TheEducation Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee met on Friday, January 11, 2002, at 11:00 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Harry Moberly, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Jane Lindle, University of Kentucky, College of Education; Wade Helm, Kentucky Conservation Committee; and Mike Carr, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
LRC Staff: Sandy Deaton, Ethel Alston, Audrey Carr, Evelyn Gibson, and Kelley McQuerry.
Representative Moberly introduced Commissioner of Education Gene Wilhoit. Commissioner Wilhoit said that Kentucky was one of three states that got an “A” on their assessment and accountability system and that would not have happened without the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee’s oversight and the hard work of the Kentucky Board of Education. He said that the work that Kentucky has done in the past ten years is being recognized across the country.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the subcommittee’s report on the adequate preparation of elementary and secondary students for promotion to higher grades is consistent with the work that has been done in the department. He said the next step is to put together a package that supports high quality learning. He said that the early determination of students’ needs are critical and that the real difference in schools occurs when staff and faculty of each school live the philosophy that all students will meet high expectations. He said that every school is required to have comprehensive or consolidated planning and that major differences occur when the plan is a working document that focuses on and drives the decisions in the school. He said that many schools are using time allocation well and there is great collaboration in some schools. He said that the issues pointed out in the report were also the issues that the department perceives as important and that need addressing. It is important to get the mass of schools practicing what some schools are already doing in the Commonwealth and to decide what the appropriate state policy interventions need to occur to make that happen.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that the legislation passed in the 2000 Regular Session that requires that the school councils must be provided disaggregated information and that they must use the information to develop a school improvement or a consolidated plan to help every student make progress is going to help. He said that the councils need to become effective in setting plans and then working with the teachers to make sure the plans are implemented. He said that the state board’s strategic plan is supportive of the ideas in the recommendations.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that the department found a major problem in the latest review of the primary program. He said that none of the groups that were reviewed, whether low performing or high performing, were using assessment in powerful ways and did not use individual student assessment as a regular part of the instructional program. He said that the issue is how to get it across that assessment is more than a terminal activity and is a critical part of the instructional process. He said that it will take more professional development and guidance.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that in high performing schools, the teachers spent more time working with each other in planning, team work, and instructional design. He said that the subcommittee’s report had raised important issues and does align in terms of the work that needs to be done with the schools.
Commissioner Wilhoit referred to a response from the department on the costs of the report’s recommendations. He said that the department can accomplish some of the recommendations within the existing budget. He said that in terms of the issues of mandating an individual improvement plan for the schools, it should be going on in every school, but that schools are at very different levels and that a standard practice across the board should not be mandated for every school.
Representative Moberly asked the department do a better job of identifying and disseminating information since it is not a good idea to mandate. Commissioner Wilhoit said that there is a plan to provide guidance in those areas that had not been there in the past. He said that the goal is to have a battery of assessments to be used in classrooms for more frequent assessment.
Senator Kelly asked about a diagnostic screening tool that is being used in Texas to determine which students are having trouble reading. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the department is gathering information not only what other states are doing, but also on other existing high quality programs that schools can use. He said the important element is to get every school to improve and hypothetically, Kentucky has created that incentive with rewards and sanctions in schools. He said that a problem has been the assumption of more expertise and knowledge than really exists.
Senator Kelly said he has learned that early diagnosis and intervention is important. He said that the successful schools have a strategy and a continuous effort to address early diagnosis and intervention.
Representative Moberly asked about the department’s response to the reading specialist recommendation. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the department had requested that schools select one reading leader to be trained and responsible for collaborating with the teachers to assure they would receive the technical assistance needed to assure that each child is a successful reader. Half of the schools participated and picked up the cost of the substitutes. He said that a number of primary schools have been using individuals that have expertise in reading to work with other teachers. He said the focus should be on low performing schools.
Representative Moberly asked if additional funds were available, should they be given to the mentoring program and directed to low performing schools. Commissioner Wilhoit said that funds should be targeted toward the low performing schools and he said that some of the programs that have been put in place are the most powerful types of interventions that are school-based with expert teachers and faculty getting together on a regular basis to improve instruction.
Representative Treesh asked about the transition from primary to middle school and the communication between the two levels. Commissioner Wilhoit said that many of the middle school teachers are not sure how to intervene with students reading on the fourth grade level. He said that the overall solution is going to have to be across the curriculum.
Senator Kelly spoke about the Reading Recovery program at the University of Kentucky. He said that in order to become a Reading Recovery teacher, you must operate under the supervision of a teacher leader who has been specially trained and the teacher had to be routinely evaluated while performing their job to make sure they are implementing the program. He said that then each teacher has to submit data on the students they are working with and there is constant oversight in looking to see if there are results from the teacher. He asked if there are funds available if a district wants to hire a Reading Recovery teacher or a certified teacher leader who has received the proper training. Commissioner Wilhoit said in order for a teacher leader to be cost effective, those people would have to have other reading skills and other reading programs in addition to Reading Recovery in order to help teachers with other problems. Senator Kelly said that in Washington County there is a person doing this. Commissioner Wilhoit said that Daviess County is doing the same thing at the central office.
Representative Moberly asked how many districts have a district intervention strategist, whether it is a reading specialist or someone from the district office responsible for implementing intervention strategies in the schools. Commissioner Wilhoit said he would get the number in each district and get back with the committee.
Representative Treesh asked about the smaller districts and what effect the reading specialist recommendations would have on them. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the smaller districts will go together with resource faculty to help them or have support from the regional or cooperatives.
Representative Treesh asked about the communication between elementary and middle schools and whether more can be done. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the scholastic audits address this and have put more emphasis on the district’s role. The audits found that many of the middle and high schools are re-teaching for months after they receive a student because of lack of communication, but it is being given more attention.
Representative Moberly said that he would like for the Department to review in the next meeting the suggestions and particulars of the federal assessment system requirements and how Kentucky will need to respond.
Senator Kelly said that he thought the subcommittee should bring in people from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville that have expertise in assessment. Representative Moberly agreed that would be a good idea.
With no further business the meeting adjourned at 12:35 p.m.