How is Kentucky’s education system really performing?

Kentuckians hear it all the time. The state supposedly has made dramatic improvement on things like “National Tests” since KERA began. For example, the Prichard Committee proclaims that Kentucky ranks “8th in fourth-grade reading,” which is actually where the state ranks if you only look at overall 2015 scores for fourth grade reading from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). A Prichard representative made similar claims on the February 5, 2018 Kentucky Tonight show.

But, is this an accurate picture? As the late Paul Harvey used to put it, there is a “Rest of the Story” here, and the rest of Kentucky’s education performance picture is important.

Want to see “Page 2” in this story? Just click the “Read more” link.

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Kentucky’s student poverty – not as much as you think

We hear a lot of excuses from some of our educators that one reason Kentucky’s education system fares rather poorly is because we have a lot of students in poverty, far more than most other states.

Really?

Well, this is another case where our educators might not be very up to date with their statistics.

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Madison County School Board gets it – Kentucky needs changes to awkward SBDM rules

The Richmond Register reports that the Madison County Board of Education has adopted a resolution in favor of Senate Bill 55.

Senate Bill 55 would bring more rationality to the way Kentucky’s schools are governed under the current School Based Decision-Making laws (SBDM).

For more about why such a change is needed, check our new report, “KENTUCKY’S SCHOOL BASEDDECISION MAKING POLICY, A Closer Look.”

Are Kentucky’s education administration costs out of line?

The quick answer is that the state does appear to spend an unusually high amount on general education administration. In fact, if the state could just reduce those general administration costs to match the overall US average, annual savings on the order of $20 million seem possible. That would be about enough to give every teacher a $500 raise.

Want to see the details?

Click the “Read more” link.

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How much reform is too much? Teachers weigh in

The January 17, 2018 edition of Education Week includes an update to an electronic article titled “Majority of Teachers Say Reforms Have Been ‘Too Much‘” that was posted on December 19, 2017.

It’s an interesting “read.”

And, it appears teachers generally are unsettled by all the changes that have been going on recently thanks to things like Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, big changes in digital learning, and so forth.

For example:


  • Asked how they would describe the amount of change/reform teachers have experienced in the past two years, 58 percent said it was “Way too much” or “Too much.” Only 34 percent said it was “Just about right.”


  • Concerning which changes in the past two years had the most impact:

    • 62 percent of teachers surveyed by EdWeek said that changes to teacher evaluation headed the list.
    • 58 percent cited curriculum changes
    • 53 percent brought up changes to professional development (OJT for teachers)
    • 52 percent mentioned changes to state assessments

  • Regarding how reforms in the past two years had impacted instruction, only 39 percent said the impact was either “Generally positive” or “Very positive.”

That last bullet may be the real key. Certainly, the last school term’s KPREP test results were nothing to cheer about in Kentucky. Even the Kentucky Department of Education’s usually self-congratulatory news release about the 2017 results candidly admitted:

“Overall, achievement increased slightly at the elementary and middle school levels, but was down somewhat at the high school levels. Achievement gaps between different groups of students persisted in many areas and will be a major focus of KDE, schools and districts under the new accountability system.”

With scarcely more than half of the elementary and middle school students scoring proficient or more and fewer than one in two students in both school levels scoring proficient or above in math, slight progress clearly isn’t what the state needs.

And, with high school reading proficiency at only 55.8 percent and math proficiency a dismal 38.1 percent, decay at this school level was definitely not what Kentucky needs to see.

The percentage of high school graduates who met college and/or career ready criteria also dropped from 68.5 percent in 2016 to 65.1 percent in 2017.

So, it looks like EdWeek’s survey, which was taken nationwide, also applies to Kentucky, too.

There’s a problem here. And, it appears teachers know it.

What Bill Gates understands about technology that every parent needs to consider

One of the true maestros of technology doesn’t allow his own children to have unlimited access, as this interesting article from Business Insider points out.

Other parents would be wise to pay attention.

Parent Camp returns to Northern Kentucky

A chance for parents, guardians and child mentors to get together with teachers to get questions answered, find resources to help children, and build support systems returns to Northern Kentucky on Saturday, January 27, 2018, and there is no cost to attend.

The meeting will run from 8:30 am to 11:30 am at the Beechwood High School, 50 Beechwood Road, Ft. Mitchell, KY.

Topics for this meeting will be determined by those attending. In past meetings discussions have included:

• identifying signs of depression and suicide
• growing up in a digital world
• preparing to enter Kindergarten, Middle School, High School or College
• talking to your kids about drugs
• understanding the process of how or when your child is identified as dyslexic
• growth mindset
• understanding education lingo
• finding resources in your community

That looks like news many parents can use.

Learn more here.

Click here to register for the Northern Kentucky ParentCamp.

Other states getting tough about school spending oversight

Maybe it’s time for Kentucky to do the same

Education Week reports that a number of states such as Maryland, Oklahoma, Washington and Kansas are starting to raise questions and even call for investigations into how state education dollars are actually being spent.

Some of this is being encouraged by new requirements to show accurate per pupil spending amounts for all schools.

Certainly, we have never had really accurate and comparable per pupil spending reports for Kentucky’s schools. For example, in 2015-16 the Kentucky School Report Cards “Data Sets” Excel spreadsheet for LEARNING_ENVIRONMENT_STUDENTS_TEACHERS shows the Payneville Elementary School in Meade County supposedly spent only a ridiculously low $120 per pupil. The state average that year was over $10,000 per pupil. Clearly, the Payneville number is just flat wrong, but it is about the only school level funding data you can find.

By the way, the LEARNING_ENVIRONMENT_STUDENTS_TEACHERS Excel spreadsheet for 2016-17 doesn’t even have entries in the per pupil spending column, possibly because I suggested to the Kentucky Department of Education that if they can’t get the numbers close to credible, they are probably better off not publishing anything.

In any event, if our educators cannot accurately tell us the overall total amount of money we are spending per student in each school, we clearly have a problem that needs more investigation. Our educators keep saying they need more money, but how can they know that if they don’t seem to even know how much they are getting now?

Kentucky Department of Education seeking still more feedback on the state’s Common Core-based math and English language arts standards

In an interesting surprise, the Kentucky Department of Education has started yet another public comment period on revisions to the state’s education standards for math and English language arts (reading and writing). This new comment period is announced in NEWS RELEASE No. 17-173, which currently is only available to e-mail subscribers but shortly should appear here. The department indicates the need for a new comment period was triggered by concerns regarding the format of the earlier comment period (a format I criticized as biased at the time).

Now, the department says:

“To ensure transition-readiness for all for all students, KDE is seeking further public input regarding the cumulative grade-to-grade progression of K-12 ELA standards at the elementary, middle and high school levels and the cumulative math standards as they are organized by domains, which are larger groups of related standards.”

But, is the new survey format any better than the one from the earlier survey I criticized back in May?

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How successful are Kentucky’s high school graduates?

The Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS) has been assembling an ever-increasing collection of statistics about Kentucky for several years, and some of the most recent information about the success of Kentucky high school graduates in postsecondary education is really interesting.

KCHEWS just issued this graph that shows how high school graduates from 2010 fared in each of the next six years of their lives in the college world.

2010 High School Graduates' Degree Success Rate After 6 Years

(Click here and then select the College Completion button to access)

This graphic shows that even six years after high school graduation, only 20.0 percent of those graduates had been able to earn a Bachelors’ Degree or higher.

Another 5.3 percent had earned an Associates’ Degree and 3.4 percent received some sort of certificate or diploma from a technical training program.

Thus, only 28.7 percent of the high school graduates of 2010 had any sort of success in postsecondary education. That’s somewhat shy of the Kentucky Department of Education’s claim that in the high school class of 2010 a total of 34 percent was “College and Career Ready.” This leaves 71.3 percent of the high school graduates in Kentucky in 2010 who either never tried to enter postsecondary education or were not successful after six years in the postsecondary system.

Back in 2010 Kentucky reported a high school graduation rate of 76.7 percent using the older Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate formula (AFGR) (the current Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate didn’t come into use until the Class of 2013). The AFGR rate indicates that for every 100 entering ninth grade students in the fall of 2006, only 76.7 graduated four years later in the Spring of 2010.

But, the new KCEWS data indicates that of those 76.7 students who did graduate in 2010, only 28.7 percent, or 22 students out of the original 100 entering ninth graders, were able to succeed in postsecondary education.

That’s pretty low odds, if you ask me.

There is a six-year delay to learn about how our high school graduates really make out in later pursuits. So, it will be some time before we find out how well Kentucky’s High School Graduating Class of 2017 performed after they left school. However, with social promotion clearly a serious problem in Kentucky, I am not ready to accept any claims of victory at this time.