The Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee met on Tuesday, August 12, 2008, at 11:30 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Dianne Bazell, Council on Postsecondary Education; and Scott Douglas, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
LRC Staff: Sandy Deaton, Audrey Carr, Janet Stevens, Ken Warlick, and Lisa Moore.
Senator Westwood asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the June 9, 2008 meeting. Representative Rasche made the motion to accept the minutes and Senator Winters seconded the motion. The motion was approved by voice vote.
Senator Westwood asked for a motion to accept the Kentucky District Data Profile report compiled by the Office of Education Accountability (OEA). Senator Winters made the motion to accept the report and Representative Marzian seconded the motion. The motion was approved by voice vote.
Senator Westwood introduced Commissioner Jon Draud, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), to give the subcommittee an update on the Task Force on Assessment and Accountability. He said the first meeting of the task force was very productive and minutes from all the task force meetings will be posted on the KDE website for public viewing.
Commissioner Draud said the Kentucky Board of Education agrees that the task force should stay focused on the goals of all students reaching proficiency by 2014. He said the task force will be meeting approximately five times to review how to improve the current accountability model. He also said there were discussions on where Kentucky needs to go after 2014 as this is a critical time and it could take several years to get a new accountability system implemented.
Senator Kelly reiterated that the task force is an experienced group with a strong desire to address some of the accountability issues facing Kentucky today. He said there is a strong desire among the state board to stay focused on 2014, but the task force is focused on looking beyond the status quo of 2014 and getting to work on bringing much needed improvements to accountability in Kentucky.
Senator Westwood asked Commissioner Draud if he was comfortable with the Task Force on Assessment and Accountability being finished with their work in only five meetings. Commissioner Draud said the issues before the task force are minor at this time and there should be ample time to make the changes. He said when making changes to the accountability system after 2014, much longer and more vigorous work will be needed.
Commissioner Draud urged policymakers to be open-minded and support and agree to new ideas presented by the task force. He is convinced that policymakers need to be focused on accountability in the school system beyond the year 2014.
Representative Moberly asked if the task force was looking at any changes in the accountability system up to the year 2014. He wants to avoid recalculating all the numbers as in the past when major changes were made to the accountability system. He thinks the task force is needed and hopes policymakers can make some agreements to move the accountability system forward.
Commissioner Draud said the task force hopes to make improvements in the current system without making major changes prior to the year 2014. He said these minor changes will hopefully make the public happier by providing parents, teachers, and students with comparative and longitudinal data and making improvements to the writing portfolios.
Senator Kelly said Kentucky’s accountability system does not end in 2014. He hopes to avoid recalculations, but if the will of the task force recommends changes that will require recalculations then so be it. He said it is predicted that eighty percent of Kentucky’s high schools will not reach proficiency by 2014 so there are some changes that need to be made in the accountability system now.
Representative Moberly said he hopes the subcommittee is not conceding right now that a certain percentage of schools will not meet proficiency in 2014. He said 2014 is an important target date because it is a date of commitment that Kentucky has made to its students to reach proficiency. He also said educators appreciate consistency in testing and calculating accountability.
Commissioner Draud said he has not given up on the goal of Kentucky students reaching proficiency by 2014 even though it will be a tremendous challenge, particularly in lieu of budget cuts in education. He said the state board is committed to students reaching academic proficiency by 2014 and it is still a goal of the KDE.
Senator Westwood said when discussing schools reaching 100 percent proficiency by 2014, it is important to remember that is not what Kentucky’s policy supports. He said Kentucky’s policy rewards schools if they reach eighty percent proficiency and all sanctions disappear. He is worried that Kentucky has settled on eighty percent proficiency instead of striving for 100 percent of students receiving proficiency.
Commissioner Draud said this is not the thinking at the state board level. He said the KDE intervention strategy group will place a tremendous emphasis on student academic proficiency and implementation of specific student intervention strategies if goals are not being met. He also wants the KDE to have more authority in school districts that have displayed chronic underachievement over long periods of time.
Commissioner Draud said research from the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Center has shown that Kentucky has moved from 48th in the country to rankings in the high thirties in many areas and great strides have been made in education since 1990. He plans on meeting with numerous groups around the state to highlight Kentucky’s achievements in education.
Commissioner Draud informed the subcommittee of the status of specific projects that have a lack of funding that will result in some projects being placed on hold. There is a handout with specific details on each project located in the meeting folders of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
Commissioner Draud said that if money is not appropriated for the Student Information System (SIS) there will be complete chaos for accounting purposes. The requested funding is for the operation of a new SIS that is currently being implemented and has been presented to the Interim Joint Committee on Education. He said the old system will no longer be available after June 30, 2009.
Commissioner Draud discussed the end-of-course exams initiative. State statute requires development and administration of end-of-course exams in Geometry, Algebra I and Algebra II by May 2008. Currently, Kentucky is only participating in a pilot project for Algebra II in conjunction with thirteen other states, but will not be able to continue the exams due to a lack of funding for the project.
Commissioner Draud said there is no money to do a uniform norm-referenced test (NRT) in the third grade. He said there were no funds to offer the WorkKeys test to 12th grade students and an ACT retake without charge to 11th grade students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. He also said the Read to Achieve program has been saved temporarily, but will be a big issue in the next session if adequate funding is not provided to continue the grants. The current appropriated funding does not allow funding for any additional schools and may reduce the number of schools that receive funding.
Commissioner Draud said money is very important to accountability, technology, professional development, and so many other areas in education.
Senator Kelly said he appreciated the comments on the need for funding and where to focus it as well as the measures of success in Kentucky from outside sources. He recently attended the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) meeting and it was pointed out that Kentucky exceeded the nation in fourth grade literacy performance, particularly in groups that were among high poverty. His concern is that KDE has never reported on reading intervention or how Kentucky is doing in expanding this program to the entire state. He also said the SREB reported that Kentucky is doing terrible in math, but the pace of improvement in the last two years is better. He would like an update from the KDE on research in early math intervention and subsequent policy implications.
Commissioner Draud said he will make sure that there is a report from the KDE on the intervention strategies in reading and math that are working and showing success across the Commonwealth. He is pleased to report that Kentucky’s ACT scores are going to be much improved and higher than expected, but the information will be released later in the week.
Representative Moberly said Kentucky has made significant progress in the last twenty years, but has quit investing in important initiatives such as Extended School Services (ESS). He said Kentucky has to provide more funding in education that in the previous budget in order not to move backwards and continue making progress and improvements.
Commissioner Draud summarized by saying Kentucky is at another critical crossroads in education. He said investing in education is investing in the quality of life of the people who live in the Commonwealth.
Representative Moberly congratulated OEA on receiving the National Conference of State Legislatures 2008 Notable Documents Award for their report on “Indicators of Efficiency and Effectiveness.” He introduced Ms. Marcia Seiler, Director, OEA, to give a report on the compendium of state education rankings report. Ms. Seiler said data points were collected from outside studies and national rankings to compile the report to give lawmakers a concise glimpse of Kentucky’s rankings compared to other states. She introduced Ms. Brenda Landy, Research Analyst, OEA, who gave a PowerPoint presentation.
Ms. Landy said the rankings in the report focus on a subset of SREB states. She said the purpose of the study was to have a convenient resource comparing Kentucky to other states on education indicators and to use as a broad overview to help identify areas for more detailed analysis. She said she hopes the members’ feedback on the report can drive future OEA research.
Ms. Landy said policymakers’ efforts to monitor high school completion are complicated by data quality issues and competing formulas. Nevertheless, across multiple measures, Kentucky’s graduation rate recently rose slightly above the national rate, after being slightly below for several years. She said that, as is true in the nation as a whole, Kentucky’s graduation rates are higher for females than for males and higher for whites than for African American and Hispanics. She also said compared to the United States, Kentucky’s gender gaps are larger, but racial/ethnic gaps are smaller.
Ms. Landy said in the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams, Kentucky students performed above the national average in grade 4 and 8 in science and grade 4 in reading, equal to the national average in grade 4 in writing, and below the national average in grade 4 and 8 in math and grade 8 in writing. She said compared to previous years, the latest NAEP results show improvements for the Commonwealth in all above-mentioned areas except for one: grade 8 reading declined, indicating a need for more focus on reading skills in middle schools.
Ms. Landy said Kentucky students face more socioeconomic barriers to achievement than those in most other states. She said their parents typically have lower incomes, education, and employment rates. Disabilities, teen parenthood, and teen death rates are above the national average. On the other hand, Kentucky has fewer students with limited English proficiency.
Ms. Landy said for many years, in Kentucky and the nation as a whole, the number of teachers employed in schools has increased faster than enrollment, a trend attributed to schools’ increasingly complex and diverse offerings. Kentucky’s student-teacher ratio is better (lower) than the national average in elementary schools, but slightly worse in middle and high schools. She said in terms of teachers as a percent of all staff, Kentucky is again ranked last in the nation, due to high percentages of instructional aides and support staff. Among all states, Kentucky has the third highest percentage of teachers with advance degrees.
Ms. Landy said that compared with the nation, a higher percentage of Kentucky students attend rural schools, which have special challenges as well as some advantages. The Commonwealth continues to perform well with regard to technology access, use, and capacity. She said school climates are generally better than average in Kentucky, with students less likely to report being in fights, being threatened with weapons, having drugs available, or using alcohol.
Ms. Landy said even after adjusting for Kentucky’s lower cost of living, Kentucky’s teacher salaries and per-pupil revenues and expenditures are below the national average. The exception is per-pupil preschool spending which, due to a $25 million budget increase, spiked above the national average in fiscal year 2007. She also said Kentucky is a national leader in allocating funds equitably among districts.
Ms. Landy discussed multi-topic indices that combine a wide variety of measures. She gave examples of the components of the “Education Week” overall index and the components of the Federal Fund Information for States Camelot Index. She noted that Kentucky’s rank varies widely depending on the measures and methodologies that are used by each organization. Specific examples of each index are located in the meeting folder in the LRC library.
Senator Westwood said he still has concerns about how Kentucky measures its drop-out rate. He said the Kentucky auditor’s office has determined the drop-out calculation rate in the Commonwealth has never been credible and he still cannot grasp how the calculations are figured.
Ms. Landy said the graduation rate is improving, presumably, because there are fewer people dropping out of school. She said the graduation rate is based on students receiving a standard diploma within four years with the exception of students who have Individual Education Plans to allow a longer period than four years in which to receive a degree. She also said it is very hard for school staff to determine why a student left school and did not return as most information received is second-hand from a parent and hard to verify.
Senator Westwood said the drop-out rate calculation is an Achilles heel and he does not know if Kentucky will ever get an accurate count within the state or in a comparison with other states.
Ms. Landy said “Education Week” and the National Council on Education Statistics take the number of graduates and divides that number by the size of the class over the previous years to determine the rate. She said the National Center for Higher Education Management is much less reliable as it does not make an adjustment for transfers in their formula for drop-outs and only divides the number of graduates by the number of ninth graders.
Senator Westwood said he does not consider a student a drop-out just because he or she begins at one school, but does not graduate at that school. He said there is a problem with the entire system and he hopes that the Infinite Campus will soon have the bugs worked out and be operational so Kentucky can accurately calculate its drop-out rate.
Senator Westwood discussed the NAEP writing proficiency trends. He did not understand why the report does not reflect that dropping from 31 percent to 26 percent in proficiency for grade 8 writing was statistically significant.
Ms. Landy explained that a small sample size is used for the statistics calculated in NAEP and she double-checked the numbers and said there was just a lot of variation within the student scores in writing. Senator Westwood said could be contributed to the subjectivity in grading the writing portfolios in middle school. He noted that Maryland just eliminated using the writing portfolios because the data was not helpful in measuring students’ writing skills. Ms. Landy said Kentucky mirrors the same slow growth as the United States in making gains in writing.
Representative Moberly asked if staffing data for the report included bus drivers, cooks, and support staff. Ms. Landy reported the vast list of staff that was included in the report although it did not include bus drivers.
Representative Rasche asked what Kentucky’s ranking is in teacher to student ratios. Ms. Landy said Kentucky is right on average in teacher to student ratios which is in the middle. Representative Rasche noted that having a large number of support staff for teachers could actually be hurting the teacher to student ratio rankings.
Representative Rasche asked if scoring writing was more difficult due to its subjectivity or because students vary greatly as writers. Ms. Landy said the reliability of scores for writing are lower because it is more subjective and the variation in the scoring process. She said it could amount to a measurement problem more than the fact that students write differently.
The Chair accepted the report on behalf of the committee.
Representative Moberly commended Representative Rasche on his service to education and the General Assembly. He wished him well with his future endeavors working at the KDE as a legislative liaison. He also noted that Representative Rasche was a charter member of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) since its creation in 1998.
Representative Moberly introduced Mr. Robert Hackworth, Senior Principal Consultant, KDE, to give an update on the Kentucky Instructional Data System (KIDS) Project. Mr. Hackworth said the objective of KIDS is to provide Kentucky educators and policymakers with a sustained, efficient, and reliable longitudinal data tool that supports evidence-based, data-driven decision making across multiple data sources to improve student achievement.
Mr. Hackworth said KIDS was funded via a $5.78 million grant from the National Council on Education Statistics. It is at the end of phase two in a three-phase design and implementation cycle, on schedule for completion in early 2009.
Mr. Hackworth said a statewide user license for the KIDS longitudinal warehouse and decision support system will cover school and district staff and administrators, highly skilled educators, achievement gap coordinators, KDE staff, Education Professional Standards Board, Council on Postsecondary Education, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, researchers, and policymakers. He said KIDS is designed to grow as more data sources are discovered.
Mr. Hackworth described some of the benefits of using the KIDS system. They are: targeted academic interventions; data accessibility; producing reports in seconds; role-based security; data quality; identification of trends; consolidation of systems; and program evaluation.
Mr. Hackworth said now that KIDS has been established, at minimal cost to the Commonwealth and no cost to districts, funds are needed to sustain and run the system. He said without operations and maintenance funding, KIDS will lack the technical and staff support needed to function as a viable decision support system and data warehouse. He also noted that key expansions to KIDS would add data sources that give educators the most current data for student improvement, and allow for seamless longitudinal analysis from primary and secondary education to postsecondary education. To date, federal funds for state longitudinal data systems only cover the development and establishment of the system, not the day to day maintenance and operations.
Senator Westwood asked how much money is needed for the operation of the KIDS since the grants money is running out in 2008. Mr. Hackworth said under a million dollars is a good estimate.
Senator Westwood asked if the system could be hacked and access gained to the website to retrieve student level data. Mr. Hackworth said KIDS is using industry standards for security and the same standards that the KDE requires. The academic data are securely accessible at the student level based on the professional responsibilities of the user, or role-based security.
Senator Westwood asked how much time the student information would be kept in the system. Mr. Hackworth said that policy decision has yet to be made, but there is a requirement to expunge information one year after a student has graduated.
Representative Moberly asked how long KIDS has been in operation. Mr. Hackworth said about six months.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 1:15 p.m.