Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 4th Meeting

of the 2009 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> December 7, 2009

 

The<MeetNo2> fourth meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on<Day> Monday,<MeetMDY2> December 7, 2009, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Jack Westwood, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair; Representative Kent Stevens, Co-Chair; Senators Vernie McGaha, and Ken Winters; Representatives Bill Farmer, and Mary Lou Marzian.

 

Guests:† Mary Jo Rist, Kentucky Department of Education; and Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

 

Legislative Guest:† Representative Derrick Graham.

 

LRC Staff:† Sandy Deaton, Audrey Carr, Janet Stevens, Ken Warlick, and Janet Oliver.

 

Senator Westwood asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the October 13, 2009, meeting.† Upon motion by Representative Stevens, seconded by Representative Marzian, the minutes were approved by voice vote.

 

Senator Westwood welcomed and introduced Senator Vernie McGaha as the newly appointed member to the subcommittee.

 

Senator Westwood introduced Bryant Gillis, Principal of the John W. Miles Elementary School, Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District, and asked him to inform the committee about the schoolís innovative parent reporting system and curriculum alignment process.† Mr. Gillis introduced Della Kemper, fourth grade teacher, and Gina Dansk, Kindergarten teacher, who assisted with the presentation.† A handout was provided to committee members relating to the schoolís curriculum, assessment, and parent reporting activities.

 

Mr. Gillis said that he and his staff worked with a steering committee for over four years to develop a properly aligned curriculum, related assessments, and a parent reporting system that would accurately reflect student academic progress.† He said that during the six years he has been principal at the school, the student population had increased from 11% free and reduced lunch to 47%.† He said teacher-led grade level teams reviewed the Kentucky core content standards and added national standards to increase the rigor of the curriculum.†† The curriculum committee reviewed the assessments being used and national assessments and decided that the Measures of Academic Progressô (MAP) Tests developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association would more accurately reflect student learning.† The curriculum committee also developed nine objectives each student should master during each nine week grading period and assessments to be administered during those periods to ensure students were meeting established goals.† Also, intervention techniques are immediately utilized to help each student who is struggling.† Mr. Gillis said many of the teachers expressed concern that letter grades do not adequately reflect student progress and, with the assistance of parents, teachers, counselors, and others, a new reporting system was developed to show a studentís progress in mastering standards.† He said the report card represents an authentic grade but does not reflect behavior, extra credit, and attendance.† Also, student-led parent-teacher conferences are held where the students explain their learning achievements, goals, challenges, and future pathway.† He said that the Miles project has been publicized and he has been contacted by more than 20 different states to explain the program.

 

Senator Westwood said it appears that the system could also serve as an evaluation of teachers based on total student progress and an evaluation of the appropriateness of the standards being used to achieve desired goals.† He asked if any of the faculty has objected to the new system.† Ms. Kemper said there has been no negative feedback since teachers were involved in developing the process.† She said teachers believe their students needed more information about how to achieve their goals and letter grades were not adequately reflecting progress.† She said although it is more time consuming, the system also provides important feedback to help teachers know when to re-teach or use a different method of teaching, especially when several children are not understanding certain concepts.† Ms. Dansk said the process also includes a professional learning community team which enables teachers to seek out information and assistance from other teachers to develop more effective teaching techniques.† ††

 

Senator Westwood said the process also appears to be an evaluation of the Kentucky core content standards which are currently being aligned as a result of Senate Bill 1.† Ms. Kemper said the use of standards based assessments better reflects content knowledge and the parent reporting system provides more detailed information on student progress.† Mr. Gillis said the verbiage in the standards used at Miles is based on Kentucky standards and that students are routinely assessed to ensure they are on track.† Senator Westwood said he applauds the faculty for the energy and time they have put into the process to ensure student success.† He asked if the students have been receptive to the new reporting system to which Mr. Gillis responded that the students are excited in sharing their progress and are also open and honest about where they need to improve.† ††††

 

Senator Winters said it appears that the school has vertically aligned the core content and asked how the current process may be affected by the revision and alignment taking place as a result of Senate Bill 1.† Mr. Gillis said that Miles faculty and administrators are excited about Senate Bill 1 implementation because it increases rigor and alignment statewide.† He said Miles is still assessing Arts and Humanities and is continuing the portfolios for students already enrolled.

 

Representative Stevens said he liked the 17-1 student-teacher ratio and wished each school in the Commonwealth could have a similar ratio.† He asked what percentage of the parents attended the parent academy training.† Mr. Gillis responded that about one third of all parents beyond those that had been involved in the various committees attended the training.† Representative Stevens asked how the rest of the parents were informed to which Mr. Gillis responded that information packets were sent home with the students and 87% of the parents attended the parent-teacher conferences.† Representative Stevens asked if parents still want letter grade comparisons.† Mr. Gillis replied that the majority of parents are pleased with the new reporting system.† Representative Stevens asked if the best way to communicate student progress is a parent-teacher conference and Mr. Gillis agreed. †Representative Stevens asked what the consensus of opinion is at Miles regarding Senate Bill 1.† Mr. Gillis said faculty and staff are excited about the changes required by Senate Bill 1, although he believes a student portfolio has been effective in tracking student progress even if the portfolio is not assessed.†

 

Senator McGaha asked Mr. Gillis to explain the tiers of intervention on the schoolís Pyramid of Intervention.† Mr. Gillis said the pyramid was based on an estimate of the total number of students who need varying degrees of intervention to bring them up to grade level.† He said that he had been a special education teacher for 23 years and one of his goals as principal is to ensure that each child in special education needs to be there because of academic needs and not because of behavior or social issues.† Senator McGaha asked what intervention services are available for students.† Mr. Gillis replied that Family and Resource Center personnel, counselors, the Title I coordinator, speech and language therapists, and many other personnel depending on the specific needs of each student.† Senator McGaha asked how class assignment of students is done.† Mr. Gillis said students are assigned based on academic ability and total number of students.† Ms. Dansk said students entering kindergarten were assessed to determine if intervention was needed and that other factors, such as temperament and personality, were also considered to ensure that a heterogeneous group was in each class, which has proven successful.

 

Senator Westwood asked if the students will have trouble adjusting to middle school, especially since no other school in the district is following the same procedures.† Mr. Gillis said fifth grade parents have been asking questions about the transition.† He said the district high school is very involved in changing standards and assessments but the middle school is not.† Senator Westwood said that, even though letter grades are used at the high school level to determine scholarship and college admission eligibility, he likes the reporting system being used at Miles to measure student academic growth.

 

Senator Westwood thanked Mr. Gillis and his staff for sharing their innovative approach to education.

 

Senator Westwood asked Marcia Seiler, Director, Office of Education Accountability (OEA), to discuss the study proposals for 2010.† Members were provided a memorandum from Ms. Seiler dated November 30, 2009, regarding the proposed study agenda.

 

Ms. Seiler explained that the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) is required by statute to approve a list of study topics for OEA.† She said that she worked with the co-chairs of EAARS to develop the study agenda and specific details will be provided at the next meeting on how her staff will proceed on each subject area.† OEA will conduct a review of the General Fund reserve balances of each Kentucky school district.† The review will include information on statutory and regulatory authority, federal guidelines, best practices, district balances, average monthly General Fund expenditures, and analysis of fund balance trends from 2005-2009.† Representative Farmer asked if the source of the funds in those balances will be analyzed because districts used various sources of funding.† He expressed concern that any legislative action initiated as a result of the study should not impede a districtís ability to retain matching funds for federal dollars.† Ms. Seiler said that Sabrina Olds, OEA Analyst, would be conducting the study and asked her to respond.† Ms. Olds said a districtís General Fund carry forward balance is comprised of funds collected from local taxes and Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding allocation.† She said the study will include a review of other balances that the districts carry but those funds are in restricted accounts.†

 

Ms. Seiler said a study would be conducted on assistance being provided to struggling schools related to the consequences in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) tier levels.† The study will include the current status of all school districts, the consequences and assistance being provided to underperforming school districts and schools, a review of state and national accountability models, and information on how Kentucky districts are meeting established goals.† She said another study will be done on districts participating in bargained for contracts to determine the impact and provisions of those contracts on the duties and responsibilities of schools and district leadership and will include information on the effectiveness of the contracts to actually improve school performance.† Ms. Seiler said a study will also be conducted on teacher evaluation and compensation systems and will examine teacher quality components, performance pay, differentiated compensation, value added literature, and a review of Kentuckyís compensation and teacher evaluation system.† She said teachers and administrators will be surveyed as part of the study.† Ms. Seiler said OEA will also prepare the 2010 yearly compendium of state education rankings and district data profiles.†

 

Senator Winters asked if the data for the study of district General Fund reserves would be assimilated from available data at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) rather than through visits to school districts.† Ms. Seiler said most of the data is available at KDE and some has been reported in the past in the district data profile reports.† Senator Winters said he would prefer that OEA use existing data from KDE, especially in the current uncertain economic climate.† Senator Westwood asked if data is also available from KDE on restricted fund balances, to which Ms. Olds and Ms. Seiler responded that it is available at KDE.†

 

Senator Westwood asked if there was a motion to approve the OEA study plan for 2010.† Upon motion by Senator Winters, seconded by Senator McGaha, the 2010 study agenda was approved by voice vote.

 

Ms. Seiler said the next presentation related to Part III of the mathematics study.† She said the first two parts of the study were presented at a previous meeting.† She asked Deborah Nelson, OEA Research Analyst, and Brenda Landy, Research Analyst, to present the findings to the subcommittee.† Members received a draft copy of Part III of the study and a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

 

Dr. Nelson said that Part I of the math study was a review of assessment and course taking data, Part II examined issues related to teacher preparation and continuing education, and Part III pertains to school practices in mathematics programs.† She said while some Kentucky schools have made steady gains in improving student math achievement reaching near 100% proficiency, the proficiency rate at other Kentucky schools is only 20%.† She said challenges are especially great in middle and high schools and in schools serving large percentages of students living in poverty.† Dr. Nelson said the detailed study contains information about the differences observed in mathematics instruction and achievement, best practices, and challenges still confronting Kentucky schools.† ††

 

Dr. Nelson said many elementary schools, even those with a high percentage of poverty students, are at or near proficiency goals, although there is a direct correlation between low student achievement in schools with high poverty levels.† Similar data for middle schools showed that most of the higher performing schools are low poverty schools and that the lowest performing middle schools tend to be the schools with the highest poverty levels.† She said data related to high school mathematics achievement showed that high schools with the lowest proficiency rates are also the schools with the highest percentage of poverty students, although many low performing high schools also had moderate poverty levels.†

 

Dr. Nelson said OEA made site visits to eleven high performing and six low performing schools, although a disproportionate number of middle schools and high schools were visited.† They also reviewed state assessment data, course taking and evaluation data, and interviewed more than 25 state administrators, researchers and professional development providers with extensive experience in improving math teaching and learning in Kentucky schools.† The study also includes information on the various funding allocated to improve mathematics education in Kentucky is being used at the district level.† Dr. Nelson said the Mathematics Achievement Fund was the major source of state funding in 2008-2009 with a $6.9 million allocation to fund various initiatives including the Kentucky Center for Mathematics at Northern Kentucky University, local grants, and research and policy development activities of the Committee for Mathematics Achievement.† She said many major investments have been made in math teaching and learning over time and that some of the initiatives have shown promising results in student achievement but need to be more readily accessible to teachers and school administrators.†

 

Dr. Nelson said there were notable differences in characteristics between high performing and low performing schools relating to group accountability, positive climate, curriculum and assessments, staff and scheduling for acceleration, and the professional learning community, especially the presence or lack thereof of building level instructional support for mathematics teachers.† She said although only a few schools were visited and the characteristics observed may not be applicable in each low or high performing school, many of the findings were supported in interviews with state administrators and professional development providers who have extensive experience in working with schools throughout the state.† Dr. Nelson said that group accountability with high expectations for student achievement by teachers and staff was evident in high performing schools; and teachers knew what was expected of them by administrators, such as bell to bell instruction, engaging and effective lesson plans, and positive demeanor with students.† Teachers also shared responsibility for high performance of all students in the school and not just those in their own classroom, such as sharing ideas and problem solving techniques, and enjoyed good working conditions and support from administrators relating to discipline, interruption free instruction periods, and instructional resources.† She said administrators of high performing schools were allowed to recruit highly qualified teachers and to remove or replace teachers who did not meet expectations, although highly qualified teachers are not always readily available.† Dr. Nelson said that high performing schools had very clear grade and course level curriculum documents detailing specific skills that need to be mastered and a time sequence in which those skills should be mastered, which provided a blueprint for teaching and learning.† Many of the schools had common assessments used across classrooms and closely monitored the progress of individual students.† She said similar documents did not exist or were not used in low performing schools.†

 

Dr. Nelson said that, although many of the recommendations in the report are directed at KDE and may require additional administrative and fiscal resources, it is also clear that math teaching and learning cannot be improved unless school administrators and teachers participate in the process and districts allocate resources and focus attention on improving mathematics achievement.† She said OEA recommends that KDE clarify the specific mathematics curriculum to be adopted by schools since the current definition is vague and KDE needs to provide guidance about curriculum documents that should be used.† She said many school and district administrators expressed frustration that they did not have the expertise or resources to develop high quality documents and were having trouble accessing those already in existence.

 

Dr. Nelson said high performing schools provide systematic support for struggling students, including extended class time for students, smaller class sizes, and teacher aides in classrooms to assist struggling students.† She said high performing schools actually review and use data to identify student deficiencies or provide accelerated classes for advanced students and also use the data to make necessary staffing and scheduling decisions to provide the support.† They noted that elementary schools have more flexibility with adding instruction time and additional staff to assist struggling students than high schools.† She said several high school administrators and principals expressed frustration during interviews about being unable to make needed changes because decisions regarding faculty and scheduling is controlled by the school-based decision making councils.

 

Dr. Nelson said that high performing schools have a professional learning system in place for their faculty that includes internal and external professional development opportunities, but low performing schools do not have the same level of internal professional development even though their teachers participate in external professional development.† She said building level instructional support for math teachers was evident in all of the high performing schools with administrators providing feedback and assisting with data analysis and curriculum development, but teachers in low performing schools did not have similar support.† Dr. Nelson said that statutory and regulatory language relating to professional development, such as required number of hours, individual growth plans, and professional development plans, needs to be clarified and districts need to use professional development funds for that purpose.† She said Part II of the mathematics study raised concerns about the lack of relevant courses required to obtain a masterís degree to teach mathematics and that interviews with over 125 math teachers for Part III of the study showed that the majority of teachers obtained their masterís degrees for compliance and took almost no courses that would help them teach mathematics.† She said resources are available through the Kentucky Center for Mathematics and other sources which would be extremely helpful for all math teachers.† She said administrators are required to take 21 hours of training annually but only 16 of over 800 courses approved by KDE are directly related to mathematics.† She said OEA recommends that KDE solicit or develop more mathematics relevant courses for Effective Instructional Leadership Act (EILA) credits for administrators.

 

Representative Stevens said he disagreed with the recommendation regarding professional learning.† He said elementary school teachers provide the total learning environment for their students.† He said college students planning to teach only math should take relevant courses during their undergraduate studies and the masterís program should continue to emphasize pedagogy.† He said that he has a concern that block scheduling may also create some issues because of the extended periods a student may encounter between math courses.† †Dr. Nelson said that KDE has provided training for high schools on all different types of course scheduling options to help schools meet the needs of their students.† She said the major complaint they heard from administrators and principals regarding block scheduling or scheduling in general was how difficult it is to change a schedule because changes must be approved by the school-based decision making council.† With regard to content knowledge, Ms. Nelson said that each of the high performing schools surveyed did concentrate on the whole child, but research data also shows that many Kentucky teachers lack the basic mathematics knowledge necessary to provide effective teaching and learning.† Representative Stevens said he agrees that content knowledge is important but teaching techniques also need to be examined when teachers are ineffective.† ††

 

Senator Westwood asked if there were any observations about student assignment in low performing schools especially relating to placement of advanced students with the best teachers.† Dr. Nelson said administrators were asked how teacher assignments were made and generally administrators of high performing schools intentionally designate staff to work with students with varying degrees of academic ability, but there was no consistent method throughout the schools surveyed in making class assignments.† †

 

Dr. Nelson said there was a consensus of opinion among administrators and teachers of high school math that the fundamental mathematics foundation of many students entering high school is very weak even if those same students had scored proficient or distinguished on the math portion of the Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT).† They said that it is very important that students possess computational fluency, understand basic math concepts, and be able to compose and decompose numbers rapidly and accurately or they will struggle in high school math classes.† She said OEA identified three contributing factors contributing to the lack of preparation of students entering high school, which was based on data compiled by consultants observing Kentucky classroom instruction.† One factor was the inadequate teaching of the conceptual foundations behind mathematics by elementary and middle school teachers, most likely due to a teacherís lack of understanding of the concepts or being unable to identify the specific point where intervention is needed.† †Another factor was the breadth of the curriculum which may have caused teachers to move too quickly and not have enough time to cover the depth needed to master concepts.† She said even when the content has been revised, proper teaching methods and techniques will still need to be in place to promote deeper knowledge of the standards.† Dr. Nelson said the third concern is student lack of automaticity and computational fluency and that allowing the use of calculators, which was permitted on KCCT math beginning in 1999, could be a contributing factor.† She said OEA receive numerous comments from high school teachers and administrators about the indiscriminate use of calculators even though they are commonly accepted as a critical tool for student learning; but, there is currently no research to suggest that calculator use undermines automaticity.

 

Dr. Nelson said they found very little use of high school readiness tests and college readiness tests in early high school years to address basic skill deficiencies, although some higher performing schools provided extra grade level content support in certain math classes.† High school teachers and administrators in general did not appear to possess the knowledge or know effective techniques to teach math at the high school level.† Dr. Nelson said that even with the math initiatives being taken by KDE and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), unless district and school administrators make needed staffing and scheduling changes, little can be accomplished by state leaders alone.† She said that in order to strengthen weak mathematics foundations, OEA recommends that KDE and CPE ensure that the new standards and associated professional development include sufficient attention to basic numeracy and that the new assessments be used to provide early intervention for students lacking basic foundational mathematics skills.

 

Dr. Nelson said that students graduating in 2012 will be required to take Algebra II and at least one mathematics class each year in high school.† She said although most students in schools throughout the state are meeting the Algebra II graduation requirement, many schools will need to make substantial shifts in scheduling to ensure students meet the annual math requirement.† She said increasing the number of classes and rigor also will not ensure increased student math achievement.† In two of the low performing schools OEA visited, even though all of the students were taking Algebra II for graduation, the proficiency rates in those two schools were 21% and 24% respectively, which is common throughout the state.† Dr. Nelson said that OEA also noted that credit recovery is being widely used but maybe not for its intended purpose.† In high performing schools, credit recovery was used infrequently or not at all, but in one low performing school, every student who failed Algebra II was put into a credit recovery class and not allowed to return to regular class.† She said OEA has received a number of complaints regarding the inappropriate use of credit recovery and those complaints are being investigated.† †

 

Dr. Nelson said OEA has recommended that KDE help schools meet new high school graduation requirements by providing guidance on the types of courses that are appropriate for students of varying abilities; collect data to monitor the use of credit recovery classes; and establish systematic channels of communication with district and school staff responsible for monitoring and implementing math programs.

 

Dr. Nelson said although high performing schools provide advanced placement mathematics classes, about 25% of all high schools had no AP math classes and over half of the high schools with AP math had no students who earned qualifying scores on AP math courses.† She said data shows that for students to be successful in advanced courses they need to begin Algebra in the 8th grade, but currently about a third of middle schools do not offer 8th grade Algebra and two-thirds of middle schools do not allow credit for Algebra which would indicated that high ability students are not being systematically prepared to be successful in advanced classes at the high school level.† OEA recommends that KDE contact schools that are not providing adequate coursework for high performing students to provide assistance and resources to help them develop appropriate classes.†

 

Dr. Nelson said that OEA believes Kentucky has great untapped student potential; that the new standards and assessments being developed will bring more focus to the issues examined in the study; that there is a need to leverage resources already available to assist both struggling and excelling students; and a greater sense of urgency is needed in preparing for the new graduation requirements.

 

Representative Farmer asked if there are enough math teachers in the current system and in the pipeline to meet the needs of all schools to fulfill the new high school graduation requirements.† Dr. Nelson said that Part II of the study examined the type of data that needs to be collected to systematically provide an accurate answer to that question.† She said anecdotally administrators and faculty in higher performing schools appear to understand and try to provide the needed instructional support for both advanced and remedial math classes.† She said resources may need to be reallocated in many schools which will require an understanding and action by school-based decision making councils.† She said many administrators have expressed concern about the lack of financial resources needed to hire sufficient staff.† Representative Farmer said the information implies that school-based councils may be satisfied with their personnel complement, even though their current personnel may not be the most content qualified to teach some of the courses.

 

Senator Westwood recognized Representative Derrick Graham, who was visiting, and provided him opportunity to ask a few questions.† Representative Graham said it is his understanding that KDE allows each district to develop their own credit recovery programs and he asked if most districts use the grade from the credit recovery program to calculate the student transcript and grade point average (GPA).† Dr. Nelson said she did not know the answer to the question although there appears to be inconsistency in general in grading practices.† Representative Graham said that since scholarship funding is often based on a studentís GPA, KDE should establish a consistent statewide policy on how the GPA is to be determined, especially relating to credit recovery programs.† He asked what options are available to students who have no particular interest in mathematics even though four years of math will be required for 2012 graduates.† Dr. Nelson said they visited some schools that were providing math courses to help students learn advanced mathematics principles that could be used in college and work careers while still offering advanced placement courses for other students.† Representative Graham said he is concerned that students who do not plan to pursue a degree or career that would require advanced placement mathematics classes are being required to take those classes which may be negatively impacting their GPA and adversely impacting scholarship eligibility and college admission requirements.† Ms. Seiler responded that school resources and personnel complements factor into the classes that are offered and that KDE needs to provide guidance.

 

Representative Graham asked what some of the characteristics of high performing schools were, such as geographic location and the percentage of free and reduced lunch student population.† Dr. Nelson said they visited three higher performing districts, all of which had poverty levels at or above the state average and one district had only one high school and the larger district had four high schools.† She said all of the high performing schools exhibited high expectations for student achievement; district administrators had skills in working with teachers and school administrators; administrators who had not produced desired results had been removed; school administrators and teachers were provided necessary resources, professional development opportunities, and other needed support; and steps were immediately taken to address problem areas.† Representative Graham said the costs of dual credit presents a problem for many students at or below poverty level, even when colleges and universities are providing reduced fees.† He said it is important that realistic measures be taken to help all students have access to the best education possible including access to other schools.

 

Senator Westwood asked if there was a KDE representative in the audience who would like to provide a response to any of the recommendations in the OEA study.† Mr. Michael Miller, Director of Curriculum Development, Kentucky Department of Education, said that KDE is thrilled about the report and looks forward to implementing all of the recommendations.† Ms. Seiler said that OEA worked closely with KDE throughout the whole year on the study and came to agreement on the recommendations.

 

Senator Westwood asked if there was a motion to accept all three parts of the mathematics study.† Upon motion by Representative Stevens, seconded by Senator McGaha, the OEA Mathematics Study was approved by voice vote in its entirety.

 

Senator Westwood said that discussion on the remainder of the agenda items would be deferred to the January meeting.† There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 3:00 PM.