Call to Order and Roll Call
The meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Vernie McGaha, Gerald A. Neal, and Ken Winters; Representatives Linda Belcher, Bill Farmer, and Mary Lou Marzian.
Legislative Guest: Representative Derrick Graham.
Guest List: Brigitte Ramsey, Kentucky Board of Education and Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Minutes of December 12, 2011 Meeting
Representative Marzian moved to adopt the minutes of the December 12, 2011, meeting, and Representative Farmer seconded the motion. The motion carried.
Review of Administrative Regulations:
703 KAR 5:002
703 KAR 5:140
703 KAR 5:240
Mr. Kevin Brown, Associate Commissioner and General Counsel, and Ms. Rhonda Sims, Director of Support and Research, Office of Assessment and Accountability, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), explained administrative regulations 703 KAR 5:002, Repeal of Commonwealth Assessment Testing System (CATS) Regulations; 703 KAR 5:140, Report Card Content; and 703 KAR 5:240, Definitions for School and District Classifications, and relating technical amendments.
Responding to a question from Senator McGaha, Ms. Sims said middle schools comprise many different configurations. The new accountability system tracks the percentile rank of how schools perform. A K-8 school would receive a report for the elementary portion and the middle school portion in order to make statewide comparisons.
Representative Belcher moved to accept the technical amendments to the administrative regulations, and Representative Marzian seconded the motion. The motion carried.
Office of Education Accountability Reports
Ms. Marcia Ford Seiler, Director, Office of Education Accountability (OEA), said KRS 7.410 Section (2)(c)(8) directs the OEA to prepare an annual report of the status and results of the annual research agenda, a summary of completed investigative activity, and other items of significance to the Education Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS). The annual research agenda is developed by the members of EAARS, with input by OEA staff, and approval by the full committee. The investigative process has not changed in the last ten years and is included in detail in the annual report in the meeting folder located in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
Ms. Karen Timmel, Analyst, OEA, said OEA only acts on written complaints. The OEA received 565 written complaints in 2011. Fifty of these investigative cases were opened, 57 were closed, and 42 cases are pending. The number of new cases opened changes over the years. Nearly 70 new cases were opened in 2008 and 2009, and only 47 new cases in 2010. OEA closed more cases this year than in the past and continues to work on reducing the case backlog.
Ms. Timmel said the range of complaints received by the OEA staff is broad. Some issues such as board member eligibility, board member interference in personnel matters, and the bullying of students by other students or teachers tend to occur more often. Some complaints are not acted upon because staff has deemed that no school laws have been violated. Others are resolved by staff contacting the school personnel by phone or referring them to the appropriate agency.
Ms. Seiler said KRS 7.410 (2)(c)4, requires that the OEA make recommendations for legislative action to EAARS. OEA is recommending that two statutes be amended as a result of issues directly encountered by OEA through investigations.
Ms. Timmel said KRS 160.990 establishes various penalties for violations of statutes within KRS Chapter 160. The table listing statutory penalties is located in the meeting folder in the LRC library. The fines and penalties established in the statute are similar to those established in criminal statutes. However, none of the cited statutes delineate a mental state--such as knowingly or willingly--for suffering the penalty as are found in criminal statutes. Additionally, the statute fails to specifically state who shall make the determination of guilt or who will assess and collect the fine, except KRS 160.990(5), which states the Kentucky Board of Education should withhold $1,000 in Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funds for each violation of KRS 160.380(3). OEA recommends additional statutory guidance providing specific detail as to what agency or court shall make the determination of guilt, what mental state is required for guilt, and who shall enforce and collect the fine.
Responding to a question from Representative Farmer, Ms. Seiler said the statute does not give OEA the authority to collect a fine imposed as a penalty. OEA’s role is administrative, focused on collecting and analyzing data. OEA does not conduct hearings or determine guilt. Ms. Timmel said the Attorney General has opined that OEA does not have enforcement authority to prosecute an offense under the current statute. OEA conducts the investigation and attempts to resolve any wrongdoing to ensure it does not happen again. Ms. Seiler said it would be helpful if the statute stated specifically which agency would impose and collect the penalty fines.
Ms. Seiler said KRS 159.035(2) requires principals to grant students up to ten days of excused absence to pursue an educational enhancement opportunity (EEO). The legislative expectation is that the activity for which the excuse is granted would provide a high-quality, educationally relevant experience that supports the student’s in-school program. The student is credited with an excused absence for up to ten days and is considered present for the purposes of calculating average daily attendance for SEEK. OEA has received complaints that districts have approved excessive numbers of EEO days, and some of the approved activities are not up to the rigorous standards set in statute.
Ms. Seiler said that OEA obtained data related to the EEO issue from KDE. Three years of data are available, and 2012 data has been requested. In 2009, there were 76,942 days coded as EEO for 29,016 students statewide. This number nearly doubled in 2010, with 127,294 days coded as EEO days for 42,984 students. In 2010, the Commissioner of Education sent all district superintendents a notice explaining the statutory requirements for use of EEO days. Subsequent to this notice, there was a decline in the use of EEO days. In 2011, the numbers decreased to 113,213 days for 41,826 students.
Ms. Seiler said the use of EEO days varies widely from district to district. In over 100 districts, fewer than 10 percent of the total student population were granted an EEO day. However in 2010, there were eight districts in which more than 25 percent of the student population was coded as participating in an EEO day. One district had 78 percent and another 91 percent of the students coded as using at least one EEO day. Closer examination of the data shows nearly entire populations of some schools coded on certain days as participating in an EEO day.
Ms. Seiler said in order for a principal to approve an EEO day, he or she must determine that the activity has significant educational value. Examples that are provided in the statute are participation in educational foreign exchange programs or intensive instructional, experiential, or performance programs in English, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, and foreign language. OEA has not examined school records to determine if the approved activities fall within the range of programs intended by the statute. Some districts have undergone KDE attendance audits, and results of the audits indicate insufficient documentation for the days coded as EEO.
Ms. Seiler said the General Assembly should consider requesting KDE develop a regulation that more specifically defines what activities can be appropriately approved for purposes of this statute. Consideration could also be given to a study of the issue to determine how the statute is being implemented.
Responding to Representative Marzian, Ms. Seiler said OEA has not reviewed the documentation. She said KDE is concerned that no districts involved in the attendance audits had the appropriate documentation for its EEO absence days. Representative Marzian said the data are alarming and feels the statute needs to be reviewed. She supported the legislation but did not anticipate the widespread abuse.
In response to a question from Senator McGaha, Ms. Seiler said more specific data are needed to see if and how the EEO excused absence policy is being abused. She said some school districts will allow large populations of students to miss school as an EEO day if there is a big event in the community.
Senator McGaha said the bill had a great purpose and that he supported it, but it appears as if school districts may be taking too much advantage. He would like OEA to provide members with specific data related to the school days missed centered around vacations, breaks, Oaks Day, hunting season days, Kentucky State Fair, and testing days. He would like the OEA to identify specific clusters that may be widely abused. He also said school districts that had 90 percent of students absent on the same day should be contacted asking for clarification.
Representative Farmer noted that less than ten percent of students are utilizing an EEO day as an absence. He does not agree that the legislation needs to be strengthened. He said it is an administrative error and more training is needed for personnel to classify student absences correctly.
Responding to Representative Belcher, Ms. Seiler said the principal reviews each student request for an EEO day and approves or disapproves on an individual basis. She is not sure if the “take your child to work day” would fall into the acceptable category. It would probably depend on where the parent worked and the appropriate documentation that identified the academic enrichment for the student. Representative Belcher believes the “take your child to work day” is a valuable educational experience that should be excused as an EEO day.
Responding to questions from Representative Graham, Ms. Seiler said students attending the Kentucky State Fair are excused as allowable EEO days. Representative Graham said his school required students to bring ticket stubs to school the next day as proof of their attendance. Ms. Seiler said some elementary schools have large percentages of EEO absences, and it is not just occurring at the high school level.
In response to a question from Senator Winters, Ms. Seiler said OEA has copies of forms for students to complete to submit for EEO day approval. OEA does not have the approved applications with the principal’s signature. Senator Winters would like a summary of what EEO days are being used for.
Ms. Seiler reported to members that the OEA new district data profiles should be ready in August or September 2012.
Approval of Office Education Accountability Reports:
A. “On-Behalf Payments”
B. “Funding Equity”
C. “Career and College Readiness”
Senator McGaha moved to approve the three OEA reports, and Representative Farmer seconded the motion. Motion carried.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 2:00 p.m.