Thefifth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, October 8, 2007, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Frank Rasche, 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., Charlie Borders, Vernie McGaha, R. J. Palmer II, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Larry Belcher, Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, Jim DeCesare, Jon Draud, Ted Edmonds, C. B. Embry Jr., Bill Farmer, Tim Firkins, Jim Glenn, Jeff Greer, Jimmy Higdon, Mary Lou Marzian, Reginald Meeks, Harry Moberly Jr., Russ Mobley, Marie Rader, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, Ron Weston, and Addia Wuchner.
Guests: Mr. Fred P. Carter, Kentucky Education Cabinet; Mr. Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools; Mr. Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Mr. Roy Prince, Kentucky Education Cabinet; Mr. Tom Deaton, Kentucky Education Association; Ms. Cindy Heine, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; and Mr. Stan Lampe, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Legislative Guest: Representative Derrick Graham
LRC Staff: Audrey Carr, Sandy Deaton, Jonathan Lowe, Jacinta Manning, Janet Stevens, and Lisa Moore.
Representative Rasche asked for a motion to approve the minutes from the September 10, 2007 meeting. Representative Glenn made the motion to approve the minutes, and the motion was seconded by Senator McGaha. The motion was approved by voice vote.
Senator McGaha gave a report on the meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education. He said in 2006, the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 214, directed the Interim Joint Committee on Education to study how to provide assistance to schools that were not meeting established student achievement goals. He said Senator Jack Westwood and Representative Frank Rasche, co-chairs of the study committee, led a discussion regarding the preliminary report. They noted that capacity building and data gathering were crucial to program success. They said very few programs are successful alone, and most success comes in using a variety of programs. The two programs discussed at length were the Highly Skilled Educator program and the Voluntary Partnership Assistance Team model. They said the challenge to schools and districts is how to continue the change once the intervention team is gone.
Senator McGaha said Senator Westwood and Representative Rasche discussed the chronic low performing schools and staffing protocols in the subcommittee meeting. The concern is that many schools are not making progress that will result in proficiency by 2014. They also discussed leadership programs. It was noted that it is a constant challenge to keep effective administrators and teachers in all Kentucky schools, especially in schools that are low performing.
Senator McGaha said recommendations received from the field were discussed in the subcommittee meeting, with members adding their comments and thoughts. He said the subcommittee will continue to address how to assist schools in future meetings.
Senator Borders gave a report on the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education. He said the subcommittee heard a presentation from the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) regarding the "Capital Budget Planning Process" for public postsecondary institutions. Mr. Brad Cowgill, Interim President of the CPE, set the context for the discussion by describing the goal set by the council, to double the number of college graduates in Kentucky by 2020. He said this will bring Kentucky up to the national average of educational attainment and gave an explanation of the strategies being developed by the CPE to meet the goal.
Senator Borders said Mr. Sherron Jackson with CPE offered a description of the recently completed "Postsecondary Facility Condition Assessment and Space Study." He said the 2007 study looked at the current condition of facilities; the adequacy of facilities to address instructional needs; and how much new capacity will be needed to meet 2020 enrollment goals.
Senator Borders said Mr. Jackson discussed other key findings of the study. He said most of Kentucky's university buildings are over 30 years old and their condition is consistent with their age. Overall, facilities are in relatively poor condition in relation to accepted national industry standards. He said major systems in many buildings have exceeded their useful life expectancies and need attention, while significant state investment will be needed to improve the condition of existing space, to align existing space with educational standards, and to ensure an adequate amount of new space for increased student enrollments.
Senator Borders reported that presenters provided an overview of the capital planning review process, which was described as fair, equitable, and goal-driven. They also identified the five distinct categories of capital priorities used by the council, which are: 1) capital renewal, maintenance, and infrastructure needs; 2) adequacy of current space, and related renovation needs; 3) new construction and expansion; 4) research and economic development; and 4) information technology initiatives.
Representative Rasche introduced Mr. Tom Platt, President, Management Partnership Services (MPS), Incorporated, who presented a Power Point presentation on the "Study of Kentucky's Student Transportation Funding Formula." Mr. Platt said House Bill 380 called for the study to evaluate the formula for allocating state transportation funds to local districts and to evaluate local district transportation operations. He said the project was conducted by MPS from February to July 2007.
Mr. Platt gave a brief summary on the MPS background. He said the sole business focus is student transportation consulting and they have completed 150 projects for 100 clients in 22 states over the past five years. He said a similar study has been conducted for North Carolina, New Mexico, and Washington.
Mr. Platt said there were four key aspects of the study. They were: 1) student transportation funding in general; 2) evaluation of the current formula in practice; 3) evaluation of student transportation operations in Kentucky; and 4) formula alternatives and recommendations.
Mr. Platt described the key objectives for the funding mechanism for transportation funding in general. The method of transportation funding should: be clear and easy for the average user to understand; distribute available funds in an equitable manner; motivate recipients to use funds responsibly; and be easy to implement and administer.
Mr. Platt gave a brief summary of the activity and current approach in all 50 states. He noted that Kentucky is using a formula based reimbursement approach. The detailed information is in the meeting folder located in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
Mr. Platt encouraged members to look at funding as a process and not simply as a formula. He said funding as a process must begin with the policy objectives of the state. He said the design of the funding mechanism or formula should translate the policy objectives into practice, while surrounded by good operational processes such as data collection and reporting; education, oversight, and auditing; and analysis of results and feedback to design.
Mr. Platt said the evaluation of the formula in practice distributes funds on the basis of the average cost for a given level of student density. He said the funds received are not directly influenced by how much is spent and spending more or less in a given year will not, in general, alter the amount of funding received.
Mr. Platt described the formula use by local districts. He said the level of understanding of formula design and purpose is mixed. Funding implications are not, in general, considered as part of operational decisions. These decisions are made based on local service needs, expectations, and financial constraints.
Mr. Platt explained the conclusions of Kentucky's current formula. He said it is not an efficiency based formula in the sense of a competitive model, but acts more like a modified unit based on the number of transported students. He explained a real motivation to reduce costs does exist, but is intrinsic and is not part of the base funding mechanism.
Mr. Platt gave a description of the transportation operating environment across the state. He said Kentucky has a very diverse geography, but is dominated by a small, low density service provision. He said there is low demand for enhanced services, with notable exceptions. The average cost to own and operation of a school bus is low relative to national averages, and the average cost to transport each student is comparable to national averages.
Mr. Platt summarized the findings. They are: industry best practices are being applied, to the extent they are not limited by the operating environment; one notable exception is the low installed base of routing software in 25 percent of the districts; and averages are masking large variability in performance among districts of comparable size and density.
Mr. Platt said members of the legislature should establish the policy foundation. He said the funding mechanism and process should translate this into practice. He presented recommendations as alternatives and the alternatives bracket a range of possibilities. A full description of each formula alternative is located in the meeting folder in the library.
Representative Rasche asked if the proposed efficiency frontier model, that incorporates an inherit efficiency motivation by providing proportional funding for less efficient districts, would be similar to the current efficiency motivation that Kentucky currently utilizes. Mr. Platt said the difference is subtle, but significant. He said in Kentucky's current approach, the motivation to be more efficient absolutely exists. He said the reason it exists is because if local districts spend less and become more efficient, this has absolutely no baring on how much funding they receive, and as a result, those dollars are freed up for another use. He said the difference in the efficiency frontier model is that efficiency is measured as part of the formula itself, which creates a motivation for a local district to become more efficient in order to receive more funding.
Senator Winters discussed the few school districts across the state that utilize the four-day school week. He asked if the money saved by those districts in transportation costs can be used for other items, and Mr. Platt said under the current system that the money could go toward other resources.
Representative Farmer asked how many school districts are making a profit on transportation money by running their school systems more efficiently under the current system. Mr. Platt said he did not know because the question of funding sufficiency was not included in the scope of work for the study.
Representative Draud said it was reported that superintendents across Kentucky identified transportation funding as the number one problem in Kentucky. Mr. Platt said superintendents all said they want more money, and that a lack of funding is a key issue most superintendents voiced as a concern.
Senator Blevins said he has heard a concern from a superintendent about school districts cheating by counting students who live within a mile of proximity from the school. He said some school systems count these students, and others do not, and the schools that count them get more money even though they are really not transporting those students per say.
Mr. Platt said part of the scope of work for this study was to investigate the integrity of the data that is being submitted from local school districts. He said no evidence was found of systemic problems with school districts submitting incorrect data, however there was evidence that there are isolated examples of abuse, but nothing widespread.
Senator Blevins said superintendents are concerned from rural districts because of the issue of replacing transmissions in buses that go up and down hills routinely, versus buses that travel all flat lands. Mr. Platt said this issue is not considered in the current formula, and student density is an important factor that is outside a school district's control.
Representative Meeks asked what Mr. Platt meant by saying best practices are being applied to the extent that they are not limited by the operating environment. Mr. Platt gave an example of a school district using a school bus as many times in the day as possible by staggering school start times between elementary, middle, and high schools. He said because the costs of running a school bus are largely fixed, it lowers the unit cost of operating the bus. He did say however, that a small, rural school district is put at a disadvantage because they cannot do those types of things when students live 20 to 25 miles away, which is why he said an operating environment limits a school district's options by influencing what efficiency measures they can implement successfully.
Representative Meeks asked how this was different than Senator Blevin's comments about rural environments. Mr. Platt said it is not that different, but noted that student density per square mile is a key factor, but another key factor is how close the students live to a school. The factor of how far away the students live from school is outside the school district's control and is not a consideration in Kentucky's current formula.
Representative Meeks asked about the averages that are masking large variabilities in performance among districts of comparable size and density. Mr. Platt explained that the current formula calculates the reimbursement for school districts based on the average cost for all districts that have relatively the same student density per square mile, or have the same characteristics. He said all school districts are driven to the average as opposed to being the most efficient.
Representative Meeks asked if there could be significant savings by providing incentives for efficiency. Mr. Platt said he could not say definitively that there would be as this was not part of the analysis looked at in the scope of the study.
Representative Moberly asked Mr. Platt for a detailed explanation of the alternative two recommendation. Mr. Platt said this alternative retains the current formula and is a mathematical solution, but is a different formulation of the same basic approach that is currently being used. He said it takes the factors that are considered in the current formula, primarily student density per square mile and a handicapped factor for the number of special needs students being transported, and treats them differently within the formula itself in a way that is believed to be more equitable and more reflective of those factors as site characteristics.
Representative Rasche introduced Mr. Kevin Noland, Interim Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), Mr. Ken Draut, Association Commissioner, Office of Assessment and Accountability, KDE, and Ms. Rhonda Sims, Director, Division of Assessment Support, KDE, who gave an overview of the "2007 results of the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS)."
Mr. Noland described the major changes to CATS. They are: 1) assessment in reading and mathematics were added to accomplish annual testing of those content areas in grades 3-8 as required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program and legislative action added the ACT assessment including EXPLORE, PLAN, and the ACT; 2) the 2007 Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) is new; student performance standards for novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished have changed; 3) the KCCT used a new test design and was based on revised core content; 4) the weights of content areas, nonacademic measures, the norm-referenced component and multiple choice and open response items changed; and 5) CATS 2007 is a new system.
Mr. Draut noted that Kentucky has one assessment system and two accountability requirements, which include the state (CATS) and federal (NCLB) requirements. He explained the makeup and indicators of each system. The handout is in the meeting folder. He also noted Kentucky met 92 percent of the NCLB target goals in 2007.
Mr. Draut described the 2007 NCLB results. He said based on the NCLB public release on September 12, 2007, 904 schools met 100 percent of NCLB average yearly progress (AYP) goals , or 77.5 percent of all schools. This breaks down to 93.1 percent of elementary schools met 100 percent of goals, 46.1 percent of middle schools met 100 percent of goals, and 52.7 percent of high schools met 100 percent of goals. He said 90 of 175 school districts, or 51.4 percent, met 100 percent of goals.
Mr. Draut explained the CATS concordance process. He said the adjusted accountability index continues accountability, links 2007 performance to the past system, and relates school performance to original goal and assistance lines. The nonadjusted accountability index reports the spring 2007 scores and applies new content area weights and cut scores for student performance. He said it connects to the absolute goal of proficiency, which is 100, by 2014, and provides an instructional connection to the future.
Mr. Draut said a concordance table is a way to link one test to another test in a statistical fashion and gives some sense as to what a person would have scored on the previous test. He said the adjusted accountability index for 2007 is calculated with concordance tables at each school level, and links the CATS 1999-2006 tests and goals to the CATS test of 2007.
Ms. Sims explained the growth chart located in the handout. She said the growth chart is customized in the system and every two years when the biennium is closed, performance of schools is plotted on the growth chart. She explained the accountability index by grade level, the 2007 nonadjusted data by index and grade span, and the 2007 disaggregated academic index trends. The chart information is located in the meeting folder.
Mr. Draut summarized by presenting the recommendations regarding concordance. He said by the direction of the Kentucky Board of Education in October 2007, concordance tables should be used only for the two-year biennium in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. He said starting in the 2008-2009 biennium, districts and schools would receive growth charts with goal and assistance lines based on their actual nonadjusted scores on new CATS scores in 2007 and 2008. He also said KDE staff will modify appropriate regulations for review and action.
Senator Westwood asked if the adjusted or nonadjusted scores of the students would be reported to the parents. Mr. Draut said parents will view the nonadjusted scores of their students. Senator Westwood asked if this scores gives parents an accurate picture of where there child is. Mr. Draut said it does give parents an accurate picture because it shows how their children performed on the CATS test in spring of 2007, and the concordance table only looks at the school score, and not individual test scores.
Senator Westwood asked why there were so many more disabled students in elementary and middle school than in high school. Ms. Sims said Senator Westwood was looking at a score in the handout and not a number. She said performance is higher for the non-disabled student at the elementary school level, and decreases in middle and high school. She also said the gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities tend to grow as the children get older primarily because as children age, they are not as comfortable receiving assistance and accommodations for their disabilities. She also said there is a higher comfort level for elementary students who are accustomed to having very individually designed educational experiences and programs. She said the patterns of performance many times reflects not only what happens during testing, but what is occurring at the classroom level as well. She said schools should focus on this when analyzing their individual performance.
Senator Westwood said the KDE indicated that the concordance would ensure that high scoring schools would see score declines and low scoring schools would probably see a boost in scores, but he said that did not seem to happen. He said most elementary and middle schools declined, and asked if this was an indication that the new report of proficiency rates were inflated.
Mr. Noland said some of the outliers, such as extremely high performing schools, were bumped down three to five points, while low performing schools may have had a slight increase. He said most schools were in the middle of the bell curve and saw little movement.
Senator Westwood said it looked more like a movement that was more skewed than just a bell curve, and elementary and middle schools skewed down into the decline range. Mr. Draut said one of the patterns in the concordance table, because each school level has its own table, shows elementary schools getting bumped back if scoring around 100 or so. He said high schools had the opposite effect and moved up the scale due to their performance across the span, so it really depends on what school level is being reviewed.
Senator Westwood said he is having trouble grasping the concordance process and wonders how parents and staff at the federal level will ever be able to understand it. He said it is confusing to determine if students are progressing and asked how this would fixed after the 2008 legislative session.
Mr. Noland said the adjusted score can be reviewed at the school level to see if a student is progressing. He said the scores in the content areas show individual student performance and what they have to do to reach 100, which helps teachers find the gaps in helping individual students to meet goals. He said NCLB staff have approved the changes and they are in compliance with the NCLB Act. He said he would be happy to answer members' questions after the meeting and more detail would be given in the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee meeting.
Senator Westwood said teachers are concerned that the new CATS test is an easier test and asked how to make the determination if a test is in fact easier. Mr. Draut said the test should not be categorized as easier or harder, but should be labeled as a new or different test. He said next years' CATS data will show trend data for the first time and will be very beneficial for schools to gauge their growth.
Representative DeCesare asked if the changes to the CATS testing required administrative regulation changes. Mr. Noland said some changes were made to comply with the NCLB ACT and some changes occurred as a result of Senate Bill 130, while amending some school accountability regulations to conform. He said changing the weights of the content areas and non-academic areas were completed by amending regulations of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Representative DeCesare asked when the regulations went into effect. Mr. Noland said sometime last year. Representative DeCesare said school districts did not feel they were informed properly and were not aware of the changes. Mr. Noland said the KDE had weekly conversations with the school district assessment coordinators and received input from them as well. He also said the KDE communicated with superintendents at meetings and by e-mail of the regulation changes.
Representative DeCesare said the goal by 2014 is for all students to reach 100 in order to be proficient and that is based on a scale from 140. He asked where 71 percent would fall on a grading scale from "A to F" and if it would equate to a "D".
Mr. Noland said it had never been compared that way so he does not know. Representative DeCesare feels that is a good way to compare it because if 100 is proficient then that is 71 percent, and he feels Kentucky should not settle for subpar mediocrity. He said the whole situation with the CATS testing needs to be reassessed and Kentucky should strive for higher goals than just reaching 100.
Senator Winters said he has received numerous calls from the general public about trying to understand the adjusted versus the nonadjusted CATS scores. He said he is not criticizing, but the KDE needs to help the public understand that this is a new system and suggested a mass media marketing campaign prior to implementing new changes to the testing system. He also commended the KDE staff in that the new CATS test seems to have more depth and less breadth.
Senator Winters wanted additional clarification on the adjusted and nonadjusted scores, and high performing schools scoring lower and lower performing schools scoring higher as a result. Mr. Draut explained that in the concordance model, all the schools are rank ordered from low to high in the accountability index and then matched up to how the rank order occurred in 2006, and an adjustment is made on the rank order of scores. He said if one school outpaced other schools, it tends to push the score back towards the middle, and if a school underpaced other schools, the score tends to move up a little. He said the adjustments are different for elementary, middle, and high schools.
Senator Winters said if the members are having a hard time grasping the concordance concept then the general public is really struggling trying to understand it. He would like the KDE to do some type of marketing campaign to explain the changes of the CATS test to the general public.
Representative Cherry said he feels teachers have more questions about the new test rather than the general public. He would like a comprehensive list of all tests that the states mandate schools to use and asked if the KCCT test is the new CATS test and covers all NCLB testing requirements within it. He would also like an explanation of how the EXPLORE and PLAN tests work, and if testing is compared to federal statistics instead of just comparing test scores within our state against our own requirements and using our own concordance table.
Mr. Noland said he will send all committee members a one-page chart after the meeting that shows Kentucky mandated testing requirements for federal and state law for each grade level. He said most tests conducted at local schools is locally generated for all the right reasons. He said state and federal testing is used for school and district accountability and the results are turned out as fast as possible. He said teachers find informal and formal day-to-day assessments invaluable for diagnostic purposes and determining where students are in their learning. He said the CATS test captures the requirement for NCLB as well so schools conduct one test for two accountability systems. He said certain content areas are mandated by the federal government as well to be tested in certain grade levels and he will send the comprehensive chart to the members.
Representative Cherry asked what to tell parents who ask how their child is performing against other students across the nation. Mr. Noland said many schools are administering a norm-referenced national test, such as CTBS, and this can be used for national comparisons. He said this is mandated currently at the elementary levels, but they are allowed to choose their own assessment, but Kentucky is in the process of requiring one state uniform norm-referenced test. Mr. Noland also said national comparisons can be performed by looking at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is also referred to as the "Nations Report Card." He also said the ACT can be compared nationally, but this needs to be monitored in that only a few states administer this test to 100 percent of their students.
Representative Glenn asked Ms. Sims if the four high schools, eight middle schools, and eight elementary schools she reported that scored over 100 on the CATS test in 2007 were clustered together in the state. He asked if they were in eastern, western, or central Kentucky, or located in bordering counties. Ms. Sims said she could look it up and find out, but did not know for sure. She did know that some of the high schools were in northern Kentucky, but was not sure if all four were located there. Representative Glenn said he would also be interested in seeing data of those schools and their percentages of students receiving free and non-free lunch.
Representative Wuchner asked why a pilot of the new CATS test changes was not conducted before implementing the changes statewide. She asked about the cost of implementing the new test and the cost of applying the concordance. She also asked about translating the scores of 102 and 104 on the CATS test to ACT applications.
Mr. Noland said there is a three-year cycle with developing and implementing any new test. He said the first year is the development of the test and field testing the items for validity and reliability. The second year is administration of the test, and the third year is the grading of the test and providing feedback of the results. He said this was built in to the contract as the KDE had to add the additional grades on the math and reading assessment.
Representative Wuchner asked if the state budgeted monies for the changes to the CATS test, or if the cost came out of KDE's budget. Mr. Noland said the cost was part of the testing contract negotiated in December of 2005 in anticipation of the NCLB testing change requirements, and is a six-year contract.
Representative Wuchner asked the total cost to change the test and apply the concordance. Mr. Noland said the costs were not isolated in that manner because there are several components to the test, but he would be glad to share with her the details of the testing contract.
Mr. Draut said the ACT components, like the PLAN, are assigned an index number, 0 - 100, based on what percentage of students are getting into different areas of the ACT scores. He said if a student scored between a 18 and 24 on the PLAN, then this would translate to a score of 100 on an index. He said there is a translation chart that corresponds the scores of the PLAN with where a students falls on the ACT. Representative Wuchner asked how 75.6 on the ACT score translates. Mr. Draut said that would indicate that around 33 percent of students are scoring 18 or higher on the PLAN test.
Mr. Noland said the end-of-course bill sponsored by Representative Draud requires that KDE pilot Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry end-of-course assessments and this will happen in the spring of 2008. He said Kentucky is in a consortia with eight other states in purchasing a test to pilot for Algebra II. He said Algebra I and Geometry pilot tests were put out for bid and the bids came back too expensive, and so an arrangement has been worked out with the University of Louisville to pilot those tests. He said the KDE will be asking the legislature for an appropriation to conduct these end-of-course exams statewide.
Representative Graham said he feels it would be helpful for the KDE to send changes on testing to the teachers and administrators in the schools around the state. He said explaining things to teachers up front results in less questions from legislators later.
Representative Graham asked how many multiple-choice questions are being added or subtracted in the new CATS test in comparison to the number of open-response questions being added or subtracted on the test.
Mr. Noland said 50 percent of the weight of the test is given to multiple-choice questions and 50 percent of the weight is given to open-response questions. Mr. Draut said in addition, there used to be 24 multiple-choice questions on the old test, and the new test has 34 or 38 multiple-choice questions. He also said six open-response questions were on the old test, and this number has dropped to four open-response questions on the new test.
Representative Graham was pleased with this as students, particularly in the area of social studies, would complain of writer's cramp from answering all the open-response questions.
Representative Graham asked how the KDE developed the scoring for determining novice students versus distinguished students. Mr. Draut said the scale scores are developed around where the teacher said proficient work, apprentice work, and novice work is. He said the distinguished scale tends to move a little depending on the subject matter and the grade level, but the scale scores are developed by the standard settings that the teachers worked on in the summer.
Representative Graham asked how involved teachers were in the redevelopment of the CATS test and with the concordance tables. Mr. Noland said the teachers were involved in setting the performance standards and also helped with the improvement of the core content.
Representative Graham expressed concerns with only 33 percent of Kentucky high school students scoring an 18 on the PLAN test and measuring on the national scale. He said this is not a good indication and members should be concerned. Representative Rasche said that the proficiency ratings in the EXPLORE and PLAN test were not very good, and Kentucky has much work to do in those areas. He said it does need to be taken into consideration that the scores are compared to a fixed number of students, and not the entire nation.
Representative Graham said Kentucky needs to watch for testing these students to a point where they have test fatigue. He believes the state is heading in that direction and this is also a huge disruption of the classroom and cuts into instructional time.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 3:00 p.m.