“Common Core provided no scaffolding to transition students from their former educational program into the new one Common Core outlines.”–Richard G. Innes, Bluegrass Institute staff education analyst
“The US needs a single curriculum so highly mobile students won’t be behind when they move to a new school.”
“Students need to take more advanced material in the lower elementary grades if they are going to be ready later for college and careers.”
Americans have heard these sorts of arguments over and over during the past few years as supporters of the Common Core State Standards pushed to convince us that their new standards offer a great – if not the only – answer for the nation’s obviously under-performing schools. Stick to Common Core, we’ve been confidently told, and everything is going to get better.
Nowhere were such claims more frequently heard than in Kentucky. In fact, the Bluegrass State was the first to adopt the new standards under the title “Kentucky Core Academic Standards.” Kentucky was the first to realign its state testing system to the Common Core, as well.
Since the adoption in 2010, the Kentucky Board of Education has been out in front in support of Common Core, staunchly defending the standards as critical to improving the state’s schools. It was essential for every Kentucky school to comply – no exceptions!
Except now that is changing.
On June 3, 2015 the Kentucky Board of Education excused the Jefferson County Public School District’s Maupin Elementary School from having to follow the required sequence of topic presentation found in the Common Core. All of a sudden, the state with the most Common Core experience in the nation is now saying that maybe that Common Core sequence isn’t the best. Suddenly, Kentucky’s board is willing to look at something else, something that creates less stress in the early elementary school grades.
This is a sea state change for a state board that previously has gone to the hilt to protect Common Core. It will be interesting to see what happens and how children actually fare in this experiment.
Kentucky’s Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has always been ready to blow its happy horn for Kentucky’s schools – regardless of those schools’ actual performance.
A new case in point just arrived with Prichard’s short paper, “Finding Solutions, Standards Push Students Toward Real-Life Problems.” This paper focuses on the way:
“Kentucky’s standards for learning in math and English language arts, adopted in 2010 and now everyday practice for teachers and schools across the state, aim to create more challenging and relevant learning experiences for students.”
However, the middle school teaching examples from the South Warren Middle School in Warren County gushingly described in the paper leave me and some noted national math experts wondering what Prichard is thinking – especially since the example exercises don’t seem to align with Common Core and don’t appear to be grade appropriate.
Furthermore, the most recent test results from the eighth grade college-readiness-related EXPLORE assessments show math performance in this school fell during the 2014-15 school year.
So, why should we be impressed?
Picking up and even expanding upon the issue of inflated scoring in Kentucky’s new Program Reviews for school accountability that I wrote about earlier today, the Courier-Journal in Louisville also points to the serious problems that were admitted to today in the Kentucky Board of Education’s meeting.
The Courier points to telling comments from Kentucky Department of Education staffers:
“Department staff said that no scores were changed as the result of this audit. However, Ellis said that if schools’ scores are ‘extremely inflated again after they received an audit’ that it be a red flag to ‘send them on for a possible testing violation.’”
That might seem like a good course of action, but because the review process is so vague to begin with, making a violation stick might be really tough.
Unless someone comes up with a huge amount of money to both do better training of teachers scoring the reviews and to do a whole lot more auditing than is currently being discussed, I don’t think this problem is going to be solved. After all, impacts from teacher self-scoring plagued Kentucky’s old writing-portfolios-for-assessment-and-accountability program throughout its history from the beginning of KIRIS testing in 1992 to the demise of CATS testing in 2008.
It’s really a very simple equation:
(School Self-Scoring + School Held Accountable for The Scores) * (Human Nature) = Guaranteed Score Inflation
The Kentucky Board of Education is meeting as I write this, and I am listening in to the webcast. They just discussed results from an important audit related to the state’s Unbridled Learning school accountability program. This audit looked at scoring from the new Program Reviews part of Unbridled Learning. The audit found a solid majority of the Program Review scores were inflated.
At best, “It’s kind of discouraging” as KBE chair Roger Marcum summarized.
It is no surprise to me and our readers that the audit found significant inflation in the Program Review scores. After all, school staff self-award their own Program Review scores. What else do you think would happen when those scores are used to hold schools and staff accountable?
These scoring errors impact the validity of the state’s Unbridled Learning school accountability program.
Furthermore, a real fix quite likely will not be found.
How can the state board be so naïve about human nature? That really is “discouraging.”
The new “The Condition of Education 2015” has been released by the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.
Kentucky stands out in at least one figure in the publication, which shows the ratio of teachers to the total of all staff in public school systems around the nation. Very simply, the Bluegrass State’s public schools appear to be over-staffed with non-teachers. Kentucky has one of the worst “tooth to tail” ratios of teachers to total school staff of any state in the nation.
To explore this further, I pulled up the data from a number of issues of the Digest of Education Statistics to develop this next graph. This second graph shows Kentucky has always ranked at or near the bottom for the worst ratio of teachers to total staff in our schools.