Call to Order and Roll Call
The meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on Tuesday, August 14, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Legislative Guest: Representative Derrick Graham
Guests: Kennedy Turner, Jessica Ender, Tom Ender, Elana Crane, and Karen Ender, Jefferson County Teacher Association (JCTA); Don Meade of Priddy, Cutler, Miller, and Meade, PLLC, representing JCTA; Jim Thompson, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; Erin Klarer, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority; Betty Muntz, Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children; and Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County Public Schools.
Approval of Minutes of June 12 2012 Meeting
Representative Edmonds moved to accept the minutes, and Senator Winters seconded the motion. The motion carried by voice vote.
Review of Administrative Regulations
Representative Belcher moved to adopt the technical amendments to 703 KAR 5:225, and Representative Marzian seconded the motion. The motion carried by voice vote.
Kevin Brown, Associate Commissioner and General Counsel, Ken Draut, Associate Commissioner, Office of Assessment and Accountability, and Susan Allred, Associate Commissioner, Office of Next Generation Schools and Districts, explained administrative regulation 703 KAR 5:225, School District Accountability, Recognition, Support, and Consequences. Mr. Brown said the regulation establishes the statewide system of accountability, recognition, support, and consequences, and addresses waiver requirements of the United States Department of Education relating to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) enacted in 2001.
Mr. Draut said 703 KAR 5:225 will impact all public schools and districts in Kentucky. Upon identification in a specific accountability classification, lower-performing schools and districts will be required to implement school improvement activities, including: conducting needs assessments; developing short and long term plans; increasing parent and community involvement; identifying targeted activities to address performance; and providing teacher assistance teams and training.
Ms. Allred said the labels used to identify schools are reward, priority, and focus. Reward schools are high performing and schools of distinction. Priority schools are current persistently low-achieving schools, and focus schools are underperforming in closing achievement gaps. Progressing schools will need to improve overall scores each year, starting in 2013. The improvement goal is called the Annual Measurable Objective (AMO). If a school meets its AMO, it will be labeled as Progressing, indicating that it is moving in the right direction.
Mr. Draut said a set of aspirational delivery targets for the components of achievement, gap, growth, college and career readiness, and graduation rate will be created for each school. These delivery targets for each component will help schools stay on track to improve overall scores and meet their AMOs. He noted the delivery targets will be reported publicly.
Responding to Senator Westwood’s question regarding goals for schools of high distinction, Mr. Draut said top tier schools will still have goals, but the growth amount will be approximately half of the requirement of lower ranked schools. He noted schools are aiming to improve overall scores, and not just their percentile rank. All schools have room for improvement as it takes many years to reach a 100 percent overall score.
Responding to a question from Representative Belcher, Mr. Draut said the five components of achievement, gap, growth, college and career readiness, and graduation rate are weighted differently for each level of school. The high school weights the components evenly at 20 percent each, the middle school relies less on college and career readiness, and the graduation rate component is not applicable at the elementary school level. He said the weights are explained in detail in administrative regulation 703 KAR 5:200, Next Generation Learner. KDE will provide copies of that regulation to the subcommittee members.
Responding to Representative Belcher’s question about damage to school and teacher morale if student assessment scores are lower from this past year, Mr. Draut said the achievement scores will drop because they are being aligned with the college readiness scale equivalent to the ACT benchmarks. He said all schools are in the same situation in the new accountability system.
Representative Belcher said it is unfortunate that the teachers have worked avidly to help improve student assessment scores, and some may find it hard to accept that scores will be lower. She feels that teachers should be forewarned. Ms. Allred said the assessment scores will be used as a starting point for planning next steps and activities to help students improve. She hopes a positive viewpoint will be maintained with the teachers as the department provides public explanations when scores are released.
Senator Winters moved to adopt technical amendments to 703 KAR 5:070, and Representative Edmonds seconded the motion. The motion carried by voice vote.
Mr. Brown explained 703 KAR 5:070, Special Populations in State-Required Assessment and Accountability Programs. He noted that it establishes procedures for the inclusion of special student populations in the state-required assessment and accountability programs. KDE amended the regulation to update terminology and requirements consistent with KRS 158.6453, KRS 158.6455, the NCLB Act of 2001, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and its federal regulations, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and its federal regulations. Specifically, the amendments update the procedures for accommodations to include: limiting the use of the reader accommodation on reading tests; limiting the use of a calculator on non-calculator portions of state assessments; clarification of procedures for assessing students with Limited English Proficiency; clarification of prompting and cueing to remain on task; adding a 3 x 5 note card under manipulatives; removing the use of student generated glossaries for English language learners; removing outdated terminology; providing a waiver for students with special circumstances; and reorganizing the document incorporated by reference to improve clarity.
Mr. Draut clarified that readers will be allowed in mathematics, science, social studies, and science because those assessments test content knowledge and not reading ability. The reader will be excluded on the reading test only, which is administered once a year to students in Kentucky. The regulation does not have any prohibitions on use or non-use of a reader in the instructional classroom on a day-to-day basis.
Mr. Draut said the new assessment test is based on the common core standards in reading and mathematics. The reading assessment contains decoding and comprehension measurements. He explained decoding is a term for reading the symbols transcribed on paper. The problem with students utilizing a reader on the reading assessment is that it is in conflict with the goal of measuring student proficiency in decoding.
Mr. Draut said 41 out of 50 states do not allow students with disabilities to use a reader. The other nine states allow a limited use of a reader. He noted Kentucky’s high exclusion rate of student with disabilities on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment. Kentucky has the second highest number of students in the country excluded from taking the NAEP in both the fourth and eighth grades. He added that the NAEP is the federal government’s test that measures educational progress. It does not allow the use of a reader, but it permits states that allow readers to exclude those students from the test.
Mr. Draut said Maryland, Massachusetts, and South Carolina have a waiver system for students with disabilities who require special accommodations on assessments. The ACT also utilizes a waiver system for students with disabilities. Students are approved or disapproved for special testing accommodations based on meeting specific criteria. He noted the national testing consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), to which Kentucky belongs, is considering the waiver process.
Mr. Draut said Kentucky has written a waiver process in 703 KAR 5:070 that would allow schools to apply for a reader for the reading assessment. He said KDE would approve or disapprove the waivers.
Mr. Draut said the Kentucky mathematics assessment, in coordination with the common core standards, measures two types of mathematical abilities. The assessment includes problem-solving and applying to mathematical concepts, and completing computation problems. Kentucky will no longer allow students with disabilities to utilize a calculator on the computation portion of the mathematics assessment.
Responding to Senators Westwood’s question, Mr. Draut said the administrative regulation does not include language for a waiver for use of a calculator on the mathematics assessment for the computation portion. In response to Senator McGaha, he noted that other nine states do not allow waivers for calculators on that part of the test.
Responding to Senator McGaha’s question about students comprehending information without being able to decode it, Mr. Draut said comprehension can be measured on its own by someone reading the passage to the student. He said it is difficult to measure decoding on its own unless it is a one-on-one test where the students read orally to the test administrator. He said this is not an option for Kentucky. Senator McGaha said he is aware that some students can read a passage and not comprehend what they have read, and others struggle to read the passage but can explain it fluently.
Responding to Senator McGaha’s question about the waiver system, Mr. Draut said three of the nine states that allow limited readers have the waiver system, and the other six have criteria, such as allowing readers to read the test instructions but not the passage.
Johnny Collette, Director, Division of Learning Services, Office of Next Generation Learners, KDE, explained the proposed waiver process in the administrative regulation. He said for students with a documented disability who, due to the severity of their disability, are unable to access the reading assessment without the use of a reader, the district may apply to KDE for a waiver to use the read aloud accommodation not otherwise permitted in the administrative regulation.
Mr. Collette said the procedure is intended for use by a very small number of students who are not eligible for participation in the alternate K-PREP, are functioning significantly below their peers academically, and have demonstrated, even after varied and repeated attempts to teach the skills, that they are unable to access the reading assessment without the use of the reader. The criteria for determining the use of a reader should not be solely dependent upon the student’s grade level performance or his or her cognitive ability. There should be documentation over time that, with intervention and effective instruction, the student continues to be unable to access the reading assessment without the use of a reader.
Mr. Collette said KDE will monitor and report to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) the rates of requests to utilize the read aloud accommodation not otherwise permitted in the regulation.
Responding to Senator McGaha’s question regarding who approves the waiver, Mr. Collette said it will be a team effort across KDE offices.
Responding to Senator McGaha, Mr. Brown noted the administrative regulation would go into effect in the spring of 2013. He said language was previously recommended for incorporation in the students’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to allow flexibility in the IEP if state assessment changes are implemented. Because of the bridge language, a specially called IEP meeting would not be needed.
Responding to Senator McGaha’s question, Mr. Draut said the changes in the administrative regulation will affect end-of-course testing. Senator McGaha is concerned this change will negatively impact older students who have relied on the reader accommodations for many years. Mr. Collette responded that the waiver process should identify this type of student. He also said that KDE will consider carefully the recommendation of the district. The school personnel know the student and his or abilities much better than the staff at KDE. Senator Winters wants the student’s IEP team heavily involved in the waiver process.
Responding to Senator Winters question about how much reading is required on an English end-of-course exam, Mr. Draut said the English II end-of-course exam relies on a significant amount of reading. He noted the federal Department of Education requires states to designate the grade at which a high school reading test will be administered. Mr. Draut said sophomores and juniors are required to complete a writing exam, which measures the ability of a student to write. Senator Winters said that students can lose ground on comprehension trying to concentrate on the decoding of words.
Responding to a question from Representative Belcher, Mr. Draut said he does not have the data on how the students perform on assessments in the 41 states that have banned the reader. He will provide the information, as well as the data on how successful the three states have been that utilize the waiver program. Representative Belcher said it is important to look at the data and see if there were improvements in those states. She emphasized that KDE does not know the students in the same manner as the school districts.
Mr. Collette responded that KDE has the responsibility to improve educational results and functional outcomes. In order to fulfill its role, KDE needs accurate data on what these special needs students really know in order to improve results.
Responding to a question from Representative Belcher, Mr. Brown said each school district will develop each student request. Mr. Collette said the details are still being worked out on the waiver process regarding criteria for approval. Representative Belcher stated that KDE should wait a year before implementing the changes proposed in the administrative regulation. She said the extended timeframe would allow teachers and parents the time to prepare for the change. She also said KDE needs to have all the details worked out before statewide implementation.
Responding to Representative Farmer’s question regarding the purpose of the functional math test without the calculator, Mr. Draut said that without the calculator it is a computation test. He noted the common core standards require the computation to be performed mentally, but students will be provided with scratch paper.
Responding to Representative Farmer, Mr. Collette said the waivers must be received at least four weeks in advance of testing, but there is nothing prohibiting the district from submitting it earlier. He said a specific criteria evaluation system will ensure waivers are approved or disapproved in a uniform and consistent pattern. He also said that the public has been updated on the status of the administrative regulation, but detailed training has not occurred because the administrative regulation has not gone into effect.
Representative Marzian said it is alarming to implement a policy this school year that does not have the details finalized. Responding to her question regarding the subcommittee possibly finding the administrative regulation deficient, Mr. Brown said it can still go into effect if the Governor signs it into law.
Representative Marzian would like to see the data on the school systems that have implemented the waiver system. Senator Westwood concurred that the data would be useful for members to review prior to the administrative regulation being referred to the Interim Joint Committee on Education (IJCE).
Don Meade, attorney representing the Jefferson County Teacher Association (JCTA), said he is opposed to the implementation of 703 KAR 5:070. He said the students’ rights are being violated because they have trained for the test using the accommodations. He said it is bad policy for the state to determine which students need to use accommodations and which ones do not. He noted removal of the accommodations will result in the student test scores dramatically dropping, and this will reflect negatively on the school.
Mr. Meade said there has been no collaboration or buy-in from the communities or advocacy groups for children with disabilities. He said it is a top down, heavy handed, state mandate that is ill timed and ill conceived.
Kennedy Turner, Exceptional Childhood Education (ECE) teacher, and Caucus Chair for the JCTA, representing about 300 ECE teachers. She said there is a petition against the regulation with over 800 signatures. The group has asked KDE for any research-based evidence which supports the argument that removing the accommodations is beneficial for children. She said Kentucky is known for being a leader in education and thinks KDE should review the data from other states who have removed the accommodations. If the data proves removal of the accommodations is particularly harmful to students with disabilities, as she believes, then Kentucky should go against the status quo. She said teachers need better training on the exact requirements necessary to qualify students for readers. She concluded that research shows Kentucky students who have the reader accommodation still score far below their peers who do not have a reader provided on the test.
Jessica Ender, ECE teacher, testified against 703 KAR 5:070. She gave personal accounts of some of her students and their success stories. She urged Kentucky to remain a leader in education.
Betty Muntz, Executive Secretary, Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children, said she provided comments at the public hearing meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) against 703 KAR 5:070. She noted several technical changes were made as a result, but all of her concerns have not been met.
Ms. Muntz said most states that have removed the special accommodations from students with disabilities have transferred the students from the diploma program into an alternative or differentiated diploma program. She agreed with Kentucky’s decision to keep students on track to receive a high school diploma for employment purposes. She noted 38.8 percent of Kentucky students have a reader. This percentage includes the most severe cognitively disabled children on track to receive a certificate, and not a high school diploma.
Ms. Muntz said her main concern is whether students in tenth grade, who are already using accommodations outlined in their IEPs, can be suddenly forced to take end-of-course assessments without the accommodations, thus leading to a failed grade. She said it is discriminatory to the tenth grade students to not allow the use of accommodations for the English assessment and the non-calculator portion of the math assessment.
Ms. Muntz said she is concerned with the legal issues of making the changes outlined in the administrative regulation because the school year has started. IEPs have been written for this year under current regulations. She noted it would take many months to train educators to prepare students for this drastic change in test taking, and details are not finalized. Parents also need to be informed in case there is a need for a new IEP meeting, which will be an enormously time consuming process. She added that most administrative regulations that are approved after a school year has begun are implemented the following school year, which would be the 2013-2014 school year for this regulation.
Ms. Muntz concluded that the waiver process is too restrictive and laden with paperwork in a field convoluted with red tape. She said the waiver process is intended to be used for a small number of students as KDE has stated in the summary of the regulation. She feels Kentucky should not take any steps to lower the 78 percent graduation rate. Students with disabilities are easily frustrated and may drop out of school if coursework becomes unmanageable.
Senator Westwood said the Governor has the ability to withdraw or move ahead with the administrative regulation regardless of whether the subcommittee finds it deficient. He read the reasons to find an administrative regulation deficient to the members.
Representative Graham said teachers become frustrated with changes that have immediate impact. In response to his question, Mr. Collette said a team of KDE staff would approve or disapprove the waivers.
Responding to Representative Belcher, Mr. Collette said the educational cooperatives are in support of the administrative regulation. He said it is imperative to identify exactly what the students with disabilities know in order to target resources to help improve their educational bottom line results.
Mr. Collette said there is no appeal process in place for the waiver system. Representative Belcher said there are too many unknowns and questioned the decision to allow KDE to overrule Kentucky’s school districts. She emphasized the need to see the data of other states using the waiver process before implementing in Kentucky.
Senator Westwood told KDE that the subcommittee is formally requesting data from the other states using the waiver program to review the results. Representative Farmer made the motion to find administrative regulation 703 KAR 5:070 deficient based on the category of “other,” and Representative Marzian seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously by voice vote. Senator Westwood said he hopes this sends a clear message to the IJCE that the regulation has problems.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 3:15 p.m.