Call to Order and Roll Call
Thethird meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, August 9, 2010, 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 Carl Rollins II, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., David Givens, Jimmy Higdon, Alice Forgy Kerr, Vernie McGaha, R.J. Palmer II, Tim Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Tori, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Linda Belcher, John "Bam" Carney, Hubert Collins, Leslie Combs, Jim DeCesare, Ted Edmonds, C. B. Embry Jr., Tim Firkins, Kelly Flood, Derrick Graham, Jeff Greer, Reginald Meeks, Charles Miller, Harry Moberly Jr., Rick G. Nelson, Marie Rader, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, Kent Stevens, Wilson Stone, Alecia Webb-Edgington, and Addia Wuchner.
Legislative Guest: Representative Brad Montell.
Guests: Jim Thompson, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; Richard Day, Eastern Kentucky University; Sara Hallermann, constituent; Mary Ann Blankenship, Kentucky Education Association; Bobby Lewis and Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Cindy Heine, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; and Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County Public Schools.
Approval of Minutes
Upon a motion by Representative Collins, seconded by Representative Richards, the minutes of the July 12, 2010, meeting were approved by voice vote.
Reports from the Subcommittee Meetings
Representative Leslie Combs, Co-Chair, Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, said Robert King, President of the Council on Postsecondary Education, provided an overview of issues impacting college completion and trend data showing the progress Kentucky has made in the last decade and national comparisons. This was followed by presentations on campus initiatives to address college completion at the states two research universities, the six comprehensive universities, and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). She said committee members received packets of materials from each school and heard summary reports which showed varied, aggressive approaches to improving college completion going on across the Commonwealth. All of these initiatives appear to have individualized outreach to students as a key component. This was followed by a presentation by Edward Cunningham, Executive Director, and Susan Hopkins, Outreach Services Manager, about college access initiatives and outreach provided by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. The presentation covered an impressive array of services designed to get information to students and their families about the benefits of higher education and the opportunities and assistance available.
Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair, Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education, said Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Associate Commissioner Felicia Smith, consultant Sherri Clusky, and Dr. Ronnie Nolan, Director of the Kentucky Educational Collaboration for State Agency Children, gave an overview of A-5 and A-6 alternative education programs. Eleven alternative programs have recently been identified by KDE as “exemplary.” Testimony was provided by staff of two of the exemplary schools: Ms. Ann Brewster, principal of Ramey-Estep High School in Boyd County and Lisa Weest, principal, Robin Gabbard, public relations director, and Stephanie Miller, teacher at Buckhorn Children’s Center School, Perry County. Each presentation focused on the day-to-day operation of the school, including student and staff assignment, program offerings, and funding streams.
A Practitioner’s View of Effective Public Charter Schools
Mr. Tracy McDaniel, School Leader, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Reach College Preparatory Middle School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, reported that when he took leadership of the middle school in his hometown it was the lowest performing school in the state. His mandate was to get the school off of the lowest performance list and he was the tenth principal the school had employed in the last fifteen years. At the end of his first year, the school was removed from the list, but was still the lowest performing school to pass the test. He was recruited and began training for the KIPP program.
Mr. McDaniel is the Founder and Director of KIPP: Reach College Preparatory. Since its inception, KIPP Reach is one of the highest performing middle schools in the state. After the second year of working with fifth and sixth grade students, his school was the fourth highest performing school in the state of Oklahoma, and funding was cut for the program. After funding was cut, KIPP applied and became a charter school in 2005 and was no longer a district contract school.
Mr. McDaniel reported that many of his students were several grades below reading level comprehension. Many parents are shocked to learn their children are behind in reading. In 2010, 100 percent of his students passed seventh and eighth grade math, 100 percent of his student passed eighth grade reading, and 97 percent passed seventh grade reading. He also reported that 93 percent of his seventh grade students scored in the advanced level on the state math assessment, and 89 percent in eighth grade score at an advanced level.
Mr. McDaniel noted that he knows every child in his school and is on a first-name basis with the parents. Teachers report to work at 7:15 a.m. and usually leave around 5:15 p.m. The students work very hard and usually have two hours of homework each night. They are encouraged to call their teachers at any time if they have questions with their homework.
Mr. McDaniel does not feel like KIPP has been successful unless his students go to college. The program follows them past high school graduation and ensures the students are enrolled in postsecondary education. There is currently an 83 percent rate of students enrolling into college after graduation.
In response to questions from Representative Collins, Mr. McDaniel said there are 280 students enrolled in his school which encompasses fifth through eighth grade. There are 14 teachers employed at the school, in addition to support staff. The starting salary for regular teachers in Oklahoma is $34,000 and most teachers in the KIPP program start out at $44,000 because they work overtime, Saturdays, and many days in the summer. Mr. McDaniel said teachers in the public school system could be just as effective if their rules and regulations allowed them to implement some of the same best practices as the KIPP program. Charter schools that perform poorly should face the same sanctions as regular public schools that perform poorly.
In response to questions from Representative Rollins, Mr. McDaniel said the KIPP program is open, and is free public education. He said they send a letter out to each fourth grade student in Oklahoma and run advertisements in the local newspapers. Children apply and then the children and parents must sign a commitment to being in the school and completing all homework assignments. He removes far fewer students from the program than the public schools remove and send to alternative school. One reason for this is having multiple parent conferences and keeping parents engaged in their children’s educational progress.
Mr. McDaniel said fundraising efforts are used to be able to pay the teachers the additional $10,000 in salary for overtime. Community leaders also help to obtain national grants to help pay the KIPP teachers for the couple of extra hours worked each school day. Ten percent of KIPP’s students this year are identified as special needs, compared to 13 percent as the average for the school district.
In response to a question from Senator Winters, Mr. McDaniel said the other schools do not react when their students receive a letter inviting them to join the KIPP program. He said he even shares a building with a public school whose students receive letters and he never receives a negative reaction.
In response to questions from Representative Flood, Mr. McDaniel said KIPP employs all certified teachers. He said the instructional process he went through to lead KIPP was invaluable. KIPP’s relationship with the school system and superintendent improved after charter school status was obtained.
In response to a question from Representative Carney, Mr. McDaniel said the biggest change he noticed when the school moved from district to charter status was his power to lead the program. He said student data will show that his students are not “cherry picked” and are actually several reading levels below grade level when they begin. If he were “cherry picking”, he would select students who are reading above grade level.
In response to questions from Representative DeCesare, Mr. McDaniel said he had a good relationship with the teacher’s union, but the community had to help bridge the gap with hostile relations with the school board. He said the urban areas in Oklahoma are starting to embrace the concept of charter schools and have applied to get charter schools in their districts. Districts that do not embrace charter schools would not oppose the KIPP program as long as the charter school did not affect them. Most KIPP teachers are not active in a teacher’s union, but have the option to join if they choose.
In response to questions from Representative Stevens, Mr. McDaniel said the KIPP school consists of grades five through eight. The teacher to student ratio in fifth and sixth grade is 32 students per teacher; in seventh and eighth grade it is about 22 students per teacher. He said 140 students applied to be in the program last year to fill 120 slots. If the parents and students do not keep the commitment to KIPP, they return to the regular school. Representative Stevens said there are many redeeming qualities in the KIPP program that could be incorporated in Kentucky public schools. He said it would be nice to find solutions in the public schools instead of sending so many children to alternative schools.
In response to a question from Senator Shaughnessy, Mr. McDaniel said KIPP is a national entity that started in 1995 and is not-for-profit. He said the students in KIPP were 99 percent African-American when the program initially began, but is now 80 percent African-American, 10 percent white, 7 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Native American, and 1 percent other. KIPP does not currently operate in any communities that are under desegregation orders.
Senator Winters told the audience members to turn in any written comments or testimony to Audrey Carr, Committee Staff Administrator, Education Committee. Comments will be delivered to the legislative members of the committee.
Comments on Charter Schools
Brent McKim, President, Jefferson County Teacher Association (JCTA), testified that charter schools are counterproductive and unnecessary in Kentucky. There is a difference between innovative educational programs and strategies, such as KIPP, and a charter school concept. Research has shown that charter school students score lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test and on fourth grade math assessment scores than students in traditional public schools. Charter schools typically enroll fewer special needs students. Numerous studies show that charter school students do not perform better than students in the public education school system and typically perform worse.
Mr. McKim said charter schools are not necessary in Kentucky because of the level of local school empowerment through the school-based decision making councils (SBDM). These councils are authorized by law to set curriculum and school policies that supersede the school board. The passage of House Bill 176 in the 2009 legislative session authorized an Education Management Organization (EMO) to operate a failing school, if necessary. Ms. Jo Bell, JCTA teacher, was available for testimony but time prevented her from commenting.
Jerry L. Stephenson, Pastor, Midwest Church of Christ, Louisville, Kentucky, testified on behalf of charter schools. Data from 2009 indicates 96 of the 133 schools in Jefferson County reported in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP). He said 25 of the 133 schools were categorized in the Tier 5 level and face consequences for performance, while 18 of the schools were given Tier 5 status in NCLB. Jefferson County Public Schools have lost focus of its vision of all students reaching proficiency in core standards. Public charters schools would allow teachers and principals the ability to redirect their efforts to meet children’s’ needs without impeding the progress of the students that are progressing at a faster pace. Low income and African-American parents have no input on where their children attend school, the curriculum they are taught, or the policies that control their education. SBDMs do not provide the same opportunities for children as public charter schools in the inner city.
Mary Ann Blankenship, Executive Director, Kentucky Education Association (KEA), spoke on behalf of more than 41,000 educators across the state. She said KEA’s position on charter schools is that the association does not support any prior charter legislation, but is open to future discussions on the subject. A major concern of KEA is that charter schools too often do not live up to their promises. Research supports that charter schools with the same demographics often do worse, and seldom do better, than regular public schools. The Stanford study, in particular, showed that only 17 percent of students when matched with similar student demographics, performed better in charter schools.
Ms. Blankenship said a high number of charter schools have found significant levels of the misuse of funds, scandal, and overall poor practices within the schools. She also noted that several charter schools in almost every state have been shut down. KEA believes charter schools have the potential to weaken communities. They can lower the number of parents who volunteer and provide support for school and athletic events by taking students with involved parents out of the public school system. Kentucky voters do have a direct influence on their schools through their elected members of the local school board and electing parent members on SBDM councils. Public schools are subject to open records and open meeting laws which KEA feels is appropriate. KEA supports transparency and electoral accountability to the voters and to the parents.
Ms. Blankenship said some charter schools are run by national organizations. She said most money invested in public schools is reinvested in local communities through local merchants and local service providers. Charter schools that are supported nationally can lead to monies being directed to communities away from the local community where the charter school organization may be based.
Ms. Blankenship said school councils already provide Kentucky with much of what charter schools promise. She said school councils should be strengthened and given more autonomy to be level with charter schools. The law that allows charter schools to request waivers from state law should be implemented more often. State laws and regulations should be altered or eliminated that hinder student learning.
Ms. Blankenship said KEA believes charter schools have the potential to weaken other schools. Generally, charter schools try to attract one segment of the population either based on ethnicity or gender, or a program focus within a particular school. This detracts from the common vision of schooling in this country that says all children are treated equitably. Charter schools can easily dismiss the children not performing well and so the weakest students end up back in the public schools.
Ms. Blankenship said that some states provide funding for charter schools, which can diminish funding for public schools. Personnel matters can be problematic and can jeopardize student learning. Research supports that teachers are most effective ten years into their career. Yet, charter schools are generally staffed by less experienced teachers and have a very high level of turnover. Schools need to be properly funded in order to adequately prepare teachers to teach students and meet higher goals.
Jim Waters, Vice President for Policy and Communications, Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said the rate of educational improvement for Kentucky students is unacceptable to the taxpayers and parents of the Commonwealth. He is concerned that the performance of Kentucky students is degenerating the longer they are in school. According to the Department of Education (KDE), 28 percent of fourth grade students, 37 percent of middle school students, and 59 percent of high school students are performing below proficient in math, including, 71 percent of students from low income homes and 79 percent of African-American students. Fewer than 30 percent of low income and minority students are proficient in math, science, social studies, and writing. Barely half of the high school sophomores from low income homes and only 44 percent of African-American students are proficient in reading. While there may not be universal support of charter schools, there should be universal acceptance that the way Kentucky is doing business now is not working.
Mr. Waters said research that claims charter schools are not successful is faulty work based on flawed methodology. He said this is causing an embarrassment to those that tout the research as being credible. Charter schools do work and deserve a chance in Kentucky. If research supports the notion that charter school students are performing at the same levels as public school students, then that supports the fact that charter schools are doing a good job because most students enter into those schools several grade levels behind. Specific statistics and materials supporting charter schools are included in the meeting materials located in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
Mr. Waters said over 10,000 students are attending Tier 5 failing schools in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Teacher union contracts and collective bargaining agreements are preventing the kind of system change that is necessary to break the cycle of insanity. Kentucky needs a policy that allows veteran teachers to be placed into low-performing schools to utilize their experience. He feels good teachers should be financially rewarded and poor teachers dismissed immediately. SBDM councils must comply with all the regulations and union contract restrictions that hamper Kentucky’s education system. If these same burdens were placed on charters schools, they would be set up for failure. SBDM councils have been proven to be ineffective in leading schools as reported by “The Greater Louisville Education Report.”
Robert Lewis, Associate Superintendent, Student Services, Hardin County Schools, Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA), said KASA does not oppose charter schools, but would like to see more collegial work being done to identify the pros and cons. He wondered if this was the right time to make a policy shift to charter schools when public schools are dealing with a stressed economy, stressed budgets, more accountability being placed on teachers in the classroom, reduction of force, and the rollout of new standards. Public schools deserve the chance to be innovative and to think outside the box. All high-performing schools have a dynamic leader, such as Mr. McDaniel, a positive school culture, positive parental support, and a good teaching staff. These attributes should be what Kentucky schools are striving to reach. KASA feels certain that the committee will investigate charter schools further and make the best decision for Kentucky students.
Wilson Sears, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS), said the charter school issue results in a disarray of research findings with no clear evidence that charter schools have a significant impact on student achievement. He believes it is not the time to distract from the public school’s mission to provide a quality education for all children. This position is based on conflicting data regarding charter school success and the limited resources and many demands being placed on public school employees. He noted that 70 percent of Kentucky superintendents are opposed to charter schools and 30 percent support the idea because of “Race to the Top” funding issues.
Mr. Sears said legislative and financial support of quality public schools is a better educational direction than a charter school system. While there is little doubt that many Kentucky schools need improvement, the idea that all the educational woes are a result of underperforming schools and inadequate instruction is a gross oversimplification. Many children suffer from single parent homes, drug ridden homes, and live below poverty level. Children come to school hungry and inadequately clothed and these problems are a barrier to learning. Public schools are doing the best they can with limited resources.
Bill Scott, Executive Director, and Shannon Pratt Stiglitz, Assistant Director, Government Relations, Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA), said KSBA has many questions concerning charter schools and wants to begin a dialogue between legislators and school board members on the topic. Ms. Stiglitz said it is imperative to inform school board members on the particulars of charters since they would be authorizing the charter schools within their local districts. She said since charter schools are now located in 39 states, the volume of research has increased and many lessons have been learned. However, there is no distinct conclusion that charter schools are improving student achievement more than their traditional counterparts. Leading researchers and advocates of charter schools acknowledge that the research is confusing. KSBA continues to review each study released on charter schools and looks forward to finding the answers as to why some charter schools are successful and some fail. The answers are hard to find because each charter school is so different.
Ms. Stiglitz said state laws and regulations are suffocating schools and do not allow for innovation. School board members want to see all students succeed at high levels and support local districts having the same flexibility as charter schools in order to promote student success. Statutory and regulatory changes are necessary for public schools to offer smaller class sizes, extended school days, and flexibility in hiring and rewarding teachers, which are the positives of charter schools.
Ms. Stiglitz said it KSBA’s belief that local school boards should be the sole authorizers of charter schools. She said seven states currently have school boards as the sole authorizer and they have healthy numbers of charter schools. The KSBA is concerned that charter schools would take away much needed funding from the public schools and would like more research on charter schools located in rural areas. Finally, KSBA wants charter schools to be required to provide the same level of services to special education students.
In response to a question from Representative DeCesare, Mr. McDaniel said he is currently in a battle with Oklahoma City Schools to be included in the application pool for teachers. He said teacherteacher.com is used and they advertise for teachers in the local newspapers. It is hard to get teachers to apply when they do not know there is an opening. Representative DeCesare noted more than 60 percent of the general fund dollars are put into education and he said Kentucky needs to get a better bang for its buck. He said Kentucky has been at the bottom of the education list for a long time and he feels it is time to give Kentucky students the opportunity to attend a charter school. Transparency is not trying to evaluate a superintendent behind closed doors and feel superintendents should be thoroughly vetted.
In response to a question from Representative Firkins, Mr. McDaniel said KIPP is a public school that operates under a board of directors made up of community and business leaders. He said the school board and the superintendent are the authorizers of the school. If parents have a complaint, they sign up to speak at the KIPP Board of Directors meeting. They can also complain to the Oklahoma City School Board who can choose not to renew KIPP’s contract after three years. Representative Firkins would like Mr. Sears to put his statements in writing and feels the public schools should be strengthened instead of adding charter schools.
Senator Givens said people should not feel discomfort with change, but should instead feel discomfort with failure. In response to a question from Senator Givens, Mr. McDaniel said the biggest challenge in Kentucky is going to be embracing change. Kentucky has not evolved in its educational system and has not embraced technology in instruction.
In response to a question from Representative Rollins, Mr. McDaniel said all KIPP teachers are certified. Mr. McDaniel said it is his policy to have all teachers certified, but charter schools only require teacher certification in core subject areas.
In response to a question from Senator Kerr, Mr. McDaniel discussed the training he received for KIPP. He said the training taught him innovative learning strategies such as teaching children to learn by customizing rap songs and having them sing lessons. Senator Kerr would like to see Kentucky’s professional development dollars put to better use.
Representative Wuchner would like the discussion on charter schools to continue. She would like to see all the groups who made comments to meet and work together and find common ground.
Senator Westwood said charter schools are public schools with a different set of regulations. He said any effort by the committee to change the status quo or policy in the public school system usually fails. Charter schools should be a tool in the toolbox that public schools can use if needed. There would not a requirement for school districts to have to use charter schools, but right now it is not an option because it is against the law.
In response to a question from Representative Belcher, Mr. McDaniel said KIPP works with the parents to try and change their mindsets, but some parents leave the program and their child is returned to the public school. Representative Belcher said Kentucky needs to loosen regulations to allow the public schools more flexibility. She said it is not acceptable for children’s needs not to be met.
Senator Winters said he would like to discuss the topic of school choice in a future meeting. He said JCTA would be included in the conversation.
Representative Richards welcomed the members to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the next meeting on September 13, 2010. The meeting will be held at South Warren High School and Middle School campus.
Senator Kerr stressed that it is very important that superintendents, school boards, principals, and teachers ensure that students are staying safe in outside activities. She said this heat index is above normal and is hard on band members and students playing sports.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 3:30 p.m.