Quote of the Day

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“Experience suggests that traditional district schools, on their own, are probably incapable of adopting the structural and practice changes necessary to prepare the majority of students for the challenges of an uncertain future. The state must provide the authority and resources to motivate and help districts adopt successful innovative practices developed by pioneering charter and district schools.”

Ron Wolk, Founding Editor of Education Week, March 1, 2017

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.

[Read more…]

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.

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.

Bold new evidence: Kentucky does not lead the nation for education improvement

Claim especially misleading for state’s black students

Truth supports need for charter schools in Kentucky

As arguments swirled the past few months over charter schools, Kentuckians have been hearing claims that their state already leads the nation for the most educational improvement since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA). As a consequence, that argument goes, this means Kentucky doesn’t need charters.

The latest example of this “leads the nation” claim is found in a March 10, 2017 Herald-Leader Op-Ed by David Hornbeck, one of the major architects of KERA. Hornbeck asserts:

“Kentucky children have made more progress than any other state in the nation.”

It’s a bold statement, but is it true?

And, is it true for all Kentucky’s children?

To explore these questions, we fired up the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Main NAEP Data Explorer web tool. We used data from the NAEP Data Explorer to assemble the two tables below, which show how Kentucky’s eighth-grade blacks stack up against other states that also had scores for these children of color reported for both the earliest and latest years of NAEP state testing.

Table 1 shows the NAEP Grade 8 math results black students in the listed states received back in 1990, the year KERA was enacted, and 2015 scores – the latest available. The table is sorted by the change in the NAEP Scale Score for math in each state across the 1990 to 2015 period.

Table 1

Grade 8 Math Improvement for Blacks for 1990 and 2015 Ranked

As you can see, Hornbeck’s assertion isn’t just wrong, it’s very wrong when we talk about improvements for Kentucky’s largest racial minority group compared to other states with usable NAEP data for black students.

Kentucky lands nearly at the bottom of the stack when we rank each state’s increase in NAEP Grade 8 Math Scale Scores for black students over time. Only four of the 28 states with data available progressed even less than Kentucky.

If we only consider southern states listed in Table 1, we find that North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia and Arkansas all matched or exceeded the national average increase in black students’ math scores between 1990 and 2015. Kentucky never came close to any of them.

By the way, all of those five Southern states have charter schools. At present, aside from Kentucky, only Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia don’t have charters. Thus, except for West Virginia, all the states listed above Kentucky in Table 1 have charter school laws. That is something to think about.

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Digital learning: Not always pleasing parents

Before getting into this, I want to stress that I believe digital learning has strong potential to improve K to 12 education. I base that opinion on my own experience when I was an Air Force instructor pilot and an instructional technology program developer for the first generation of automated teaching machines to go operational in the Air Force pilot training program. Good equipment, properly used by well-trained staff, and – perhaps most importantly – loaded with good instructional programs, can enhance learning.

With that said, I also believe that just loading up a school with lots of digital equipment and then rapidly grabbing ahold of a digital learning program can prove problematic.

A case in point seems to be surfacing now in the Boone County Public School District in Kentucky.

In “Facebook program at school causes controversy,” the Kentucky Enquirer points to a growing controversy in the Boone County system over a digital learning program called Summit Learning, which was originally developed in California. Summit is being supported online by Facebook.

For sure, Summit, at least in its Boone County incarnation, is controversial. The Enquirer says the squabble is “so fierce that at least two families have yanked their children from Boone County Schools and other parents are accusing the district of treating students like guinea pigs.”

The Enquirer continues, “There are questions about how classrooms should be structured, how students should be graded and how much homework they should get. And there are questions about privacy – who collects what data and how it is used.”

There have also been questions about implementation. For example, Summit is supposed to be a “Blended Learning” approach where students spend part of the day on computers but are also supposed to still get classical teacher led instruction, as well. However, determining exactly what the computer-to-classical-approach mix should be is a challenge even in well-ordered systems.

In my Air Force days there was still a large amount of instructor-to-student interaction after our instructional technology came along. Having observed some Summit classroom activity, my initial impression is that the Boone County model is more heavily weighted towards computer time. I don’t know if the Boone mix is right or not; I am not sure at this point that anyone else really knows, either.

Without question, parents have been speaking out about their concerns with Summit. Long before the new Enquirer article came out, it was public knowledge that parents were upset.

For example, parents took considerable time to criticize the Summit program – on the record – at the November 10, 2016 meeting of the Boone County Board of Education. Parent Jeremy Storm said his child was supposed to have teacher interaction, but it seemed like the child was only working with teachers about 10 minutes a week, at best. Myrna Eads echoed this 10-minute teacher contact comment concerning her child. She also said that, as of this November school board meeting, some students had already finished the entire year’s program with Summit and were now just playing video games.

Jeremy Storm also said teachers were not really aware of what was in the Summit program because the adoption wasn’t taken slowly. Stacie Storm, his wife, added to the concerns saying her school’s School Based Decision Making Council didn’t handle the Summit adoption correctly and said Summit is not fully aligned to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. Other parents were upset that no alternative to Summit was offered in some Boone County middle schools. That could be problematic for students who need more direct teacher contact.

Permission Slip Controversy

The Enquire article echoes comments I’ve heard about controversy over a permission slip parents are required to sign before their students can participate in the Summit Learning program. The Enquirer talked to parents and writes, “They said the permission slip for Summit was buried in a mountain of back-to-school paperwork, which was sent home with a threat: sign and return these, or your kid gets detention.” There was no opt-out option available on this permission form.

Parent coercion is just not acceptable.

Furthermore, there are concerns about sharing of private student data with Facebook/Summit, which may or may not prove to be a major problem.

I think more answers on Summit are coming. I am advised that complaints have been raised with the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA), which is the responsible agency to investigate claims regarding SBDM activities and some of the other issues parents have raised. The OEA is usually detailed and thorough in its investigations, so I don’t know how soon their findings will be made public.

However, multiple sources confirm that several parents were so upset that they have pulled their children completely out of the Boone County system. That, by itself, is a major attention grabber.

News release: Bluegrass Institute asks state Senate to make mayors, universities and the CPE authorizers of charter schools

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 6, 2017  BIPPS LOGO

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation enabling the creation of charter schools in the commonwealth – a school-choice option currently available to families in 43 other states and the District of Columbia.

Legislators voted 56-39 to approve Rep. John “Bam” Carney’s House Bill 520, which allows the creation of charter schools statewide but limits authorization – and much of the control of – charters in most districts to local school boards.

An amendment passed in Friday’s hearing of the bill by the House Education Committee would allow the mayors of Metro Louisville and Lexington to serve as authorizers.

The bill now moves over to the Senate for its consideration.

“We would encourage the Senate to strengthen this bill by allowing mayors in other cities, universities and colleges with accredited schools of education and the Council on Postsecondary Education to also serve as authorizers – or to, at the very least, include mayors of some of the growing cities in the authorization process,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.

“The fact that there are local superintendents and boards of education that expressed hostility toward the concept of charter schools before this year’s legislative session even began –  and long before Rep. Carney’s bill was even introduced – speaks strongly to the fact that charter-school applicants are unlikely to get a fair hearing or support from these anti-choice zealots,” Waters said.

For instance, the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education on Dec. 19 – two full weeks before the legislative session began – passed a resolution unanimously opposing charter schools.

Charter schools are innovative public schools designed by educators, parents or civic leaders, which, in exchange for freedom from many of the stifling regulations and red tape hampering teaching in traditional public schools, pledge in their charters to perform at a higher academic level.

Nationwide, high-performing charter schools are helping close achievement and graduation gaps by offering a real public-education alternative to parents and students who cannot afford to pay private-school tuition or move closer to a better school.

Yet this option likely will not be available in districts like Elizabethtown Independent unless additional authorizers are permitted.

“It’s illogical to believe that a school board so ideologically opposed to the very idea of charter schools in an in-your-face manner is going to acquiesce and not only allow charters but oversee them in a supportive manner that gives them a fair shot of success,” Waters said.

Both Elizabethtown Independent and neighboring Hardin County school districts face serious gaps related to their performance with minorities. Charter schools are helping close such gaps across the nation.

We believe the following information about what’s happening in Hardin County and Elizabethtown Independent school districts bolsters our case for additional authorizers to ensure charter-school applications are fairly considered:

* Despite receiving $16.7 million in funding to educate 2,400 students during the 2014-15 school year – a 44-percent increase in real dollars from the 2006-07 school year – the state’s K-PREP scores indicate less than 12 percent of Elizabethtown’s black elementary school students were proficient in math during the 2015-16 school year.

* The whopping 42-percent gap in math proficiency between black and white elementary school students (incidentally, white students’ 54-percent proficiency rate isn’t anything to send home on the bus, either) is much larger than even the statewide 24-percent gap.

* Considering less than 60 percent of white high schoolers in Elizabethtown Independent and fewer than 50 percent in Hardin County schools are demonstrating proficiency in math, white families need options, too.

* Even with a current nonresident student agreement between the two districts, which allows parents to enroll their children in a neighboring district, there’s not much of a real choice as both districts struggle with large white minus black achievement gaps and dire academic performance by minority students.

Nationwide, charter schools are proving a valuable tool in helping struggling students make often-dramatic progress in not only closing the white minus black achievement gap but also in academically surpassing their peers in traditional public schools.

Opponents of this form of parental school choice often point to the performance only of first-year charter-school students in claiming that charters don’t excel.

However, given that the U.S. Department of Education in its examination of quality charter schools noted that many students enter these schools “performing far below grade level” and “are from neighborhoods and families with scant resources,” it’s not surprising that that students who have only spent a year in charter schools remain notably behind.

The research shows: these new students simply haven’t been in the charter school long enough to benefit.

Carefully gathered data by Stanford University’s Center for Research and Education Outcomes (CREDO) reveals:

* By the time students spend two years in charter schools, they move ahead of their traditional public-school counterparts by an equivalent of several weeks of learning in both reading and math.

* Even more remarkable, nationwide, on average, by the time students spend four or more years in charters, they are out in front of their traditional public-school counterparts. In math, the charter students have about an equivalent of 43 extra days of learning in math and 50 additional days in reading.

* In Louisiana’s above-average charter system, by the time students spend four or five years in a charter school, they generally outperform their traditional public-school peers by about 180 days – the equivalent of a full extra year of schooling – in both reading and math.

* Students who spend four years in New York City’s outstanding charter system received the benefit of an additional 216 extra days of learning in math.

“Considering the remarkable gains being made in charters schools nationwide – particularly with at-risk students – the state Senate should strengthen House Bill 520 by adding at least one other type of authorizer in districts like Elizabethtown, which have been openly hostile to even the concept of charters,” Waters said.

“Adding authorizers will increase the likelihood of more – and better – charter schools by encouraging organizations with proven track records when it comes to creating and operating charter schools to apply while lessening the likelihood that local school districts will be able to stifle the creation and blossoming of these innovative public schools,” he added.

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

 

 

Kentucky House approves charter school bill

It’s now officially recorded. The Kentucky House has approved the state’s first charter school bill by a vote of 56 to 39.

Vote Tally on HB 520 During Vote Explanation

Legislation Alert: House Bill 520 to establish charter schools passed by Kentucky House Education Committee

Full House debating now

Today marks a notable move forward in the attempt to bring more school choice to Kentucky. House Bill 520, with amendments, received a favorable vote in the Kentucky House’s Education Committee this morning.

The discussion on the bill included highlights by several key Kentucky leaders including Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, and Kentucky Board of Education member Pastor Milton Seymore in addition to those from the bill’s sponsor, Kentucky Representative John (Bam) Carney.

Starting shortly after noon, the legislation is now being heard in the full Kentucky House.

Important late-breaking changes to the approved bill include the deletion of pure online charter schools and the addition of the mayors of Louisville and Lexington as authorizers.

If eventually adopted, House Bill 520 would make Kentucky the 44th state to have a charter school law.