Thefirst meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, June 12, 2006, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Ken Winters, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Ken Winters, Co-Chair; Representative Frank Rasche, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Brett Guthrie, Alice Forgy Kerr, Vernie McGaha, R.J. Palmer II, Tim Shaughnessy, Gary Tapp, Johnny Ray Turner, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, Jon Draud, Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, C.B. Embry Jr., Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Mary Lou Marzian, Charles Miller, Harry Moberly Jr., Russ Mobley, Tom Riner, Charles L. Siler, Arnold Simpson, and Ron Weston.
Guests: Mr. John Wilkerson, KEA; Ms. Michelle Woods, LRC; Ms. Karen Witt, Edvantia; Mr. Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools; Mr. Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Ms. Alicia Sells, Kentucky School Boards Association, and Mr. Tony Sholar, Rotunda Group, LLC.
LRC Staff: Audrey Carr, Sandy Deaton, Jonathan Lowe, Janet Stevens, Zach Webb, and Lisa Moore.
Senator Winters introduced Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair, Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education, who gave a report of its meeting on June 12, 2006. Representative Edmonds said Senate Bill 172, passed in the 2005 Regular Session of the General Assembly, outlined the steps to be taken by local school districts to improve the school food services program. It also required all K-5 schools to develop wellness policies to include physical activity for every student.
Representative Edmonds said Ms. Kyna Koch and Mr. Paul McElwain, from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) provided information related to both the school breakfast and school lunch programs, as well as the summer feeding program. They discussed the changes districts are making to help in the fight of childhood obesity.
Representative Edmonds said Ms. Cynthia Powell, Principal, and Ms. Pippi Guerrant, former physical education teacher, of Strode Station Elementary School, explained how regular classroom teachers reinforce the school curriculum by getting students involved in physical activity. Members watched a video presentation of Strode Station's "Take 10 Program," a program that encourages teachers to build in ten minute activity breaks within their class lesson plans. He said teachers have found that children are more alert and involved when physical activity is included as part of the lesson.
Senator Winters welcomed Representative Weston to the committee and welcomed Representative Moberly back after an illness. He also mentioned on a sad note that Representative DeCesare's mother had passed away and that was the reason for his absence from the meeting.
Commissioner Wilhoit gave a presentation on the KDE mandated studies. These included: 1) the School Facilities Evaluation Study (HB 380 - 2006 budget bill); 2) School Calendar Study (HB 380 - 2006 budget bill); and 3) Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) Feasibility Study (HB 341).
Commissioner Wilhoit said the KDE is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the current facilities planning process, the process for categorizing schools, major plant maintenance, process used to determine unmet need, and the degree of equity in distribution of funds. The study will involve: local superintendents; finance officers; facility managers; other local school personnel; consultants; and others as deemed appropriate. This task force has been divided into four subcommittees to address categorizing schools, determining unmet need, maintenance, and facilities planning process. They will bring their recommendations back to Dr. Bob Tarvin, Executive Director, School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC) and to Commissioner Wilhoit in order to meet the deadline of September 30, 2006.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the fifth area of study, the degree of equity in distribution of funds, will be addressed through a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the KDE. The KDE will seek input from the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS), the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA), and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA).
Dr. Tarvin said the second part of the budget bill asked for an Urgent Need School Trust Fund Advisory Committee to be established. It is composed of representatives from the SFCC, KDE, and the Finance and Administration Cabinet. This committee will meet monthly or more if necessary during the summer of 2006. At these meetings it will receive updates and information on the work being performed by the Facilities Evaluation Task Force. The committee will make its recommendation to the SFCC by September 2006. The SFCC will use the information in making the allocation of the $50 million that the legislature allocated in bond funds for the second year in the biennium, as well as the $5 million in cash. He also said the information would be used in the allocation of the $100 million in bonding to be allocated in the next biennium.
Senator Blevins asked how many classified Category 5 schools were in the state, and how much money was in the budget to assist these schools. Dr. Tarvin said this study did not specifically look at Category 5 schools, but looked broadly at all the needs of all schools across the state. Senator Blevins feels that addressing the issue of Category 5 schools is of high importance, and asked Dr. Tarvin if the task force was looking at the issue of consolidation. Dr. Tarvin said all issues are on the table, but he has not heard the issue of consolidation specifically arise in conversation.
Commissioner Wilhoit said Kentucky has drastically reduced the number of Category 5 school buildings, and believes there will be none in the next biennium. Senator Blevins said he does not want to lose the emphasis on assisting the Category 5 schools for the benefit of the children.
Representative Miller asked if the consolidation recommendations were only to the school districts. Commissioner Wilhoit said two sessions ago an incentive program was created that was open to school districts if they wanted to combine some declining and low attendance schools into a single attendance area. He said this was not a mandate, and most local communities moved forward with it. He does not see the issue as big as it was before 2003.
Representative Miller asked if the committee was going to give the school districts recommendations or strict directives as to what they were going to do. Commissioner Wilhoit said the report is coming back with recommendations to the IJCE and the committee can take appropriate action in the next legislative session.
Commissioner Wilhoit discussed the school calendar study. He said this study came out of concerns raised during the legislative session about the length of the school day. He said the KDE made the recommendation to increase the school days both in terms of student and teacher days. The state of Kentucky is currently at 175 instructional school days per year, which is among the lowest category in the United States. He noted that the General Assembly did add two school days starting in the 2007-2008 school year during the last legislative session.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the purpose of the study is to determine the impact of alternative calendars including: instructional time beyond six hours per day; shortened instructional days or weeks; and year-round instruction. He said the study shall investigate the positive and negative effects on students; extra curricular activities; parental support; and community acceptance.
Commissioner Wilhoit said data will be analyzed from Kentucky schools that have switched to the year-round calendar, as well as two schools who are using the four-day school calendar, as well as national research data. He said the Kentucky schools may not provide any reliable data as the new school calendars have not been in place a sufficient amount of time.
Senator Winters asked if the two schools that are operating on a four-day school calendar were still at 175 school days and not increasing the length of the school day. Commissioner Wilhoit said those schools were increasing the day, and have reduced the overall number of exposure days. These schools will make good case studies.
Representative Draud asked if there was a link between the length of the school calendar and achievement. He noted that there should have been alot of studies completed on this topic nationwide. Commissioner Wilhoit said that is correct, and those findings will be reported back to the committee as part of the study. He also noted that internationally, there is a direct correlation between those countries that have longer school years and student performance.
Representative Weston asked if school districts already meeting the requirement of 177 instructional days will still have to add two more calendar days. Commissioner Wilhoit said the legislation states two things: 1) school districts must add two days to their prior calendar up to 177 days, which eliminates the option of utilizing hours instead of days; and 2) if the school already has 177 school calendar days then the requirement of adding two more school days does not apply. He said there is a local decision to be made to either extend with the new state money, or hold on to the 177 days.
Senator Shaughnessy said that he did not see any national benchmarking references, and would like to have a clear indication of a national benchmarking strategy. He said it is important to compare Kentucky to other states when talking about elevating the teaching profession to a higher level, and raising teacher salaries. Commissioner Wilhoit agreed and said it was not good enough just to have internal improvement only, and wants to Kentucky to rank as one of the best states in the country.
Representative Collins asked about the second year salary increases for teachers and the extra $500 for adding the two additional school days. Commissioner Wilhoit said his interpretation is that the teacher raises come first, and then add the two days for which teachers will receive compensation.
Representative Embry asked how much variance there is when the school year begins and ends across the state. Commissioner Wilhoit said some school districts begin in July with the majority ending in mid-August. He said the local communities determine the starting date, and he is an advocate of keeping it that way because of the differences within school districts.
Representative Embry said it is important to expand the number of school days to improve instruction, and catch up with the national average. He also noted that the tourism industry has indicated that revenues would increase if the school year could begin later than in mid-August thus businesses would have increased revenue to generate more tax money to improve education. Commissioner Wilhoit emphasized that the goal of the school calendar is to maximize student learning, and that should be the driving factor of the timeframe of the school year.
Senator Westwood asked who the two research analysts were that were referred to in the handout. Commissioner Wilhoit said he would have to get the names to him. Senator Westwood commented that it was a small group of analysts compared to the group of people contributing to the school facility study, and asked why it was limited to two research analysts. Commissioner Wilhoit said it was the cost primarily, but the KDE will also be contacting organizations that have information about the school calendar such as the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). Senator Westwood also asked if a RFP was sent out for the research analysts, and Commissioner Wilhoit said, "yes."
Commissioner Wilhoit discussed the SIF feasibility study. Interoperability has become an issue because different vendors are offering different products to do different functions for school districts and states, and is a particular problem in the largest school district of Jefferson County.
Commissioner Wilhoit said a SIF compliant committee has been established and Jefferson County and other large and small school districts are involved. The stakeholders' groups also include rural and urban districts, the KASA, the KSBA, and the KASS, representative with expertise in technology, and geographic representation across the state. Secondly, many more companies are reporting that they are SIF compliant so it should be easier in the future for the KDE to meet these requirements.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the first meeting date is scheduled for June 16, 2006, and an interim report will be ready for the IJCE by August 1, 2006, with a final report ready by the deadline set in legislation for December 1, 2006.
Senator Winters apologized for the short timeline for the study to be completed, but applauded the KDE's work thus far. Commissioner Wilhoit said he appreciated the leadership of both co-chairs during the session to bring the issue to this point.
Commissioner Wilhoit concluded his presentation with an update on the end-of- course assessment study required by HB 197 (2006 RS). He said the legislation determined that math be the first end of course assessment developed. It must include reliable and valid items, provide individual scores, item analyses and comparative data, and include content teachers and postsecondary faculty in development and review.
Commissioner Wilhoit said that a written status report is due to the IJCE and the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee by December 1, 2007, but he feels there will be many conversations before that time in order to get feedback and responses to the work and see how it is going in the school districts. Many school districts have volunteered to pilot the assessments.
Commissioner Wilhoit said approximately 25 middle and high school teachers from Warren County, Elizabethtown Independent, Oldham County, Shelby County, and Jessamine County along with postsecondary education and KDE staff are working on the diagnostic assessments for Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. Completed exams are expected to be ready in the fall of 2006. Senator Winters expressed his appreciation for including higher education in the design of the examination.
Senator Tapp asked who develops the end of course examinations after the pilots are completed by the volunteers. Commissioner Wilhoit said the KDE is engaging the teachers in that process, and teachers drafted the assessment that is being used in the pilots. The teachers have not worked in isolation. The pilot assessments have also been compared to national work that is underway such as the American Diploma Project. He said there are currently no standardized national tests for end-of-course examinations in the country. It would be cost effective for states to come together on this issue, and would provide a good benchmark to show how well Kentucky students are doing against other states.
Representative Draud said there were some groups in Northern Kentucky that were interested in working on this issue, and he noticed that no school districts from that area helped in the design of the diagnostic assessment for the pilot. Commissioner Wilhoit said there was a group in Northern Kentucky doing some additional work on this issue and they are very helpful as they are seeking business and industry input on desired outcomes for students entering the workforce.
Senator Westwood discussed the reliability and validity of the end-of-course exams using such a small group, and wondered if the pool should be expanded as with the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) assessment. Commissioner Wilhoit said there should be a good cohort of students with the number of volunteers. He also said the nature of the exam itself allows it to be more reliable and valid than a broad-based exam.
Senator Westwood asked how using a national benchmark test would affect reliability and validity. Commissioner Wilhoit said it affects it in a negative way if those national benchmarks are not aligned with Kentucky's course expectations.
Senator Westwood asked if SREB states were the only states utilizing end of course assessments. Commissioner Wilhoit said about a dozen states are trying this, but primarily mid-western, southern, and New England states. Senator Westwood would like to include as many SREB states as possible because Kentucky works cooperatively with these states in many areas and studies.
Senator Winters asked for a brief update from the Commissioner on writing portfolios. Commissioner Wilhoit said the writing portfolio received more attention this year than any other topic. He said substantial changes were made to the system. The scoring system was changed from holistic to analytical, which will place a greater emphasis on the basics of writing, and give greater reliability across the scoring.
Commissioner Wilhoit said the number of writing portfolio entries has been reduced at various grade levels. He said the senior project has been tied into a student's next educational goal whether it be work, college, or the military. The training program is also being redesigned for teachers.
Commissioner Wilhoit said Kentucky is receiving praise from higher education on student writing, and Kentucky students score high on assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress in writing. While writing is still an extremely valued skill in Kentucky, changes in the system have been made to accommodate teacher and administrator concerns.
Senator Winters said the changes in the writing portfolio will be field tested during the 2006-2007 school year. At the end of the year, it should be clear how the adjustments have helped the school teachers and the students.
Senator Winters asked Representative Rasche to give the committee a briefing on the new 2006 HCR 214 subcommittee, which relates to Assistance to Schools. Representative Rasche said this study derived from two factors historically. He said some schools still have severe problems in reaching the goal of getting all students to proficiency level by 2014. He also said the subcommittee needs to make sure that Kentucky's accountability system and the No Child Left Behind program are compatible and not in conflict in the areas of assistance.
Senator Winters gave some housekeeping directions to the committee. He said the committee would not meeting in July due to various conferences. The committee will change its meeting date to August 7, 2006 instead of August 14, 2006. He mentioned a possible out-of-town meeting in October, and the last meeting will be December 4, 2006. He also encouraged members to contact either of the co-chairs with possible interim topics to discuss.
Representative Siler voiced his concerns about the writing portfolio to Commissioner Wilhoit. He was glad to hear that Kentucky's attention to writing has produced compliments from higher education and produced high test results on national assessments. He is not sympathetic with complaining teachers about incorporating the writing portfolio into their classroom instruction. He does not feel the emphasis on writing should be reduced in any way, but maybe the delivery of teaching the writing skills could be tweaked.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.