Theseventh meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on Tuesday, October 11, 2005, at 10:00 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Harry Moberly Jr, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Ms. Patty Kannapel, Edvantia Inc. (AEL); Mr. Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Mr. Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools
LRC Staff: Sandy Deaton, Audrey Carr, Jonathan Lowe, Janet Stevens, and Lisa Moore.
Senator Westwood made a motion to approve the minutes from the September 7, 2005 meeting, and Representative Marzian seconded the motion. The motion was approved by voice vote.
Representative Moberly introduced Ms. Marcia Seiler, Director, and Ms. Jo Ann Ewalt, Research Division Manager, Office of Education Accountability (OEA), to give a report on the School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC). Ms. Ewalt said this presentation is the first of three staff reports on the SFCC.
Ms. Ewalt said House Bill 269 directed the OEA to: 1) study the Commission's ability to provide local school districts with necessary debt service to maintain a facility program conducive to a positive learning environment; and 2) make recommendations for strengthening the SFCC program.
Ms. Ewalt gave an overview of the SFCC purpose and duties. It was established in 1985 as a successor agency of the Kentucky School Building Authority. The SFCC acts on behalf of school districts to issue bonds to finance new school construction and major renovation. It also implements the Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS), which is not reviewed in this study.
Ms. Ewalt explained the SFCC eligibility criteria for school districts. School districts must: 1) participate in the Facilities Support Program of Kentucky (FSPK); 2) restrict local available revenue for facilities construction on July 1 in odd numbered years; 3) have an approved district facility plan certified by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE); and 4) ensure that their unmet facility needs are greater than $100,000.
Senator Kelly asked about using a national average for estimating costs instead of using building costs in Kentucky. Is this an accurate reflection, and does it cause problems for future planning? Ms. Ewalt said it can cause problems and this is an important issue that will be discussed later.
Ms. Ewalt said 170 of 176 Kentucky school districts have participated in the SFCC. She said the local planning committees prepare the district facility plans, which focus on five priorities. They are: 1) new construction and major renovations are to begin within the biennium; 2) new construction and major renovations not scheduled within the biennium; 3) non-educational additions or expansions, such as a cafeteria or an auditorium, regardless of schedule; 4) management support areas, such as central offices or bus garages, regardless of schedule; and 5) discretionary projects.
Ms. Ewalt said in order for the SFCC to make its offers of assistance to school districts, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) must prepare a statement, which is certified by the KBE, for each school district. This statement includes a recognition that the district is eligible to participate, the amount of local available revenue that the district has, and an assessment of the district's total facility needs. She said the amount of money that a school district receives is contingent on the bonding authority provided by the General Assembly.
Ms. Ewalt said the SFCC has two components, general fund appropriations and capital fund bonding authorization. She said general fund appropriations cover existing debt service, previously authorized and unissued debt, and new debt.
Ms. Ewalt discussed the SFCC budget history from 1998-2006 as reflected on a chart which can be found in the meeting folder in the Legislative Research Commission library. She said the General Assembly has fully funded the amount to allow SFCC to continue with bond sales in the next budget.
Ms. Ewalt said there is another way to view the General Assembly's support for facilities funding by looking at total state appropriation-supported outstanding debt, and to examine what portion of the debt is attributable to SFFC bonding activity. She said the SFCC debt outstanding as a percentage of total appropriation-supported debt outstanding has remained fairly consistent over the past decade, and has ranged between 13 and 17 percent.
Ms. Ewalt gave an overview of all of the state and local funding sources available for construction and renovation within the state. She said capital outlay funds are provided through the Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) formula. These funds were authorized in 1954 and have been at $100 per pupil since that time. The FSPK is a local five cent equivalent tax and districts that levy it, and all do, are eligible for equalization up to 150 percent of statewide average per pupil assessment. She said SFCC is the other main funding source.
Ms. Ewalt said since 1994, the General Assembly has approved both state sources of funding and has also given authority to local districts to have other sources of facility funding. In 1994, it permitted eligible districts that were experiencing rapid growth to levy a five cent equivalent tax for facility funding. She said those districts had to have growth of at least 150 students, a three percent overall growth in the last five years, have certain debt service requirements, and have a current enrollment greater than the classroom space available. Twenty-six districts levied the first growth nickel, and in 2003, the General Assembly allowed those districts that still remained eligible, in terms of the growth criteria, to levy a second five cent equivalent tax, which 18 districts did so. She said in 2003, those districts levying the second growth nickel were eligible for equalization, which 18 districts received. In 2003, the General Assembly allowed districts to levy an additional five cent equivalent for facility funding subject to hearing and voter recall, and six districts did so. In 2005, the General Assembly provided retroactive equalization of this recallable tax, and six districts were eligible.
Ms. Ewalt said there are two programs that the General Assembly has indicated that it intends to cease funding. The first is the Equalized Facility Funding, a one-time allocation of equalization for those districts that had to have levied at least a ten cent equivalent tax, or had debt service equivalent to a ten cent tax, and had received no other equalization except for the FSPK. She said there were 15 districts eligible for this and will receive debt service for 20 years. She said finally, the Urgent Need School Trust Fund or category five funding, was earmarked for districts that had schools in the poorest condition, and 35 districts in 2003 and 2005 received this funding.
Ms. Ewalt discussed the way the KDE ranks the conditions of school facilities in Kentucky. They use a ranking of one to five, and much of the criteria revolves around the age of the building, but not entirely. In addition to the age of the building, the KDE provides some language that discusses whether buildings are in need of replacement or improvement. She said 82 percent of Kentucky's school buildings are considered to be in excellent to average condition, and less than 20 percent are considered to be fair or poor. She said it is possible that the numbers in category five are slightly underestimated because the KDE has taken some schools that will be either renovated or replaced and moved them up into category one. She said the second thing to note is that schools ranked in category four as fair, if they are not maintained by virtue of their age, will slip into category five if the KDE maintains this ranking system.
Ms. Ewalt said another way to determine the General Assembly's support for facilities is to look at the total state unmet facility needs, and to examine the level of bonding authorized to the SFCC as a percent of unmet need. She said unmet need has declined by about seventeen percent in the past decade and bonding for the SFCC as a percent of the unmet need has increased from 1.3 percent in the 1994-1996 biennium to 5.3 percent in 2002-2004. She also said that state unmet facility needs is dependent entirely on how districts build their local facility plan.
Ms. Ewalt concluded by saying that the OEA will report in November 2005 on the analysis of all facility funding through the SFCC and the impact of non-SFCC construction funding on the Commission's ability to carry out its duties. She said another next step is to review the SFCC funding formula and districts' unique characteristics and make recommendations to improve the SFCC's ability to meet school construction needs.
Senator Westwood said he is unclear on how Kentucky deals with the unmet needs with the SFCC oversight and potential abuse. Ms. Ewalt said a district facility plan is estimated with the KDE's oversight. Schools that have the ability to spend local funds can do so. If a district does spend over the average building cost and cannot use its local resources for other needs, those needs stay on its facility plan and are part of its unmet need calculation. She said the impact is that the local available revenue decreases, but the previous building needs still remain. SFCC does not play a part in examining district facility plans, or looking at a district that chose to spend more than the average amount on one project. SFCC is given its certification by the KDE that shows the district's unmet needs and its eligibility.
Senator Westwood asked who oversees the process. Ms. Ewalt said the KDE oversees the process of building facility plans, but it does not have a policy or a regulation for dealing with situations where a district spends too much on one project and does not have enough money for other unmet needs. Senator Westwood said the legislators do not have time to monitor spending and feels that someone should be overseeing the process. Ms. Ewalt said this issue is being looked at and the OEA will provide an analysis of the impact of the situation in the next two reports.
Representative Moberly said Senator Westwood makes a good point and through the years since the SFCC was created, Kentucky has had a problem with districts gaming the system because the more unmet needs a district has means the more money it receives. He said districts also do not submit their plans on time, and then want the legislators to get the dollars for them. He feels the SFCC needs to be strengthened and everyone needs to know it is fair so that the legislators do not game the system either during session.
Representative Draud said there is a certain amount of game playing that occurs between school superintendents and others in the district with unmet needs, but it is the KDE's responsibility to monitor what is going on when a facility is built. He said the question is how well they can monitor that at the local level, particularly when a lot of local funds are involved. He said 170 out of 176 school districts had utilized the SFCC funds, and asked what the history was of the school districts that did not.
Ms. Ewalt said there are five districts that have local available revenue that has been greater than their unmet need, and so they do not qualify. She said there is one other district that has qualified but has not accepted offers, and they are investigating that situation.
Representative Moberly said there is not a fair and equitable system throughout the state. He said the SFCC needs to meet needs in a fair and equitable manner or legislators will be asked during session to deal with ad hoc situations.
Senator Kelly discussed the 2.7 percent of schools ranked in category five. He said a policy was adopted to eliminate the backlog of category five schools, and it appears to be working. Ms. Ewalt said yes. Senator Kelly said his concern is the school districts who are never going within the formula to have the funding they need to meet very demanding and pressing needs, particularly in growth areas. He asked if this formula, while it might be theoretically fair, is actually going to meet the needs where students are overcrowded or in inadequate facilities. Ms. Ewalt said OEA will provide options to the committee in future presentations should they choose to amend the SFCC funding formula to take into consideration some very specific conditions, and what it would do to SFCC offers.
Representative Draud said there is a concern that many decisions are made based on politics instead of actual needs within the school districts. He said the goal should be to minimize that and to make the process as fair as possible, which would enhance the morale of the school superintendents.
Senator Winters discussed an inadequate elementary school facility in his district that is leased from the Catholic Church and is not state-owned. He asked how often these situations occur across the state, and would the inadequacy of the facility automatically put it into a category five ranking. Ms. Ewalt said she did not know how often this occurred, but she will look into it. She said all buildings used as public school buildings in the state should receive a ranking.
On the next agenda item, Representative Moberly asked for a report on the workplan for the efficiency and effectiveness study that was mandated in 2005.
Ms. Ewalt said the General Assembly directed OEA to conduct an inventory and assessment of indicators that could be used to evaluate school districts' efficient and effective use of funding, which is the basis for the study proposal provided. She said OEA has developed three objectives for looking at how school districts are spending funds and to determine indicators.
Ms. Ewalt said the first objective is to examine how expenditures at the district and school level are categorized into instructional and non-instructional spending and assess whether there are funding mandates in instructional and non-instructional areas required by federal or state statute or regulation. The second objective is to prepare an inventory of indicators that can be used to examine the spending of instructional and non-instructional purposes. The third objective is to provide an assessment of the indicators, which would include the strengths of and threats to the reliability and validity of the indicators, potential limitations in the use of the indicator, and comparability and consistency issue related to the use of the indicator in cross-school, cross-district, and cross-state comparisons. This will also include an analysis of efforts at the national and state level to use indicators and indexes of school and district efficiency and effectiveness to link spending with academic performance.
Representative Moberly asked if members had questions or suggestions for OEA to incorporate into the workplan. Representative Rasche said many schools do not make a good use of time, which comes down to principal policy or school tradition, and he does not know how this could be looked at from a macroscopic view.
Ms. Ewalt said the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has just come out with a long list of educational indicators that includes a review of the amount of time students and teachers are in the classroom in a regular curriculum. She said there are also some leadership variables that are generally included. She said it is very hard to find the perfect indicators. Representative Rasche said use of time is hard to track.
Ms. Seiler said in addition to these current indicators and the indicators the KDE collects, the OEA would like suggestions for future indicators to track. Representative Rasche said he does not know how to possibly monitor a school's use of time outside of leadership and enforcement, but efficient use of time in the classroom is a critical resource for a school.
Senator Westwood said many school buildings do not seem to hold up due to lack of maintenance or poor design. He said Kentucky should take a closer look at its designs of school buildings, and look at energy efficient buildings.
Ms. Ewalt said this efficiency study has not looked at the design of buildings, but is looking at the whole issue of maintenance. The OEA has asked superintendents across the state through a survey how many school districts in Kentucky have a regular maintenance and replacement plan, and if they have one, can they fund it. Ms. Ewalt said the General Assembly permits school districts to request the ability to use building fund money for maintenance and insurance, and superintendents have communicated this is very helpful because it was difficult for maintenance to compete against academic needs for funds out of the general fund. Senator Westwood said Kentucky may need a uniform, architectural design for all of its schools.
Senator Winters discussed the beneficial use of time in schools. He said schools should look at traffic flow and building logistics to get the best use of time.
Representative Moberly told Ms. Seiler and Ms. Ewalt to take into account the committee members' concerns, and directed the OEA staff to proceed with the proposed workplan. He introduced Mr. Gene Wilhoit, Commissioner, KDE, who gave a report on the statewide test results for the Commonwealth Accountability and Testing System (CATS) and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) results for 2005.
Commissioner Wilhoit said all the schools have individual growth charts, and Kentucky's schools are at an average of 77.4 in 2005 with an overall goal of reaching 100 percent by 2014. He said the aggregate of the state is continuing to progress. He said the CATS results for 2005 were determined by several things. They were: 1) non-academic data; 2) the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills; 3) Kentucky core content tests; and 4) Average Yearly Progress (AYP) judgments under the federal NCLB.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the non-academic data includes such things as dropout rates, graduation rates, retention rates, attendance rates, and successful transition to adult life. He said with the exception of the graduation rates, which are required by NCLB, each rate contributes to the overall accountability index in the school.
Commissioner Wilhoit said dropout rates have received focus in Kentucky over the last five years. He said percentages have decreased from a 5.10 percent dropout rate in 1999-2000 to 3.35 percent in 2003-2004. The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has said Kentucky cannot get a handle on success in high school unless dropout rates are factored in. He said changes have been made in the past several years in the dropout rate calculation, and may need to be modified further to make sure it is in-line with federal definitions and national developments.
Commissioner Wilhoit said students who received certificates of completion, or who took longer than four years to graduate, were not included in graduation rates. He explained that the NCES has a method for states to use for graduation rates, which he feels is inadequate and allows slippage in the system. A new graduation rate definition is being recommended by the United States Department of Education and the NCES. Kentucky has not had a way to track individual students through the system. Beginning this year, Kentucky has initiated an individual student identifier and will have the ability to apply the new graduation rate calculation. He said no schools are reporting double digit dropout rates under the current system, but seven high schools have been targeted by the Manhattan Institute as having excessive graduation rates, and the KDE is working with those schools aggressively to get this corrected.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the CTBS results are up one to two points overall across the state. This NRT is administered in all schools and accounts for five percent of the school's score. He said this test will be re-normed in the next cycle, and this will make it more difficult for schools to look at long-term norming comparisons, but it does provide a more accurate short-term picture of how Kentucky students are doing against a nationally normed group.
Commissioner Wilhoit discussed trends in the Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) performance. He said the criteria has not been changed since 1999-2000 against which schools are performing and this provides some consistent performance against expectations over those years. Overall, the general tendency across all content areas is an upward trend. He said Kentucky still struggles in the area of math, but reading scores are making progress. The high school trends include a drop in math scores and in arts and humanities. There are complete tables with scores for elementary, middle, and high schools for every year from 1999 to 2005 in the meeting folders located in the Legislative Research Commission library.
Commissioner Wilhoit discussed the gains and gaps in the total academic index for elementary, middle, and high school ethnicity sub-populations. He said there is a slight decline between the achievement of African American and white students at the elementary school level. He said there is a disturbing trend that achievement gaps in the middle schools are not narrowing. He said Kentucky high schools has every sub-population moving ahead at higher levels, but achievement gaps are not closing. He said white female students in the academic index are outperforming substantially the goals in the state. He said there is a parallel performance by African American females and white males, with African American males trailing. He said data are being collected on Hispanic students, and there are some encouraging patterns with students who have been in the system for a long time.
Representative Draud discussed the disturbing trend between the sub-group of white non Hispanics and the Asian students. He said the Asian students outperform the white sub-groups in all areas. Commissioner Wilhoit said this trendline is consistent across the country. Representative Draud would like to see this issue studied to find out what Asian American parents are doing to ensure their children achieve at high levels that American parents do not do. Commissioner Wilhoit said there are several studies on the way that point out an observable difference in expectations of parents and students in Asian countries. He explained the differences between the education system in China and America. Representative Draud said closing the gaps between Asian students and other American students is as an important issue to study as closing the achieving gaps between African Americans and whites.
Representative Moberly said the statewide test scores are stagnant all across the board. He said there has been some progress in some areas, but math is down in all areas. He said there used to be a disaggregated category for students with disabilities, and asked if the information could be provided like the ethnic sub-population comparisons. Commissioner Wilhoit said he would provide the information to him, but the performance of children with disabilities is far below the performance of other students, and is the main reason why Kentucky does not make AYP in the NCLB program.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the KDE and the KBE feels more rigor needs to in the curriculum. He said proposed changes will be upcoming about redesigning the high school, new graduation requirements including four years of math instead of three, and Algebra II for all students.
Representative Moberly is disappointed in the test scores, and said school districts need strong leadership and better strategies for pulling together resources. He said he realizes resources are scarce, but would like to hear the KDE's reasons why Kentucky is not doing better.
Senator Kelly asked what happens to the children in China who cannot meet the academic rigor before the ninth grade. Commissioner Wilhoit said this is only a problem in the very rural areas. He said over 90 percent of students in the urban areas are successful, and older children who cannot meet the academic rigors enter into the workforce.
Senator Kelly discussed the motivation of students in American schools and in China. Commissioner Wilhoit said China had solved the motivation problem with students in their schools. He said the rules in their society are so different in the family support structure, and it is a controlled society. He said all students are highly motivated and know the value of an education. He said teachers in China are pushing parents to allow them to teach the students more.
Representative Draud said it used to be if teachers and principals were too demanding and required a lot of homework from students, the school would get into trouble from the communities.
Commissioner Wilhoit discussed NCLB results. He said the same assessment is used to make judgements about school progress, and state accountability measures school progress against an individual goal. If one target is missed, a school does not meet AYP. He said depending upon the sub-population makeup in a school, there will be more targets to meet under the federal legislation. If a school has a great diversity, it has to meet more goals than a school that does not have much diversity.
Commissioner Wilhoit said 875 of Kentucky schools, which is 74.6 percent, made 100 percent of their NCLB goals for AYP. He said of the 298 schools that did not make AYP, 188 made 80 percent of their goals or more. Statewide, 17 of 25 target goals were met, or 68 percent.
Commissioner Wilhoit said there is much work still to do. He said high schools are not improving as rapidly as the state needs them to. Achievement gaps remain a concern, especially among minority students and students with disabilities.
Representative Moberly said there are some schools that are meeting their CATS goals, but have low ACT scores, and asked if the KDE had looked at this issue to understand what is happening. Commissioner Wilhoit said he has asked for an analysis on this issue from staff. Representative Moberly asked him to keep the committee informed on the findings.
Senator Westwood commended Commissioner Wilhoit on the comprehensive and detailed report. He said learning disabled students' test scores are increasing who do not receive testing accommodations, but the test scores for learning disabled students who do receive testing accommodations has been rising rapidly far exceeding those with no accommodations. Is Kentucky sure that these accommodations are not inflating unrealistically the scores on the CATS test.
Commissioner Wilhoit said there are many cautions with accommodations. He said there are very strict guidelines and consistency of application is important. He said the goal of providing the accommodations is not to inflate test scores; it is to help the individual with the disability. He said there could be changes made in the future regarding accommodations.
Senator Westwood said he is concerned that over 50 percent, sometimes as much as 75 percent of students, are not using technology in the schools. He asked if this is because it is not available to them, or is it a scheduling issue.
Commissioner Wilhoit said those numbers are inexcusable, and all students should be interfacing with technology. He said the KDE and the KBE are discussing requiring students to demonstrate certain computer competencies before graduating Kentucky schools. He said there is not enough teacher comfort with the use of technology as an intrical part of the classroom instruction, and there are also issues with scheduling students into a computer lab, and also aging equipment within the schools. He said most disturbing is the trendline of high school students using technology less.
Senator Westwood said the test scores for the limited English proficient students are down sharply, and asked what the KDE is doing about this. Commissioner Wilhoit said small cohorts are important as well as strong support systems for these students. He said 10 or 12 school districts are affected by this and it is not a statewide problem, which is good because the attention can be focused on those school districts to improve the test scores for these students. He said research shows that it take young students at least three to four years of intervention and concentrated work to master the English language.
Senator Westwood asked if there had been any studies conducted to see how limited English proficient students have performed after leaving the program. Commissioner Wilhoit said this has not been done, but the new system will be able to monitor long-term success or failure.
Representative Moberly said he feels an urgency about moving ahead with interventions and assistance, making an analysis of whether schools are efficient or not, and looking at remediation rates and transitions between high school and college. He said he would like the KDE's advice about what the General Assembly can do to make these improvements prior to the 2006 regular session. Commissioner Wilhoit said he heard this same sense of urgency from the KBE.
Representative Moberly said there a strategic plan for improving mathematics achievement in Kentucky prepared by the Committee for Mathematics Achievement as an information item in members' folders.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 12:05 p.m.