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!

Charter Regulations: Lottery, Conversion Rules, Revocations, Authorizer Evaluation

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

House Bill 520, Kentucky's newly-signed charter school law, empowers the Kentucky Board of Education to issue regulations on four elements of how charter schools will operate:
  • Admissions, including student applications, admissions lotteries, and enrollment
  • Conversions, setting the process for  turning existing public schools into charter schools (the conversion option has been used less often in other states than the "start up" approach, but both methods are allowed under the new Kentucky legislation)
  • Closure rules for revoking charter school contracts or denying contract renewal
  • Authorizer evaluation rules, setting expectations for how school boards and mayors will carry out their charter roles and creating procedures for handling any performance weaknesses.
New regulations take six months or more to enact, including two readings by the Board, a comment period and public hearing, Board consideration of the resulting input, and a set of legislative review steps. The official steps cannot begin until HB 520 takes effect in late June, but Commissioner Pruitt plans to begin preparations much sooner.

Potential applicants may not want to wait for the regulations before proposing start-up charters. If their applications are approved, charter schools will need the admissions rules before they seek students, and once they start classes, they'll certainly want to avoid the closure process. Still, it seems possible to create and file applications that include a simple commitment to follow the regulations that are being developed.

Authorizers may see this issue differently. Knowing that there will be regulatory rules on how their work is evaluated, they may want to organize their activities around meeting those expectations –and therefore want to wait to see the final version before starting on application reviews.

A recent PrichBlog post estimated a minimum five-month timeline from application filing to first day of classes. If those five months can't start until after six months of regulation work, it's going to be a fairly tight schedule to open charter schools for the 2018-19 school year.

A Radical Possibility: E.D. Hirsch's Case for Communal Learning

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |
(edited to include that author identification)

I’ve been an E.D. Hirsch fan since 1987, when Cultural Literacy hit the bookstores. There, he argued that people with power and privilege share a body of cultural knowledge and went on to argue that schools should make sure that children from less privileged families learned that content. For Hirsch, that was an equity issue, because children of privilege will get that knowledge at home, but others need public school to give them equivalent opportunity. I found that argument compelling (especially after understanding Hirsch’s argument that the shared knowledge can and does and should change over time).

Over the last decade, I’ve become an even bigger fan of Hirsch’s argument about reading. His claim, backed by an array of research, is that reading is a process of making meaning that draws on what readers already know, and that therefore schools should be intentional about teaching students key content from the very earliest years. In PrichBlog’s first year, I blogged about that concept here, here, and here.

Even so, I wasn’t ready for the radicalism of Hirsch’s most recent book, Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories. In that new work, Hirsch argues that failing to equip students with a shared body of content knowledge is why:
  • Preschool learning gains fade out by third grade
  • Nationwide high school reading scores have barely changed since 1971, even though grade 4 scores have risen significantly
  • American school systems continue to use “technically valid, educationally invalid reading tests” with questions that can easily confuse students and mystify parents
Hirsch adds two kinds of evidence I hadn’t seen him use before:
  • Cognitive research on how expertise is domain specific, depending on a built up body of connected knowledge and with very few skills that can be studied apart from that knowledge or transferred to other domains.
  • Long-term results from French education, which switched from a nationally shared curriculum for each grade to local control of content and national concern only for broad skills, and (on Hirsch’s account) saw a substantial decline in achievement and a sharp increase in achievement gaps as a result.
Why Knowledge Matters concludes with a sharp statement of the change Hirsch thinks is needed:
Only a well-rounded, knowledge-specific curriculum can impart needed knowledge to all children and overcome inequality of opportunity. Whether we can summon the will to break the romantic intellectual monopoly that has held us in thrall will be determined by the following concrete test: Will any large American locality be willing to institute a good, content-specific curriculum grade-by grade throughout all the elementary schools of the district? If one single big district does so, it will be a watershed event in our educational history.
Hirsch is confident that a sustained effort like that in a single jurisdiction would result in deeper student engagement, yield greater parent satisfaction and teacher enthusiasm, and produce academic results that would be “significantly better and fairer than current results.” Over time, that record would draw attention and wider adoption, contagiously changing education across the country.

I’m partially convinced and ready to do more thinking about whether Kentucky should aim for a shift that big.

The first thing I see, though, is that the shift truly would already be big. Our use of Next Generation Science Standards may already call for a grade-by-grade cumulative approach to knowledge as well as skills, but a matching approach in history, literature, and the arts could require some substantial changes in Kentucky thought and practice.

The shift Hirsch wants would be a revolution, and I'm cautious about major social upheavals.  Accordingly, I need to read more and discuss more before I know whether this big move is the right big move for Kentucky’s learners.

Kentucky Charter Schools Will Be Government Bodies

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |
"Public charter school" means a public school that (a) Is a public body corporate and politic, exercising public power, including the power in name to contract and be contracted with, sue and be sued, and adopt bylaws not inconsistent with this section...
That's the beginning of Kentucky's new legal definition of a charter school, and the words "body corporate and politic" deserve attention. They mean that a Kentucky charter school will be a government entity, like a housing authority or a library board. With that government status, the school will be neither a nonprofit corporation nor a for-profit corporation, with no "owners" and no way to pay out dividends or profits.

Other provisions of House Bill 520 underline that government status for Kentuck charter schools:
  • Although the members of the charter school's board will not be elected, the application for a charter school will include initial board members and draft board by-laws that specify how future directors will be chosen. At least two members must be parents of children who attend the school. 
  • Board members will take a statutory oath of office. 
  • Board members will file "full disclosure reports and identify any potential conflicts of interest, relationships with management organizations, and relationships with family members who are applying to or are employed by the public charter school or have other business dealings with the school, the management organization of the school, or any other public charter school and shall make these documents available online through the authorizer."
  • Board meetings will follow the Open Meetings Law.
  • School records will be subject to the Open Records Law.  

Added note: Since the "body corporate and politic" is created after the charter application is approved, the application must come from someone else. HB 520 allows applications from "teachers, parents, school administrators, community residents, public organizations, nonprofit organizations, or a combination thereof." That list excludes for-profit companies, and the debates on the House and Senate floor provide a legislative record that underlines that exclusion.

Another note: The bill allows contracts with nonprofits and for-profits. It defines an education service provider as "an education management organization, school design provider, or any other partner entity with which a public charter school contracts for educational design, implementation, or comprehensive management." If a charter school will work with that kind of provider:
  • The charter application must include the provider's history, its past results, and planned terms for the provider contract. 
  • Providers must submit monthly detailed budgets to the charter school board.
  • Providers paid $10,000 or more must be subject to Open Records requests for records associated with the contract.
However, the charter school board will be required to retain "oversight and authority over the school" in any contract it enters. Control and responsibility cannot be ceded to another organization, even if that other group does much of the daily work of the school.

Bottom line: Kentucky public charter schools will be directed by an new kind of government body, not by for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

First Charter Schools Open In 2018? That Seems Likely

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

WDRB is reporting that Commissioner Pruitt thinks Kentucky's first charter school is likely to open in 2018-19, rather than this summer. Based on House Bill 520's requirements, that estimate seems pretty sound. Kentucky's newly-signed legislation sets up the process for opening a charter school:

1. An applicant submits a detailed application to an authorizer (a school board, a collaborative of school boards, or the mayor of Lexington or Louisville) and the Kentucky Department of Education

2. The authorizer approves or denies the application within 60 days after the application is filed

3. The approved application goes to the Commissioner for final approval

4. Members of the charter school's board of directors takes their oath of office as government officials within 60 days after the Commissioner's approval

5. The charter school board and the authorizer agree on and sign a charter contract within 75 days after the Commissioner's approval

6. The charter school receives student applications and conducts a lottery if there are more applicants than spaces, following a lottery regulation that will be set by the Kentucky Board of Education

7. The charter school opens its doors and begins teaching the admitted students

That looks like a process of at least five months. In theory, the application could be approved and the contract signed more quickly than the allowed 60 and 75 days. In practice, both will be long documents that need careful review and could easily need the full allowed time for action. The Commissioner's final approval probably cannot be given the day the application reaches his office, and gathering student applications will certainly take a few weeks.

Plus, those five months start at the end of June. HB 520 will become law 90 days after the General Assembly adjourns at the end of March. That makes late November the earliest time a school could notify students of admission.

Bottom Line: HB 520 says charters can happen in 2017-18, but HB 520's calendar says it'll take a bit longer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Success off the Court: Graduation and Gaps at UK and Elsewhere

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

In the midst of March Madness, the Education Trust has taken to Twitter to push Sweet Sixteen schools on their graduation gaps between black students and white students.  Here's their tweet to the University of Kentucky:


The statistics there are pretty small, but they show a 45.2% graduation rate for black students and a 60.6% rate for white students, with both figures drawn from EdTrust's new Black Student Success report

The report's data files include eleven Kentucky institutions, so here's a comparison of that full group.  Only Berea has essentially gap-free results for the two groups of students, and it's painful to see that UK's graduation rate for black students, low as it is, is still the fourth highest of this set.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Charter Funding: About $7,178 Per Student Total?

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

In addition to calling for charter schools to share in SEEK funding and categorical funding, House Bill 471 specifies that "any state appropriation for retirement, health, or life insurance benefits made on behalf of a local public school employee shall also be made on behalf of a public charter school employee."

For 2016-17,  those on-behalf payments average out to:
  • $1,027 per student for school employee health insurance 
  • $574 per student for certified employee retirement
  • $2 per student for employee life insurance           
  • $1,603 per student for the three kinds of benefits

Those can also be added to the estimates in earlier posts:
  • $4,672 as the average per student from SEEK base and add-ons
  • $758 as the average per student from categorical programs
  • $1,603 as the average above for the three kinds of benefits
  • $7,178 as the average per student combining all those sources

All of these numbers are, of course, estimates based on the most recent figures available. Budgets and enrollments change every year, so these amounts are sure to shift at least a little before the first Kentucky charter schools open. Still, they're an early shot at estimating the resources charter applicants will be able to use to implement their programs.

Sources and Methods:
1) The on-behalf averages simply divide entries from the 2016 state executive budget by 676,796 (the 2015-16 enrollment total for 173 districts reported in school report card files). 

2) The categorical average was explained in this earlier post.  
3) The SEEK average takes a different approach than an earlier post on this topic. The Department of Education's FY 2016-17 final SEEK summary lists a total calculated base SEEK amount of $3,259,961,132, and that amount has divided by the same 676,796 enrollment figure just described. Finally, the per-pupil result has been reduced by three percent to reflect the amount that will be retained for use by the charter authorizer. Calculated base SEEK includes the base guarantee plus add-ons for at-risk (free lunch), disabilities, home and hospital,  limited English proficiency, and transportation, and the total amount is funded with a combination of local and state funding.

Charter School Funding: The Categorical Portion

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Following up on yesterday's post about SEEK funding for charter schools under House Bill 471, here are some estimates of what Kentucky charter schools may receive from state and federal categorical programs.

Some categorical programs are focused on students with specific needs, and a charter school's share is likely to depend on its enrollment of eligible students. Those figures may include:
  • $1,614 per student with a disability (from federal IDEA)
  • $511 per low-income student (from federal Title I)
  • $60 per gifted and talented student (from state gifted and talented)
Other programs target students at particular stages in their educations, so that a charter school's share may depend on how many students at that stage it enrolls.  Those amounts may include:
  • $50 per elementary student (from state read to achieve)
  • $36 per elementary or middle school student (from state instructional resources funding)
  • $29 per high school student (from federal Perkins money)
Other amounts, less dependent on student traits, may include:
  • $49 from federal Title II, Part A for teacher quality work
  • $36 from state extended school services
  • $14 from state safe schools
  • $13 from state professional development 
  • $71 from an array of smaller state and federal programs
Overall, combining all those programs, Kentucky charter schools may be working with the SEEK funding discussed yesterday plus average categorical funding of:
  • $758 per student
I've used the word "may" steadily above, because each program has additional rules that can result in individual schools receiving or less. Still, I think these estimates give a ballpark idea of what categorical funding will be available to Kentucky charter schools.

Sources and Methods:
For this analysis, I used total funding to Kentucky's 173 school districts from the Department of Education's allocation spreadsheets for 2016-17 state programs and federal programs, along with student counts for the 173 districts from 2015-16 school report card files.  Here's my arithmetic:


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Charter Funding: the SEEK Portions

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

On March 15, shortly after approving legislation to create Kentucky charter schools, the  General Assembly approved House Bill 471, an appropriation bill that was amended to include rules for charter funding. Based on that bill, here’s a rough idea of what Kentucky charter schools may receive from SEEK funding:
  • $3,862 per pupil (counting average daily attendance rather than enrollment)
  • $579 more for each student eligible for federal free lunches
  • $927 more for each student with a communication disability
  • $4,518 more for each student with a moderate disability
  • $9,075 more for each student with a severe disability
  • An average of $346 per pupil for transportation, with the amount varying by district
The funding bill provides that a “local school district where a public charter school is located shall transfer the public charter school's portion of the local school district's funding calculated pursuant to KRS 157.360" and then adds that three percent can be retained for use by charter school authorizer. The amounts above show this school year's SEEK fund base guarantees and add-ons as set in 157.360, reduced by the three percent. A combination of local and state tax dollar provide those amounts in each district.

However, charter schools may not be allocated those exact amounts. House Bill 471 goes on to say that the "public charter school's portion shall be allocated in the same manner as the school allocation model used by the local school district based on applicable data provided by the public charter school.” That school allocation model seems to be a formula each district will create and transmit to Frankfort, where the Kentucky Board of Education will have authority to find models deficient and request revisions.

For transportation, the amount a charter school can receive will depend on whether the school district chooses to transport the charter school students. If the district transports, the district keeps the transportation dollars. If not, that part of the funding goes to the charter school.

SEEK also has two optional parts that allow districts to raise additional revenue:
  • For Tier 1, districts can set tax rates to raise more than the minimum 30¢ per $100 of taxable property, and the state contributes to equalize resulting revenue. This year, Tier 1 revenue averaged $1,101 per pupil statewide, drawn from both local and state funds.
  • For Tier 2, districts can set even higher rates, but receive no state equalization. This year, Tier 2 revenue averaged $1,282 per pupil statewide, drawn solely from local funds.
House Bill 471 does not give charter schools any access to those Tier 1 and Tier 2 dollars. That's clear in two ways. First, the passage quoted above in blue refers to KRS 157.360, but Tier 1 and Tier 2 funding is governed by KRS 157.440. Second, the bill has explicit language saying that the funds allocated to charter schools shall not include “local funds raised pursuant to KRS 157.440(2)(a),” and that subsection sets the Tier 2 rules.

Beyond SEEK, charter schools will be eligible for categorical funding, meaning the kinds of state and federal dollars that come with strings attached. Watch for a future post that estimates those amounts.

For number lovers, here are my calculations for SEEK base, add-ons and the retained 3%:


The Tier 1 and Tier 2 estimates flow from the statewide version of these recent reports from the Council for Better Education.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Charter Legislation Finalized (with an Eight Question Summary)

The General Assembly has agreed on new charter school legislation, and Governor Bevin is expected to sign House Bill 520 into law soon.  The bill approved on March 15 included Senate amendments including:
  • Requiring instruction at charter schools to be given by teachers with state certification
  • Giving charter schools a choice of complying with state purchasing rules in KRS Chapter 45 A or providing monthly reports on spending to their boards of directors 
  • Allowing existing public schools to convert to charter schools three different ways (by petition of 60% of parents at a school in the lowest 5%, by local school board approval of a 60% parent petition at other schools, or by local school board action on its own motion
Major features of the finalized bill are summarized in an new "Eight Key Questions" overview available here.

In a separate action, legislators amended HB 471 to establish funding rules for charter schools. PrichBlog will share more about those rules soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Finding Common Ground on Charter Schools in Kentucky

| By Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Executive Director |

Charter school legislation hangs in the balance in the waning days of the 2017 session of Kentucky’s General Assembly.  At the center of the ongoing debate is HB520 – passed on the House floor after three hours of intense discussion and yet to be heard in Senate committee. 

We agree with strong assertions on both sides of the conversation:  Charters can be a tool to increase student achievement and begin to close achievement gaps. True.  According to Stanford University’s CREDO study, charter effects vary sharply by student background, with the worst losses for white students and the best gains for black and Hispanic students in poverty. True. There are other strategies we can use to increase student achievement and close gaps, instead of charters. True. With current funding, charters will erode funding for existing public schools and compromise the progress that can be made for all students. True.  If we add charters to our system, additional resources will be necessary to support additional fixed costs. True.  Charters can create a dual system, that leaves new cracks for kids to fall through. True. High-performing charters can bring effective expertise into Kentucky and innovation that can spillover to other schools and districts. True. 

We agree with the dialog’s most important assertions: This is a significant change to Kentucky’s public education structure.  If we get this wrong, it could set us back, and worse, our kids will lose hard-won progress. True!  If we get this right, it could help us narrow achievement gaps, and better, we might have kids who are given a new sense of hope that education is their path to a larger life. True!

Our assertion: While charters will ever only affect a handful of Kentucky’s 650,000 students, there are significant opportunity costs and energy spent on this reform measure, that could be spent on other – possibly just as successful reform measures.  We MUST get this right. Our students are depending on us.  I hope this is something to which we can all agree – now, and on whatever path we choose. 

Our commitment: Whatever the years ahead hold for education policy in Kentucky, 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.  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 our next giant leap.  Together, from a place of common ground for every person and group who cares about the future of our children and our state’s prosperity, we must make that leap. 

As the hours pass and we hear the Senate is putting final touches on HB520, I’d like to reassert the Prichard Committee’s research-based findings to support legislation that has the best shot of serving our students well – within the promise of our public school system that must serve each of them well:


  • Authorizers -- Researchers repeatedly point to the importance of authorizers who have been highly trained to support key principles and standards such as those outlined in the NACSA Quality Authorizing Guide (2015)The Prichard Committee supports a moderate approach to charter legislation with authorizing by locally elected school boards and an appeal mechanism to the Kentucky Board of Education as a secondary authorizer in the case of community outcry about persistently low performing schools.
  • Accountability and oversight -- Charter school accountability is a key component of overall quality of the public education system. The Prichard Committee supports monitoring and oversight by the Kentucky Board of Education with default renewal/closure standards that are tied to student achievement and charter contract requirements with clear performance expectations for raising achievement and closing achievement gaps.
  • Enrollment -- Charter schools should not discriminate in the enrollment of students in any fashion. The Prichard Committee asserts that no student or group of students should be prohibited from enrollment on the basis of ability, performance, geography, socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, and also that charter schools must provide free and reduced-price meals as well as services for students with learning differences.
  • Funding -- Funding for charter schools should not diminish the resources currently available to school districts to educate and increase achievement for all students. Federal funding will likely be available to support public charters in Kentucky and, historically, states have been asked to outline their strategy for using charters to increase student achievement (USDOE Public Charter Program). The Prichard Committee supports the expression of an explicit, bold goal in the legislation that seeks to increase student outcomes, particularly for students who are currently left behind, and corresponding investment of public resources to achieve these bold goals.

Lastly, AND THIS CANNOT BE OVERSTATED - instilling collaboration between public charters and traditional public schools, that engages and inspires community support, will be critical to ensuring all children are served well (Center for Reinventing Public Education (2016)). This will happen if local school districts are the primary authorizer of charters – but likely NOT without this approach. Collaboration has been a hallmark of education policy in Kentucky for years and should be leveraged as a position of strength – allowing us to uniquely benefit from some of the most current research on charters. 

As we count the days and wait for negotiation on charters to be resolved this week, we look forward to uniting on common ground -- in a place where everyone who cares about student achievement can work together to focus on quality public schools and the resources necessary to support access and opportunity for each and every one of Kentucky's 650,000 students. That shared aspiration will help move Kentucky toward the ultimate goal of leading the nation in preparing students to achieve in school and in life. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Accountability Changes: A Proposal from the Kentucky Department

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Over recent months, the Kentucky Department of Education has coordinated a wide array of discussions about our next accountability system.  The most recent published proposal based on those discussions was shared with the Kentucky Board of Education at its February meeting. 

Here's a look at how that proposal answers the "six big questions" from my November blog post about accountability change, along with a few notes on topics for further exploration.


1. What should our rising generation know and be able to do?
The proposal does not require revisions to Kentucky’s academic standards.

2. What indicators can we use to track our progress toward those desired results?
The elementary and middle school indicators for school accountability ratings will include:
  • Proficiency on state assessments
  • Student growth data, using progress toward a student’s annual personal target for improvement
  • Achievement gap closure data by income, race, disability status, English learner status, plus a “consolidated group” based on race, disability status, and English learner status
  • Transition readiness, focused on learning about non-tested subjects, career fields, and essential skills, using measures that are under development
  • Opportunity and access measures that include arts opportunities and standards-based teaching and learning in science, social studies, health, physical education and career studies
For high schools, the indicators used for ratings will include:
  • Proficiency on state assessments
  • Achievement gap closure data
  • Transition readiness, shown by graduation rates and by academic readiness (ACT, SAT, AP, IB, or dual credit) or technical readiness (industry certification, KOSSA, dual credit) or military readiness (ASVAB)
  • Opportunity and access measures that consider advanced coursework, arts, writing, global competency/world language, practical living/career studies, and specialized career pathways
In addition to the indicators used for ratings, state reporting will include additional opportunity and access measures (discussed under Question 7).
Topics To Explore
• How will annual personal targets be set?
• When will transition readiness measures be announced?
3. How far and how fast do we intend to raise those indicators?
For students overall, the proposal calls for base goals that reflect recent history, asking for improvement that matches the statewide improvement for the highest scoring student group in 2014-16.

For student groups with lower scores, the proposal calls for additional goals that will cut achievement gaps in half by 2030. Those gaps will be defined by comparing one group to another.
Topics To Explore
• Will there be custom goals for each school?
• Will there be interim benchmarks on the way to each goal?
• If the highest scoring  group declined, how will goals be set?
4. How will we rate (or differentiate) schools each year?
For elementary and middle schools, the proposal calls for public reporting of four performance levels (low, moderate, strong very strong) for:
  • Proficiency and growth
  • Transition readiness
  • Opportunity and access
  • Achievement gap closure
For high schools, the same four levels will be use for:
  • Proficiency and transition
  • Opportunity and access
  • Achievement gap closure
Based on a matrix of all of those results, schools will also receive
  • An overall school ratings using six categories from outstanding to intervention
  • A gap closure designation or a gap issue designation
Topics to Explore
• How will standards be set for the four performance levels?
• How will citizens be included in the standard-setting?
• How will those levels relate to the state’s long-term goals?
5. How will we identify schools for added support?
The proposal calls for:
  • Tier I targeted support (early warning) for schools where one or more student groups have results like lowest 10% of schools
  • Tier II targeted support for schools where one or more student groups has results like the lowest 5% of schools
  • Intervention for schools where 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
Topics to Explore
• How many schools will qualify for targeted support?
• Will all targeted support schools get a gap issue designation?
6. What support will we provide to identified schools?
The current proposal promises an additional document to describe the kinds of support and adds that the “breadth, depth, and intensity of school support will depend in large part on the available resources.”
Topics to Explore:
• When will the support document be available?
7. How will we promote accountability for results not included in the ratings and support rules?
A major innovation in the proposal is a call to report an additional set of indicators that are not counted for the ratings.

For schools, the proposal calls for reporting on:
  • Reading and math proficiency as good or better than kindergarten readiness rates for all groups of third-grade students
  • Global competency and/or world language exposure for elementary and middle school students
  • Proportional identification rates for the Primary Talent Pool and Gifted and Talented services for all student groups
  • Proportional out-of-school suspension rates for all student groups
  • Chronic absence rate (percent of students who miss 10% or more days in a school year)
  • Teachers with appropriate certification
  • Teacher turnover rates
  • First year teachers as a share of all teachers
  • Librarian/media specialists and guidance counselors, with attention to the professional roles they play
For districts, the reporting may also include:
  • ALL STAR ratings for the state-funded preschool program
  • The percentage of of students served in half-day and full-day kindergarten programs 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Charter Legislation Passes House (With Eight Question Summary)

On Friday, March 3, the House Education Committee and the Kentucky House of Representatives voted on an amended version of House Bill 520 on charter schools. The amendments:
  • Allow mayors in Fayette and Jefferson Counties as additional authorizers for charter schools
  • Limit most charter schools to admitting students from the district where the school is located
  • Allow ‘’regional achievement academies” as a form of charter school to be formed in Campbell and Kenton Counties that will be allowed admit students from all the districts of those counties
  • Prohibit virtual charters
  • Remove rules for how charter schools will be funded and how charter school employees will participate in retirement systems
  • Allow Kentucky Board of Education appeals rulings to be further appealed to the “district court of appeals"
You can download the updated Prichard Committee analysis of the legislation using the “Eight Key Questions For Any Charter School” here, and the complete bill text here.

The bill now moves to consideration by the Senate Education Committee.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A New Postsecondary Funding Model – A Positive Step for Future Investments, but Details and Transparency Matter

| by Perry Papka, Senior Policy Director |

The Kentucky State Senate this week passed Senate Bill 153, sponsored by Senator David Givens, establishing a new, comprehensive funding model for Kentucky’s public postsecondary education institutions.  The legislation is an outgrowth of recommendations made in December of last year by the Postsecondary Education Working Group and would tie a significant portion of state support for both 2-year and 4-year institutions to performance metrics.

What could this new approach mean for future investment?
Properly structured and adequately funded, a new comprehensive funding model represents an opportunity to move toward a more transparent and accountable system of postsecondary education – better ensuring that Kentuckians have access to affordable, high-quality postsecondary education.

This approach can be a positive step to help close persistent attainment gaps and be a vehicle to support additional investments in postsecondary education – investments that are undoubtedly necessary to reach the state’s educational goals. 

This can also be the first step Kentucky needs to more effectively link decisions and policies on state appropriations, student aid, and tuition to better define the expectations of institutions and students.  Lack of transparency in how postsecondary education is financed, and how the varying financial components interact, ultimately leads to less effective and efficient use of public resources and makes it more challenging for Kentuckians to reach their educational, economic, workforce, and civic potential.

What does Senate Bill 153 actually do?
Calls for renewed accountability for the state’s investment in postsecondary education are not new. Over the last three budget cycles, the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) has proposed some level of performance funding for institutions based on either achievement toward targets and goals or shares of degrees produced. All of these proposals applied only to new funding requests, and with budget reductions of 18.2% since 2008 – equivalent to $197 million – none of these proposals were adopted by the General Assembly.


The current state budget initiated the process to create a new, comprehensive funding model that would include performance metrics. As part of that process, the Postsecondary Education Working Group - comprised of institutional presidents, the Governor, and legislative leadership - provided formula recommendations for the new model on December 1, 2016 after meeting five times throughout the latter half of 2016.  The budget included a powerful incentive for this group to reach consensus - in 2018, 5% of funding ($43 million) must be allocated through the new model.  (The Prichard Committee provided feedback to the working group during the development of the funding model.)


 
Senate Bill 153 essentially codifies the recommendations of the Postsecondary Education Working Group, which all institutional presidents endorsed.  A new, comprehensive funding model would ultimately distribute 100% of allocable resources to postsecondary institutions via three major categories: 30% for campus operations, 35% based on student credit hours earned, and 35% based on student success outcomes represented by a set of performance metrics.  You can download our complete summary of the legislation for easy reference.


Can Senate Bill 153 be improved?
As with any legislation, details and transparency matter.  While Senate Bill 153 overall represents a positive step forward, certain elements would benefit from greater consideration and would provide CPE and postsecondary institutions clearer guiderails to follow during implementation:
  • Weighting for Priority Populations - Additional weight for underrepresented student populations is critical to close the state’s attainment gaps and reach statewide attainment goals.  The working group’s recommendations would weight STEM-H degrees more heavily than priority populations for the 4-year institutions. Given the state’s need to close attainment gaps between diverse population groups, priority populations should be weighted equal to or higher relative to types of degree fields.
  • Fields of Study Definition - STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, math, and health) degrees need appropriate classification and definition to align with the state’s employment and educational needs.  Helpful would be a STEM-H definition establishing the process by which degree fields are classified, and that also includes STEM educators in primary and secondary education to align with high demand for qualified K-12 teachers. 
  • Implementation and Review of Comprehensive Funding Model -The formal review process established in the bill is critical to guard against unintended consequences, foster engagement, and ensure transparency.  To fully achieve these goals, the working group should be inclusive of other stakeholders such as students, business and civic leaders, and other public policy experts - including representation from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) and the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS).
  • Transparency of Funding Model and Data  - To broaden public understanding and stakeholder engagement, the funding model and its data elements should be made publicly available by a date certain annually on CPE’s web-site – including definition and funding levels of non-formula mandated programs, specific formula adjustments related to cost and level and type of degrees and credentials, STEM-H degree field classifications and justification for inclusion, and data with regard to enrollment and distribution of priority populations.  This same level of public reporting should apply to any report and recommendations made by the working group every three years.
  • Ambitious Statewide Goals - CPE’s target in the 2016-2021 Strategic Agenda of increasing Kentucky’s educational attainment to 58% by 2025 is laudable and inclusion by reference of the attainment goal adopted in the strategic agenda would enhance the funding model’s link to statewide goals.
  • Respect for Institutional Missions – Given the unique missions assigned to institutions by the 1997 Postsecondary Education Improvement Act, concerns remain about unintended consequences related to how the research and comprehensive sectors are treated relative to one another – particularly with regard to affordability to students and families.  Guidance to the permanent working group to evaluate every 3 years should include - at a minimum – the effect of the model on key principles, including:
    • Access – Ensuring educational opportunities remain inclusive of all Kentucky students.
    • Affordability – Affordability is not explicitly addressed in the funding model, yet is a significant barrier for many students.  Understanding the impact of the new model on tuition, as well as state and institutional financial aid is critical to more adequately link the financial components of postsecondary education.
    • Quality – Assessing quality presents significant challenges, but the review process should begin to consider potential measures - such as student learning and engagement – on which a future framework can be built.



(Learn more about performance-based funding in our report from the symposium we hosted in June of 2016 in partnership with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce - Performance & Outcomes-Based Funding: Lessons for Accountable Investment for Postsecondary Progress in Kentucky.)