Call to Order and Roll Call
Thethird meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, September 9, 2013, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Mike Wilson, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Mike Wilson, Co-Chair; Representative Derrick Graham, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Joe Bowen, Jared Carpenter, David P. Givens, Denise Harper Angel, Jimmy Higdon, Stan Humphries, Alice Forgy Kerr, Gerald A. Neal, and Katie Stine; Representatives Regina Bunch, John Carney, Hubert Collins, Leslie Combs, C.B. Embry Jr., Kelly Flood, Richard Heath, Joni L. Jenkins, James Kay, Brian Linder, Mary Lou Marzian, Donna Mayfield, Reginald Meeks, Charles Miller, Rick G. Nelson, Marie Rader, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Bart Rowland, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, David Watkins, Addia Wuchner, and Jill York.
Guests: Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County Public Schools and Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Pam Sayler and Dr. Robert Storer, Walton-Verona Board of Education; Sue Cain, Council on Postsecondary Education; Robert Rodosky, Jefferson County Public Schools; Erin Klarer and Diana Barber, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation; Bill Simpson, Hal Heiner, Kentucky Charter School Association; Stuart Johnston and Beth Brinly, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; and Marti White, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
Legislative Guests: Representatives Brad Montell and Arnold Simpson.
Approval of July 8, 2013, Minutes
Upon motion by Representative Graham and a second by Representative Collins, the minutes were approved by voice vote.
Reports from Subcommittees
Representative Meeks reported that the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education met to learn about the impact of university research on economic development in Kentucky. Representative Stone reported that the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education heard from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) about the implementation of Senate Bill 97 and efforts to increase college and career readiness. A complete set of minutes for each subcommittee is located in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
Senator Bowen expressed concern with the starting times of the subcommittee meetings and said more consideration should be given to legislators driving in from western Kentucky. Representative Graham and Senator Wilson will take the concern under consideration.
Presentation: Districts of Innovation
Terry Holliday, Commissioner, KDE, introduced David Cook, Director, Division of Innovation and Partner Engagement, who said House Bill (HB) 37 was enacted during the 2012 General Assembly and provided the opportunity for local districts to create innovative approaches to education. The new regulation 701 KAR 5:140 was approved in May 2013.
Mr. Cook said the districts of innovation application process is one that rates each application against a rubric. He emphasized that the process is not a competition. Sixteen districts applied in the first round and four were selected: Danville Independent, Eminence Independent, Jefferson County, and Taylor County. Feedback was provided to the applicants not chosen, who will be eligible to reapply in October 2013.
Mr. Cook said there were 50 statutory and regulatory waiver requests in the 16 applications, including 28 waiver requests included in the four selected applications. He noted 10 waivers were granted in the areas of compensation, class size, calendar, attendance, graduation requirements, governance, and priority schools. Ten funding waivers were partially approved based on language in HB 37, and eight waivers were denied. Seven of the denials related to issues which the Kentucky Board of Education has no authority to waive: certification by the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) and district and school accountability.
Mr. Cook said round two applications are due October 31, 2013. A new element of round two will be site visits for “finalists” as part of the application process. With certification requests being the largest percentage of requests, the potential inclusion of EPSB in the process will be evaluated. Such inclusion may require legislation.
Roger Cook, Superintendent, Taylor County Schools, said removing the grading system and personalizing the learning path for each student has resulted in eliminating the desire for students to dropout of school. Students are excited to learn and be in school. More flexibility is needed from the General Assembly for school districts to become more innovative and save the Commonwealth money.
Buddy Berry, Superintendent, Eminence Independent Schools, testified that the innovation has saved the district $250,000. He said Eminence Independent has implemented the first alternate salary schedule in the state for certified staff, and has placed the first student on the School Based Decision-Making (SBDM) council. The number of college ready students has doubled from 37 to 74 percent.
Responding to Senator Wilson, Mr. David Cook said the school districts have a memorandum of understanding with the KDE and there are monthly face-to-face and virtual meetings with the districts. Districts can be placed on probation or approval withdrawn from the program if they are not adhering to the agreements in the application.
Senator Higdon commended Taylor County on its student success rate and the fact that all students have access to an iPad. He said a virtual high school is also offered for students who may not be able to physically attend school in the building, or for older dropouts who may want to complete their degree later in life.
Responding to questions from Senator Neal, Dr. Holliday said the districts of innovation will be evaluated with the standards found in the school report card, the accountability required under the No Child Left Behind Waiver, and the ACT, EXPLORE, and PLAN college and career readiness assessment scores required in Senate Bill 1. Mr. David Cook said applicants had to be very intentional about how the innovative strategies would help students not performing well in the traditional school setting.
Responding to Representative York, Mr. David Cook said smaller districts have an easier implementation timetable and see results faster. He noted Jefferson County is deemed the largest school district with over 100,000 students and multiple middle and high schools. He anticipates medium-sized districts with multiple high schools having successful applications in the second round that will hopefully provide a blueprint for districts of varying sizes and geographic differences.
Responding to questions from Representative Graham, Mr. David Cook said the 12 applicants who were turned down in the first round will not have any advantages in the second round other than prior experience using the rubric. They are familiar with the successful applications selected in the first round and understand what they may do differently in the second round.
Presentation: Charter Schools
Hal Heiner, Chairman, Kentucky Charter Schools Association, said Kentucky is one of just eight states that have yet to enact a public charter school law. The state has an opportunity to create a quality law that draws upon 20 years of national research and experience with what does and does not work in creating a high performing charter school system.
Dr. Wayne Lewis, Jr., board member of the Kentucky Charter School Association and professor at University of Kentucky, said school choice is not an option for everyone, especially those living in poverty. According to KDE, African American students in 2012 had an average freshman graduation rate of 72.1 percent; up 5.3 percentage points from 2008, but 7.9 percentage points lower than the average freshman graduation rate of white students in Kentucky in 2012 (80.0 percent).
Dr. Lewis said in Kentucky’s class of 2012, about five percent of black students met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas compared to 42 percent of Asian students, 32 percent of white students, and 13 percent of Hispanic students. He emphasized that funding follows the student and charter schools do not take away funding for public schools.
Ken Campbell, President, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), said the achievement gaps between white, black, rich, and poor students are large and persistent. Charter schools serve less than five percent of the student population across the country, but 64 percent of parents surveyed by BAEO support them. He said charter schools are a tool, but not a fix-all solution for the education system.
Margaret Raymond, Director, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University, said CREDO has taken a policy-neutral stance on the policies and programs it evaluates, including charter or public schools. It is, however, in favor of great schools for all students.
Ms. Raymond testified that in June 2013, CREDO released its second National Charter School Study. It is the most extensive evaluation of charter school performance to date, covering 26 of the 43 states that allow charter schools to operate. Those 26 states educate more than 90 percent of the 2.1 million charter school students in the nation.
Ms. Raymond said performance in the charter school sector as measured by academic progress of students is improving. Where this occurs, the charter schools out perform their local district schools, sometimes providing additional learning opportunities equivalent to an extra 14 days in reading in a traditional school.
Ms. Raymond said there is variation in the quality of charter schools but that variation in student performance in charter schools has nothing to do with the number or types of students who enroll in them. Charter schools can create competitive pressure on traditional public schools, but only if the quality is high.
Ms. Raymond submitted several published studies for the record. She will submit a copy of her next study about how legislation can support high quality schools to staff for the record once it is released.
Responding to Senator Wilson, Mr. Campbell said Washington, D.C., has over 50 percent of its students enrolled in public charter schools. Ms. Raymond said New Orleans has 93 percent of its public school children enrolled in charter schools.
Responding to Senator Bowen, Mr. Campbell said fewer districts apply for charter schools in rural areas. Some state laws permit small districts to merge together to offer a charter school for children, but charter schools seem to have the greatest impact and success in urban areas.
Responding to Representative Wuchner, Mr. Campbell said the success of a charter school is subject to criteria established in state law. He said Kentucky needs to have a straightforward implementation process to greatly increase the chances for a successful charter school. Ms. Raymond said most of the charter schools that are underperforming are not new schools but charter schools that have been around for years. This could be indicative of the authorizers not holding charter school for the flexibility granted. She said charter schools that are not performing well should be closed down.
Responding to Representative Meeks, Dr. Lewis said most people in Kentucky do not understand charter schools. He said teachers, particularly in Jefferson County, are not given accurate information on charter schools from the teacher association. He emphasized that low-performing public schools should not be receiving monies if they are failing Kentucky’s children. Those funds should move with the child to the charter school, or a school where the child can succeed.
Ms. Raymond said nationally there is an excess demand for seats in charter schools that is equal to one-quarter of the entire capacity of existing charter schools. She said 560,000 parents requested for their children to attend charter schools across the nation, and there is no space for them.
Ms. Raymond said there is empirical evidence that suggests providing underserved students with a strong teacher for four years in a row will completely erase any education deficits that the student brings to school. She believes that parents and communities are extremely important, but teacher quality and the flexibility to adapt curriculum and instruction to the specific needs of a child is the way to offset learning deficits.
Representative Meeks said it is doing Jefferson County Public School teachers a disservice to indicate that the only information they have about charter schools is provided to them from the teacher association.
Responding to Senator Stine, Ms. Raymond said Missouri, Nevada, Indiana, and Massachusetts are state models that Kentucky could emulate.
Senator Neal requested another meeting to continue the discussion. He expressed disappointment that the committee did not hear from an official in Jefferson County in the audience who had requested to speak.
Review of Executive Order 2013-518
Chairman Wilson said the committee will pass over the review of Executive Order 2013-518 that was listed on the agenda. He said testimony would be heard on the Executive Order during the 2014 regular session of the General Assembly.
Review of Administrative Regulations
Diana Barber, General Counsel, and Carl Rollins, Executive Director, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) explained administrative regulation 11 KAR 15:090. Dr. Rollins said the administrative regulation sets out the procedures for administering the KEES program. The amendment will clarify the grading scales which must be utilized by high schools in calculating and reporting student grade point averages (GPA) for purposes of the KEES award eligibility.
Dr. Rollins said some school districts have been “creative” in developing a reporting system that allows more KEES funds for its students, and it qualifies students to receive KEES that normally they would ordinarily not earn under KHEAA’s requirements. He noted such policies can inflate students’ grade point averages and could potentially cost an additional $28 million to fully fund the KEES program. He said all districts should be reporting in the same manner.
Responding to Senator Wilson, Dr. Rollins said each school district can determine its own grading scale. For the purposes of KEES reporting, it is necessary every district assign the same weights for grade letters.
Responding to Senator Stine, Dr. Rollins said grading is subjective, and eventually the same number of students make A’s in the districts with a rigorous grading scale as in others. He said Kentucky could change the KEES program to only award KEES based on End-of-Course (EOC) exams. He said another option would be to implement a standardized grading numerical scale.
Pam Sayler, Deputy Superintendent, Walton-Verona Schools, distributed handouts to committee handouts, including a proposed amendment to 11 KAR 15:090. Ms. Sayler is concerned that KHEAA communicated that the Walton-Verona school district will no longer be permitted to assign increments within the 4.0 scale for the purposes of KEES reporting. She noted that many school districts have been assigning increments within the 4.0 scale for years.
Ms. Sayler said the rationale for school districts to assign increments was to reward students for doing their very best. For example, the current grading scale for a “B” is 88 to 94, and the district feels the students who earn the 94 should be rewarded at a higher level than the student that earns an 88. If KHEAA’s proposed amendment to the regulation is passed, school districts will be forced to revise the GPA scale and lower standards for students.
Responding to Representative Graham, Dr. Rollins said students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes use the five point grading scale and may report it for KEES purposes.
Representative Carney said that students who are receiving KEES scholarships funds based on a rigorous grading scale are more likely to retain eligibility over their college careers. Students who make A’s with a 91 on a less rigorous grading scale are more at-risk of losing the scholarship over the long-term.
Ms. Saylor believes a 91 is not “A” work. She believes KEES funds should only be distributed to students using the five-point rigorous grading scale. Dr. Rollins said KHEAA has no control over the grading scale as it is a local decision. He reiterated that legislation could be crafted to make a standard numerical grading scale, although schools districts will be opposed to this. He also said some grading scales are not always rigorous, but inflated.
Responding to Representative Wuchner, Dr. Rollins said the Walton-Verona grading scale resulted in the district students being awarded $29,709 in KEES funds more than other school districts. If all school districts utilized this scale, it would cost $28 million, and everyone’s KEES award would be reduced by 25 percent. He said this is unaffordable.
Representative Stone said every child should have equal access to KEES funds. He said it would be a huge task to implement uniform GPAs across the Commonwealth, and Kentucky may need to include uniform testing mechanisms, such as ACT or SAT scores, in the formula for distribution of KEES funds.
Representative Linder encouraged other school districts in the state to be more rigorous in their grading scales. He said $28 million is not an accurate cost and he voiced his objection to the proposed amendment to 11 KAR 15:090.
Representative Graham moved to accept administrative regulation 11 KAR 15:090, as promulgated, and Representative Rader seconded the motion. The administrative regulation was passed by voice vote.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 3:30 PM.