Thefifth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, October 12, 2009, at 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 Carl Rollins II, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., David Givens, Dan Kelly, Alice Forgy Kerr, Vernie McGaha, R.J. Palmer II, Tim Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Tori, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Linda Belcher, John "Bam" Carney, Hubert Collins, Jim DeCesare, C. B. Embry Jr., Bill Farmer, Kelly Flood, Jim Glenn, Derrick Graham, Jeff Greer, Jimmy Higdon, Reginald Meeks, Charles Miller, Harry Moberly Jr., Marie Rader, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Kent Stevens, Wilson Stone, Alecia Webb-Edgington, and Addia Wuchner.
Guests: Clyde Caudill and Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Will Hodges, LaRue County Schools; and Cindy Heine, Prichard Committee.
LRC Staff: Audrey Carr, Ken Warlick, Sandy Deaton, Janet Stevens, and Janet Oliver.
Senator Winters asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the September 14, 2009, meeting. Upon motion by Representative Collins, seconded by Representative Greer, the minutes were approved by voice vote.
Senator Winters asked the chairs of the subcommittees to report on the morning meetings of the subcommittees. He said reports from the previous meetings of the subcommittees were provided in the members’ folders.
Senator McGaha said the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education heard presentations on career and technical education. He said Secretary Helen Mountjoy from the Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development gave brief remarks about the Cabinet’s vision for career and technical education; and John Marks, Executive Director of the Office of Career and Technical Education, gave an overview of the management and operation of the KY Tech System, which includes 54 area technology centers that offer hands-on training to students in business, construction, manufacturing, transportation, health, and information technology. Senator McGaha said the centers allow students opportunities to explore options that may lead to additional study at the postsecondary level or successful employment after high school graduation. He said Bettie Tipton, Supervisor of the Federal Programs Branch, gave an overview of the Carl D. Perkins Technical Education Act and explained how the funding is used to support career and technical education in high schools, community and technical colleges, and universities.
Representative Rollins gave the report for the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education. He said representatives from the Council on Postsecondary Education, the two research universities, and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System provided information on student transfer issues. The presentations included barriers to successful transfer, such as student financial difficulties, lack of understanding about the process, and comparability of transferred courses for degree credit. Information was also provided on best practices in other states, current Kentucky initiatives including the expansion of statewide technology, expansion of financial aid and advisory opportunities, the creation of transfer centers, dual enrollment opportunities, and online programs. Information was also provided on issues relating to developing common definitions and shared data across systems and emerging priorities such as transcript studies and student experience surveys. Representative Rollins said the presentations on the Kentucky Adult Education and Kentucky Adult Learning Initiatives were deferred until the November meeting of the committee.
Senator Winters said that at a recent meeting of the Education Commission of the States which he and other legislators attended, they were privileged to hear Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan present the findings of the College Board Advocacy’s Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education, entitled “Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future.” He said Dr. Kirwan was raised and educated in Kentucky. He related that Dr. Kirwan’s father was a Kentucky school teacher and coach and became the football coach, dean of students, professor, and subsequently the seventh president of the University of Kentucky. Senator Winters said that Dr. Kirwan is currently Chancellor of the University System of Maryland.
Members of the committee were provided a copy of the report, Dr. Kirwan’s bio, and the PowerPoint presentation.
Dr. Kirwan said Kentucky is becoming known as a leader in education reform because of the progressive steps being taken in K-12 education and the Senate Bill 1 legislation. He said Dr. Robert King, the new president of the Council on Higher Education, brings the perspective that is needed to make changes in higher education.
Dr. Kirwan said it is devastating to know that the United States, when compared to industrialized countries throughout the world, is ranked 23rd in high school completion rates and 10th in postsecondary completion rates when it previously had been ranked number one in his lifetime. Data also shows that the US has the highest college dropout percentage of any industrialized nation. Data also shows that the US is the only industrialized nation where the 25-34 cohort group with a two or four-year college degree is actually declining, and only 39% of the same cohort group actually has a college degree as compared to 45-55% of the same group in other industrialized nations. He said if changes are not made, underrepresented minorities in the same cohort group will result in a college completion rate of only 29% by the year 2025. Dr. Kirwan said it was because of those frightening statistics that the College Board Advocacy created the Commission on Access, Admissions, and Success in Higher Education.
Dr. Kirwan said the Commission, which he chairs, was appointed by College Board Advocacy President Gaston Caperton, former governor of West Virginia, and has 28 members broadly representative of higher education, K-12 education, the business sector, and private and public universities. He said the commission was charged with examining education in America to find the holes in the continuum of the K-16 pipeline and to make recommendations on how to fix it. The commission completed the study and developed a set of recommendations to achieve a goal of a 55% two or four-year postsecondary completion rate in the 25-34 cohort group by 2025. The 55% was selected as the goal to meet in order for the US to continue to be a leading economic power. Dr. Kirwan said the report was released about 11 months before the last presidential election and it is interesting to note that President Barack Obama has set a similar goal for the US to be the leader in higher education completion with a two or four-year degree by the year 2020.
Dr. Kirwan discussed the conclusions reached by the commission. He said they concluded that poverty plays a huge role in undereducation, giving as an example that a three-year-old growing up in a family at poverty level has an average vocabulary of approximately 1500 words as compared to a middle income family where the average vocabulary for a three-year-old is 2500 words. He said both three-year-olds would enter the same kindergarten with the one child having to overcome a huge hurdle from the onset. The commission concluded that there is a dearth of information to students at the middle school level, especially students from low income and underrepresented minority families, about how to get on a college track, such as understanding what courses to take or the financial aid that would be available to help the student attend college. Dr. Kirwan said the commission also found there is a lack of rigor in high school curricula; a lack of alignment between the exit requirements in high school and entrance requirements in college; that college application and financial aid processes are too burdensome and confusing; that need based financial aid is insufficient; that many universities fail to put adequate emphasis on teacher preparation programs; and postsecondary institutions have not been addressing attrition rates.
Dr. Kirwan said the commission developed 10 recommendations to address the deficiencies they had identified. One recommendation was to make voluntary preschool available to all children from families at or below 200% of the poverty level. He said legislation has already been initiated in Congress to increase funding for Head Start programs. He said another recommendation is to better inform middle school students about what they will need to do in order to attend college. He mentioned a University System of Maryland (USM) program called “Way2Go Maryland” that provides a brochure to every middle school student in the state with information on the course sequences they need to take to be ready for college and the financial aid available to them.
Dr. Kirwan said the commission recommends that the college preparation curriculum become the default high school curriculum nationally for every student unless the student specifically opts out of the curriculum. Another recommendation is that high school exit requirements align with college entrance expectations. Dr. Kirwan related that Roy Romer, former governor of Colorado, is chairing a national commission to develop uniform standards for high school completion, beginning with mathematics and English, in which 48 states including Kentucky and Maryland are participating. Dr. Kirwan said that the commissioner found that the college admission and financial aid processes are too complex and must be simplified. He said the US Department of Education has begun the process of simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms.
Representative Glenn asked Dr. Kirwan if he could identify any of the reasons for the decrease in college attendance and college graduation rates. Dr. Kirwan said he believes too many students come through the K-12 system unprepared for college and that Congress is trying to address the situation through such legislation as the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top funding proposal. He said the silver lining is that states legislatures, like those in Kentucky and Maryland, are also developing initiatives to improve the education of their citizens.
Representative Riner asked Dr. Kirwan if the statistics in the report about declining graduation rates factored in the illegal immigrant population. Dr. Kirwan said the data does not include unregistered immigrants and is based on enrollment data.
Dr. Kirwan said the college transfer process has created problems across the nation and part of the solution to increasing the college completion rate is fostering a strong partnership between two-year and four-year schools. He said community colleges provide access at a much lower cost than four-year institutions for students seeking a two-year degree and it would be beneficial to keep those students in two-year colleges until they have completed an associate of arts (AA) degree rather than having them transfer after one year. He said there is a strong relationship between two and four-year colleges in Maryland and in many disciplines a student can complete an AA degree and come to a four-year institution as a junior. He said Maryland also allows a student to be dually enrolled in a two and four-year college simultaneously which allows the student to be advised by the four-year college from day one and helps them feel connected to the four-year college where they are likely to pursue their four-year degree.
Dr. Kirwan said keeping college affordable is very important and higher education institutions must play a role by finding lower cost ways of delivering high quality education. He said state governments must also take responsibility and ensure maintenance of effort. He said in Maryland, public higher education institutions receive half their funding from state appropriations and half from tuition. He said the federal government must also play a role through financial aid for students and was pleased about the increase in Pell grants.
Dr. Kirwan said that much more emphasis must be placed on teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities in order to produce a large number of high quality teachers. He said studies in Maryland revealed that as many as 360 teachers of mathematics and science are needed in the secondary level each year to replace the retiring workforce and meet student demand but the universities are only producing about 120 teachers. For that reason, the state has developed initiatives to triple the number of highly qualified science and math teachers. He said the University of Texas has started a program called “UTeach” which has quadrupled the number of teachers coming out of the University of Texas that could serve as a model for the rest of the country.
Dr. Kirwan said that colleges and universities are masters at marketing in recruiting students but must provide more leadership in developing best practices for retention of those students. He said there is also a need to invest in adult education programs to steer adults who have completed some credit hours back to the institutions to finish their degrees. Dr. Kirwan said having placed adult education under the Council on Postsecondary Education in Kentucky brings focus to that issue.
Representative Graham said he has observed that many students, especially those from low income families, are often discouraged from taking rigorous courses by teachers or counselors. Dr. Kirwan said the issue is discussed in the report and recommendations include educating students and parents about college requirements, although it is even more important for local school personnel to address those issues. Representative Graham said that students who do not take Advanced Placement or honors classes are already at a disadvantage. Dr. Kirwan agreed and said that K-12 councils and state and local school personnel must make a systemic effort to change that paradigm and become a positive influence on all students regardless of their background. Representative Graham asked for further explanation of the procedure in Maryland that allows students who have completed a two-year degree program to be accepted in a four-year institution. Dr. Kirwan said there is a Maryland state regulation that allows any student who obtains an AA degree in a Maryland college to enter a four-year school, although some lower level courses may still have to be completed to obtain a higher degree. He said university and college curricula are also being more stringently aligned, especially in high demand workforce areas such as teacher education. He said when a student completes an AA degree in teaching, nursing, engineering, and other high need areas, the student may then enter a four-year institution as a junior because the curricula has been so tightly aligned. Dr. Kirwan said that even the University of Maryland College Park, which has very high admission standards, accepts the AA degree for admission. Representative Graham asked if the commission discussed how instruction delivery methods at the university level impacts retention. Dr. Kirwan said the issue was discussed and included in the recommendations for best practice strategies for college retention, putting the onus on colleges and universities to understand why students are dropping out. He said Maryland has a P-20 leadership council chaired by the governor that is studying ways to bridge the gulf and create seamless curricula.
Representative Glenn asked if other states tie funding to retention levels. Dr. Kirwan said there are growing efforts to provide incentive funding based on retention rates, although each institution should not be expected to have the same retention rate because of various factors, such as admittance criteria, location, and tuition.
Senator Blevins said that impoverished students typically do not have access to the technology that other students may have in their homes and perhaps entitlement programs for low income people should include providing students with computers and other technology to help them learn. He said there have been projects in Eastern Kentucky to place refurbished computers in low income homes which is making a difference for those students. Dr. Kirwan said that finding ways to stimulate the learning environment for low income students, such as technology, was the number one recommendation related to that cohort group.
Dr. Kirwan said that he and other commission members are determined to keep the effort to improve education alive. He said that members of the commission met with President Obama’s transition team to apprise them of the commission report and members of the commission have been meeting with higher education associations, Congressmen, state legislators, and other groups interested in joining the effort. He said the commission has formed a partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures to develop a state policy guide which will be available in the spring of 2010 and will include best practices and strategies to improve education. The commission is also working with members of Congress to create a college access and completion fund, and a bill has already been introduced that contains a $2.5 billion appropriation geared toward higher education. Dr. Kirwan said the College Advocacy Board also plans to develop a report card that will assess how each state is doing based on the commission’s recommendations, such as aligning K-12 education with higher education.
Dr. Kirwan said America is facing many challenges including the health care crisis, financial instability, and homeland security, but no challenge is more significant than providing a better education system for all its citizens. He said education is key in building a strong, vibrant economy and a high quality of life and he is heartened by the focus Kentucky legislators have on improving the education of their constituency. Dr. Kirwan said the paradigm needs to be changed now so that America can once again be the leader in education.
Representative Moberly said that Senate Bill 1 addresses many of the recommendations that the commission made. He asked what criteria will be included in the $2.5 billion competitive grant that may pass Congress, such as will it be specific or general in nature and will each state or individual institutions apply for and administer it. Dr. Kirwan said he did not know all of the details in the legislation but is aware that a comment period will be allowed so that education associations, state councils, and other interested groups can provide input. He said that a significant portion of funding will be for statewide efforts although it may include funding for individual institutions focusing on systemic efforts to improve college completion. He said the initiatives must be cost effective and sustainable when the federal funds have been expended. Representative Moberly asked if it is anticipated that the legislation will pass in this session to which Dr. Kirwan responded that is his understanding. Representative Moberly asked Dr. Kirwan what he meant by a systemic effort. Dr. Kirwan said individual states would have to demonstrate a systemic effort to increase college graduation in partnership with two and four-year institutions.
Representative Moberly said he is aware of the movement to decrease the number of hours required to graduate and that most Kentucky schools have already decreased graduation credits from 128 to 120, which makes counseling of students even more important to ensure that those transferring from a two-year to a four-year institution are meeting the requirements for the major program of studies. Dr. Kirwan agreed and said that Maryland is already providing students with information required to complete a number of degrees, particularly in high need areas. Representative Moberly asked Dr. Kirwan what higher education institutions should being done right now nationwide to make college more affordable, especially considering the slow economic recovery. Dr. Kirwan responded that a combined effort is essential in lowering the costs of high quality education. He said the University System of Maryland is working with the National Center for Academic Transformation, which has developed a remarkable set of strategies to lower the cost of delivering lower division courses and improving learning, and that online education also lowers the costs of education. Representative Moberly asked what recommendations have been provided regarding the costs of textbooks, specifically whether there is a recommendation about standardization of textbooks or if the academic freedom issue negates the effort. Dr. Kirwan said there must be a balance between academic freedom and affordability and the Maryland legislature directed a study of the issue. He said 30 institutions are participating in an experiment in which a Kindle device is used to download textbooks to lower the cost to students and provide them the convenience of having the textbook in one single instrument.
Representative Moberly asked for more information on the initiatives in Maryland and Texas about teacher preparation programs. Dr. Kirwan said the University of Texas at Austin created the UTeach Program that allows freshman and sophomore students majoring in math and science to earn a modest stipend by voluntarily serving as teaching assistants in math and science classes in the local school district and allows the undergraduate student to take enough courses so they can become certified to teach. He said the program started with 70 students and now has over 400 students enrolled.
Dr. Kirwan said in an effort to lower college costs the University System of Maryland began an “Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative” about five years ago which has resulted in $90 million in savings and cost avoidance and that other successful initiatives have also been undertaken at other institutions.
Senator Westwood said that one of the problems for college students is that the expectation of obtaining a degree in four years has become unrealistic and that a six-year completion rate has become the default. He said many students may need to take as many as 12 to 15 hours of developmental education courses for which they receive no credits, even though they are paying tuition and fees associated with those classes. Senator Westwood said that creating a seamless K-12 transition and alignment of courses with postsecondary education will help alleviate the need for developmental courses and that the Southern Regional Educational Board is conducting a study to determine the types of courses a student could take in any two-year program of study that would count toward an undergraduate degree in any four-year institution. He said he would like to see a core curriculum developed that is transferrable to any university in the nation. Senator Westwood said another issue is that if a student withdraws for any number of reasons and decides to return at a later date, the credits already earned may no longer count toward the degree they are seeking. He said lack of accessibility also negatively impacts low income students because colleges are often too far away to commute even if the student has transportation and living on campus may not be affordable. Dr. Kirwan said the federal government established a six-year reporting requirement so all institutions report graduation rates for six-year periods making it the default standard. He said it is important to return to a four-year expectation for graduation and related that the University System of Maryland has worked on decreasing the amount of time so that it now takes approximately 4.9 years to complete an undergraduate degree. He said it is not unrealistic to even strive for a three-year degree, which would significantly reduce costs, especially since many students come to college with advanced placement credits. Dr. Kirwan said that accessibility issues can be addressed through online curricula and community colleges. He said the University of Maryland University College is a fully accredited online degree program with an enrollment of 117,000 students, which makes it the largest postsecondary institution in the state. He said the university system also creates partnerships with two-year schools in certain underrepresented geographical areas to allow faculty to use classrooms in the community colleges so students may complete their undergraduate degrees.
Representative Meeks said that the obstacles identified by the commission appear to be national issues and asked how a poor state such as Kentucky can play a role, when it has even been impossible to require that students remain in school to the age of 18. Dr. Kirwan said each state will need to decide what steps can be taken based on needs, capabilities, and obstacles. He said the commission’s partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures will result in model pieces of legislation, best practices, and policies that each state can consider. Representative Meeks asked Dr. Kirwan if he has any opinion regarding the frequent criticism of the Obama administration about federal government spending and interference in state and local issues such as education. Dr. Kirwan said a balance is always needed between federal control and local autonomy and responsibility. He said that Roy Romer, former governor of Colorado, is spearheading an effort to create a uniform set of standards in the core disciplines for high school completion and that Kentucky and Maryland are involved in this national effort. He said the federal government is also making huge investments to help states improve the performance of high schools students, such as the Race to the Top funding. Representative Meeks asked Dr. Kirwan if he would advise a student to take more rigorous courses which may result in a grade that would perhaps affect receipt of a scholarship or take less rigorous courses and qualify for a scholarship. Dr. Kirwan said he would advise any student to take the rigorous courses, which will better prepare them for success in college.
Representative Carney said all of the commission’s 10 recommendations were good but he would encourage Kentucky leaders to focus on three areas and Senate Bill 1 has begun to address some of those areas. He said Kentucky students are required to have individual growth plans to help them begin selecting courses of study to meet career goals. He said the most important recommendations relate to early childhood education, raising the expectations for all students, and controlling cost by making every effort cost effective. Representative Carney said it appears that many universities are being run like a business instead of institutions with a passion for learning. He said in talking with students at a local university they related that the cost of a new textbook may be as much as $200 but only have a resale value after being used for one year of $40. Dr. Kirwan said Maryland institutions are required to post the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of textbooks that will be used in the upcoming semester so students will have an opportunity to search the competitive market for the best possible price.
Representative Richards asked Dr. Kirwan if he was aware of the reasons why students do well in elementary school, but then academic attainment begins to decline in middle school and never really recovers in high school. Dr. Kirwan said teacher standards need to be increased and financial incentives provided to award teachers who demonstrate an ability to effectively educate students. He said there is no other profession of which he is aware where there is not some extra financial reward based on merit and demand. Dr. Kirwan said students seeking degrees in science and math fields can find higher pay jobs that are not in the teaching field, which makes it even more important to reward teachers of those disciplines for meritorious performance. Representative Richards asked how technology can be incorporated in teaching to better educate young people. Dr. Kirwan said the method of delivery of formal education has changed very little in previous years and it is becoming extremely important to incorporate technology into the classroom. He said that is sometimes difficult for faculty who have been teaching for years, but new educators will be more comfortable with using technology. He said initial investments will have to be made to take full advantage of the technologies available but in the long run will result in enormous cost savings. He referred to the model of education that has existed for years as using “the sage on the stage” instructor and now students are becoming active learners with instructors being the “guide on the side” which will make the delivery of education more cost effective.
Senator Winters told Dr. Kirwan that his excitement and enthusiasm about the report and the general topic of improving education is contagious and that he and his colleagues will be looking forward to reviewing the state policy guide and participating in the college access and completion fund.
Senator Winters asked Melissa Justice, Senior Associate Counsel, and Becky Gilpatrick, Student Aid Branch Manager, for the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, to explain the changes to the administrative regulations.
Ms. Justice said that the proposed changes to 11 KAR 3:100, administrative wage garnishment, which enables the authority to collect on defaulted student loans, updates the poverty guidelines in the regulation to meet those published by the federal government and the consumer expenditure tables published by the Labor Cabinet. Representative Stone asked if the change lowers the threshold or increases the threshold before garnishment can occur. Ms. Justice said the tables are used in determining whether there is an extreme financial hardship and the amendment increases those values so the borrower will be allowed to have slightly more income and may have slightly higher expenditures before the garnishment would take effect.
Ms. Justice said the amendments to 11 KAR 5:145, CAP grant award determination procedure, increase the expected family contribution in order to be eligible for a grant award. Senator Winters asked what initiated the change. Ms. Gilpatrick said the change mirrors the increase in the federal Pell Grant requirements.
Senator Winters said the next meeting of the committee will be in Frankfort on Monday, November 9, 2009. There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 3:00 PM.