TheEducation Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee met on Monday, September 22, 2003, at 10:30 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: Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Kathy Louignant, Partners for Kentucky’s Future; and Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County Public Schools.
LRC Staff: Sandy Deaton, Janet Stevens, and Kelley McQuerry.
Senator Worley moved for approval of the minutes of the August 25, 2003, meeting and Representative Marzian seconded the motion. The motion was passed by voice vote.
Representative Moberly introduced Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), to report on the draft recommendations that were made as part of the Transition of Students to Higher Grades study (2000 HCR 83). He said that in the past several successful school districts have been before the subcommittee to explain the factors that make their schools successful.
Commissioner Wilhoit asked the members to refer to the three pieces of information that were provided. He said this information should give the subcommittee a sense of some of the conversations and thoughts KDE has given the recommendations since receiving them. He said the three pieces of information consist of charts and graphs that relate to dropout rates, retention rates, and remedial enrollment; the second is a set of the subcommittee’s recommendations with a narrative about the progress that is being made by KDE; and the third, a detailed outline for today’s discussion.
Commissioner Wilhoit said there are three indicators being used to see if there is improvement in identifying the students that are moving through the system without negative effects. He said the dropout rate is an immediate sign to see whether students are progressing and moving through the system. He said that at some point, usually at the age of 16, the student makes a decision that school is not what they want to pursue and they leave the school system. He said that the trend is down and that this is better, as a result of a number of efforts. He said that the emphasis in the beginning of 1990 and the legislation on dropouts has helped with this problem.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the second indicator is dropout rates by grades and the transition point between middle school and high school. He said that when the students reach an accountability age in the system they are still opting out, but the trend line shows that there is a reduction in the dropout rate. He said that this is attributed to a number of the alternative education programs that have been put in place in the past three or four years. He said that these programs are being put in place at the ninth grade level to create a school within a school or a wrap around school support service. He said there are two primary reasons for this dropout rate reduction.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that retention is tied directly to the dropout rate. He said you expect a system to be designed to identify student needs as they leave the primary grades. He said that the primary driver of the retention rate is at the ninth grade level where students are held more accountable in terms of being required to earn credits. He said that this has caused the higher retention rates historically and in the mid 1990’s it peaked and has had a gradual decline in the last few years.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that the final issue is the transition to adult life. He said this is reviewed on a regular basis to see if progress is being made. He said that this measure is inadequate because it is done six months out of graduation. He said that KDE is looking at some systems that would review the student later than six months. He said that at this point, nearly 65 percent of the students are either going to college in Kentucky, going to college in other states, or in a part time college program.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that a tremendous amount of work must be done concerning the issue of remediation. He said that mathematics and reading remediation programs have been tracked by institutional base and there has been a gradual increase. He said that this program is in place to make sure students are progressing because of the subcommittee’s concern for intervention and accountability. He said there are still issues that need to be addressed and the goal that has been set is still a long way away.
Senator Kelly asked for more explanation of the charts and the high stakes accountability that occurs at the ninth grade.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that “high stakes accountability” means the accountability measures begin at the freshman year. A student’s status is determined by incremental success, which determines success in each content area and in each class. He said that a harsh reality sets in during this point in the student’s career. He said if a student fails a course, the student does not have full status for the sophomore year. He said that if two or three classes are failed then a student feels like the only choice is to dropout at age sixteen.
Senator Kelly asked Commissioner Wilhoit to explain the retention rate chart. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the retention chart shows the types of patterns that are occurring. He said that the chart also shows the number of students that are retained by grade level. He said what is occurring is a pattern of retention at grade seven and less retention at grade eight and the major spike occurs at grade nine. He said this means there is a large group of students that are in that ninth grade class and if there is retention at grade nine, then tenth grade is the second highest retention. He said that if you look at the dropout figures, the number of students that are not on course are in those two grades. He said students at sixteen consider dropping out because they have already fallen behind, and some students go on to twelfth grade before they give up and drop out.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that the dropout pattern trails the retention pattern. He said that if retention occurs and there is not a redesigned program and a set of wrap around services for those students, then you start to see this pattern that we are seeing in the system. He said that the dilemma is what to do with this pattern. He said the recommendations and considerations of this subcommittee were to put in place some sort of gateway set of assessments. He said this process would begin at age four and at age nine, to determine the students that are not progressing before they move through the system. He said that KDE has taken steps in line with the subcommittee’s recommendations and progress is being monitored.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that by putting high stakes assessments in place without other types of procedures, is not recommended. He said that KDE has evidence that putting those instruments in place without high quality programming is not going to resolve the current problem. He said that having assessments in place is a good idea, but putting them in place without considerable thought will create more frustration in the system than there already is. He said there is a good sense of direction that needs to be taken and there needs to be thought on a system for the future that promotes a higher quality practice. He said the balance of that system should be where the state sets the general context and responsibility and the local districts have some latitude on how to deal with students.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that some students are still not getting access to a quality curriculum. He said that the board has taken steps in the last few years to make sure the curriculum is in place and the issue now is at the local level. He said that when a student signs up for Algebra I, they might not be getting the highest quality program as other students in other districts. He said that there are some things that can be done at the state level to ensure this is not happening. He said one consideration is the idea of exit exams at the high school level and at the state level there should be something developed to measure success at key content areas in mathematics and language development.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that in many schools assessments are not aligned and state and local assessments should be continually by reviewed. He said there is a new assessment that is being observed, which would create assessment batteries and banks that could be used by local districts. He said that this is similar to CATS in terms of content. He said that teachers do not have the time nor the skill to develop these types of assessments. He said that this would be a profitable use of KDE resources.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that there are a number of issues in a direct response to the subcommittee’s request and KDE is putting more energy in developing tools to help teachers, developing curriculum units, assessments, and student work that can be used as a part of the instructional process. He said that the effort on literacy and literacy development at the early years is being continued and literacy at the middle school level is also being reinforced. He said that the assessment instruments that are being used by the local districts are being strengthened.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that KDE thinks that in the future there should be some value in looking at end of course examinations at the high school level. He said there could be benefits in requiring a statewide intervention of the students that are diagnosed and the current assessment could be a trigger for that. He said that in terms of scoring novice and apprentice and requiring a set on intervention strategies on the part of schools that have students that are not making these levels of achievement, would also benefit. He said that KDE does not think this should be the only tool that a district uses to make this decision. He said a single assessment is still the way to determine whether a child progresses and this decision should be made at the local level. He said that the assessment could be tied to intervention strategies and could also apply to schools that are not achieving overall as a population or subpopulations that is not achieving. He said that in the KDE handouts there is a list of statements and terms in response to the recommendations the subcommittee agreed upon several months ago.
Representative Moberly referred to the minutes of the January 2002 subcommittee meeting in asking Commissioner Wilhoit how many districts have a direct intervention strategist, whether it is a reading specialist or someone responsible for implementing intervention strategies. He said, that at that time the Commissioner said he would get the number and report back to the subcommittee. Commissioner Wilhoit said that was compiled in a response and the number is scattered. He said that there are curriculum supervisors and some that are doing reading intervention. He said there are reading program schools and the federal Reading First program that requires a Reading First Coach in order to receive a grant. He said that about half the elementary schools have been reached with the current program in terms of having someone there. He said that in doing the analysis another problem is that some schools have identified people as reading coaches or reading mentors and by having interaction with these people, they are not veteran teachers nor do they have the strong credentials that the programs needs.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that the best districts have aligned their people and have developed a system that is working. He said in other districts there is not this type of system at all. He said that he would get those specific numbers for the subcommittee.
Representative Moberly said that this study is a result of a resolution that was passed by the General Assembly. He said it seems simple in determining what stage assessments should be done and then determining whether or not there needs to be intervention for certain students in order for them to progress to higher grades. He said that in previous discussions it seems to come down to what types of intervention strategies are needed in schools. He said that the subcommittee had heard testimony from several successful schools and districts. He said that these schools all had different strategies that suited the school. He said it seems to him that the concept does not need to be uniform across the state as to what intervention strategies are in place, but how the General Assembly, the subcommittee, and KDE assist in making sure this type of process is happening in every school. He said that the schools need to be diagnosing and assessing the needs of all the students and adopt appropriate strategies. He said there have been pilot programs addressing the need for literacy and reading programs.
Representative Moberly said it seems since the last discussion that nothing has been developed or any changes have been made. Commissioner Wilhoit said that from this point, there are more schools that are being successful at reading which shows on the last assessment results. He said that reading was higher at the elementary and middle school levels. He said that the state programs have helped and the federal funds will help even more. He said that there is a balance between honoring the local districts capacity to allocate resources at points where it is needed and at the same time not tolerating the loss of student achievement at certain levels. He said that if there is a void in the policy level, at this point it appears there is not an automatic trigger that kicks in for those two circumstances that he just described if a student receives novice or apprentice in reading or in mathematics on the state assessment.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that the mandatory response that must occur at the local level should be an additional policy trigger that could be laid on top of the system. He said that if there is a low performing school, as opposed to kicking in an individual program for the students, there might be a trigger for intervention strategies at that level as well. He said this would strengthen the overall system and go beyond what was required in Senate Bill 168 (2002). He said by asking districts to take an initial move it did not trigger any mandatory response on the part of the school if achievement was not being reached. He said that these are some options that need to be explored. He said that it will take additional resources, but some districts have been able to work this out without this type of mandate. He said that mandates that are a certain type of assessment or structural pattern should not be across the board for all schools and districts unless the schools are not reaching the goals that have been set. He said if that should happen, at that point, the state should have additional requirements. He said in that way there is assurance in the accountability results for the schools that are not achieving and at the same time protecting the latitude for the innovative districts that have taken advantage of this program and will continue to flourish.
Commissioner Wilhoit said if there is another point of infusion it would be centered around the non-achievement levels. He said that state legislation should not go beyond the fact that it requires interventions and a certain set of actions that need to occur for the students. He said that he would not define the staff ratios or the specific intervention program at the state level. He said there is much to be done and KDE would be monitoring this and make sure that it is carried out.
Representative Moberly said that the ultimate judgement on a school district will be the results. He said that there will also be a judgement required by the No Child Left Behind Act, which will look more at the disaggregated populations. He said that he is not advocating telling schools and districts how to intervene, but some schools that are successful have devised their own strategies. He said the issue he is struggling with is what is the best plan to put in place to make sure all the schools and districts have a strategy.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that it is legislative responsibility to make sure that every district is moving ahead. He said it would give KDE more tools if there were some sort of tie between performance at the student level, which is defined as novice and apprentice, as the students move through these key points. He said that the schools that have not put these programs into place and are not successful are most likely the ones that will not have a strategy. He said these different types of requirements on schools means greater support will have to be provided to those schools. He said that requiring the schools do something about their novice and apprentice readers or math students without another support base under it, will mean more frustration in some of these schools.
Representative Moberly said that in some schools it is not a matter of funds, but whether they have developed a strategy that is working. It does not matter if more money is put into elementary and secondary education, if schools across the state are not doing any intervention development then it is still not adequate. Commissioner Wilhoit said that by looking at the model schools and the schools that are not doing as well it shows direct conflicts. He said this gives us ideas on what needs to be done in order to get students to higher levels. He said the dilemma then is what needs to be put in place to get schools at the level of practice. He said there has to be a set of conditions that districts adhere to and it has to be a learning process. He said it takes faculty that has their act together to make this happen.
Representative Rasche asked if the past Title I diagnostics programs helped individual students have success. Commissioner Wilhoit said that it did not work and there were serious mistakes made in those early years. He said that a different accountability system was set up for those students and success was measured by relative growth by a student in special education. He said that they did not account for the fact that other students were moving ahead five to ten times faster, so then the gap got wider.
Representative Rasche asked if there is any correlation between the students that were retained at the ninth grade and the CATS scores in the middle school. Commissioner Wilhoit said that he does not have the results, but his guess is that these students are the novices and apprentices and this is something that can be reviewed at some point. He said that if a child is scoring novice on the assessment, then that is a trigger for intervention strategies for that school.
Representative Rasche said that in the past, universities and colleges would assign a course for someone needing remediation. He said that the vocational and technical schools would assign the student a tutor, instead of forcing a curriculum. Commissioner Wilhoit said a tutor is a powerful concept and the advantage at the college level is that the students were able to go ahead with their university experiences and are not isolated. He said that some universities use this practice for prize athletes that are falling behind.
Representative Rasche said that after a student goes through the seventh grade assessment there is no incentive for the school to work with them because the student will soon be the high school’s problem. Commissioner Wilhoit said that if there is a pattern that would have addressed the concerns of the subcommittee it would not look like the pattern that is seen at this time. He said there would be more decisions being made and less of a drop-out peak following it. He said this indicates there are too many practices where students are not identified incrementally along the way. He said it comes to a point where the system catches the student and once they are identified, the intervention strategies are not having a large enough impact on the student for them to remain in the system. He said the harsh reality is that the state is not where it needs to be.
Representative Moberly said that the system of continuous assessment should be integrated into the curriculum. Commissioner Wilhoit agreed, but said that in some schools the assessments are not aligned with the curriculum. He said that many teachers are relying on the state assessment to make those important decisions. He said that this measure is important to the state to determine how well each school is doing and for school accountability purposes, but it is inadequate if this is the only assessment schools and teachers are relying on to make a decision concerning students. He said that the best schools and districts have developed assessments and are using these on a regular basis for making student decisions.
Senator Kelly said that from the review the data showed strong academic leadership in either principals or superintendents that knew what was required. He said that the staff provided leadership and was supportive of the professionals doing the diagnostics and gave them the resources that were needed. He said that diagnostics need to be implemented in the early primary years so that when they reach high school they are continuing with their progress.
Senator Kelly said that Senate Bill 186 was intended to encourage schools to develop early literacy intervention strategies and implement them. He said he was curious to see how many schools are actively assessing their students in the first grade and determining if the students need intervention for literacy and if they have an effective strategy. He asked if this information is easily obtained. Commissioner Wilhoit said that ultimate measure is student performance and if they have reduced the number of low achievers.
Senator Kelly said that there are a number of good resources that are being put in place and there is an overall good effect. He said it can not be said that effective strategies are producing results here within individual schools and districts. Commissioner Wilhoit said that he could identify individual districts, but a school by school account would be difficult. He said that KDE is trying to compile this information at this time.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that recently there has been an issue with the Reading First Grant. He said that in the past, districts said that the reasoning for not doing these programs was not enough staff to do the development work and to think about the issues. He said that KDE is inviting all districts and schools that are eligible to a meeting where the process for receiving the five year boost will be explained. He said that last week there was a discouraging report that some districts are deciding not to participate in this program, because of the amount of work it takes to make it successful.
Senator Kelly said that one of his concerns about the Reading First Grant is that it seems to require a large amount of money to be put into administrative overhead. He said that specialists are in the field to provide direction, but as far as funding of direct services to students it seems to be short. He said that the extra workload will be on the schools to provide the administrative support without getting direct services where students are being diagnosed or intervention strategies are being set up. Commissioner Wilhoit said that this will be looked at closely and if there is any indication that there is waste in the system, or that the program is not being used productively, then adjustments will be made.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that in every grant, KDE is requiring identification of remediation programs and intervention strategies. He said that schools will be required to select a program that has evidence of success and this will be monitored over time so that if it is not working another course can be used.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that this is a great opportunity for the state to put some resources into reading and at the end of five years there should be evidence of major changes. If this is not getting into classroom practices, then KDE will make whatever adjustments that need to be made.
Senator Kelly said there is a concern on how the funding was going to be done. He said that most of the funding seems to be going to the reading coaches that are not providing direct services to students. He said that the demand and need will be if students are identified and need these services, then the program and teachers are in place to provide the services. Commissioner Wilhoit said that it is a difficult balance when you tell districts repeatedly that they are not succeeding without direct support and coaching. He said that more resources going into instruction in the later years might be a good pattern and he would look into this.
Senator Casebier said that to achieve these goals without additional resources will be difficult if there is not full funding of kindergarten and reduction to grades K-3 class size. He said research has shown that early intervention strategies can be created, but if the framework and system has not been created to allow these interventions to take place within the classroom, students will drop out. He said that he is not sure the goals will ever be reached if alternative schools are not adequately funded in order to keep students in school and transform their lives. He said that discussions indicate what needs to be done and how to get there, but there never seems to be a way provided to get any farther than the discussions. He said that some of the issues can be implemented without funds such as leadership, but the leaders still have to be trained and it does not seem to occur. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the current situation seems like a dismal set of circumstances, but the question is how to provide sufficient resources and keep the economy balanced at the same time. He said that educators will have to come back to the General Assembly and say that these programs are the wisest investments that can be made with limited resources. He said then there will be assurance that those resources are available that will be used for the maximum benefit for the students. He said that this will be a difficult and continuing conversation.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that trends are showing evidence that by targeting resources to certain areas, greater results are being produced. He said that the superintendents said that if resources were put in place immediately, the wisest investment would be to fully fund the three and four year old preschool program. He said that on the other hand an early childhood initiative has also been put in place that has a strong outreach to identify students.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that he has put serious thought in education assessment and accountability as it is designed today and some of the needs. He said that in the upcoming months before session, there needs to be discussion concerning changes to the system. He said that this will lead to a stronger oversight at the state level and hold onto the latitude at the local level for innovation.
Representative Moberly said that if there is something that needs consideration by the subcommittee, it needs to be presented as soon as possible. He said that next meeting is in October and asked the Commissioner to have this discussion at that time.
Representative Moberly referred the subcommittee to a memo from Marcia Seiler, Interim Director, the Office of Education Accountability (OEA), informing the subcommittee that the annual finance report that is required by October 1, 2003, will be presented to the subcommittee as soon as it is available but, will not be ready on time due to staff changes.
Representative Rasche said that he participated in the Literacy Partnership and there have been various reports on efforts by school districts to implement reading programs. He said that in participating, he has the sense that school districts have been grabbing at something that they hope might work. He said that in many cases the people implementing the program did not understand what they were doing and without coaching and training, the results will not be there. He said it takes time to learn to identify the students that are having problems. He said that in many cases the current classroom teachers are capable of doing this once they understand what they are looking for and how to address it. He said that without training overtime this will not be possible for the teachers to do. He said that professional development is an essential ingredient to any type of reading revision and training of existing staff.
Senator Kelly said that he agreed that there has to be training, but one of the things that happened after Senate Bill 186, is the creation of the collaborative center. He said the center is working with all of the regional universities that have created the year long reading project programs. He said that the teachers are given intensive training in the summer and follow-up visits that are made throughout the year. He said that he is concerned about the duplication of this effort that is already existing. He said the problem is that the trained teachers need resources. They need to be able to do diagnosing and have training for teachers and space available. He said that once training resources and money are maximized for the direct services for students, then that is when the results will show.
Representative Rasche said that when teachers know what they are doing, they can handle the problem students, just as part of the normal course of teaching. He said that still leaves the group that is going to need more time, more effort, and more attention resources. He said that if early intervention is in place then the problem is taken care of at an early age and this can be done in the classroom with proper training.
Representative Moberly asked if there has been any assessment on the training that was implemented by Senate Bill 186 and if it has been successful.
Senator Kelly said that the feedback he is getting from the Kentucky Reading Project is that it is working and is received well by the teachers and it seems to be effective.
With no further business the meeting was adjourned at 11:25 a.m.