Call to Order and Roll Call
The meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on Monday, October 21, 2013, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Rita Smart, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Legislative Guest: Representative Derrick Graham.
Guests: Erin Klarer, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority; Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County Public Schools and Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Marti White, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents; and Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Approval of Minutes, September 12, 2013 Meeting
Representative Marzian moved to approve the minutes, and Senator Wilson seconded the motion. The minutes were approved by voice vote.
Office of Education Accountability Study Report – Compendium of State Education Rankings 2013
Brenda Landy, Research Analyst, Office of Education Accountability (OEA), said every two years, OEA produces the state rankings compendium which compares Kentucky’s education indicators to those of the nation and selected peer states. This report is a companion to the Kentucky district data profiles report, which was presented in September.
Ms. Landy said ranks in the compendium are based on all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but to make the compendium easier to use, the tables in the handouts focus on the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states and other states that border Kentucky. She said national averages are also reported.
Ms. Landy said many rankings in the compendium are based on data reported by all states to the United States Department of Education. To ensure comparability, states are given guidelines on defining and reporting data, but the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) does not follow the guidelines in at least a couple of areas.
Ms. Landy said Kentucky continues to have more children living in poverty than most other states. The economic downturn has made income-related measures worse throughout the country. Kentucky’s ranking relative to other states has not changed much because the whole country is affected; however, Kentucky’s child poverty rate rose from 16 percent in 1999 to 27 percent in 2011.
Ms. Landy said Kentucky’s percentage of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is higher than the national percentage. Differences among states reflect not only a different prevalence of disabilities but also different policies and identification practices. For this reason, Kentucky’s disability identification process should continue to be monitored.
Ms. Landy said Advanced Placement (AP) exams allow students in grades 10 through 12 to study college-level material and then demonstrate what they have learned. Most colleges and universities consider AP exam results when deciding which students to admit. Students passing AP exams may also earn college credits or be allowed to enroll in higher-level college courses.
Ms. Landy said initiatives like Advance Kentucky provide considerable support and incentives to boost the number of AP exams students attempt and pass. Kentucky continues to have increases in the percentages of students attempting and passing AP exams. Students attempting exams more than doubled, from 13 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2011. Similarly, the percentage of students passing exams doubled.
Ms. Landy said Kentucky’s average district size is larger than the national average, but the average school is smaller. Kentucky’s smaller school size is probably due to being in a rural area relative to other states.
Ms. Landy said Kentucky ranked 35th in per-pupil revenues, but states do not always define and measure things the same way. Kentucky’s revenues are understated, and Kentucky omits at least two types of funds when reporting revenues to the United States Department of Education. The first is activity funds, which are collected to support such activities as sports teams, bands, and student government. In 2010, these funds totaled about $184 million. The second type of funds omitted is payments from the School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC), which totaled about $102 million. The KDE hopes to correct the omission of SFCC funds by the time data are reported for 2013. Even if activity and SFCC funds were included in the revenues, it is estimated that Kentucky would still be below the national average, just not as far below. It is also unknown what other states might be doing to over-state or under-state their numbers.
Ms. Landy concluded that the compendium is meant to give policymakers a quick reference tool for comparing Kentucky’s education indicators to those of the nation and selected peer states. OEA welcomes feedback on the compendium format and content.
Responding to a question from Representative Jenkins regarding student IEPs, Ms. Landy said the numbers being reported in the handouts are the number of students who have IEPs. She will investigate to see if the there is a problem in Kentucky with students being placed on waiting lists to receive an IEP. Ms. Marcia Seiler, Acting Director of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC), and OEA Director, said the full report of the compendium contains data points that show how IEP information was collected.
Responding to questions from Representative Graham, Ms. Seiler said an Admission and Release Committee (ARC) determines student needs and data are reported to the federal government.
Ms. Landy said if Kentucky reported the school activity and SFCC funding as per-pupil revenue it might only change its ranking by one spot. She said there may be other things not identified that are not being counted in the revenue. Each state’s Department of Education determines what to include, while following general guidelines from the federal government.
Responding to a question from Senator Wilson regarding reporting data after 2011, Ms. Landy said the United States Department of Education’s timetable is followed in order to compare all states on the same measures. She will find out the current funding per pupil and inform committee members. Ms. Seiler said much of the information will be included in the district profiles report due any time.
Representative Smart said her constituents continue experiencing problems with the managed care companies not approving services given by providers of special needs students. She is working with the cabinet to get some of the issues resolved.
Office of Education Accountability Study Report – Performance Based Credits
Ms. Landy said policymakers express concern that traditional classrooms do not meet the needs of all students. Students do not all learn at the same pace and this philosophy is the basic idea behind performance-based credit. Performance based-credit allows more time to students who need it and lets faster learners move ahead as soon as they become proficient. In Kentucky, districts were given the option to award performance-based credit seven years ago. OEA investigated how widespread it is used, and how it is implemented.
Ms. Landy said there were some major findings: (1) performance-based credit takes many forms and may be used for many different goals; (2) some policy issues need further examination, such as the impact of special attendance on the rules regarding allocations of state funds to districts; (3) Kentucky’s student information system is not fully capturing how performance-based credit is being implemented around the state; (4) based on the data, it appears to be rarely used compared to traditional ways of awarding credit; (5) like any change, performance-based credit seems to have both benefits and challenges; and (6) it will be difficult to confirm all of the actual benefits and challenges until better data is collected.
Ms. Landy noted any change, even helpful ones, to a large and complex system like education is bound to cause headaches, and implementing performance-based credit is no exception. Monitoring performance-based credit is difficult because not everyone understands how to define it and accurately record data.
Ms. Landy said the student information system is not well-suited to tracking self-paced student progress. Teachers can enter grades into the system only for a pre-established time span. In a self-paced course, some students might be behind or ahead of that time span and teachers have to use file folders and paper grade books instead of the electronic grade book.
Ms. Landy said in traditional courses, teachers create documents to set expectations and manage time, but they do not necessarily share these with students and do not have to prepare in detail far in advance. However, students working at their own pace need detailed written and pre-recorded instructions prepared as far in advance as the fastest student in the class.
Ms. Landy said not all teachers are comfortable with performance-based courses, and not all students can handle more responsibility for their own learning. This is not surprising as there are no one-size-fits all approaches to teaching and learning.
Ms. Landy said the report mentions there are no robust scientific evaluations comparing the effectiveness of performance-based approaches to time-based approaches. The report describes what such an evaluation would entail.
Ms. Landy said there are a number of benefits mentioned in the literature and by the Kentucky students, teachers, and administrators who were interviewed. Some say that students allowed to move at their own pace are more engaged and productive. Faster students do not have to wait for others to catch up, and do not have to hear repeated explanations of concepts they already understand. This can also free up more time for teachers to help struggling students. She said parents can get involved by watching pre-recorded lessons with their children and helping with homework.
Ms. Landy said self-paced learning is sometimes used for what is called credit recovery, to prevent dropouts. When students fall behind in credits because of failing grades or other circumstances, they can be tempted to drop out. If allowed to make up those credits at their own pace, they can catch up faster than in traditional courses, and be more likely to stay in school.
Ms. Landy said when students can complete high school graduation requirements more quickly, they can get an earlier start on earning postsecondary credits or getting work experience with internships or other work-based learning.
Ms. Landy said the report contains two recommendations: (1) to ensure correct implementation and monitoring of outcomes, the KDE and the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) should provide clear definitions and implementation rules for performance-based credit. They should consider the impact on funding and other factors, and should distribute information widely within KDE and to all districts and schools; and (2) while the student information system contains an indicator for performance-based credit, OEA found inconsistent use of this indicator and related data points about attendance, teaching methods, and instructional settings. Therefore, KDE should provide more guidance to ensure that the data have a uniform meaning across districts. She said this would be a necessary step before anything definitive could be said about the impact of performance-based credit.
Responding to a question from Senator Wilson regarding restrictions on performance-based credits counting towards a diploma, Ms. Landy said the regulation has very few restrictions, but does require that districts have detailed policies in place. She said most students only take a few performance-based credit courses at a time.
Responding to Senator Wilson about alternate funding for students seeking performance-based credit, Ms. Landy said the KBE has discussed this and made changes to the attendance regulation. She said it is always a good idea to see how things are working and if they need to be fine tuned.
Responding to questions from Representative Smart regarding GED and at-risk students, or dropouts, Ms. Landy said KDE is working on updating the coding system to capture this information. She said the OEA did not study the change in the dropout rate in depth, but will get this information.
Responding to Representative Smart regarding implementation of the study recommendations, Ms. Seiler said the KDE was fine with moving forward with the recommendations.
Responding to a question from Representative Graham, Ms. Landy said more students are using performance-based credits for credit than just wanting to take a course early to get ahead. Ms. Seiler noted that recordkeeping is inconsistent across districts. She said Infinite Campus is a wonderful tool for collection and comparison of data, but it is only as useful as the data input.
Responding to a question from Representative Smart regarding the impact on attendance for funding purposes due to a lack of coding, Ms. Landy said dual credit courses are now taught in high schools versus students leaving the building making attendance easier to track. Ms. Seiler said this goes back to the recommendation of needing more consistent definitions and rules and ensuring everyone understands them.
Responding to a question from Senator Neal, Ms. Landy said the written data standards are not always followed. She said there is not a complete system of validation. It is an enormous system with millions of records and tens of thousands of data points, and KDE has insufficient funds to set up a complete auditing system, which requires personnel and updated technology.
Kevin Brown, General Counsel, KDE, said KDE is working with Infinite Campus to work out the issues. He noted data input is the biggest problem and there is a need for additional funding for training. He said Infinite Campus is a work in progress and any change made costs the school districts additional money.
Responding to Representative Graham, Mr. Brown said KDE has a multi-year contract with Infinite Campus and is not sure of the exact end date. He noted the software and hardware costs are significant and continual with the system.
Representative Marzian motioned to accept the “Performance Based Credits” report and Senator Neal seconded the motion. Motion approved by voice vote.
Representative Marzian motioned to accept the “Compendium of State Education Rankings 2013” report and Senator Wilson seconded the motion. Motion approved by voice vote.
Assessment Results of Kentucky’s Priority Schools
Representative Smart delayed the KDE report until the November meeting.
Representative Smart gave OEA three suggestions for the 2014 study agenda topics: (1) an atlas of education data, including overlays of maps; (2) education revenues and spending and staffing trends over last 10 years; and (3) college and career readiness.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m.