Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy endings and beginnings

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Ed. – a blog about excellence with equity in education, begins today as a rich new approach to Prichard Committee communication. The content plans are strong and the team commitment deep, and the work is going to be great. I hope you'll all be regular readers.

PrichBlog finishes today. I took the lead on starting this scrappy little effort using free software and my spare time. It was a quick launch into unfamiliar territory, and it's been a grand adventure all along.  We'll keep this site live as long as Blogger makes that easy to do, for anyone who wants to look back on older analysis.

Ed. will be bigger and bolder and fully embedded in the Prichard Committee's ongoing work, and I heartily welcome this moment of transition.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2017 NAEP: Summarizing Group Changes

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Here's a summary of how Kentucky average scale scores changed from 2015 to 2017, using the NAEP data released yesterday.

I don't see any way to call this strong movement toward excellence with equity. All the statistically significant changes move downward.

Mind, I want excellence that's broader than NAEP can show us. I want the full richness of the standards we've set out to deliver for all our students in science, mathematics, English language arts and other subjects. I want the deep investigations, focused research, sustained problem solving, active teamwork, effective communication, and core disciplinary understandings we've promised our next generation. That richness can't be fully gauged by short assessments like NAEP (or KPREP or AP or IB or ACT either).

I'm not saying these NAEP results are full evidence of about all the capacities we want for our students.

I'm saying NAEP is partial evidence. NAEP gives us one useful snapshot of how Kentucky's students are doing on a fraction of the skills and knowledge they need. I'm also saying the 2017 snapshot does not show us on the track we want to be on.

That means it's important for us to understand this development. It's important to figure out what's happening to produce these downward trends, what changes in our schools could turn the trends around, and what kinds of statewide support we as citizens need to provide to our common schools to help them bring those changes to fruition.

Below, I've shown the detail behind the summary above, all using data and significance tests from he NAEP Data Explorer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Prichard Statement on NAEP Results

This Prichard Committee statement was released this afternoon.
NAEP Results Signal Serious Concern About Declining Progress in Education Sense of Urgency Necessary to Return Kentucky to a Positive Path

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The latest results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), released today, show a decline in fourth grade reading results and no meaningful improvement in eighth grade reading and fourth and eighth grade mathematics. That pattern, seen for students of all backgrounds, will require both careful analysis to understand weaknesses in current efforts and robust new efforts to strengthen teaching and learning across the commonwealth.

Compared to results for the nation as a whole, Kentucky’s NAEP results now show our students:

  • Doing only slightly better than the national average in fourth grade reading, with a statistically significant declining average reading score
  • Slipping back to matching the national average in eighth grade reading, ending a multiyear pattern of results above the national average
  • Tied with national average in fourth grade mathematics
  • Staying below the national average in eighth grade math

The 2017 results also do not show gains in Kentucky’s pursuit of excellence with equity. Kentucky saw no significant gains for historically underserved groups, including English learners, African American students, Hispanic students, students of two or more races, students with identified disabilities, and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. While most results showed insignificant change, there were statistically significant declines for:

  • Students eligible for free or reduced-price meals in grade 4 reading, grade 8 reading, and grade 4 mathematics
  • English learners in grade 4 reading
  • African American students and students with identified disabilities in grade 4 mathematics

Overall, these results signal an urgent need for recommitment to building learning opportunities that develop the talents of each and every Kentucky student. That renewed commitment must include both new civic engagement with our public schools and new resource investments to support those schools’ success. The ambitious new goals set by the Kentucky Board of Education are important statements of what we must achieve together, and today’s data confirms the need for intensive efforts to meet those goals and equip Kentucky students for full and successful participation in our economy, community life, and civic responsibility.

To support those efforts, the Prichard Committee has identified five key strategic issues that need particularly intensive work:

  • Ensuring that Kentucky’s young children benefit from high quality early learning that keeps each and every child on a path toward proficiency in reading and mathematics by the end of third grade
  • Providing all Kentucky students with access to an excellent K-12 public education that allows them to reach their potential and prepare for the future, while ensuring a meaningful high school diploma
  • Offering all Kentuckians the opportunity for postsecondary success by ensuring access to high quality, affordable postsecondary education
  • Building local communities’ capacity and willingness to support public education
  • Making excellent education the top priority for Kentucky

For Kentucky’s economy and quality of life to flourish, we need students of every background to reach their potential and join in building a strong, shared future.

For additional analyses, please visit the Prichard Committee Blog at

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group. Since 1983, the Committee, made up of volunteer parents and citizens from across Kentucky, has worked tirelessly to improve education for Kentuckians of all ages.

Grade 4 NAEP Reading: Flat or Declining, Though With Some Results Better Than The Nation

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

As noted in the previous post, Kentucky saw a decline in fourth grade reading from 2015 to 2017, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Those results showed no improvement for groups by English learner status, disability status, eligibility for free or reduced price meals, and race. Instead, there were statistically significant declines for English learners and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, as well as their classmates who were not English learners and those who were not eligible for those meals.

Kentucky's Hispanic students, students with identified disabilities, and students eligible for free/reduced meals had results significantly better than similar students nationally, and students without identified disabilities also had a lead. White students were the one group with results significantly below similar students across the nation.

These disappointing results deserve thoughtful analysis and close attention. Future posts will share group results on the other tests, and the full NAEP results are available now from the NAEP Data Explorer here.

This post has been revised to use versions of the charts that identify the tested subject and grade in each chart title. The included data has not been changed.

Disappointment: Kentucky’s 2017 NAEP Reading and Math Results

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

The latest results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress, released today, show Kentucky’s students with:

  • A declining average scale score in fourth grade reading compared to 2015
  • No significant change in eighth grade reading, fourth grade mathematics and eighth grade mathematics compared to 2015

Looking at national results, Kentucky students’ 2017 results were:

  • Above national averages in fourth grade reading
  • In line with national averages in eighth grade reading and fourth grade mathematics
  • Below national average eighth grade mathematics.

One more way to state concern about these overall results is to look at how Kentucky’s rank among the 50 states is changed by these results. In this year’s NAEP reporting, Kentucky results are:

  • 17th in grade 4 reading, down from 8th in 2015)
  • 31st in grade 8 reading, down from 19th in 2015)
  • 29th in grade 4 mathematics, down from 21st in 2015)
  • 37th in grade 8 math, a small improvement over 39th in 2015

Discussions on why Kentucky was not able to show important improvement in these results will be deeply important in the coming days and weeks. For now, it’s worth starting with a simple recognition that these results are a disappointment.

Upcoming posts will share results for student groups and the full NAEP results are available now from the NAEP Data Explorer here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Pattern Continues – Enacted budget includes cuts to financial aid, postsecondary institutions

| Post by Perry Papka |

Under the budget passed by the General Assembly this week, state funding for postsecondary education will be cut over the next two years, with total biennial decreases of 2.5% for financial aid resources and for institutional funding. This continues the pattern of state disinvestment in Kentucky’s postsecondary institutions that has persisted since 2008. Since that time funding reductions total $222.6 million or 21%, a disinvestment whose costs are ultimately born by students and families.

Financial Aid
The enacted budget decreases state financial aid $12.6 million in FY 2019 and adds back $8.2 million in FY 2020. The majority of the decrease comes from reductions in the Work Ready and Dual Credit scholarships. Needs-based CAP and KTG would receive 45% of the net lottery proceeds, as compared to the 55% required by statute - but substantially more in dollars than the previous budget, approximately $28.5 million more over two years.

Only 94.5% of net lottery revenue would go to financial aid, meaning $13.9 million would be shifted to other areas of government. The current budget, as well as the Governor and House’s proposals for the next two year had returned 100% of net lottery revenue to financial aid. The enacted budget returns to a practice of budgets in years past that uses lottery revenue to pay for other areas of government.

Key steps include:

  • $10 million more for College Access Program (CAP) needs-based aid in FY 2019, with another $4.2 million added in FY 2020
  • $4.9 million more for Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG) needs-based aid in FY 2019, with another $1.8 million added in FY 2020
  • $800,000 more for Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships (KEES) merit-based funding increased in FY 2019, with another $2.3 million added in FY 2020
  • Unchanged funding for National Guard Tuition Assistance, remaining at $7.4 million annually.
  • $5 million less Dual Credit scholarships in each year 
  • $13.4 million less for Work Ready scholarships in each year
  • No funding for two previous lottery-funded programs: the Teacher Scholarship Program and Coal County College Completion Scholarships
  • No funding for four non-lottery programs: Early Childhood Development Scholarships, Work Study, Pharmacy Scholarships, and Osteopathic Medicine Scholarships

Institutional Funding
The enacted budget decreases state funding to public postsecondary institutions by $25.5 million in FY 2019 and another $1 million in FY 2020. While campuses are directly reduced approximately 6%, some of this cut may be earned back through performance-based funding. In FY 2019 $31 million and in FY 2020 $38.6 million is allocated through the performance-based funding model based on institutional success at meeting goals. Both years would be less than the $42.9 million allocated to performance-based funding in FY 2018.

Compared to the FY 2018 budget, the plan for FY 2019 would provide:

  • $4.8 million less for KCTCS
  • $4.3 million less for the University of Kentucky
  • $1.6 million less for the University of Louisville
  • $1.2 million less for Kentucky State
  • $1.0 million less for Morehead
  • $0.9 million less for Eastern
  • $0.8 million less for Western
  • $0.4 million less for Northern
  • $1.4 million more for Murray

Kentucky cannot expect to meet its needs for economic growth and quality of life through continued disinvestment in education. Our human capital is the primary economic engine and it is imperative to support the educational opportunities necessary for success in school, career and life. Despite increases in some state financial aid programs, issues of affordability and access to postsecondary opportunities for all Kentuckians’ make further reductions to institutional funding difficult to stomach.

In the future, 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.

Want Further Detail?
We’ve created a PrichBlog summary with one page to show financial aid changes and a second to show the institutional budgets. You can download that here, or view the complete budget bill as approved by the General Assembly here.

P-12 sees both increases and cuts in budget bill

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Yesterday, the General Assembly approved a two year budget for the Commonwealth, resolving disagreements between the two chambers.  For P12 education, that budget includes a mix of increases and cuts. Compared to the current fiscal 2018 enacted budget, the bill calls for fiscal 2019 spending with changes like these:

  • $21 million more for facilities
  • $14 million more for school district employees’ health insurance
  • $11 million more for teachers' retirement (employer match for current employees)
  • $3 million more for safe schools program

  • $10 million in new funding to help districts facing major losses in the tax value of their unmined minerals
  • $1 million in new funding to pay Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam fees for students with low family incomes

  • $0.3 million less for the Mathematics Achievement Fund
  • $0.4 million less for SEEK base/Tier 1/transportation
  • $0.4 million less for the gifted and talented program
  • $1 million less for Read to Achieve grants
  • $1 million less for state agency children
  • $2 million less for extended school services
  • $3 million less for family resource and youth service centers
  • $6 million less for preschool
  • $12 million less for professional development
  • $17 million less for textbooks and other instructional resources

  • $10 million less for smaller line item programs funded for less than $5 million in fiscal 2018
  • $3 million less for Kentucky Department of Education funding not in line items

Three other changes in the bill, not included within KDE’s budget, will also matter for P-12 education. Those changes (again comparing enacted fiscal 2018 to the bill’s fiscal 2019 appropriations) are:

  • $3 million less for the Education Professional Standards Board
  • $5 million less for the School Facilities Construction Commission
  • $83 million more for the separate Teachers Retirement System appropriation aimed at covering retirement benefits for work done in past years

The state funding plan now awaits action by Governor Bevin.

Our two-page PrichBlog summary shows added detail, including changes for the 2020 budget and a detail page on small programs that receive less than $5 million in funding. You can download that here, or view the complete budget bill approved by both chambers here.

Friday, March 30, 2018

More Revenue Critical for Excellence and Equity in Education

| Post By Brigitte Blom Ramsey |

There is no doubt, legislators are facing difficult budget choices as the 2018 session nears its end. Proposals on the table to-date risk severely compromising our ability to ensure excellence with equity, to ensure each and every student learns at high levels, having an opportunity to realize their unique potential – regardless of their background.

Underfunded pension liabilities coupled with insufficient tax revenues have resulted in a crisis that must lead to revenue-producing tax reform critical for investments in the resource that matters most to our future growth as a state - our human capital.

Threats to equity across the pipeline of education include:

K-12 Basic Funding: If our main SEEK funding for education doesn’t keep up with inflation, we naturally erode the investment that goes to the classroom and that supports student learning. This erosion disproportionately impacts students from low-wealth communities and low-income households where there are fewer resources to fill the gaps, fewer educational supports, and fewer community-based learning experiences.

Postsecondary Institution Funding: Our disinvestment in public universities and KCTCS has resulted in cost shifting to the backs of students and families at a time when a college education is evermore important for future success. We are crowding out students who are most challenged to attend because of the cost of tuition and the wages foregone in the years when they invest their time in higher levels of education.

Student Supports: Students don’t learn in a vacuum. Just like adults, they bring the cares of their world with them to life in school. As adults, we know this and we’ve put community-in-school investments in place to intervene and to mitigate the effects of harsh and sometimes toxic life experiences. Over the last decade, we’ve cut important parts of that support system, and we’ve allowed inflation to weaken them even further. Weakening preschool would add to that damage. Eliminating instructional materials and making further cuts to tutoring, (ESS), reading and math grants, and other major programs would be a move in the wrong direction.

Teacher Supports: Dedicated programs that support teacher professional development can be exceptionally valuable to supporting teachers in under-resourced schools and in more isolated rural areas where access to the broader education community is more difficult. Cutting these programs becomes an equity issue when the teachers who are tasked with supporting the learning of students with the most challenges outside of school don’t have the tools they need to increase their own effectiveness.

Educator Compensation: Along all the disinvestments already discussed, proposed changes to teacher retirement will weaken teachers’ total compensation, especially if teachers aren’t provided access to the social security safety net and if we don’t recognize the need for salaries and benefits competitive with the private sector. Not recognizing these issues will make it far harder for Kentucky to attract dedicated and talented people to the teaching profession.

While legislators are debating the next biennial budget, we are not making these decisions in isolation. Other states are increasing their investment from early childhood through postsecondary, recognizing human capital as the primary economic engine of their state and education as the primary input to quality of life. If Kentucky doesn’t deepen the investment in education, we will be at a severe competitive disadvantage for economic development in the near future.

It is for all of these reasons, Kentucky must commit to tax reform that grows with the changing economy, results in sustainable and structurally balanced budgets, and fulfills the promise of public education for every Kentuckian.

As a commonwealth, it behooves us to ensure that equity is not compromised, even for a moment, and that the assurance of an excellent education for each and every young person is regarded as the single greatest investment our Commonwealth can make.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Charter School Funding: First Estimates for HB 366

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

On March 20, the Senate amended House Bill 366 to add provisions for funding public charter schools. Here’s a look at what the bill would require and how that might work out financially.

Direct Revenue and On-Behalf Revenue
Under the bill’s current wording, school districts would transfer some funding, on a per-student basis, to the public charter schools they authorize (with some differences for charters authorized by mayors or in counties with four or more districts). That funding would depend on the number of students who attend the school and would include:

  • State and local SEEK funding for the base guarantee per pupil and add-ons based on pupil needs (with transportation dollars handled a bit differently)
  • State and local SEEK funding for Tier 1 optional equalized dollars
  • State and federal categorical school funding

Also under those provisions, public charter schools would be eligible for state “on behalf” payments for some staff benefits. Those “on behalf” dollars are sent directly from the state to the benefit providers, and include contributions for:

  • Health insurance for school employees
  • Retirement for teachers
  • Life insurance

Both types of funding would be based on the dollars available for students in regular public schools. The bill does not appropriate separate money or extra money. Instead, HB 366 calls for existing public education funding to be moved to different schools based on where students attend.

Some First Estimated Amounts
The House and Senate have approved two different versions of the state budget, and conference committee work is underway to reconcile the two. The House version has more generous funding for P-12 education overall, so separate estimates make sense for each chamber.

Under the House version of the budget, the charter rules in HB 366 might produce average funding per pupil about like this:

  • $6,961 in direct revenue
  • $1,706 in on-behalf revenue
  • $8,667 in total revenue

Under the Senate version, those same rules might produce average amounts like this:

  • $6,870 in direct revenue
  • $1,584 in on-behalf revenue
  • $8,454 in total revenue

Other Funding, Available And Not Available
Some public charters would also qualify for some further state dollars.that would be based on factors like whether they provide transportation, employ teachers with National Board Certification, enroll low-income students who take AP or IB Exams, are awarded grants that not all schools receive, or serve coal counties or counties that have recently suffered major losses in tax revenue from unmined minerals.

Public charter schools would not receive another form of local funding that goes to other schools. Under the SEEK formula, school districts have the option of raising dollars above the base and Tier 1 levels, but without any state equalization. Those local Tier 2 dollars would not have to be shared with public charter schools. The amount available from Tier 2 varies greatly from one district to another, but the recent average has been in the vicinity of:

  • $1,789 in optional Tier 2 revenue raised entirely through local taxation

More Information
Our PrichBlog two-pager shows how the calculations behind the numbers above and adds further detail on the further dollars that might be available under particular charter school circumstances. You’re welcome to download that to learn more, and the full text of the Senate version of HB 366 is available here, with the public charter school funding portion starting on page 94.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Equity Supports Would Receive Extra Damage Under Senate Version of Budget

| Post By Susan Perkins Weston |

The version of the state budget approved by the House on March 20 includes major cuts likely to weaken Kentucky's efforts to develop the talents of all children and undo achievement gaps between groups of students. Key programs for supporting students with distinctive needs are slated for reduction or elimination, as are nearly all programs for equipping teachers to respond to those needs.

The $29 million in reductions to major student programs look like this:

This Senate version of the budget would do even greater harm than the House version.  The House voted to eliminate textbook funding and cut FRYSCs (family resource and youth service centers), but it maintained fiscal 2018 funding for extended school services (tutoring), gifted and talented programs, preschool for children with disabilities or low family incomes, Read to Achieve grants to help students who struggle in reading catch up, or supports for children who have been placed in state agency care.

The $24 million in reductions to teacher development are the same ones PrichBlog has highlighted before, and they continue to pose a grave threat to teachers' ability to plan and implement the instructional innovations that will be needed to meet Kentucky's ambitious goals for raising achievement and reducing achievement gaps.

To repeat the major point about this approach, excellence with equity cannot be reached on this budget path.