Thefifth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, November 13, 2006, at 9:00 AM, in the Hartman Room of Holmes High School in Covington, Kentucky. 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, Gary Tapp, Johnny Ray Turner, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Jon Draud, Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, C.B. Embry Jr., Bill Farmer, Derrick Graham, Mary Lou Marzian, Reginald K. Meeks, Darryl T. Owens, Tom Riner, Arnold Simpson, and Addia Wuchner.
Guests: Ms. Meg Wincheli, Urban Learning Center; Ms. Polly Page and Ms. Carolyn Witt Jones, Partnerships for Successful Schools.
Legislative Guest: Representative Adam Koenig.
LRC Staff: Audrey Carr, Sandy Deaton, Janet Stevens, Janet Oliver, and Lisa Moore.
Senator Winters introduced Ms. Mary Ann Pietromonacol, Vice-Chair, Business Advocacy Council, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, who presented background information for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. She also introduced key players in the business and education community in Northern Kentucky, and asked all the chamber members to stand and be recognized. She introduced Mr. Gary Beatrice, Chairman, Education Committee, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, to present Northern Kentucky's top ten legislative positions of the 2007 General Assembly that the board of education adopted two weeks ago.
Mr. Beatrice said it is recognized that some of the items listed as 2007 legislative priorities have budgetary implications, and so, may not be able to be addressed until the longer session in January 2008. He directed the members to the multi-page handout within their meeting folders and began discussing job creation in Northern Kentucky.
Mr. Beatrice said Northern Kentucky has proven to be a significant jobs and revenue producer for the Commonwealth. From 1995 to 2005, Northern Kentucky produced 37,000 new jobs in the region, 32 percent of all new jobs in the state. He said Northern Kentucky has just completed a regional strategic plan called Vision 2015, in which literally thousands of individuals donated tens of thousands of hours to develop a road map for what Northern Kentucky should be in nine years, the year 2015. As a result of the Vision 2015 effort, the Chamber commits to being an integral part of the regional goal to create 50,000 new, highly-paid jobs in the region by 2015. Unlike the past decade, this future job growth will require an unparalleled investment in intellectual capital to provide Northern Kentucky with highly-skilled citizens who can compete in a high growth, knowledge-based economy. These new jobs will require that at least 80 percent of the qualified workers have a postsecondary education. At the same time, Northern Kentucky renews its commitment to the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) goals of reaching proficiency in the P-12 system by 2014, as well as the Postsecondary Education Reform Act goal of increasing the number of baccalaureate degree holders by the year 2020.
Mr. Beatrice said there are eight specific positions listed as 2007 priorities for the pre-school through grade 12 system. They are: 1) supporting an increased focus on early childhood; 2) urging implementation of a one-year study commission on the subject of differentiated compensation for teachers as this is a way to reward, not punish, teachers who voluntarily serve in areas of critical teacher shortage, such as special education, foreign language, math, and physics; 3) urging caution regarding proposals to mandate when a school year should begin or end as schools need to have more instructional days, and not fewer; 4) recognizing that school children with learning disabilities and special learning needs have truly unique concerns, but the Chamber supports public education, and cannot support legislative concepts which potentially undermine the financial integrity of public schools. This so-called "Special Needs Scholarship Program" is an issue that is quite troubling to the committee; 5) having an honest debate about compulsory school attendance and increase the age of compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18; 6) urging the legislature to adequately fund existing state mandates; 7) revisiting the equity of SEEK to ensure that the region's growing school districts are not penalized by the formula; and 8) ensuring that school superintendents have the authority to select his or her district and school principals, with input from the site based decision-making council in the form of providing at least three recommended candidates for each open position.
Mr. Beatrice said Northern Kentucky is blessed with educational leaders who are both visionary and highly-respected by the business sector and the community-at-large. The postsecondary institutions in Northern Kentucky have demonstrated exceptional and responsiveness. In particular, both Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and Gateway Community and Technical College are demonstrating a strong commitment to community-driven postsecondary education. Both institutions are working closely with Northern Kentucky employers and economic development agencies to fulfill the region's Vision 2015 goal of 50,000 new jobs, largely in the financial, advanced manufacturing, technology, allied health care, and bio-tech industries.
Mr. Beatrice said the Chamber urges the legislature to invest additional resources in postsecondary education, which result in significant funding increases to build up Gateway Community and Technical College and to expand NKU. He said both NKU and Gateway need consistent, recurring funding to achieve the goals of increasing capacity to double the student body at NKU and triple the student body at Gateway Community and Technical College by the 2020 deadline. He urged the General Assembly to: fund the state mandated growth in NKU's student body form 14,000 students to 22,520 students in 2020, essentially doubling its size, and the increase in enrollment to 10,000 students at Gateway; and continue and expand funding for the Postsecondary Education Regional Stewardship Program, designed to directly use university assets to support regional growth and development.
Senator Winters said the Kentucky tuition grant program is designed to help those students who may elect to attend a nonpublic or independent institution, and mentioned the Thomas More College in Northern Kentucky. He asked if the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce worked with the Thomas More College as mention of the college was clearly absent from the presentation given during the meeting.
Mr. Beatrice said there is representation from the private school system on the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the educational committee. Representative Draud said the Thomas More College has been involved in all of Northern Kentucky's activities and attend all the public school system superintendent meetings.
Senator Winters said about 30,000 young people from Kentucky are attending the private college institutions in Kentucky. He said Kentucky has to take advantage of every resource available within the state in order to reach the goals desired in Kentucky. Mr. Beatrice thanked Chairman Winters for his comments, and said the Chamber does recognize the significance of partnering with the Thomas More College.
Representative Draud said they are extremely fortunate in Northern Kentucky to have the Chamber so supportive of education initiatives over the past decade or so. He remembers in the past where there was much division between the educators and the business community.
Representative Marzian congratulated Northern Kentucky on its educational goals, but stated that every goal is expensive. She asked if they had any strategies on how to begin to fund, or commit the General Assembly to fund, some of these initiatives. She also commented that Kentucky had not had any meaningful tax reform in Kentucky in years.
Mr. Beatrice said Representative Marzian makes an excellent point and funding is a challenge that Northern Kentucky is facing. He said the chamber will release a full report during the first week of December with its entire priority policy positions reflecting on education, tax, and all the different issues with expansive gaming to raise revenues.
Representative Wuchner thanked the Chamber for the work they do in leading the Northern Kentucky area in all initiatives. She said early childhood initiatives are near and dear to her heart. She also asked if tourism has communicated a position on the school calendar start date for local schools.
Mr. Beatrice said the Chamber is extremely concerned about any legislation that will potentially limit the number of instructional days in the school year. He said some of prefiled legislation appears to have the impact of limiting the number of instructional days, and the Chamber opposes such legislation. He is in preference of the school start and ending dates being a local decision. Representative Wuchner supported that idea as well.
Senator Westwood said the "Vision 2015" goal of Northern Kentucky is beneficial across the state as well, and would like the committee members to view this document. He thinks growing a tax base is a better idea than raising taxes in order to raise money to pay for these goals, and Northern Kentucky is doing that with the creation of new jobs.
Representative Owens commented on differentiated compensation covering the four areas of special education, foreign language, math, and physics. He said most schools systems have an educational gap and he asked if differentiated compensation may work to narrow that gap and ensure that those individuals could become the beneficiaries of the 2015 plan, and if so, would this be an appropriate area to look at in challenging schools.
Mr. Beatrice said the listing of those four areas was not meant to be exclusive, and he realizes that across the different schools systems within the Commonwealth, the needs can vary greatly in critical teacher shortage areas.
Senator Winters introduced Mr. Jack Moreland, Superintendent, Covington Independent Public Schools, who said that Covington Independent is Kentucky's largest independent school district which serves approximately 4,200 students. He introduced Ms. Lynda Jackson, Executive Director, Professional Development and State and Federal Programs; Ms. Janice Wilkerson, Executive Director, Student Services; Mr. Ray Finke, Principal, Holmes Junior and Senior High School; and Mr. Rick Ross, 9th District Elementary School, Covington Independent Schools. Mr. Moreland said Covington changed its focus upon his arrival in 2000 to make positive changes in regards to KERA.
Ms. Jackson said she facilitates the writing of the academic grants within the district. She gave some background information and said Covington Independent Schools serves 4,200 students within a five mile radius of Covington. She said there is an all-day and extended year preschool, and six elementary schools with all-day kindergarten through grade five; one middle school that houses children in grades six and seven; and one high school, which houses grades eight through twelve; and one adult high school for students age 16 and above.
Ms. Jackson said all schools in the district are school-wide Title I schools. School demographics include; 82 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch; eleven percent reside in public housing; 32 percent are transient; 11 percent are homeless; 22 percent are identified as special needs; 28 percent are African American; and 35 percent are minority.
Ms. Jackson discussed student achievement between 2000 and 2006. She said Covington Independent Schools, under Superintendent Moreland's leadership, has improved in every academic area since the year 2000. Covington elementary students have improved in every subject as reflected by state testing index scores of 47.1 in 2000 to 66.4 in 2006; the middle school increased from 39.4 in 2000 to 49.9 in 2006; and the high school increased from 51.5 in 2000 to 60 in 2006.
Ms. Jackson discussed literacy initiatives in the preschool and elementary schools as the biggest gains were made in the area of reading. She said the primary goal was for all primary students to be reading at or above grade level by 2008. Support for literacy includes: all-day, full-year preschool (Early Reading First Federal Grant); Reading First (three schools); Kentucky Read to Achieve (three schools); literacy coaches and reading intervention teachers (all schools); and ongoing assessments (DIBELS, GRADE, and program assessments). She said the Two Rivers Middle School had a literacy initiative for all students which included "Learning to Read" for 60 minutes per day, and reading in the content areas (Reading to Learn). Holmes High School utilized a smaller learning community initiative including the bulldog academy for eighth grade and freshman and career academies for the 9th - 12th graders.
Ms. Wilkerson discussed reducing barriers to learning. She said the Family Resource and Youth Services Centers support student academic success; engage parents as partners; promote school attendance; and provide referrals to community agencies. She said prevention services include: drug and violence prevention programs; mental and physical health promotion; family strengthening programs; and staff training and support.
Ms. Wilkerson said Covington Independent has a great number of children in the school district who are homeless, and they are fortunate to have a full-time homeless education coordinator whose job it is to connect with those families to help them to gain housing, and also to make sure children can stay in their home school during the transition and to provide support to these students while their families are seeking housing. She said additional student support services include: Project Home; district wide health services; collaboration with community partners; and Covington Partners in Prevention, which is a coalition of community members that meets on a regular basis to try to address both in-school and out-of-school needs for students.
Mr. Moreland discussed grant writing within the district and said Covington Independent Schools had received over $19 million in competitive grants from 2000-2006. He said Ms. Jackson and Ms. Wilkerson are both successful grant writers for the area and the allocation per student is approximately $11,238. A list of grants that Covington Independent receives includes: Federal Early Reading First; Reading First; Reach to Achieve; Comprehensive School Reform; Kentucky Early Reading Incentive and Even Start.
Ms. Jackson said Covington Independent Schools feel like literacy issues within the school district are being addressed and teachers are sufficiently trained in literacy areas. She said the school district would like to focus next on a districtwide math initiative. Other next steps for Covington Independent schools include: increase in family engagement; continuous monitoring of ongoing initiatives; and professional growth on working with diverse students.
Representative Graham asked if the middle and elementary school teachers took an hour out of each day to focus on student reading. Ms. Wilkerson said there is 90 minutes mandatory intense reading in the elementary schools, and 60 minutes of intense reading in the middle school.
Representative Graham said scores have increased at all schools in all areas, but particularly the middle school showed significant gains. He asked what kind of professional development the middle teachers received in the area of reading.
Ms. Jackson said Covington Independent Schools had received a comprehensive school reform grant two years ago that distributed $100,000 a year for three years that revolved around literacy. She said a core reading program was implemented at Two Rivers Middle School called "direct instruction", which is a program that teaches a child to read. She said all teachers have been trained in the direct instruction model, and coaches and consultants come in throughout the school year and work with those teachers to ensure appropriate implementation of the direct instruction program. She said the direct instruction program is based on the fact that students are ability grouped, which allows to keep the groups very small for students who are way below grade level, and also affords the opportunity to accelerate the students who are above grade level.
Ms. Jackson said the "GRADE" is given as an external assessment three times a year to ensure students are on track and to monitor the direct instruction program. She said program assessments are also given every five lessons that are built in with the reading program. Two Rivers Middle School has early release days on Wednesdays, and these hours are used for professional development for the middle school teachers. She noted that districtwide over 400 hours of professional development are offered per year.
Representative Graham asked about the coaches and consultants. Ms. Jackson said they are experts with the direct instruction program and coach the teachers one-on-one if they are struggling with some part of the implementation. Representative Graham asked how often the coaches come to the schools, and Ms. Jackson said they visit the schools monthly.
Representative Graham asked how moving the eighth grade over to the high school has worked for the school district. Mr. Moreland said he recommended the move back in 2000 with the rationale of keeping the seventh graders from trying to exhibit older type behaviors. It has worked for the Covington Independent School District, and fewer schools are in the assistance category as a result.
Senator Westwood said the goal of all primary students reading above grade level by 2008 was so important as literacy achievement is the most critical issue for students to achieve success in school. He asked if there is sufficient support in place for this goal to be accomplished by 2008, and how optimistic staff was that this would be accomplished.
Ms. Jackson said she was very optimistic that this goal would be reached. She said all day preschool and kindergarten classes have resulted in huge gains in young children learning to read on grade level. She said one problem is transient students who may enter the school system at a later time, but they are optimistic from preliminary data that by providing interventions and keeping on the same track, they will meet this goal of all primary students reading above grade level by 2008. Senator Westwood said if they are successful in meeting that goal, he would expect a tremendous gain in scores.
Senator Westwood said the eleven percent statistic of students who are homeless translates between 300 and 400 real students. He asked if these students were living on the streets or where these students were sleeping. Mr. Moreland said the 400 student number is not the number of students sleeping under the bridge at night, but is a federally-defined term that incorporates students who have no permanent domicile, but rather sleep somewhere different from night to night. Students in these types of home situations, have trouble completing homework assignments and keeping up in school as they are worried where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep.
Representative Owens commended the school district staff on their high expectations that all students can learn. Mr. Moreland said all students are bright and can learn and some just need different approaches of instruction in order to succeed. He said the Covington Independent School district is committed to making students the best that they can be.
Senator Guthrie said there is a group from tourism presenting at the next meeting about saving the summers, and he hopes this issue will come before the interim committee before any action is taken in the session, as the student's education is the most important issue at stake. He also commented that studies have shown that summer breaks and income levels of parents can affect student achievement, and schools that have moved to year-round school calendars have shown it benefits some students.
Mr. Moreland said the Covington Independent School District partners with the City of Covington and there are seven weeks of summer programs offered to the students. He said over 1,000 to 1,500 students will be involved in organized activities, which includes a full breakfast and lunch, during the summer.
Representative Wuchner works with the homeless program in the community, and they stress homework time as a priority, because most parents and caregivers to these homeless students had not ever addressed time for homework. She did ask if Covington Independent Schools operated its own alternative school or utilized a Phoenix program. Mr. Moreland said there is an alternative school that is located off campus and it houses a maximum of 60 students, with 45 students currently enrolled. He said the goal is the curriculum in the alternative school to be exactly the same as the curriculum on Holmes High School campus. He said there is also an adult high school for students sixteen years of age and older who cannot attend school for six hours a day.
Mr. Moreland introduced Mr. Ray Finke, Principal, Holmes High School, and Mr. Rick Ross, Principal, 9th District Elementary School, to give presentations. Mr. Finke said Holmes High School is not as successful as they would like to be if just the school's test scores are analyzed. He said the school is a beacon of light for many of the students who leave the school with hope that there can be success in their lives.
Mr. Finke said Holmes High School is unique in that it receives a lot of state assistance due to the low test scores. He always asked the state to provide models of other schools for them to copy, but the fact remains that Holmes is very unique. He said every program is offered imaginable to help these students overcome barriers and succeed. He said there is a wide variety of vocational programs offered upon the campus, many programs to address the wide variety of needs for students with individual education plans, outreach work programs or cooperative education programs, that allow students to leave campus and work when they have received enough credits, and the international baccalaureate program, which in his opinion, is the most rigorous college preparatory program a high school can have. He said the international baccalaureate program is complimented by the advanced placement programs where students can take advanced placement courses and receive credit for them.
Mr. Finke said changes have been made in the high school, which include merging the junior high school, the high school, and the vocational school. He said they are going through a process utilizing smaller learning communities to try and set up some career academies and work more effectively with the younger students, and help them to be more successful. He also said a business partnership has been formed with the city group where they hire all of the school's students who wish to go there to work, and who can qualify to work at the city government while taking courses at Gateway Community College simultaneously.
Mr. Finke said Holmes High School is constantly trying to improve rigor and access for their students to have tremendous opportunities in the world upon graduation. He commended the support of the Covington Board of Education and the school administrators for their strong leadership and support.
Mr. Ross said there are 365 students enrolled in the 9th District Elementary School and 81 percent are on free and reduced lunch. He said there are two public housing areas, and the school has a very high transient rate with 33 percent of students being in the minority population.
Mr. Ross said since the year 2000, the 9th District Elementary School has seen tremendous gains in their test scores: reading has increased 35 points for a reading index of 90; math has increased 50 points for a math index of 94; science has increased 39 points for an index of 88; and social studies has increased 40 points for an index of 82. The overall academic index has increased by 36 points, with an 85 index, which is currently ranked above the state average. He said they also outperform some of the county schools, including Boone and Kenton County.
Mr. Ross said the African American students outperform all other students and has reversed the achievement gap. He credited monitoring five or six high performing schools with providing a model, good staff, and tremendous support from the school board administrators to their success. He said students are recognized each day of school for academics or good behaviors in a morning assembly in the gymnasium. Teachers also make house visits to the students' homes in order to observe student environments and to reach out and form relationships with parents.
Mr. Ross said they gauge instructional materials based upon the core content. He said the school schedule is designed entirely around the students, and decisions are based upon data.
Mr. Ross invited all the members to the 9th District Elementary School for student led tours through the school immediately upon adjournment.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 10:35 a.m.