Valley High School exits Priority Status????

Last week the media in Louisville trumpeted the announcement that Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt had declared the Valley High School in the Jefferson County Public School District was no longer in Priority School Status (see WDRB’s coverage here).

That sounded interesting, so I decided to take a quick look at the latest performance in this school for math and reading testing. I looked at math and reading because performing in the lowest five percent of all schools for these two subjects was supposed to be the primary cause to enter Priority Status back in 2010 when these low performing schools, which originally were called “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools,” first started to be identified.

Well, my quick look turned up a puzzle.

This first table shows the lowest 20 performing standard (Class A1) high schools on KPREP End-of-Course testing in Algebra II and English II. These two KPREP tests are used to gauge reading and math for federal reporting purposes. The table shows the combined percentage of students who were rated either Proficient or Distinguished in Algebra II in the first data column and then lists the combined percentage of Proficient and Distinguished students in English II in the middle data column. The next column, on which the table is ranked, shows the average of these two percentages.

Table 1

Valley High KPREP Math-Reading Combined Ranking 2016

As you can see, Valley High School ranked in the bottom five percent of all high schools in Kentucky that had data reported, ranking at 218 out of 227 reporting high schools.

But, the original testing that got Valley High in trouble (it was named a Persistently Low-Achieving School in the spring of 2010) was the now defunct CATS Kentucky Core Content Tests. Since those tests don’t even exist in 2016, I decided to give Valley another chance by looking at its performance on math and reading in the 2016 ACT testing of Kentucky’s 11th grade students. Table 2 shows how that turned out.

The first data column in Table 2 shows the percentage of students in each school that reached or exceeded the Benchmark Score set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) for ACT testing that indicates students will not have to take remedial courses in math. The next column shows the percentage of students that met the CPE’s ACT Benchmark for reading, which also avoids a requirement for college remediation in that area. The two Benchmark percentages are then averaged together in the next column and the table is ranked on this combined average column.

Table 2

Valley High ACT Math-Reading Combined Ranking 2016

Incredibly, if we look at the average of the percentages of students meeting the CPE’s College Readiness Benchmark Scores for the ACT, Valley High ranks even lower than on KPREP!

So, this is a real puzzle. I know the actual method used to determine Priority Status uses a more complex approach than just looking at a single year of data, but when we see Valley High’s latest performance in both Tables 1 and 2, something just doesn’t feel right.

Should Valley High be off the hook?

In any event, based on its latest year’s performances on both KPREP and ACT math and reading, Valley High remains a very low-performing school. I think the public deserves to know that even if our educators are letting Valley off the hook.

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Common Core bait and switch in Kentucky???

The final version of Senate Bill 1 from the 2017 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session (SB-1/2017) is now awaiting the governor’s signature, and a very interesting statement from the original version of the act remains in the final.

On Page 99 of the Engrossed Version of the act (which goes to the governor), it says:

“Section 18. In adopting the amendments to KRS 158.6453 contained in Section 3 of this Act, the General Assembly intends, among other actions, to repeal the common core standards.”

Assuming Governor Bevin signs SB-1/2017 as is with no line item veto, it would seem that the Common Core State Standards are officially on the way out in Kentucky.

But, looks might be deceiving.

You see, SB-1/2017 also outlines in considerable detail a process to review all of Kentucky’s academic standards beginning in 2017-18. In fact, the core teams that will actually write the standards are called “Standards and Assessments Review and Development Committees.” However, nowhere in the discussion of how the many committees and panels are to operate does it clearly direct those panels to start with a clean slate – a slate without a Common Core State Standards basis.

In fact, including the term “Review” in the base groups’ titles clearly does not mandate either revision or replacement. A “Review” could leave the standards EXACTLY as they are, for example. If these teams were clearly charged with replacing Common Core, they would be called something like “Standards and Assessments Development Committees.”

Because teacher members predominate on the major committees and panels that will actually write the new standards, it is highly likely that the Common Core will be the basis for whatever comes next.

It seems likely that this new standards process will result in some changes from the current Common Core based standards used in Kentucky today, but will those changes be very substantial? Will those changes incorporate some rather recent research that shows some basic ideas in Common Core are not optimal for real classrooms? Will the changes actually amount to something most would call a “repeal?”

Only time will tell.

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Former Kentucky National Guard Commander: ‘Lack of educational success national security issue’

ASVAB Ineligibility Rates for Whites from EdTrust
Former Kentucky National Guard Commander Major General Allen Youngman (Retired) just posted a disturbing letter in the Bowling Green Daily News, claiming the serious under-education of our nation’s students poses a real problem for the nation’s continued security.

Youngman cites some disturbing statistics to back up his concerns, claiming:

“An astounding 73 percent of young Kentuckians are ineligible for military service.”

That does not just include those who cannot qualify for the more demanding technical jobs in today’s military. This includes those ineligible for what Youngman says are “even the most basic military jobs.”

The general points out that right off the top, 12 percent of Kentucky’s students don’t graduate from our public high schools, which essentially eliminates their chance for success. So, out of every entering 100 ninth grade students, 12 don’t even begin to qualify for our military.

Among the remainder of those entering ninth grade students who do get a Kentucky high school diploma, he says 23 percent cannot get sufficiently high scores on the qualification tests to even be considered more closely for admission. That’s another 20 students knocked out right away for academically related reasons.

So, right away, 32 percent of Kentucky’s students are knocked out of the running for military enlistment directly due to education-related deficiencies.

The general doesn’t detail why the rest of the 73 percent of Kentucky’s young adults can’t qualify for military service, but similar total numbers have been discussed elsewhere. Aside from the academically disqualifying problems, obesity, drug issues (including medication for ADHD) and physical disfigurement apparently play a role. While many factors play into these other problems, it would appear that schools were not successful in educating students about the dangers of some of these militarily disqualifying activities.

By the way, in 2010 the Education Trust did an analysis of the percentage of students ineligible for the military based on Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) scores. The table on the right, extracted from information in Appendix A of the EdTrust report, shows how Kentucky’s white military applicants (who made up 84% of all Kentucky applicants) stacked up against their counterparts in other states for military readiness. As you can see, our white kids didn’t fare well, which is particularly disappointing because Kentucky traditionally has sent many excellent citizens into the armed forces.

Clearly, Kentucky has a problem.

News Release: Confronting pension crisis calls for reforming benefits structure

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 27, 2017  BIPPS LOGO

(FRANKFORT, Ky) – While most of the recent discussion regarding public-pension reform has focused on funding levels and investment returns, Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team (BIPRT) member Aaron Ammerman told the state’s Public Pension Oversight Board today that the retirement systems’ benefit structure is “the most significant contributing factor to our crises today.”

The commonwealth faces more than $38 billion in pension debt with the state employee nonhazardous fund – the Kentucky Retirement System’s largest plan – sliding toward insolvency with a current funding level of only 16 percent.

“Retroactive benefit enhancements always wreak havoc on a defined benefit plan, and that is what happened in Kentucky,” Ammerman, a financial advisor and member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Directors, said in prepared comments.

The team’s testimony focused on two practices that have contributed significantly to Kentucky’s pension hole becoming deeper over time: the practice of awarding benefits retroactively and a failure by legislators to obtain a cost analysis prior to enhancing benefits.

Such practices reflect repeated violations of the Kentucky Constitution and state statute.

“The Bluegrass Institute has reviewed dozens of benefit enhancements granted to employees back to the 1980s and found only one such cost analysis,” Ammerman said. “Legislators were enhancing benefits without even the slightest idea about the increased costs that would be incurred to the system and, therefore, the taxpayers of Kentucky.”

He offered an example of a currently employed 20-year state employee who has faithfully contributed his required share into the system for a promised future benefit and which, as long as the state fulfills its funding obligation and assumed investment returns are met, this employee’s pension will be fully funded in retirement.

“If, however, this employee’s promised benefits were increased just before retirement, all of the contributions and calculations over the previous 20 years would be inadequate to fund that higher retirement benefit,” Ammerman said.

BIPRT member Dr. William Smith, a Madisonville dermatologist who served on Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension reform transition team, called on lawmakers to practice “actuarial integrity” when making future decisions regarding benefits by ensuring that “the benefits defined by the legislature and actuarially prefunded with normal cost payroll contributions are the same benefits received by plan members upon retirement.”

Along with offering specific recommendations for both the Kentucky Retirement Systems and the Teachers’ Retirement System, Smith offered four proposals for all systems:

  • Enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting retroactive benefit enhancements.
  • Provide complete transparency for all benefits received by every retiree and how these benefits were determined.
  • Ensure the governance and board representation of each plan reflects the risk assumed by each stakeholder, noting that “taxpayers need to properly and proportionately be represented in each plan.”
  • If legitimate reform efforts prove unsuccessful, impose a “hard freeze” on current benefits and establish a new system.

To reach Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team members for comment, contact Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters @ 270.320.4376.

Will Kentucky’s education system be standards driven or test driven?

When the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) came to the Bluegrass State, Kentuckians were told their state’s education system would be built around those standards.

Well, perhaps not.

There was a presentation about the pending revision to the state’s science assessments during today’s meeting the Kentucky School Curriculum and Assessment Committee (SCAAC). The presenter was asked if all science areas would be covered in the assessments for elementary, middle and high schools. The answer, to my considerable surprise, was “Yes.”

Not certain I heard this correctly, I questioned the presenter during a break and confirmed that all science areas would be fair game in the new science assessments at all school levels. That included chemistry and physics for high schools.

The reason this surprised me, and the reason this is a problem, is because the generally vague NGSS essentially cut off completely after high school biology. Topics from high school chemistry and physics are basically absent even though some at the Kentucky Department of Education don’t seem to understand that.

Furthermore, a well-established legal principal known as “Notice or “Fair Notice” says you can’t give tests that have consequences if you don’t provide advance notice of what is fair game on the tests. The way you provide notice is with the state’s education standards. NGSS can’t give adequate notice for things it doesn’t include.

So, is Kentucky sailing into really troubled waters with its new science assessments? Unless some changes are made, I think so.

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BIPPS in Lexington Herald-Leader: Challenging KERA’s ‘success’

Some defenders of the education status quo contend that the existence of the Kentucky Education Reform Act renders charter schools useless in the Bluegrass State.

But staff education analyst Richard Innes challenges the claim, taking issue with KERA architect David Hornbeck’s recent assertions that “Kentucky children have made more progress than any other state in the union.”

Innes responds: The commonwealth’s chronic achievement gap makes it clear that KERA’s promise of all kids receiving a quality education remains sorely unfulfilled — most of all for the Bluegrass State’s largest racial minority group.

“The commonwealth’s chronic achievement gap makes it clear that KERA’s promise of all kids receiving a quality education remains sorely unfulfilled — most of all for the Bluegrass State’s largest racial minority group. The truth is, given their record of success with minorities, charters could help in Kentucky.

The truth is, given their record of success with minorities, charters could help in Kentucky.

KERA, despite Hornbeck’s claims, hasn’t.”

Read Richard’s entire op-ed here.

Bluegrass Beacon — Kentucky to the ‘trade deficit’: You’re fired!

BluegrassBeaconLogoConsidering the Bluegrass State last year exported $30 billion worth of goods and services – more than 33 other states – Kentuckians should vigorously oppose anything remotely associated with a “war on trade.”

American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry rated the share of Kentucky’s economy in 2015 linked to imports and exports fifth-highest in the nation, comprising 34 percent – or $66 billion – of the commonwealth’s $193 billion GDP.

Perhaps Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who recently conducted a trade mission to Japan, could find a way to strike up a cordial conversation with his good friend President Donald Trump to put the commander-in-chief at ease about this whole “trade-deficit” matter.

Bevin could even share some wisdom from flyover country by passing on Indiana University Southeast economics professor D. Eric Schansberg’s reason for claiming the trade deficit remains “the most misunderstood concept in economics.”

Schansberg, Ph.D., says the discussion about international trade often focuses heavily on the downside – which tends to be more visible in terms of some individuals losing out in a global economy – while nearly completely missing out on its subtle but significantly important benefits for an entire state or nation.

“Trade is good for the aggregate if not always for the individual,” he says.

Schansberg, who’s also a Bluegrass Institute scholar, notes that “exports lead to imports” and warns that attempting to artificially narrow the so-called “trade deficit” could result in fewer dollars invested in America’s economy.

“Everybody talks about the difference in goods and services exported versus imports when what really matters is investment surplus,” Schansberg says.

Shallow-thinking protectionists rarely dig deep enough to reach this important component in making their own determinations about the success or failure of free-trade relationships.

Why, these shallow paddlers must wonder, would Bevin travel to Japan to tout the commonwealth as an attractive investment option instead of chastising that nation because last year it only spent $1.1 billion in direct purchases from Kentucky while we as a state imported $5.1 billion worth of Japanese products?

Consider the rest of this trading-partnership story.

Not only are imports critical to keeping Kentucky at – or near – the top in the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, but Japanese-owned companies now operate more than 180 facilities in our commonwealth.

And while Kentucky is the fifth-largest importer of Japanese goods – Japan is the No. 1 international investor in the Bluegrass State, having created 44,400 full-time positions in those facilities.

“Investment surplus,” anyone?

An important teaching moment could occur if our governor explained to the president why Kentucky exporting nearly $30 billion while importing almost $40 billion is worthy of replicating rather than punishing, which would only bring us more harm, anyhow.

Schansberg notes the last time America had a trade surplus was not during an uptick but when the economy tanked during the late 1970s.

“It’s because investors were looking at our economy and they didn’t see it as a great investment,” he said.

All those current imports mean more choices and better prices for consumers and industry. It means foreign investors look at today’s Kentucky and America and they like – really like – what they see.

Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th-century champion of free-market economics, proposed reversing “the principle of the balance of trade and calculate the national profit from foreign trade in terms of the excess of imports over exports.”

Bastiat called this “excess” the “real profit,” and challenged the contemporary protectionists of his day to produce evidence showing otherwise.

“Even if our imports are infinite and our exports nothing, I defy you to prove to me that we should be the poorer for it,” he said.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Institute statement on passage of charter-school legislation

BIPPS LOGO

The Bluegrass Institute has led the fight to empower Kentucky’s parents to have the option of choosing to enroll their children in public charter schools since the day it opened its doors in 2003.

Tonight, the General Assembly completed passage of House Bill 520 allowing the creation of charter schools across the commonwealth beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

“We hope to see Kentucky children, especially those being left behind by a one-size-fits-all system – many of whom are disadvantaged and from lower-income homes – have the opportunity for the kind of charter-school education that will give them a chance to participate in the American dream of prosperity and a successful life,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.

Passage of HB 520 makes Kentucky the 44th state with a charter school law. Currently, nearly 7,000 charter schools serve 3 million students nationwide.

“While the Bluegrass Institute will continue to work to encourage more innovation and options in our education system, passage of this bill does open the door to charter schools throughout the commonwealth,” Waters said. “By heeding the institute’s call to add authorizers – as the legislation does by including the mayors of Kentucky’s two largest cities as authorizers – lawmakers improved the chances of applicants opening high-performing charter schools where they are urgently needed the most.”

The Bluegrass Institute will work diligently to see that charter-school applications are fairly and seriously considered by local boards of education, which HB 520 designates as the lone authorizers in most school districts, he added.

For more information, please contact Jim Waters at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).

 

 

 

Charter School bill clears Kentucky Senate

The Kentucky Senate has voted 23 to 15 in favor of House Bill 520, with amendments, which will allow Kentuckians to create charter schools. The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

Charter School bill passes another hurdle

House Bill 520, which would introduce charter schools to Kentucky, was passed, with amendments, by the Senate Education Committee by a 9 to 3 vote and will probably go to the full Senate this afternoon.

If the amended bill is passed by the Senate, it will have to meet concurrence action from the House before heading to Governor Bevin’s office.