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.