or
    • qualifying for targeted support
    For legal interpretation, the wording appears clear, but having three routes seems unfamiliar from the earlier presentations and town hall discussions. The shift is important enough that it’s worth treating as something that still needs further explanation and understanding.

    This accountability regulation is a major chance to improve our schools and shape the futures of Kentucky’s students. It sets our course toward excellence with equity. The equity questions above are technical issues but important ones for getting the results we want and need. In effect, they’re final checks to be sure this policy plane is ready for takeoff.

    Monday, July 31, 2017

    K-12 Accountability: Goals And Questions About Goals

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    For the August 2 Kentucky Board of Education meeting, the Department has posted a set of tables showing “Kentucky Accountability System Long Term and Interim Goals for Public Reporting.” You can download the complete set here.

    The document includes goal tables for reading, mathematics, and writing at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, each showing goals that start from a 2018-19 baseline level of proficient/distinguished results and move upward in equal steps for each year through 2030. Elementary and middle school social studies, four-year graduation rates, and five-year graduation rates are also included.

    For this post, I'm going to look just at the 2030 math goals, sharing the main questions I have after studying them for a few hours. The yellow highlights flag the goals that I'll give the most attention.
    1. How were these goals set?
    The document does not explain the method. Each group and each grade moves upward at a different pace to a different 2030 destination. It does look like the gaps between white students and some other racial groups are cut in half. It is possible that the gaps based on eligibility for free/reduced meals, disability status, and English learner status are reduced the same way, but I can’t tell because the disadvantaged group is shown but the more privileged reference group is missing.

    2. When did we drop the 75% proficiency goal for elementary and middle schools?
    As recently as July 6, Department documents describing Kentucky’s goals said we were aiming:
    “To increase student proficiency rates significantly for all students in the state by 2030—for example, the goal is to increase elementary/middle school mathematics achievement from 55% proficient or above to 75% proficient or above, and equally importantly.”
    In these new tables, the elementary goal is higher, at 91.1%, but the middle version has dropped to 67.0%. That kind of change from a widely discussed example seems important.

    3. Why are we aiming for just 49.7% high school proficiency?
    Proficiency for barely half of our students doesn't feel like ambition. It feels like abandoning Kentucky’s commitment to equip each and every child for adult success.

    No Kentuckian should agree to lower our sights this far without serious explanation and discussion, and none of us should settle this low without first looking very hard for alternative strategies (instructional shifts, resource changes, other actions) we can use to deliver something better than half-proficiency for our rising generation.

    4. How can students eligible for free/reduced-price meals have stronger goals than all students?
    Historically, those students have been under-served, with results lower than their more economically privileged classmates. These goals turn that history upside down, with schools asked to move low income students to 75% proficiency in middle school while moving students overall to just 67%. Similarly, the high school goals ask for 54.2% proficiency for low income students and just 49.7% for all students. Doesn't that entail that students with higher family incomes will be expected to score lower than the rest of their classmates?

    5. How can the consolidated group have lower goals than any of its member groups?
    The consolidated group will be made up of students with disabilities, English learners, and students who are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The lowest elementary goal for any of those groups is 76.6% proficient, but the consolidated group is only asked to reach 70.6%. How can the combined result be lower than any of the groups that are combined? Similarly, the lowest middle school goal for the included groups is 50.9%, but the combined goal is just 42.0%.

    ESSA has required Kentucky to “establish ambitious State-designed long-term goals, which shall include measurements of interim progress toward meeting such goals” since that legislation was signed into law in 2015. Yes, it’s late in the process to be raising questions like these, but this is the first time a full set of goals has been made fully public. The method isn’t clear, the expectations are lower than previously described for middle schools, and startlingly low for high schools, and the expectations for low income students and consolidated group students just don’t mesh with the rest of the goals. Serious and sustained discussion of this plan definitely seems appropriate.

    K-12 Accountability: Changes to Five Star Ratings

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    Kentucky’s new accountability system calls for schools to be rated from one to five stars, based on their performance on a set of dashboard indicators. Earlier today, I shared a quick list of how those indicators have been changed in the most recent (July 27) edition of the proposed regulation. Here, I’ll note recent changes to the five star ratings proposal. The Kentucky Board of Education will hold its second reading of the regulation on Wednesday, August 2, and you can download the full regulation here.

    The proposed regulation now shows a matrix (or table) approach to translating indicator ratings (from very low to very high) into overall ratings of one star to five stars. The matrix concept has been shared widely in the Department of Education’s town halls, presentations, and overview documents, with some minor changes over the months of discussion and public input. It was not included in the previous regulation text, but the July 27 edition includes separate matrix versions for districts, high schools, and elementary/middle schools.

    In past versions of the matrix, a five star rating required very high ratings for most indicators.

    The versions included in the proposed regulation change that, saying that:
    • Schools can earn five stars with just high rating on most indicators
    • Elementary/middle schools can earn five stars even if they have low ratings for growth
    • High schools can earn five stars even they have low ratings for transition readiness
    These changes will make the star ratings substantially easier to earn. At the end of this post, I’ll share the older and newer matrix versions to allow readers to do their own comparisons.

    The regulation versions of the matrix say at the top that “standard setting will confirm level of indicator performance necessary for the Star ratings.” That appears to mean that the standard setting participants will have the power to change the matrix rules.

    There is also new language that says:
    “During the standard setting process, the approximate weights in the following table shall be considered. The proposed ranges in the table indicate the relative emphasis between indicators. The ranges are set to guide Kentucky educators to determine the combination of performance from very high to very low within the indicator during standard setting.”
    The table shows weights that could be used for each indicator. For example, at the high school level, the Proficiency indicator is shown with a 15-25 range, and the Graduation indicator is shown with a 5-15 range. The weights look like a formula for combining indicator scores into a single score for the school. I’m puzzled about how the standard setting group or groups could use those weights to change the matrix approach.

    On this issue, I hope the August 2 presentation and discussion will provide important clarification on which elements will be decided by the Kentucky Board of Education regulation and which elements will be open to change by the future standard setting process.

    Even if results for the whole school are very strong, schools will be limited to a maximum of three stars if one of their student groups has troubling results. That approach has been discussed for quite a while, and there are now two different ways the three-star limit can apply.

    First, the school can be designated as having a “Gap Issue.” The earlier version of the regulation based the Gap issue designation on “very large” gaps or low performance. The July 27 edition has more precise language:
    “A school or district shall be designated as a “Gap Issue School” or “Gap Issue District” for statistically significant achievement gaps or low-performing students. Schools or districts with statistically significant achievement gaps may not be rated above three stars.”
    Second, schools that are identified for targeted support and improvement will also be limited to three stars. Under Senate Bill 1, schools will receive that targeted support if any student group has results like the lowest-performing 5% of schools or if any group results has results like the lowest-performing 10% of schools for two years. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), those targeted support decisions must be based on all the indicators, and all indicators must be reported separately for each student group (with an exception allowing progress toward English Proficiency to be reported only for English learners).

    That second three-star limit based on targeted support is shown in the matrix for elementary/middle schools and the one for high schools. It appears to meet a key ESSA requirements that all states:
    • Have an approach to identifying schools where any group is “consistently underperforming”
    • Change a school’s rating if a school is identified under that approach (a step ESSA calls “differentiation”)
    • Provide targeted support and assistance to schools identified under that same approach

    Finally, as promised, here are the matrix versions shown in the July 27 regulation, along with a version from a July 6 overview document from the Kentucky Department of Education

    K-12 Accountability: Proposed Changes To Dashboard Indicators

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    Kentucky’s new accountability system is being designed around a planned dashboard that will show how each school is doing on a set of indicators. In this post, I’ll share a quick list of how those indicators have been changed in the most recent (July 27) edition of the proposed regulation. For a little more detail, this PrichBlog one-pager describes the basics of each indicator as well as showing these changes. In upcoming posts, I’ll address the changes to the overall five star ratings approach that will combine these indicators, and share news on proposed goals for schools and groups. The Kentucky Board of Education will hold its second reading of the regulation on Wednesday, August 2, and you can download the full regulation here.

    Spins off science and social studies, but still addresses reading/writing and mathematics assessment results

    Drops added credit for students who take assessment for a higher grade (but keeps .05 credit for apprentice, 1.0 credit for proficient, 1.25 credit for distinguished on assessment for grade in which students are enrolled)

    Becomes a new indicator using science and social studies assessment results, with same 0.5/1.0/1.25 credit approach as the proficiency indicator

    Adds lack of behavior events and restraint/seclusion to school quality component (along with lack of chronic absenteeism)

    Drops primary talent pool out of equitable access component

    Specifies that essential skills (part of the high school rich curricula component) will be part of a Work Ethic Certification

    Will require Kentucky Board of Education approval of measures “including the accumulation of credit”

    For group comparison:
    • Gives 1 point for each insignificant gap
    • Uses highest scoring racial/ethnic group that is 10% of school enrollment (rather than just highest scoring group)
    For goal comparison:
    • Uses “current year’s annual target” as goal (but annual targets not established in regulation)
    • Gives 2 points for at or above target, 1 point for up to 5 points below target
    For whole indicator
    • Counts group-to group component as 33% of total, group to target component as 67%
    Includes value table of points to be given for each student’s current reading and mathematics performance compared to previous year

    Calls for but does not provide value table for each English learner’s progress toward English language proficiency

    No changes for composite based on reading/writing, math, science, and social studies results

    Gives school credit for each student achieving readiness, career readiness and/or military readiness (which may mean one student can earn several credits for the school)

    Gives 1.25 credit for “students obtaining specialized career pathways in state and regional high demand sectors as approved by Workforce Innovation Board,” with 1 credit for students obtaining “other readiness indicators”

    Adds four-year cohort rate (averaged with five-year rate)

    Adds a "very low" rating option and changes "moderate" rating to "medium (keeping the low, high, and very high options from previous editions of the regulation)

    Saturday, July 1, 2017

    Charter Schools: Collaboration, Excellence with Equity Must Drive Implementation

    | Post by Brigitte Blom Ramsey |

    This year’s robust legislative debate about public charter schools ended in a deep divide about how to improve education for all students. In spite of their disagreements, lawmakers on both sides of the charter issue affirmed three decades of educational progress in our state while acknowledging that achievement gaps persist among historically underserved students.

    Now that the debate is over, we must turn our attention to making public charters, and all schools, the best they can be so every child in Kentucky receives the excellent education that he or she deserves.

    As we move into this new era of public education, the Prichard Committee will continue to track our state’s progress, as we have for nearly four decades.  We will continue to study, inform and engage policymakers and citizens alike about how to make continued progress toward the goal of bringing Kentucky to the nation’s top tier of education excellence.  The urgency of this moment is to not let a quarter century of progress be pushed to the wayside – but to mobilize, galvanize, energize – for this next leap involving charter schools.  

    Kentucky’s newly-passed charter school legislation benefits from 25-plus years of national experience by explicitly stating a desire to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps while bypassing more competitive structures in favor of local authorizing.

    Kentucky’s approach intentionally positions locally elected boards of education as primary authorizers, promoting critical collaboration among charters and districts, to inspire and engage community support from the beginning. If local authorizers embrace this approach, they will create and sustain meaningful partnerships that provide alternative paths for students to meet their potential. Collaboration has been a hallmark of education policy in Kentucky for years and should now be leveraged as a position of strength.

    Accountability is a key component of overall quality for traditional and charter schools alike. For new Kentucky charter schools, school boards and mayors will play key roles in monitoring and oversight, including default renewal/closure standards, all aligned to student achievement.

    Those authorizers must spell out their criteria from the very beginning. Charter schools that fail to meet the ambitious vision set forth in the new legislation should be closed so communities can pursue other innovative options for student success. Indeed, a charter school that fails to improve on the performance of a traditional public school has no reason to exist.

    Charter schools will not be right for every district in Kentucky, but in some districts they may prove powerful in lifting up students who have been farthest behind to new levels of proficiency and long-term success. Together, we must recommit to rigorous accountability and proper resourcing of the entire public system with an aim to increase success for all students.

    Proper implementation of public charter schools will be the lynchpin of their success or failure in Kentucky. For more details and data on just what that means, please see my June 30, 2017, editorial with John B. King, Jr., president of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education: How to get charters right? Keys to success the same for all schools.

    The singular purpose of any school must be to prepare young people for a bright future with an excellent education that allows them to begin to realize their unique potential. Keeping our eyes on that ambitious goal is the best way to ensure Kentucky’s future prosperity. 

    Thursday, June 15, 2017

    Draft Accountability Regulation: Support and Additional Data

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    The Kentucky Board of Education recently held its first reading of a new accountability system regulation. My earlier posts looked at how the draft deals with standards and with indicators and how it deals with goals and with ratings. This post takes on a final three questions (identifying schools for support, providing support, and sharing additional data)

    For more background, take a look at this quick summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) or at the full regulation draft included in the June 7 KBE agenda (scroll down to item XXI).

    5. How will we identify schools for added support?
    The draft regulation does not address support, but SB 1 provides identification rules that include:
    • Tier I targeted support (early warning) for schools where one or more student groups have results like the lowest 10% of schools for two or more years
    • Tier II targeted support for schools where one or more student groups has results like the lowest 5% of schools
    • Comprehensive support for schools where overall results are in the lowest 5% of schools, high schools where graduation rates are below 80%, and schools that have qualified for tier II targeted support for three or more years
    For ESSA approval, each state needs three tiers of support:
    1. Targeted support must be given to schools where any student group is “consistently underperforming,” but leaves states to define that category. Kentucky’s Tier I (like lowest 10%) rule is a viable option for providing that definition.
    2. Additional targeted support must be given to schools with groups like the lowest 5% of schools, and Kentucky’s Tier II targeted support rules tightly fits that rule.
    3. Comprehensive support must be given if overall results are in the lowest 5% of schools, graduation rates are below 67%, or a school has not additional targeted support after multiple years. Do notice that SB 1's 80% graduation rate sets the bar substantially higher than the federal minimum.
    6. What support will we provide to identified schools?
    The draft regulation does not address this issue, but (again) SB 1 provides a process for this work. As a very brief summary of those steps:
    • For schools identified for targeted support, local school personnel will work with parents and educators to develop a revised school improvement plan for local board of education approval.
    • For schools identified for comprehensive support, the local board of education will select a turnaround audit team to study the school. Once the report is in, the board will select a turnaround team and collaborate with others to develop a three-year plan, with the Kentucky Department of Education monitoring and reviewing the plan’s implementation.

    7. How will we promote accountability for results not included in the ratings and support rules?
    The draft regulation does not address reporting data that will not be used for accountability. The Department will, of course, have the option of including additional data in school report cards, and recent discussions across the state has shown substantial interest in seeing and using that added information.

    Draft Accountability Regulation: Goals And Ratings

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    The Kentucky Board of Education recently held its first reading of a new accountability system regulation. My earlier post looked at how the draft deals with standards and indicators, matching the first two questions I’ve been using to track accountability ideas. This post takes on questions 3 and 4, and my next post will deal with questions 5-7 (identifying schools for support, providing support, and sharing additional data)

    For more background, take a look at this quick summary of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) or at the full regulation draft included in the June 7 KBE agenda (scroll down to item XXI).

    3. How far and how fast do we intend to raise our indicators?
    For students overall, the draft regulation does not identify any goals or methods for setting goals.

    For student groups with lower recent results, the draft regulation mentions goals that will be used to rate achievement gap closure, but does not specify how they will be set.
    For ESSA approval, states must set “ambitious state-designed long-term goals” for “all students and separately for each subgroup of students.” For groups that are behind, the goals must call for improvement quick enough to “make significant progress in closing statewide proficiency and graduation rate gaps.” For both kinds of goals, states must also set interim measures of progress on the way to meeting those goals.

    The Department’s June 12, 2017 PowerPoint does propose an approach to long-term goals, aiming “to increase student proficiency rates significantly for all students in the state by 2030” and “to decrease the achievement gap of lower-performing student groups by 50% by 2030.”

    4. How will we rate (or differentiate) schools each year?
    Low, moderate, strong, very strong ratings will be given on each indicator, but the draft does not say how ratings will be determined.

    One to five stars will be given to each school based on the indicators, but the draft does not say what formula or rules will be used to award the stars.

    In addition to the stars, a gap closure designation will be given for “closing the differences in achievement between students demographic groups” and a gap issue designation will be given for “very large achievement gaps and low-performing students.” The draft does not give specifics on how either designation will be earned.

    The draft does not provide for changing schools’ ratings if any student group is “consistently underperforming.”
    For ESSA approval, each state’s system for “meaningfully differentiating” its public schools must “include differentiation of any such school in which any subgroup of students is consistently underperforming.” The schools with an underperforming student group must also be offered targeted support.

    SB 1 requires targeted support for schools with a student group with results “at or below that of all students, based on school performance, in any of the lowest-performing ten percent of all schools for two consecutive years.”

    That SB 1 rule looks like a workable way for Kentucky to fill in ESSA’s call for a definition of “consistently underperforming.” To meet ESSA requirements for differentiating/rating schools, however, that “like-lowest-10%” rule will also have to matter in the school rating system.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2017

    Draft Accountability Regulation: Standards and Indicators

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    The Kentucky Board of Education recently held its first reading of a new accountability system regulation, and this post summarizes how that draft addresses two of the questions I’ve been using to summarize accountability issues. I’ll address the goal and rating questions in my next post, and I’ll cover plans for identifying and supporting schools with performance weaknesses in a post after that.

    For more background, take a look at this quick summary of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) or at the full regulation draft included in the June 7 KBE agenda (scroll down to item XXI).

    1. What should our rising generation know and be able to do?
    Kentucky’s academic standards are established in another regulation, and SB 1 calls for each subject to be reviewed on a six-year cycle for “possible revision or replacement to ensure alignment with postsecondary readiness standards necessary for global competitiveness and with state career and technical education standards,” using a process of public input, subject-area committees, legislative committee attention, and KBE final decisions. Accordingly, the draft accountability regulation does not need to address standards.

    2. What indicators can we use to track our progress toward those desired results?
    For elementary and middle schools, the draft regulation calls for indicators that include:
    • Proficiency on state assessments, with partial credit for apprentice results extra credit for distinguished work, and extra credit for proficient or distinguished work on assessments for higher grade levels
    • Achievement gap closure on state assessments, looking at income, race, disability status, English learner status, and a “consolidated group” based on race, disability status, and English learner status
    • Growth, using state reading and math assessments to check whether individual students move to higher performance levels from one year to the next and also checking English learners’ progress toward English proficiency
    • Opportunity and access, including chronic absenteeism, gifted and talented services, rich curriculum (arts, health and physical education, science, and social studies), and access to counselors, nurses, and librarians. For middle schools, career exploration will also be part of the curriculum data.
    For high schools, the draft calls for indicators that include:
    • Proficiency
    • Achievement gap closure
    • Growth, checking English learners’ progress toward English proficiency
    • Opportunity and access, including chronic absenteeism, graduation rate, advanced coursework, rich curriculum (global competency/world language, career and technical), and access to nurses, librarians, and career counselors
    • Transition readiness, shown by earning a diploma, demonstrating essential skills, and showing either academic readiness (college entrance exam, AP, IB, dual credit) or technical readiness (industry certification, KOSSA, dual credit) or military readiness (ASVAB)
    One more element:
    • A local measure will be chosen by districts and charter schools and included in district and charter ratings. (The Kentucky Department of Education’s June 12, 2017 PowerPoint http://education.ky.gov/comm/Documents/CTP%206-17%20Accountability%20System2.pdf includes a small modification, calling for the local measure to included as a part of the Opportunity and Access indicator rather than being a separate indicator in the overall design.

    For ESSA approval, four-year graduation rates must be used as a measure, with five-year rates and other extended periods allowed as optional additions. Kentucky’s ESSA plan will need to include the four-year approach.

    For ESSA approval, indicators must be reported and used “for all students and separately for each subgroup of students.” The one exception is the English proficiency measure, which can be used without disaggregation. In recent discussions, Department leaders have noted that it may not be possible to break out access to nurses, librarians, and counselors that way. Data that cannot be disaggregated by student groups will not be used in accountability ratings, but could still be included in other reporting.

    ESSA, SB 1, and Kentucky's Draft Accountability Regulation

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    On June 7, the Kentucky Board of Education held a first reading of a new accountability system regulation intended to encourage rising student performance and to meet the requirement of two new laws. I'm planning a set of posts on the main elements of the draft regulation, but first, here comes a quick look at the two bills that shape how the regulation will work.

    The federal Every Student Succeeds Act replaces the older No Child Left Behind Act. Signed in December 2015, ESSA changes the rules for how states qualify for Title I funding. States must still set academic standards, create assessments of those standards, and have ambitious goals for raising results on those assessments and graduation rates, along with interim measures of progress toward meeting those goals. The goals must still apply separately for low income students, students with disabilities, and students of color, and states must still plan steps to get the schools with the weakest result back on track. However, ESSA allows states considerably more flexibility in using additional measures of school quality and student success, in choosing their goals and their timelines for achieve goals, and in planning out support for schools with weak results.

    ESSA is one reason Kentucky needs a new accountability regulation: it will show our choices about how to use the new federal flexibility.

    Senate Bill 1, enacted this year, fills in some of those details. It sets a process for revising our academic standards and calls for matching changes to how we test those standards. It adds new ways to measure college readiness and career readiness, including giving added weight to career tests in fields that are in high demand in each region. It defines three new categories of schools in need of support and new approaches to providing that help, filling in some of the ESSA blanks. Notably, where ESSA requires comprehensive support for schools with graduation rates below 67%, SB 1 commits Kentucky to provide that support anywhere graduations are below 80%.

    SB 1 is another reason we need a new accountability regulation: we need to fill in how the changed measures will be used to set goals, rate schools, analyze achievement gaps, and decide which schools qualify for the new support methods.

    So, in the posts that follow, I’ll look at the June 7 draft of the regulation, and I’ll also share a few more specific details from ESSA and SB 1 at the points where they matter.

    One more thing: I should underline that word draft. During the KBE discussion, the Department recommended additional changes and took input from Board members on upcoming improvements. A revised version of the draft regulation is scheduled to get its second reading at the August 2-3 state board meeting, to be followed by a board vote, a public comment period and reviews by legislative committees. You can see the Department's "Data and Measures" document shared with the Board (including a set of proposed further changes) here, and find a more recent PowerPoint about KDE’s recommendations here. For the draft regulation itself, go to the state board's June 7 agenda and scroll down to item XXI.

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    Charter Schools: Applying Will Not Be Easy

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    Kentucky's new charter school law (House Bill 520) requires those who want to open public charter schools to complete demanding applications. Here, I'll summarize of the requirements, but readers should know that the law itself adds further details for nearly all of the items listed.

    The Big Idea
    Each charter school application must specify:
    • The school's mission and vision 
    • The student population and community the school will target
    • Ages and grades the school will served
    • The academic program the school will offer
    • The instructional methods the school will use
    • An explanation of how the school's program can improve the achievement of traditionally under-performing students 
    Goals and Measures
    The application must identify:
    • Student achievement goals and evaluation methods
    • A plan for programmatic audits and assessments
    • A plan for measuring progress on school’s performance framework
    (Added note: I'm puzzled about how those three requirements relate to one another, and especially about how the goals and the performance framework are related.)

    Students and Services
    Next, the application must share the school's plans for:
    • Recruiting and enrolling students
    • Identifying and serving students with disabilities, English language learners, bilingual students, and students who are academically behind and gifted
    • Offering extracurricular and co-curricular programs
    • Offering health services and food services
    • Disciplining students
    • Involving parents and communities
    Staff and Leadership
    A school needs adults as much as students, so the application must propose:
    • Staffing charts for five years
    • Plans for recruiting and developing staff
    • A draft personnel handbook
    • Ethics rules for staff, officers, directors
    • A governance structure, including initial board members and draft board by-laws
    Other Operating Details
    In addition, the application must address core business issues, including:
    • Planned, minimum, and maximum enrollment
    • Calendar for the school year
    • Schedule for the school day
    • A five year budget
    • Fiscal policies
    • Facilities
    • Insurance coverage
    • Start-up steps for opening the school
    • Process for resolving disputes with the charter authorizer
    • Process for closing down the school if required
    On the one hand, this application process seems likely to require deep expertise, sustained thought and very careful planning. On the other hand, schools are complex organizations doing intense and important work: everything on that list truly needs attention before a new public school opens its doors.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    The Supreme Court Insists on Education for Individuals with Disabilities

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |
    The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”
    The words above are from the Supreme Court's March 22 ruling in Endrew F v. Douglas County School District. IDEA is short for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the ruling applies to all states that take IDEA funding.

    Under IDEA, participating states commit to providing “free and appropriate public educations” (or "FAPE") for all eligible students. Endrew F confirms that what is appropriate for a particular student must be decided based on individual evidence and dialogue in the committee responsible for that student’s individualized education program (IEP), with options for seeking outside resolution if that group cannot agree.

    Frankly, what surprised me in the case was the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which argued that an IEP can be adequate if it offers progress that is "merely… more than de minimis.” De minimis is legal Latin for “too trivial or minor to merit consideration,” so the appellate court seemed prepared to accept any level of progress better than that “too trivial or minor” level. I don't see how that could ever fit what IDEA explicitly says must be done for each student.

    The Supreme Court's ruling rejects the Tenth Circuit view, and boils down to insisting that  "appropriate" means nothing less than "appropriate."

    Reading with Kentucky in mind, I did notice one other Endrew F feature. The opinion speaks repeatedly of a state’s obligation to implement IDEA for students. States often delegate much of their duty to school districts, but the states themselves take the dollars and pledge to provide the required education. That’s why states cannot create charter schools exempt from IDEA, and it’s why states can’t create any other kind of K-12 school that doesn’t have to provide FAPE and implement IEPs. As Kentucky continues to expand its public non-district educational options, it’s helpful to have a new ruling confirming that states must implement IDEA for each and every child enrolled in each and every one of those schools.

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    Erk! Failure to Identify Author!

    | Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

    I messed up in a post shared this morning.  Specifically, my post about E.D. Hirsch's Why Knowledge Matters was written in a first-person voice but had no first-person attribution at the beginning of the piece. I apologize any resulting confusion or frustration to readers!