Monday, January 29, 2018

Teacher Learning Cuts Likely to Stall Gap Reduction and Learning Growth

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

Kentucky’s students need:

  • High levels of knowledge, skill, and constructive character traits to be ready for full participation in their communities and the economy.
  • Improving results for every group and quicker, deeper improvement for the student groups that have historically been served poorly in our schools.

To meet those needs, Kentucky’s teachers must implement:

  • Sustained, thoughtful innovation, built over repeating cycles of finding promising approaches, trying them out in classroom work, checking results, and refining the approaches to keep moving students forward.
  • Career-long exploration and adaptation, rather than one-time adjustments, both because this work is a pathbreaking effort to change learning in ways no state has ever fully achieved and because each new class of students arrives with new strengths and challenges that cannot be fully served by repeating what worked for last year's pupils.

Kentucky’s next budget, if it follows the Governor’s recommendations, will:

  • Wipe out nearly every line item in the state budget that supports educators' work on those innovations. The chart below identifies the teacher growth initiative being abandoned. 
  • Weaken overall funding so much that schools will find it far harder to provide teachers with the blocks of collaborative time they need to plan innovations, check results, and revise plans to make results stronger in the next round of instruction.

If teaching were rote labor, those cuts might not matter. If a diligent person could do the work just by following a list of instructions consistently, these reductions might be survivable. Teaching is the opposite. Teaching is supporting young minds, with varied gifts and diverse experiences, as they reach for understanding of a vast universe. Equipping the next generation requires constant study, relentless exploration, and unending creativity. Strong innovation in teaching and learning cannot be developed on zero dollars and sustained in brief moments grabbed in busy hallways.

If Kentucky agrees to strip teachers of learning funding and undermine their learning time, we will slow and maybe halt the learning changes Kentucky needs. The impact will be severe all around, but it will be hardest of all on students who most need upward movement in our schools, including students with identified learning disabilities, students who are learning English, students with low family incomes, and students of color.

Excellence with equity cannot be reached on this budget path.

Hurting Classrooms and Kids: KCEP's Potent New Survey

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Here's a new chance to understand the rolling impact of a decade of funding damage on Kentucky students and schools.
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy has surveyed the state's school districts for a new report that :
provides a first comprehensive look at how these cuts have translated into fewer course offerings, reductions in school-based services, fewer staff and cuts in employee compensation, costs being passed along to parents, fewer instructional days and more.
With financial details and painful quotes from local leaders on the harm being done, this disturbing study deserves everyone's close attention.

Big Equity Impact From Transportation Cuts

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Governor Bevin’s proposed $138.5 million cut to school transportation funding will undermine equity as well as excellence. Based on past practice, we can expect students in some districts to take much greater damage than others, probably roughly like this:

Those are my estimates, based on published fiscal 2017 transportation cost calculations and the state’s method for handling cuts.

The transportation costs reflect Kentucky’s legally established formula, which considers the square miles in a district, the number of students to be bused over those miles, and other factors. Unsurprisingly, it costs more to transport students across a large, sparsely populated county than it does to move them within a compact independent school system.

The cuts are based on taking the same percentage off of the calculated costs. The percentage method guarantees that state funding reductions take more from some students than from others, and also ensures that the reductions will take the highest amounts from the districts that have the highest needs. That’s why the cuts are more than $200 per student in some districts and less than $20 for students in others.

These estimated new cuts will also come on top of many years of under-funding transportation. For 2016-17, the budget provided roughly 38% less than the real costs, so every district got 38% less than it needed. For 2018-19, the new cuts recommended by the Governor’s requested cut could take another 37% out of each district’s funding.

 For the work of moving Kentucky toward educational excellence with equity, these anti-equity cuts would be a big step in the wrong direction.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Quality Counts 2018: Kentucky's Core Story

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

EdWeek's 2018 Quality Counts ratings are out, and sorting their scores yield a classic statement of Kentucky P-12 education.  We rank:
  • 34th of 50 on Chance for Success, a measure of the socioeconomic resources students bring with them to school
  • 33rd of 49 on School Finance (Hawaii is a single district and can't be scored on equity)
  • 16th of 50 on K-12 Achievement
That really is our core story, Kentucky educators:
  • Serve students with unusually high challenges and
  • Work with unusually weak resources and still still
  • Deliver unusually strong student results
Yes, of course, we have plenty of work to do to achieve the full student results we want.  

Nevertheless, when we see yet again that our hard-working teachers, administrators, and support staff start with less and end with more, I think a little respect is in order.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

$308 Million Total Cuts from P-20 Education

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Perry Papka and I have been working through the budget proposals over the last few days, looking at a set of sections one at a time. For readers who want to see the bigger picture, here's a shorter version of what Governor Bevin has recommended:

One clarifying note: an earlier post discussed the Department of Education's funding by comparing the proposed budget to 2018 revised funding. Our later posts compared the proposal to 2018 enacted funding. For consistency, the chart above uses enacted numbers. That's why it shows the Department budget with a $229.7 million cut, rather than the $198.3 million in my earlier post.

For further detail, here's a full list of the other budget posts Perry and I have shared this week:

$5.6 Million from School Facilities

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

The School Facilities Construction Commission is another portion of how Kentucky funds P-12 education. According to the Commission's website,
The School Facilities Construction Commission provides an equitable distribution of state funding for school construction and technology based on the unmet needs of Kentucky’s 173 school districts.
$134.9 million from the general fund was appropriated for the SFCC in the FY 2018 enacted budget.

$129.3 million from the general fund will go to the SFCC under the current edition of a new budget bill reflecting Governor Bevin's recommendations for fiscal 2019.

That $5.6 million cut to SFCC needs to be included in thinking about the overall reductions being proposed to P-12 public education.

$3.2 Million from EPSB, including all KTIP funding

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

The Kentucky Teacher Internship Program (known everywhere as KTIP) is one of the 70 programs that would receive no funding under Governor Bevin's recommended budget.  Here's a summary of KTIP from the 2013 Prichard Committee Team on Teacher Effectiveness:
Teachers begin their careers in Kentucky under the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program (KTIP), which they must complete successfully before being eligible for certification.... Through KTIP each new teacher is assigned a beginning- teacher committee composed of the school principal, a resource teacher (generally with the same certification as the intern) and a teacher educator from a state-approved institution. The committee, based on evaluation and observations conducted over the year, decides whether a teacher should be recommended for state certification. 
The beginning-teacher committee also is tasked with helping the new teacher become an effective educator. The EPSB notes that KTIP “is designed to provide assistance to new teachers and support them in experiencing a successful first year in the classroom. The program strives to strengthen effective teaching skills and assist the intern teacher in recognizing behaviors that are ineffective or counterproductive to student learning.”
Defunding KTIP removes one support for teachers developing their craft and succeeding in a complex profession, and fits into a wider pattern of cuts that includes professional development, and other funding for educator learning, university-based centers that support literacy and math and middle schools, and scholarships for early childhood providers and teachers.

There is no separate KTIP figure in state budget legislation, and two different 2018 figures in documents from the Office of State Budget Development. KTIP is shown with funding of:

It is possible that some of those dollars are coming from federal resources or restricted funds, so I'm not confident listing either of those amounts as the KTIP-specific general fund cut.

However, the picture is much clearer for the overall Education Professional Standards Board, which implements KTIP and also oversees teacher education programs, and governs educator certification. For the whole agency, the general fund numbers are:

  • $6.8 million in enacted funding for 2018, showing in 2016's final HB 303.
  • $3.6 million in proposed funding for 2019, shown in the recently filed 2018 HB 200.

That $3.2 million reduction seems very likely to cut more than KTIP within the EPSB's work.

For clarity, this proposed $3.2 million cut is in addition to the $198 million that will flow through the Kentucky Department of Education.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

$72 Million in Proposed Cuts to Universities and KCTCS

| Post by Perry Papka | 

Governor Bevin’s executive budget proposes cuts to every Kentucky public postsecondary institution’s general fund support.

Overall, the plan calls for a net reduction of $72.1 million from the current 2018 fiscal year to 2019, dropping from $887 million in 2018 general fund revenue to $815 million for 2019, as shown below.

That 2019 overall reduction comes in two parts. First, the line item for every school is cut. Second, the schools will have no opportunity to qualify for performance-based funding that could increase those line items. The 2018 budget included $42.9 million that could be (and now has been) distributed to schools based on selected measures of their results.

The Governor’s 2020 proposal makes two further changes. The budget lines for all the institutions are reduced by a total of $7.7 million, and a performance-based funding pool of exactly $7.7 million is added. In effect, the budget provides the same dollars, but with added pressure to change outcomes.

The Governor’s proposal does include significant new support for capital projects at postsecondary institutions. The Postsecondary Education Asset Preservation Pool is created and funded with $300 million in bonds over the biennium. These funds are to be used for asset preservation, renovation and maintenance at the various campuses. The bonds will be supported by General Fund debt service totaling $25.4 million over the biennium.

Finally, the proposal eliminates general fund support for a number of programs. Initiatives housed at higher education institutions that are slated to receive no funding include:

  • The Community Operations Board at Eastern
  • The Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead
  • The Kentucky Center for Mathematics at Northern
  • University Press, Center for Entrepreneurship, Hospital Direct Support, Agriculture Public Service, Robinson Scholars, and Mining Engineering Scholarships, all at the University of Kentucky
  • The Kentucky Mesonet at Western
  • Kentucky Coal Academy and Adult Agriculture funding at KCTCS

Beyond the $72 million cuts to institutional budgets, a set of programs implemented through the Council on Postsecondary Education are also slated to receive no general fund support. Those include:

  • The Lung Cancer Research Fund
  • The Ovarian Cancer Screening Outreach Program
  • Washington D.C. Internships
  • Professional Education Preparation
  • Minority Student College Preparation
  • The Autism Training Center
  • The Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholars

Financial Aid Could See Small Net Increase, Some Priority Shifts

| Post by Perry Papka |

Governor Bevin’s executive budget calls for:

  • Increases to CAP and KTG needs-based aid and KEES scholarships
  • Level funding for Work Ready and Dual Credit scholarships, along with smaller pharmacy and osteopathic medicine programs
  • An end to four other scholarships: Early Coal Country College Competition, Teachers, Early Childhood, and Work Study

Overall, the recommended budget would increase financial aid funding by $2.2 million for 2019 and add a further $8.2 million for 2020. 100% of lottery revenue is going to financial aid, with needs-based CAP and KTG receiving only 44% of the total, as compared to the 55% required by statute.

Below, the details are shown in three tables to track three different kinds of funding.

  • Lottery general fund dollars
  • Lottery restricted fund dollars that come from unclaimed prizes and go to KEES scholarships
  • Other sources

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

K-12: More Detail on $40.5 Million of Programs the Governor Would End

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

In his proposed budget, Governor Bevin proposes no general fund spending for sixteen K-12 programs implemented by the Kentucky Department of Education:  Compared to the funding in the last budget (for 2018, the fiscal year that's already underway), that will mean cuts of:

  • $16.7 million for Instructional Materials/Textbooks
  • $11.9 million for Professional Development
  • $1.4 million for Teacher Academies
  • $1.4 million for the Commonwealth School Improvement Fund
  • $1.3 million for Teacher Quality and Diversity
  • $1.2 million for the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development

  • $941 thousand for Save the Children (this project is offered Tobacco Settlement support)
  • $720 thousand for Teacher’s Professional Growth Fund
  • $700 thousand for Virtual Learning
  • $339 thousand for Middle School Academic Achievement Center
  • $329 thousand for Leadership and Mentoring
  • $250 thousand for Teach for America
  • $228 thousand for the Georgia Chaffee Teenage Parent Program
  • $100 thousand for the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center
  • $100 thousand for the Heuser Hearing and Speech
  • $72 thousand for Appalachian Tutoring

The Governor also proposes no funding for the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, or KTIP, a mentoring and support process that first-year teachers complete in order to get full certification for their jobs. KTIP is funded through the Education Professional Standards Board. Compared to the 2018 budget, that's a cut of:
  • $2.8 million for Kentucky Teacher Internship Program
Taken together, that adds up to general fund reductions of:
  • $40.5 million for 17 programs that support K-12 learning
The entries shown in green italics fit an additional pattern: they're programs for strengthening teachers and helping them become increasingly effective in their professional work. That set of teaching quality programs account for:
  • 21.7 million for teacher development within the $40.5 million of eliminated general fund programs

K-12 Education Cuts of $198 Million

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

[Alert: As shown in the column headings, this post uses 2018 figures from the "revised" column of the Governor's Executive Budget, released on Tuesday night, which reflected reductions recently ordered by the Governor. The later posts in this series rely on 2018 figures taken from the budget enacted in 2018 without those reductions. This note was added to the post on January 20, 2018.]

Governor Bevin’s proposed Executive Budget cuts just short of $200 million from the Kentucky Department of Education for next year. Here's the short version, to be followed by more detail:

For SEEK, the main SEEK reduction is a giant cut to pupil transportation, combined with smaller reductions to the state share of base funding and (for the first budget year only) retirement costs for the first year of the budget. 

With in SEEK, the Governor also proposes increases: state contributions to facilities costs would grow and so would the Tier 1 dollars the state pays to equalize funding for districts that voluntarily go above the minimum 30¢ tax rate.
The rest of the Department budget is shown under the Operations and Support and Learning and Results headings. The biggest proposed cut reduces state funding for health insurance benefits to teachers and other school employees. 16 other education programs are also proposed for elimination under Next Generation Schools and Next Generation Learners (and yes, I'll post the list in a few minutes.)

Very small increases are proposed for the Department's leadership (Commissioner & Board) the Kentucky School for the Deaf, and the Kentucky School for the Blind.

SEEK Guarantee: What Did the Governor Propose?

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

In his State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday evening, Governor Bevin proposed a budget that maintains the $3,981 guarantee per pupil. Simultaneously, the Governor published his detailed budget proposal, showing:

  • 2,070,081,900 as SEEK base funding for the 2018 fiscal year happening now
  • 2,065,477,600 for fiscal 2019
  • 2,054,139,300 for fiscal 2020

That is, the Governor proposed to cut state SEEK base funding by:

  •  $4.6 million for fiscal 2019
  •  $11.4 more million for fiscal 2020

That can work. The per pupil guarantee can stay the same while state funding shrinks.

The key is that local school districts also contribute to SEEK: they raise the required 30¢ tax per $100 of taxable property. The state role pays the rest of the amount: it guarantees that each district will end up with the same base amount.

Here’s an illustration, showing three years of the same $3,981 guarantee. The state really can pay less if local property values and tax revenue go up.

So, yes, Governor Bevin’s proposal on SEEK base fits together if local property values are indeed rising and rising faster than average daily attendance.  That's why the proposal assumes the state can provide the same guarantee while paying out fewer state dollars.

This November Prichblog post offers a systematic explanation of how the full SEEK formula, including the guarantee, add-ons, Tier 1 equalized dollars, and Tier 2 unequalized dollars, fits together.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Benchmarking performance for student growth and engagement | Better tests, better learning

| Post by Cory Curl |

Note: We're in the midst of discussing what's new and what's around the corner for student tests in Kentucky, focusing on issues of interest to families and communities. With this post, we're exploring how one Kentucky school district uses tests to benchmark student learning and engagement in their schools, as compared to schools across the U.S. and other nations.

  • Learning
  • Informing
  • Clarifying
  • Benchmarking
  • Measuring

  • Krista Decker, Director of Assessment Support in Boone County Schools, recently spoke with me about how and why Boone County uses the OECD Test for Schools to benchmark student performance.

    First, some background:
    The OECD Test for Schools is based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) administers the PISA every three years to a sample of 15-year olds in more than 70 countries or economies. The purpose of the test is to evaluate education systems across countries and draw lessons to improve both excellence and equity.

    At the country level, PISA results not only differentiate performance in reading, mathematics, and science literacy across countries but show that progress (or decline) in a short amount of time is possible. The PISA also goes well beyond evaluating student knowledge and skills in three subjects -- it seeks understanding about student experiences with learning in school and at home. The most recent administration of the PISA was 2015.

    Image of PISA 2015 Mathematics results from OECD

    At the state level, both Massachusetts and North Carolina have elected to have more students sampled for the PISA test so that they receive statewide scores and information.

    Through the OECD Test for Schools, school districts such as Boone County have access to similar information to learn how student performance and engagement in their schools compares to other students in the U.S. and other nations. In November 2016, a sample of students in Boone County's four high schools took the OECD Test for Schools and the district received reports on the results for each school. Krista Decker presented the results to the district's school board in September 2017.

    Sample report from OECD Test for Schools from NWEA

    Krista shared with me three reasons why the results have proven essential to Boone County's strategic efforts, well beyond "just another test":
    1. Support from the business community: Not only is benchmarking performance a familiar concept to business leaders, they know that students need to be able to compete in a global economy with the kind of deep knowledge and skills evaluated by PISA.
    2. Student engagement and motivation: The students who take the PISA answer questions about their experiences in school. The reports illuminate insights about student motivation and belonging in the schools. Boone County has hired a student engagement director to act on what has been learned.
    3. Teacher professional learning and student growth: In Boone County, teachers work together to analyze data from the OECD Test for Schools reports and to learn about the questions on the test itself, which may demand more from students (the U.S. falls in the middle of countries on science and reading and below average in mathematics).
    Next month, a new cohort of students in Boone County will take the OECD Test for Schools and the results will be comparable to the PISA 2015 test. In summer 2018, Boone County will work with neighboring districts that are also administering the test and acting on the results.

    For more information about the OECD Test for Schools:

    Next time, for our final post in this series, we will discuss what may be ahead for the way Kentucky uses tests to measure student, and school, performance.

    Wednesday, January 3, 2018

    New end-of-course tests on the horizon | Better tests, better learning

    | Post by Cory Curl |

    Note: Happy New Year! We're continuing to discuss what's new and what's around the corner for student tests in Kentucky, focusing on issues of interest to families and communities. With this post, we're exploring how Kentucky uses tests to clarify student learning expectations.

  • Learning
  • Informing
  • Clarifying
  • Benchmarking
  • Measuring

  • In spring 2019, high school students across Kentucky will take new "end-of-course" tests in Algebra II, English II, and Biology. (This spring, students enrolled in these courses will take "field" tests to help the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) finalize development of the new tests, but these will not produce information for parents or the public about student learning in these subjects.)

    From what we know so far (mostly from pages 32-34 of Kentucky's proposed state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act - ESSA), these tests will have at least three important differences from the ACT Quality Core end-of-course tests that Kentucky high school students took in Algebra II, English II, Biology, and U.S. History from 2011-12 to 2016-17.
    1. They will be developed by Kentucky educators for Kentucky students. As the proposed ESSA plan states, Kentucky has "ended the use of an off-the-shelf product for this test".

    2. As required by Senate Bill 1 (2017), these tests will align to Kentucky's academic standards. The ACT end-of-course tests were not aligned to Kentucky's academic standards. This has put school district leaders, school-based decision making councils, and teachers in the unenviable spot of deciding whether to focus learning around Kentucky's academic standards or those articulated by the testing company.

    3. Professional learning sessions taking place across the state suggest that the tests will reflect high expectations for students to take on challenging work in these subjects. (We look forward to learning more about this, including seeing sample test items.)

    Image of color swatches downloaded from Pantone

    Complex debates about the value of standardization versus customization affect student testing as much as they affect other education policy issues. End-of-course tests like these serve clarify student learning expectations. Why is this important?
    • Consistency: Tests like these can help ensure that "Algebra II" in a school in one area of Kentucky has similar content and expectations for students as "Algebra II" in another school, by providing consistent signals to teachers as they make decisions about classroom materials and assignments.
    • Equity: Tests like these can help ensure that students of color, students with low family incomes, students with learning disabilities, or other historically underserved students have exposure to similar content and expectations as more advantaged students.
    • Excellence: Tests like these can be part of broader efforts -- along with robust professional learning and student supports -- to shift the whole system higher toward excellence, helping communicate to students, teachers, parents, and communities the level of challenging, meaningful work students should be prepared to do in these subjects and beyond.

    Next time, we will discuss how tests are being used to benchmark performance across districts, states, and even countries.