Thethird meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, September 13, 2004, at 10:00 AM, in the Jessamine County Early Learning Village. Representative Frank Rasche, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Lindy Casebier, Co-Chair; Representative Frank Rasche, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins, Brett Guthrie, Alice Kerr, Vernie McGaha, Dan Seum, Gary Tapp, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Mike Cherry, Jon Draud, C.B. Embry Jr, Bill Farmer, Derrick Graham, Mary Harper, Mary Lou Marzian, Charles Miller, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Kathy Stein, Jim Thompson, and Charles Walton.
Guests: Gene Wilhoit, Kevin Noland, Linda France, and Bonnie Brinly, Kentucky Department of Education; Kristy Taylor-Standifer, Education Professional Standards Board; and Carl Rollins, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
LRC Staff: Audrey Carr, Jonathan Lowe, Janet Stevens, Sandy Deaton, and Lisa Moore.
Representative Rasche introduced Ms. Lu Young, Superintendent, Jessamine County Schools, who introduced Mr. Owen Saylor, Assistant Superintendent, Ms. Felicia Rhorer, Instructional Supervisor, Mr. Richard Williams, Curriculum Coordinator, Mr. Matt Moore, Director of Special Education, and Ms. Kelly Sampson, Principal, Jessamine Early Learning Village (JELV). Ms. Young said Jessamine County Schools has a vision of meeting the needs of every student every day. The real measure of performance is how well a school is meeting the academic needs of each student within it.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County has some flaws. Preliminary results show that the school district has not met the No Child Left Behind goals in Jessamine County. She said specifically Jessamine County did not meet annual measurable objectives in reading or math among the students with disabilities. She said the good news is the JELV is finishing its fourth year, and Ms. Sampson's students will be tested in the 2004-2005 school year.
Ms. Young said there is some concern about reading and math test scores among the students who receive free and reduced lunch services. There is also concern among reading and math scores in the African American sub-population group. Jessamine County only has an eight percent population of African American students in any school. Ms. Young looks forward to the challenge of helping these few students of color in a unique school setting.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County is struggling with poor attendance rates. Attendance has been on the decline, and she does not know the reason for this. She believes Jessamine County is in the top seven districts in Kentucky with mobility, a lot of students transfer in and out of the school system. Ms. Young said the poor attendance rates contribute to the low test scores in the county. She wants students in attendance every day that they are well and able to be there.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County has also been known as a lighthouse district in providing special education services to students. She said they are very proud of this, and it attracts special education students to the county. More than 80 students in special education moved into the Jessamine County school district last year, and many of those antidotally report that they did so because they heard how good the services were. Ms. Young said there are 1,190 students with special needs in the district, which is preschool through 12th grade. This is approximately 17 percent of the student population, and is considerably higher than a state average of 12 to 14 percent.
Ms. Young said the JELV was a concept of former superintendent Linda France, now Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education, and Ms. Sampson. She said it is a model site, and they have many visitors each year. Ms. Young said these programs do come at a cost. They are important programs, but the JELV cost about $2.5 million to operate last year. The district provided $1,771,126, and private grants paid for $757,951 for a total of $2,529,077. She said this is a hefty cost per child, but Jessamine County feels it is worth it.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County is a growing district, and enrolls about an additional 100 students each year. She said full-day kindergarten would be really tough for the school district from a facilities standpoint.
Ms. Young discussed the Providence School in Jessamine County. It is an alternative school that meets the needs of 225 students in grades five through twelve in an alternative educational setting. She said the Providence School produced 36 high school graduates last year along with 41 General Education Development (GED) recipients. The Providence School cost $1.2 million last year to operate. The district provided $971,321, and private grants paid $265,544 for a total operating cost of $1,236,865.
Ms. Young said there is a night school program available for students who have been expelled, or students who require alternative educational settings. She said the school served 46 students last year, and the total cost was $48,000, of which $18,000 was funded through extended school services.
Ms. Young said Asbury College is a partner in the "College Connection" endeavor. This is for 18-21 year old students that are functionally mentally disabled who are able to function as adults in society, and in a setting where there are other 18-21 year olds. She said students spend one-third of the day in a work program, one-third of the day actually attending college courses, and one-third of the day in extracurricular activities. Ms. Young said six students completed the entire program last year. The district paid $80,000 for the "College Connection" last year, and grants paid for $3,000 for a total of $83,000.
Ms. Young discussed the new Workforce Investment Act, which will put students into the workplace. There is Pathway to Careers, funded through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, and tech prep initiatives, including a brand new Cisco technology program. She said there is a community based work transition grant, and more than 80 local businesses support the program for students with special needs that work on a regular basis in the community, and acquire those important job skills needed when the students leave the schools.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County needs to work on increasing career and technical opportunities for middle school students. She said 12, 13, and 14 year olds need something tangible to hang their hats on. She said the in-school GED program needs to be implemented, and she assured that she would be a good steward of that program and not ever allow that program to be a place where students are thrown away. She said it will be a program that meets the needs of a very few students who need some hope.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County needs a day treatment program. She said the Cabinet for Families and Children are closing, rather than opening, more programs around the state. She said this is tough because occasionally a student emerges that has a significant mental illness that requires the need for the student to be away from the home.
Ms. Young discussed obtaining enough certified educators in the classroom. She said last year the school district had 16 emergency probationary special education teachers, and this year there are only 12. She said they are providing tremendous support to these 12 teachers. Ms. Young said Jessamine County has one of 14 Parent Resource Centers in the state. This is a great place where the parents of a special needs student can go and just communicate with other parents in the same situation.
Ms. Young said Jessamine County has been a participant in the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) online for the past two years. She said the assistive technology program has developed great teaching tools called "Buckets of Literacy" that have proved to be very successful in the classroom.
Sen. Westwood is concerned about the in-school implementation of the GED program. He asked Ms. Young if superintendents already had the ability to offer a GED as a waiver to students without House Bill 178. Ms. Young said yes, superintendents could deem a student eligible for a waiver under certain circumstances and allow him/her to participate in the GED program in the regular school day. She said in those cases, the students had to leave school entirely. The hope is now, to continue to offer vocational education training. For example, a student can work on diesel mechanics for a half-day, and the GED a half-day.
Senator Westwood said that he has grave concerns about Kentucky developing a two tier layer of education - one tier for high performing students and one tier for low performing students. He was concerned about students who opted to enroll in the in-school GED program not having to complete the CATS testing. Ms. Young said the draft regulation for the in-house GED program specifically requires those students to sit for CATS testing. She said the GED in-house program is a viable option for students with no hope that will possibly lead to postsecondary training, military service, or a better position in the workforce.
Representative Walton said Boone County and Jessamine County probably have similarities in growth issues, transient population, percentage of special education needs, and Hispanic population rates. He asked Ms. Young what Jessamine County's total student enrollment was. Ms. Young said Jessamine County has just under 7,000 students enrolled in preschool through 12th grade. Representative Walton asked Ms. Young if she felt that the state funding formula allowed her the ability to build facilities to meet the needs of the growth within the district. Ms. Young said no, but the district did take advantage of the growth nickel. She said Jessamine County set aside the money, and she believes they have one of the highest bonding potentials of any district in Kentucky, which is about $35 million.
Representative Walton said one of Jessamine County's goals is to implement full-day kindergarten. He said a big issue with this topic is not funding the staffing, but finding adequate space for the program. He asked how many schools were in Jessamine County. Ms. Young said there was the JELV, plus five first through fifth grade elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and the Providence School.
Ms. Young said there are 81 students in the district who are identified as limited English proficient. She said this is a widely fluctuating population for Jessamine County, with over half of those students being Hispanic. Representative Walton said he has 68 Hispanic students just in his school of 600 students.
Representative Walton said the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) established a funding formula in 1992 to address a variety of issues. In the past twelve or so years, a number of those factors have changed in relationship to growth, Hispanic population, transient population, and full-day kindergarten. He said when districts have a very good special education program there are many students who want to take advantage of those services. He feels the General Assembly should look closely at this population of students within a district. Ms. Young said her district has 1,200 special education students, and at least 250 will change schools at least once. She embraces the students, and would never want to change the percentage of the special education students within the district. Ms. Young said the challenge is meeting the needs of the special education children. She noted that a district can receive additional Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky funds based on identification of the children in the December 1 child count. She said there are 71 special education students today in Jessamine County that did not show up on the December 1 child count. Ms. Young said this is a logistical challenge for districts. Ms. Young also noted that full-day kindergarten would create a great hardship within her district because there are not adequate facilities in place to house the students.
Representative Walton said when the Kentucky Education Reform Act was funded in the early 1990's, 48 percent of the funds received were earmarked for education, and it has now been reduced to about 41 percent, which amounts to $400 million less. He said the Education Committee members need to realize that $400 million was removed from the budget for education, yet we ask the school systems across the state to address all of these extra needs with fewer dollars.
Representative Miller discussed the special education teachers and their certifications. Ms. Young said Jessamine County's 12 special education teachers are certified under three different programs offered by the Education Professional Standards Board. This enables the teachers to be counted as certified teachers, although some would not be counted under the federal highly qualified teacher status. Representative Miller said many schools across the state are experiencing problems with the No Child Left Behind program because of a shortage of teachers. He said he does not understand why the state requires some districts to have these teachers certified, and others do not. Ms. Young said Jessamine County makes the selection of special education teachers first among first certified teachers, and then emergency eligible certified people, and she provides them with lots of support.
Senator McGaha said it was refreshing to hear Ms. Young speak about her school district with such candor. He asked Ms. Young what the qualifiers were for a student to attend the Providence School. Ms. Young said there are three ways for children to get accepted into the Providence School. They are: 1) use a committee approach to determine a student who is being less successful in the regular school environment and would benefit from the small teacher to student ratios; 2) students who are behind on credits or at least one grade behind in middle school; and 3) a program strand for students with behavior that has prohibited them from doing well in the regular school. Senator McGaha just wanted members to be aware that all students enrolled in the Providence School were not there because of bad behavior. Ms. Young noted there is a waiting list for the program. Senator McGaha asked the location of the Providence School. Ms. Young said she and Ms. France were able to buy at auction a facility that had been a Computrex company, and it has been converted into a beautiful school.
Representative Stein commented that she used to live in Jessamine County, and in 1996 helped to begin the Jessamine County Educational Foundation. She asked Ms. Young if the foundation was still existent and contributing to the public school system. Ms. Young said it was, and she was a board member. The endowment has grown only slightly, but that is good news because it has been given out on an annual basis - $71,000 over the past five years for grant projects in the schools. Representative Stein said she is working on starting the public/private effort in Fayette County.
Representative Rasche introduced Representative Damron who is not a member of the committee, but a member of the community. Representative Damron made comments to the committee about the wonderful staff and programs in place in Jessamine County.
Representative Graham asked about assessment for the Providence School. Ms. Young said the Providence School qualifies as an A5 school, and each middle and high school student is assigned back to their sending school for the purpose of reporting the CATS results. The only exception is the Providence School drop-out rate and attendance rate is separate, following a model in Jefferson County.
Ms. Kelly Sampson, JELV Principal, introduced members of her staff. A short video was shown about JELV. She said present enrollment at JELV is 667 students. 182 children are enrolled in the preschool program with approximately 25 more children transitioning in over the next three months. 510 are enrolled in the kindergarten programs. Approximately 5 percent of all children are minority.
Ms. Sampson said during the 2003-2004 school year, 53 percent of the children enrolled at the Village are served through the special education program. During the 2003-2004 school year, 24 percent of the children enrolled at the Village are served through the special education program. Approximately 56 percent of the children enrolled in the kindergarten program in 2003-2004 received some form of assistance through the Title I program. This included children who received individualized services and children enrolled in the extended day program.
Ms. Sampson gave an overview of the history of the JELV program. An Early Childhood Focus Group was created in December of 1998. Membership included teachers, other educators, community members and parents. Input was needed from a variety of sources with a variety of perspectives in order to allow everyone to feel that their voice had been heard. The group met monthly for 24 months. Brain research was considered during the process.
Ms. Sampson said upon analyzing the results of the focus group's self-study, several issues were identified that needed attention. 1) Preschool and kindergarten teachers indicated that they were not receiving professional development that enhanced their growth as early childhood specialists; 2) Parents and teachers expressed concern regarding assessment in the elementary schools; 3) Little or no opportunity was provided for preschool and kindergarten students to receive arts and humanities classes; 4) Curriculum and student achievement were addressed, finding that even kindergartens within the same building were often using entirely different programs and various curriculums; 5) Preschool staff indicated that although family nights are a required activity according to the KERA preschool guidelines, it was challenging to have them monthly in the elementary buildings; and 6) Family style meals, another KERA preschool guideline, was also a challenge.
Ms. Sampson said the focus group prioritized what was necessary to deliver the highest quality education to young children. The conclusion indicated the need for a building dedicated and focused on young children. The group developed six beliefs based on the research, and developed the JELV around those beliefs. They were: 1) Involved parents will result in higher achieving students; 2) All children can learn and JELV will make it happen; 3) Early childhood education is foundational to each child's entire education; 4) JELV will require high expectations for all students; 5) Arts and humanities are very important to the overall development of students; and 6) JELV must be the most inviting place in town to students, families, and the community. A short video was shown to members of the committee demonstrating the beliefs in action.
Ms. Sampson introduced Ms. Andrea Nielson, preschool instructor, who gave a presentation on assessment and curriculum. Ms. Nielson said children enrolled in the preschool program at JELV qualify by either having a need, or a certain socio-economic background. Some students pay tuition to attend. She said because of the growing number of students attending JELV, teachers are having to develop their own base of knowledge of best practices. JELV partnered with the University of Kentucky two years ago on a research project known as "Project Play." The project allowed the JELV staff to learn different ways of assessing children, additional ways to collect data, how to embed skills into a daily routine, and how to enhance a child's Individual Education Plan (IEP). JELV staff implemented all the new ideas into day-to-day practices.
Ms. Neilson said the preschool program at JELV has its own assessment that allows teachers to access children in a variety of areas from adaptive skills to communication, and from cognitive to motor skills. She said the assessment is aligned with the new early childhood standards, and allow children's growth to be based on their individual successes, and not knowledge gained in comparison to other children.
Ms. Neilson said JELV preschool wanted a curriculum that was activity based. They use a curriculum called "Read, Play and Learn." The instructional framework includes activities to encourage development of skills in the areas of math, early literacy, fine and gross motor, writing, oral expression, etc. With the curriculum being designed for use as transdiciplinary teams, planning, individualization, and collaboration are recommended for successful implementation.
Ms. Sampson introduced Denise Hopkins, curriculum instructor, who presented a segment about successful transitions of students from preschool to kindergarten. She said part of the successful transition is due to the continuation of use of best practices in early childhood education. She said they also use research-based best practices.
Ms. Hopkins said brain research has shown the more a student is involved in his/her learning, or the more movement and motion involved, the more likely the student is to learn. She said literacy is the primary focus at the Village. Many students start in kindergarten with no preschool experience and little exposure to books. Ms. Hopkins said the goal at JELV is to have children leaving the Village with a good foundation of pre-literacy skills. She said kindergarten students are assessed three times a year on literacy skills. She said 52 percent of students at the beginning of kindergarten last school year scored in the low range on the "Early Literacy Assessment" (ELA), and 74 percent were scoring in the high range of the ELA by the end of the school year, with only six percent of students still scoring in the low range. Ms. Hopkins also commented that some students who need additional help are allowed to stay in kindergarten all day instead of a half-day. She said the children who attend all day make better gains in reading than the half-day kindergarten students.
Ms. Hopkins said that differentiation is one way JELV staff help each student to learn. Activities and curriculum are individually planned for each student. She said JELV also provides many support systems for its students. Some services to children include: 1) Participating in reading groups with Title I teachers; 2) One-on-one instruction or take home packets for students to work on with their families; 3) Support team in place made up of an early childhood guidance specialist, school psychologist, curriculum resource teachers, special educators, speech pathologist, and the classroom teacher; 4) Special support services for special education students; and 5) Use of technology in the classroom for all students.
Ms. Sampson introduced Mr. Gerald Abner and Ms. Judy Owens, both with the district Assistive Technology Department. Mr. Abner said assistive technology is for children who cannot communicate nor grasp the learning environment. He discussed communication devices that help children talk or communicate through technology. Ms. Owens said there are lots of pictures and symbols posted throughout the school. This is designed to help students who may have autism.
Ms. Owens said they created "Buckets of Literacy" to assist teachers in developing literacy skills for all students. The buckets allow teachers to pick up a five gallon bucket containing a complete literacy unit and paint their rooms with literacy, meeting the diverse needs of all of their students.
Ms. Owens said another important aspect of assistive technology is helping students make smooth transitions from one classroom to another, or to another building. It is their role to follow students during these transitions to ensure the appropriate technology and devises are implemented, and teacher training support is given.
Mr. Abner said assistive technology is an invaluable tool to assist in student learning and successful transitions. He said due to funding limits, it is hard to stay current with the new and emerging technologies.
Mr. Abner introduced Bethany Barker, Technology Resource Trainer, in charge of the research-based inquiry project paid for through a federal grant. Ms. Barker moderated a parent panel for the committee members.
Ms. Barker said the parents represent students who are in the fourth grade and have been at the Village since the first year it opened. Ms. Barker said representatives from Asbury College and the University of Kentucky were also in attendance to talk with members.
The parent panel discussed such issues as the JELV's home visits by staff, family fun nights, hands-on teaching, and teaching special needs children through the "First Steps" transition program.
Representative Rasche asked if there were questions on the administrative regulations. Minutes and the administrative regulations were skipped over due to the committee not having a quorum.
Representative Marzian said she would love to see universal full-day kindergarten implemented for Kentucky's children. She mentioned that raising the cigarette tax would be a good way to obtain additional funding for education programs. She said legislators need to be responsible and pass revenue and pass a budget.
Representative Rasche invited the members to eat lunch with the staff at JELV, and then tour the school following lunch.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 12:35 PM.