Interim Joint Committee on Education

 

Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 2nd Meeting

of the 2003 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> August 4, 2003

 

The<MeetNo2> 2nd meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on<Day> Monday,<MeetMDY2> August 4, 2003, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, in<Room> Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Lindy Casebier, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Lindy Casebier, Co-Chair; Representative Jim Thompson, Co-Chair; Senators Brett Guthrie and Alice Kerr; Representatives Derrick Graham and Reginald Meeks.

 

Guests:† Kim Townley, Annette Bridges, Starr Lewis, Kentucky Department of Education; Kathy Louisignant, Partner for Kentuckyís Future; Tracy Goff Herman, Kentucky School Board Association; David Porter, University of Louisville; Terri Jo Reed, University of Kentucky; Mike Carr, Wayne Young, and Roland Haun, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; John Wilkerson, Kentucky Education Association; Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County Public Schools; and Bob Shimer, Office of the State Budget Director.

 

LRC Staff:† Sandy Deaton, Janet Stevens, and Kelley McQuerry.

 

 

Senator Casebier introduced Dr. Charleen McAuliff, Assistant Superintendent, Oldham County Public Schools; Ms. Starr Lewis, Associate Commissioner, Office of Academic and Professional Development and Ms Annette Bridges, Manager, Early Childhood Branch, Kentucky Department of Education to discuss the statewide preschool program.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said the Oldham County preschool program is a high quality early childhood program that is run by the school district. She said that in 1990 when the state preschool program was implemented, it was started at Oldham County and after a year it was blended with the Head Start program. She said that the growth of the preschool program has been significant. In 1990, the Head Start program was funded for 40 children, while the Oldham County preschool program had 30 children that year. She said there were no children with disabilities identified that first year in either program. In 1995, there were 54 Head Start students and 83 preschool students for a total of 137 children in the blended program. In 2000, funds were available for 72 Head Start children, but a total of 246 children were enrolled in the program.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that the growth of the program is based on the awareness of parents and community leaders realizing the need for a quality early childhood program. She said that the Oldham County program had been recognized as an outstanding program. She said that one issue is that children with special needs are identified earlier and as a result, their needs can be addressed at an early stage. She said that many of the children who come into the program leave without an Individual Education Plan (IEP). She said that whatever the issue, and it is most often basic articulation issues, it is almost always addressed successfully. She said that a child no longer needs to go to kindergarten with a speech problem when that speech problem can be addressed and corrected in the preschool program. She said that there is collaboration with First Steps and other partners in the community, and that social services help identify the children in need of these particular services.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that the district has supported the preschool program. She said that the district built a new facility for the preschool that has eight classrooms offering three hour sessions, four days a week during the school year.† She said that transportation is provided by the district with activities occurring on the bus as part of the learning program. She said that when the transportation director considered replacing some buses, he made the suggestion to buy seven new buses that were equipped with safety seats for preschool children.

 

Dr McAuliffe said that as a blended program, the staff are required to meet standards set by both of the individual programs. She said that Kentuckyís program standards on teacher qualification require each teacher to have extensive college preparation. She said that Head Start is five years away from expecting teachers to have a degree. She said the teachers in the Oldham County program have been certified in Early Childhood Education and half have a masterís degree in that area. Two of the teachers have National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education. She said that Head Start has standards relating to program responsibilities for each childís health. She said that all preschool students are provided the same services provided for Head Start children such as dental, general medical, and mental wellness. She said that on the funding basis, the program is cost allocated so that federal funds are supporting only those children that are identified for the Head Start program.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that the curriculum is appropriate for Early Childhood and the students are grouped in multi-age, developmentally appropriate classrooms. She said that there are daily activities that are based on a curriculum that was developed by the preschool teachers and aligned with the district exit standards for the elementary level. She said that those exit standards were written to include the Program of Studies, Core Content, and national standards in each content area, plus other appropriate standards. She said that the curriculum is a guide for teachers in constructing their lesson plans so that skills needed to enter the elementary school are developed. She said that each child has a different level of readiness that is not determined by chronological age. She said that children need to be given a choice in what they do and the flexibility in how they do it. She said that standards for each child are based on either an IEP or a learning plan. Individual standards are critical to support this type of learning, and to keep the staff focused on the needs of these young children.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that parents are a vital part of the preschool. She said that Oldham County had the first Early Childhood PTA and a Policy Council, much like the SBDM Council except the members are all parents. She said that both these groups allow parents to learn leadership skills and become familiar with opportunities available to them at other levels. She said that the program has developed regular family activities that occur at least one evening each month for fun and learning. She said that the parents participate with staff or guests in sessions designed to enhance and extend their parenting skills.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that the operation of a quality early childhood program requires considerable funding and that comes from multiple sources, including categorical preschool funds from the state, federal Head Start, Title I, and IDEA Preschool funds, and local funds from the Oldham County Board of Education. She said that that the federal Head Start funds have always been considerably higher per child than state funds. Since 1990, per child funding from federal sources has steadily increased. She said that per child funding level from the state has decreased requiring an ever-increasing demand for funds from the district. She said that the district has been able to make the necessary adjustments to provide additional support to meet intensified program needs due to increased enrollment in general, and specifically due to the growing percent of special needs children in preschool. She said that over fifty-eight percent of the children currently in the Oldham County Preschool have been identified for special education services. She said the district is providing† $239,000 a year for the preschool program from local funds for support staff, transportation costs, utilities, and technical support.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that there is considerable research that documents the real and long-term impact of quality early childhood education. She said that in the June 2003 issue of KAPPAN, three national early childhood research projects were reviewed. She said the article stated that the adults who had participated in quality early childhood programs were seen as more successful than the group that were not involved in early childhood programs. The author of the article summarized a number of benefits for society for every one dollar spent, a benefit of four dollars is realized.

 

Dr. McAuliffe said that each year the Oldham County staff meet and gather information from early childhood teachers to determine the readiness level of children who have participated in the preschool programs. She said the teachers report that children from the Oldham County Preschool are generally more prepared for the first year of primary program than children that have not participated in the program. She invited the members of the committee to come and visit the preschool program and see the results it is creating.

 

Senator Guthrie asked if there has been a comparison of the assessment level between preschools and general level. Dr. McAuliffe said Oldham County did a study four years ago by looking at the average preschool children and the average of a school that had a similar at-risk population. She said the children in the Oldham County preschool program did better than those children who had not been enrolled in a preschool program in the other school. She said that the students had done better on the state assessment than the general population. She said now that the student data system is in place, Oldham County has added the preschool students into that data base. She said that Oldham County has high results and the preschool addresses the needs of children at risk.

 

Senator Guthrie said that in some studies the high results seem to fall behind as the students progress to higher grades. He said that if you are comparing the students to a similar group and they are performing better, that is showing success. Dr. McAuliffe said that the focus is the family and helping the parents. She said that so many parents have not been in a leadership role and now they are taking positions in the PTA and running for a seat on the policy council. She said that if the intervention is not there, the parents will not take a leadership role. She said parental involvement is vital to the success of children.

 

†Senator Guthrie said that the number one predictor of a childís education attainment is the motherís education level. Dr. McAuliffe agreed. Senator Guthrie asked if there is a way to distinguish whether a Head Start student or a non- Head Start student is performing better. Dr. McAuliffe said that she knows, but staff does not know, which students are Head Start students and which students are not. She said that all the students receive the same services.

 

Senator Guthrie said that closing the achievement gap is a goal that has been worked on in the past and will continue to be worked on in the future. He said that programs that close the achievement gap are of interest. Dr. McAuliffe said that any program that produces desired results is developmentally appropriate. She said that there should be a level of expectations in relation to curriculum. She said that students ready to learn to read are encouraged to do so and the students that are not ready are provided with early intervention strategies to get them prepared for reading. She said that in addition to the preschool program curriculum and standards, every child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP). She said some are under special education and some are for the children without disabilities.

 

Senator Guthrie asked what the difference is between Head Start and preschool concerning the curriculum. He asked if the preschool program has standards where Head Start does not. Dr. McAuliffe said that Head Start has some standards that are being implemented related to academic areas. She said that the preschool program has academic standards, as well as standards related to social and emotional behavior.

 

Representative Meeks asked about the number of staff people that are involved in the preschool program. Dr. McAuliffe said that there are eight certified classroom teachers, two speech therapists, an assistant principal, a special education coordinator, a half-time mental health coordinator, a school-year parent involvement coordinator, and an office manager. Representative Meeks asked what is the percentage of children being served that are eligible for the program. Dr. McAuliffe said that most of the children that are eligible in the district are being served. She said there are a small number of children that come to the program for speech and language services that are already enrolled in another program. She said that the program is serving eighty-five to ninety percent of the eligible children.

 

†Representative Meeks asked about the percentage of minority students and staff. Dr. McAuliffe said that there is a very small minority population in the district. She said that the largest minority is Hispanic children and that number is growing in the preschool program. She said that out of the 246 students, there are 20 African-American students and 23 Hispanic students. Representative Meeks asked if the numbers had been broken down in terms of cost per child. Dr. McAuliffe said the cost breakdown is $8162.78 spent on each child in the Head Start Program, $3,500.00 spent for a special needs pre-school student, and $2,400.00 spent for a non-special needs student. Federal Head Start funds are used to provide professional development training for all staff.

 

Senator Kerr said she liked the idea of the blended program and asked how it works on a day to day basis. She asked how the scheduling concerning health issues is done in the blended program since Head Start had different funds. Dr. McAuliffe said that all the students receive the same dental and health screening services. She said that if the Head Start health standards are higher, then all the students are required to meet the higher standard, regardless of the funding. Senator Kerr asked for an example to be given. Dr. McAuliffe said that Head Start requires that every child be screened by a dentist and the state program does not require that. She said that every child is screened whether they are funded by the federal Head Start program or the state program. She said that in order to meet that standard, there is a set amount paid per screening. She said that since the district pays the salaries of the preschool staff, those funds remain in the preschool budget and can be used for some of the health services.

 

Senator Casebier asked what the difference is between the qualifications for a Head Start teacher and the qualifications for a preschool teacher. Dr. McAuliffe said that Head Start requires fifty percent of Head Start teachers to have a two year associate degree. The state program has always required that teachers have extensive college preparation. She said that when the Oldham County Preschool Program was started there was no early childhood interdisciplinary certification. She said that all of the teachers in their program are certified; two of them are nationally board certified, four have masterís degrees and two are working on masterís degrees.

 

Representative Thompson said that in his school district one of the most powerful things that has been accomplished with this program is a parental class. He said that the transition of parents that come into the program is amazing. He said that the parents go from being intimidated by the school setting to becoming more familiar with the programs. Dr. McAuliffe said that most parents do not remember school as a fun place. It is the responsibility of the staff to help the parents understand they are a valuable partner in the educational process and to their childís success.

 

Senator Casebier said that prior to 1990 and the education reform, Head Start funded very few positions in Kentucky. He said that because of the reform, early childhood education has taken flight. He said there is still discussion concerning the results. He said that it has taken a long time to get all the components in place and training the parents is only one part of it.

 

Senator Casebier introduced Starr Lewis, Annette Bridges, and Commissioner Gene Wilhoit from the Department of Education.

 

Ms. Starr Lewis gave an overview of the preschool program across the state. She said the Kentucky Preschool Program serves 19,000 four-year old students who are identified as at-risk because they qualify for the free lunch program.

 

Ms. Lewis said currently, at the state level, 47 million dollars is used for the preschool programs. She said that districts are required to serve the at-risk preschool population and by reviewing the end of the year reports, districts contribute an additional 20 million dollars in order to meet the mandate. She said that the preschool research shows that preschool does address the needs of the students that are struggling. She said the gains that the students have in the preschool program extend through their twenties. She said that Kentucky research shows that children who have been involved in the preschool program have great gains in many different areas that carry through the middle grades.

 

Ms. Lewis said that the research looked at the effectiveness of the program and at how long the gains made by students last. She said that the students have improved academically and socially and their transition to primary is much more successful. She said that the students that were needy made the most gains and they stayed up with their peers through the fifth grade. She said that although preschool is an expensive proposition, the money that is spent at the preschool level ends up saving four to seven dollars later on in supporting these students in their educational experience. She said that it is important the preschool experience is one of high quality. She said that it is important that standards are in place and that parent involvement is stressed. She said that social and health services are provided for the students because this service is necessary to make gains. She said that there are regional training centers that provide professional development for the preschool staff at the district and school levels. She said that the research shows the regional training centers have allowed professional development to be delivered consistently across the state.

 

Ms. Lewis said that if you go to a preschool and visit you will see students interacting with adults and other students and you will see hands-on learning in action. She said that in a recent observation of the Anderson County Preschool, the time is varied but structured. There are times when the students have a choice in what they are doing.† The teachers recognize learning activities must be structured to meet individual needs of the students. She said that there are observation assessments done everyday and regular periods scheduled for teachers to talk about where individual students are and what types of services are needed to help with the progress of each child.

 

Ms. Lewis said that there are early childhood standards that are specifically focused on reading and mathematics. She said standards address social interactions. There is a strong focus on helping teachers identify studentsí current levels of performance in order to raise those levels so that the children are ready to move on to the primary grades. She said that everyone is focused on reducing the achievement gap and that research shows that preschool helps narrow the achievement gap. Those students who were in the Kentucky preschools show sustained growth through the fifth grade. She said that there had been great progress made in preschool, but the 47 million dollars the state commits to preschool does not take care of all the children local districts are mandated to serve. She said that local districts have to contribute 20 million dollars to meet the basic needs of preschool students.

 

Ms. Lewis said that in the fall of 2004, Kentucky will require all teachers to have early childhood teacher certification. An extra two million dollars will be needed to fund this requirement. She said expanding preschool and additional professional development training should be considered. She said that research shows that classroom sizes need to be reduced. She said that as a state, the mandate that has been set for the schools can not be completely† funded with available existing funds.

 

Commissioner Wilhoit said that the preschool program works and it is accepted by the school staff. He said that there are good partnerships and the issue comes down to the fact that the districts are being strapped for funds. He said this year four districts applied for waivers to operate without all program standards being addressed. He said requests were denied in order to maintain the current quality of the program. He said that the number of waivers will increase next year since some districts will be asked to assume some additional local responsibilities. He said that if some of these issues are not resolved there will be more pressure on the districts to cut back on the quality of the services over the next few years.

 

Ms. Annette Bridges said that districts are dealing with the lack of funds needed to adequately support the preschool program. She said that some districts are fortunate enough to have the funds to provide quality comprehensive services, but other districts have issues and are seeking solutions such as alternative programs. She said that developmentally appropriate practices are a nationwide issue and that in Kentuckyís preschools instructional teaching is occurring. She said that students learn through meaningful play in the classrooms. She said it is important that there are certified teachers to ensure instructional teaching continues. Students can construct their own learning and teachers can take students to the next level.

 

Representative Thompson said that in the past Head Start was a federal summer program. He said that the program was only as good as the instructors involved and there were times that the program was heavy on coloring and short on substance. He said that this is a prefect example of being ahead of the curve as far as the federal program is concerned, in our Reform Act. He said that the Head Start program has made a difference in finding out how to intervene for students to make changes at an early age. He said that the continuation of funding and emphasis in this area is one of the greatest challenges educators and legislators face.

 

Senator Casebier said it is not a matter of reviewing history, but a matter of understanding the educational role in this state compared to other states across the country. He said that he has been in meetings where other states are trying to model what Kentucky is doing.

 

Representative Meeks asked if the studentsí success at the preschool level will be revealed in the first year of school. Commissioner Wilhoit said that the preschool program is a safety net for children that might come to school unprepared to be successful in the primary experience. He said this program has taken those students and allowed them to get the pre-requisite skills needed to enter and be successful in the primary program. He said the research shows that this program is eliminating early failures that were forcing students into early drop-out and remediation programs at the high school level.

 

Representative Meeks asked what students were being tracked. Commissioner Wilhoit said students were being tracked through grade five at the present time. He said that the University of Kentucky holds the file on the preschool students and the data is updated every year.

 

Commissioner Wilhoit said that the preschool program is experiencing success. Over the last three years the program has had an increase in the number of students being served. He said that this is a result of more non-English speaking children moving into the state and enrolling in the program, as well as better identification strategies being used to place in the early childhood program.

 

Senator Casebier thanked the presenters for the overview of the Kentucky Preschool Program.

 

With no further business the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.