Thesecond meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, September 10, 2007, at 10:15 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Ted Edmonds, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr, Brett Guthrie, Tim Shaughnessy, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Hubert Collins, Jon Draud, Jeff Greer, Rick G. Nelson, Frank Rasche, David Watkins, and Ron Weston.
Guests: Clyde Caudill, Legislative Agent, Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) and Jefferson County Public Schools; Wayne Young, Executive Director, KASA; and Rebecca Rouci, Becky Burton, Claudia Bache, Rebecca Chaney and Sally Herndon, parents and/or grandparent of special needs students.
LRC Staff: Janet Stevens, Sandy Deaton, Jacinta Manning, and Janet Oliver.
Chairman Edmonds recognized the following audience members in attendance at the meeting: Marcia Seiler, Executive Director of the Legislative Research Commission's Office of Education Accountability; Fred Carter, Deputy Secretary of the Kentucky Education Cabinet; Amy Hazard, representative of CompassLearning; Sharron Oxendine, new president of the Kentucky Education Association, and Tom Denton, new vice president of KEA.
Chairman Edmonds said the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky is a year-long program designed for students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. He said the academy in its first year has accepted 120 students representing 62 Kentucky counties.
Chairman Edmonds asked Tim Gott, Director, and Corey Alderdice, Assistant Director, to give their presentation regarding the academy. Committee members were provided a hard copy of the PowerPoint presentation and a copy of the admissions packet for the academy.
Mr. Gott recognized Dr. Julia Roberts, who was in the audience, stating she has been an advocate and voice for the academy during its ten-year planning and development phase. Mr. Gott said that the students arrived on August 22nd and classes began on August 27th with the students in residence at Schneider Hall on the Western Kentucky University campus. He said the academy's two major goals are to work with students to bring about an appropriate challenging educational opportunity and promote economic development in science and mathematics in Kentucky by encouraging top students to remain and practice in Kentucky.
Mr. Gott introduced Mr. Corey Alderdice, the assistant director of admissions and public relations at the academy, who was assisting with the presentation. Mr. Gott said that Mr. Alderdice and others actively solicited applicants from across the state resulting in the submission of 190 student applications from 75 different counties. The application process included an interview and completion of the application with several essay questions as well as a review of ACT and SAT test scores if available. Of the 190 applicants, 160 students were actually interviewed and 120 accepted from 61 counties from various areas of the state. He said a goal in the next five years is to have a student from each of the 120 counties and that the maximum capacity at the current time is 120 students. Mr. Gott related that students generally scored an average of 27 on the ACT and had a 3.91 grade point average, although some students had scored 34 and 35 on the ACT. He said during the next round of recruitment, Mr. Alderdice will target the areas where there were no students in the first class; offer 30 or more community information sessions; have representatives at most professional conferences for educators and administrators; and by invitation visit middle and high schools to speak directly to students.
Mr. Gott said the academy currently has 55 seniors and 65 juniors and that students who complete the full two year cycle will earn over 60 hours of college credit. He said the students will take a core group of four math classes and eight science classes as well as any other courses they may need to finish the pre-college curriculum, including English, social studies, foreign language, arts and humanities, etc. He explained that each student will also complete a research project and a service project of 30 hours each semester tied into the events on the WKU campus as well as their home communities. He provided the following information regarding current students' extracurricular activities: four are in WKU marching band, two in the orchestra, several in chorus, one is vice president of Health Occupation Students of America, which is an association of the WKU College of Health and Human Services, and one is in the campus cadet program for the police department.
Mr. Gott said the counseling services provided by the academy is headed by Dr. Pokey Bowen, who has been very busy counseling new students on social and emotional issues, such as homesickness. He said the academy has two full-time residential assistants living at the academy as well as a complete staff of residential counselors and assistants who are in the academy with the students throughout the day. Mr. Gott said the academy has a very useful Web site that provides information about the academy and the application process.
Representative Collins said he felt it is important that all of the students be Kentucky residents. He asked Mr. Gott if he felt that the written portfolio requirements in Kentucky schools helped the students in responding to the essay questions. Mr. Gott said that many of the responses to the essay questions revealed a depth of writing knowledge which clearly showed that the emphasis being placed on writing is having a positive impact.
Senator Westwood said he has been considering an academy-type concept as a way to reduce dropout rates in Kentucky. He asked if there were any students at the academy who may have dropped out of school because they felt bored or unchallenged. Mr. Gott said he could not identify an academy student with one who would physically drop out of school, although they may have become bored. He said the students were at the top of their classes and have every reason to continue their education but had maximized the high school curricula.
Senator Westwood inquired about the facilities. Mr. Gott related that Schneider Hall was built in the 1920s and the infrastructure had to be totally upgraded although the facility's original elegance was retained. Senator Westwood asked if there have been any discipline problems and how assessments for CATS, etc., are administered. Mr. Gott said that although the assessments are administered at the academy, the results are incorporated with the home school's data since the academy is not a diploma granting authority, although they hope to correct the situation by legislation. With regard to discipline, Mr. Gott said that discipline is required but not for typical misbehaviors but rather emotional issues, such as roommate incompatibilities, etc. Senator Westwood asked if funds for average daily attendance follow the student to the academy. Mr. Gott responded that the funds do follow the students although they are still considered a student at the local school district and must share responsibility with them.
Senator Guthrie asked for further explanation about why enabling legislation is needed. Mr. Gott said legislation will help in several areas, including allowing the academy to become a diploma granting institution, ease of certification of the professors at WKU, and eliminate the need to prepare and execute multiple contracts with various school districts for each class of students. He said he did not anticipate there would be any resistance from home school districts although there may be some opposition from private schools.
Representative Collins said that, with regard to Senator Westwood's concerns about dropouts, he had always heard that one in five students who start college drop out but that number has now increased to one in three. Senator Westwood said although he is concerned with the college figure, his comments were related to high school dropouts. Representative Collins asked Mr. Gott if he is aware of the reasons for the high college dropout rate. Mr. Gott said more often than not students are unprepared for college level work and do not pursue counseling services and remedial help to assist with the transition. Representative Collins asked if lack of preparedness is especially evident in math. Mr. Gott said it was evident at the academy that students from certain districts are much better prepared than some of their peers.
Representative Watkins asked about the faculty's credentials. Mr. Gott said academy students take the same courses as incoming freshman and the faculty is comprised of the professors at Western Kentucky University with some graduate assistants in the laboratories.
Senator Winters said that it is not atypical for 30-40% of college freshmen to leave for various reasons; including a lack of focus on their futures and that the inability to do mathematics may impact the decision as well. He said it appears the academy is providing remediation and that he looked forward to the day when remediation will not be necessary for any student. Senator Winters also mentioned that a factor in homesickness is sometimes the inability of the parent(s) to release the student from parental oversight and that frequent mail often helps ease that situation. He said he would like for each legislator to be informed of students enrolled in the academy from their respective areas so they could make personal contact with the students to encourage them and applaud their efforts. Mr. Gott agreed to provide the information. Mr. Gott also related that to assist students struggling with the problem solving aspect of mathematics, the math and computer science departments at WKU created an enrichment course specifically for academy students, although it will be available to other students, called computational problem solving to enhance their academic foundation as they prepare for the calculus courses. Senator Winters asked how the credit is accommodated through that course and Mr. Gott replied that for every three-hour college credit course, the student receives one credit for high school and that this particular course is a four-hour course so they will receive a comparable one hour credit or more at the high school level.
Senator McGaha asked for an explanation of the different shadings in the PowerPoint slide regarding student applications. Mr. Gott said the darker the color the higher the representation was insofar as applications received with the most coming from Warren and Hardin Counties. Warren County, where Western is located, had 15 applications; Hardin County had 12 or 13; and then the next largest numbers came from places like Henderson and Monroe Counties with fewer from Jefferson with four and Fayette with four, etc. He said the applications corresponded with state population density charts, except in Fayette and Jefferson Counties, where many very good programs are located.
Chairman Edmonds described the Governor's Scholars Program as a five-week residential summer program in operation since 1983 for academically gifted students who have completed their junior year in high school. Chairman Edmonds said that legislators are provided a list of the Governor's Scholars from their respective areas, which gives the legislators an opportunity to congratulate students on their selection as well as the opportunity to recognize and thank the teachers from the student's school. He asked Dr. Aris Cedeņo, Executive Director of the Governor's Scholars Program, to make his presentation. Members were provided with a packet of materials relating to the program.
Dr. Cedeņo related that, in addition to working with the scholars program, he is also on the faculty of the University of Louisville. He said he has been working with the Governor's Scholars Program since 1992 and its mission is to enhance Kentucky's next generation of civic and economic leaders. Dr. Cedeņo provided the following information regarding the program. When it began there were 230 students on one college campus and has steadily grown over the years to the point that 1148 students were accepted in 2007 from 1900 applicants with representation from all 120 Kentucky counties. The program is currently housed on three college campuses: Bellarmine University in Louisville, Morehead State University, and Centre College in Danville, with an equal number on each campus. During its existence, the program has been offered at all of the state's public colleges and universities, except for the University of Louisville, and two of the private universities. Students attend enrichment classes but no grades or academic credits are given. Each student identifies a focus area and selects which classes to attend; however, attendance is mandatory. Classes are given in astronomy, philosophy, engineering, biological sciences, foreign languages, literary studies, visual arts, and music. They also take a general studies class with an academic and leadership focus and attend a seminar to discuss issues related to teenagers, such as college careers, values, and community service.
Dr. Cedeņo said all students who enrolled this past summer were retained throughout the entire class. He said each applicant must be a Kentucky resident, an eleventh grade student, and commit to return to a Kentucky school district for his/her senior year. Thirty-five percent (35%) of the application relates to academics, 35% to extracurricular activities, and the remainder is recommendations from teachers and a writing entry, which can be in various formats, i.e., poetry, letters to editors, etc. Upon completion of the program, the students are eligible for scholarships to all of Kentucky's colleges and universities. Currently 80% of the students who have been through the program attend Kentucky colleges with the largest representation of approximately 300 at the University of Kentucky and approximately 150 at the University of Louisville.
Dr. Cedeņo said it has sometimes been difficult to recruit in the Eastern Kentucky area. Recruitment plans for the upcoming class includes 24 events in different parts of the state where students and their parents will be provided information. He offered to provide information on these events to committee members.
Senator McGaha asked what factors prevent some applicants from being accepted. Dr. Cedeņo said many more may be qualified but the selection process is very thorough and sometimes applicants have difficulty in submitting a good application. Senator McGaha asked if the facilities could accommodate more and Dr. Cedeņo replied that 1200-1250 would be a good number, although many of the large public universities offer summer programs and dorm space may not be available to accommodate larger classes.
Senator Westwood asked if there may be plans to expand to a fourth site. Dr. Cedeņo replied that it has been considered, not necessarily to increase the number of participants but to be more geographically located for participants from certain areas. Senator Westwood said he has enjoyed receiving letters and information from the students from his legislative area, especially relating to the cultural differences they experience. Dr. Cedeņo said students are assigned to campuses to reflect the diverse population from all areas of the state.
Representative Watkins commended the program and mentioned that one of his sons attended the program. He asked if the Commonwealth Academy at Murray State University may become a part of the Governor's Scholar Program or if it is totally different. Dr. Cedeņo said there are other enrichment programs in the state similar to the scholars program, such as the Governor's School for the Arts and the Commonwealth Honors Academy at Murray State University.
Chairman Edmonds said that Dr. Johnnie Grissom, Associate Commissioner, Office of Special Instructional Services, and Larry Taylor, Director of the Division of Exceptional Children Services, would explain how local schools are meeting the needs of students with disabilities and how schools are addressing the federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Chairman Edmonds said it was his understanding that schools have been notified of their status under NCLB. Dr. Grissom said they have been notified and the official notification will be made public on Wednesday, September 12.
Committee members were provided a hard copy of the PowerPoint presentation and other information related to the special needs program.
Dr. Grissom said there are over 109,000 students in Kentucky with special needs and approximately 19% of those students have mental disabilities. She said of the 19%, 3.6% have functional mental disabilities and a little over 16% have mild mental disabilities. Also, 81% of special needs students have other disabilities not necessarily connected to mental ability, such as health, speech, behavioral, vision and/or hearing impairments, and/or orthopedic or they may simply be developmentally delayed.
Mr. Taylor explained that when a student is experiencing academic challenges, a referral is completed, consent is obtained from the parent, evaluation areas are established and the evaluation is conducted. He said the evaluations are student specific and once eligibility for services is determined, an individual education program (IEP) is developed and reviewed annually and services are identified to meet the student's needs.
Mr. Taylor then explained that KDE provides a continuous monitoring process to determine the needs of local school districts including performance data, analysis and prescriptive assistance. He said, in 2005, Congress mandated 20 performance indicators and the first three were graduation rate, dropout rate and assessment results. With regard to the graduation rate for exceptional children, he stated that the state has a 6-year performance plan based on targets developed by the stakeholders. Dr. Grissom added that, although the performance indicators came from the federal government, Kentucky had already begun to look at ways of improving the graduation rate and reducing the dropout rate of students with special needs. Mr. Taylor said the state used longitudinal data to develop trend lines and that the state performance plan sets forth activities to meet the needs based on student data and that an annual report on progress is required. Mr. Taylor said KDE consultants serve as leads for each indicator, for example, a KDE employee is assigned oversight of the activities surrounding graduation rates. He said there are also eleven regional special education cooperatives providing technical assistance to school districts. He explained that KDE also has two special education mentors, with each assigned to several school districts.
Mr. Taylor said currently 25% or 44 out of 174 of the school districts are in Tier 3 status. Dr. Grissom explained that Tier 3 means that the district has not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for four years. Mr. Taylor added that a district in Tier 3 status must make progress for two years before its status can be upgraded. He said KDE offers three methods of assistance. The first is the voluntary partnership assistance team (VPAT), consisting of KDE employees and staff from the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and the Kentucky School Boards Association. He said the team goes to the school district to address specific needs in the district. He said another method is the use of a national assistance team, where a vendor applies to provide assistance to a school district and KDE retains the right to approve or disapprove the application or assign assistance in another method. He said another option is a state assistance team (SAT) where individuals go to the district as part of the scholastic audit team. The team is led by a district achievement gap coordinator who works with the superintendent and instructional staff in analyzing problem areas and developing strategies to correct problems.
Senator McGaha asked if there is a central office for the special education cooperatives. Mr. Taylor said there is a lead office which is usually physically located in each cooperative area. Dr. Grissom said that Kentucky has eleven education cooperatives for schools districts and some of the special education cooperatives are housed within that large co-op structure. Senator McGaha asked why Pulaski County is split between two cooperatives. Mr. Taylor said the original configuration consisted of 20 cooperatives and when the number was reduced, they made an effort to divide the districts equally among the cooperatives with input from the superintendents. Senator McGaha requested that the information on the cooperatives be provided to the committee members.
Senator Westwood asked if the number of districts in Tier 3 status has decreased, increased, or remained constant. Dr. Grissom said it had increased but has begun to decrease from an approximate 30% range. She said that KDE has worked hard to surround the districts with assistance. Senator Westwood asked about the interventions from the federal government under NCLB. Dr. Grissom said the federal government requires the states to offer interventions. She explained that Tier 1 means a district did not make AYP for two years and the interventions are simply to develop a plan; Tier 2 is three years and the interventions are to develop a plan and implement and report to KDE; Tier 3 requires KDE to intervene in the district using different methods, such as VPATs or SATs, deferring funds, specifying how the funds are to be expended, and other methods. Senator Westwood asked if there are only three tier levels. Dr. Grissom said districts have three tiers but there are five tier levels for individual schools. Senator Westwood asked what tier gives a parent the right for school choice option and Dr. Grissom said a parent may exercise that right beginning with Tier 1. Senator Westwood said he has been informed that it is a very expensive and difficult process to move a student from one school to another. Dr. Grissom said it is not easy for many reasons. She said KDE has done a study to find out why parents were not exercising the school choice option and found that the number one reason was that the student did not want to change schools. She said the second reason was that school choice does not necessarily mean that the parent and/or child can choose any school, but that the school district has to make a comparable school available to the student. She said the third reason was that parents of special needs students liked the services being provided and were unsure if comparable services would be available in another school.
Senator Westwood said since the scores are just now being made public and many schools have already been in session for a month or longer, it would be a disincentive for many students to change schools at this point in time. He said if scores were released earlier, parents and/or students could make more timely decisions. Dr. Grissom related that most schools and districts prefer to delay assessments as long as possible in order to prepare for them and, therefore, the later the assessments are given the later the scores can be released. Senator Westwood said although he does not have a recommendation for correcting the bureaucratic aspect of releasing scores, he feels it is unacceptable for a parent with a child in tier status to be required to spend a lot of money, time, and energy to get the child the help he/she needs and he hopes that a faster, more fluid process can be developed to ease the burden. Dr. Grissom said they would welcome specific information from parents and/or students who have encountered difficulties so they can review the situations.
Senator Blevins asked why there are only two special education mentors. Dr. Grissom said that KDE has two special education mentors but there are also KDE and cooperative consultants available to assist the districts. She said the two mentors are used in the most difficult situations. Senator Blevins asked how many additional staff the department may need to assist every district in need. Dr. Grissom said that every district in a tier status would more than likely say they would like to have their own highly skilled educator to assist, although she could not provide an exact number. Senator Blevins said it would be important to know how many people would actually be needed to correct the situation. Dr. Grissom explained that a district not making AYP means that AYP may not have been achieved in any one of a number of populations of students.
Chairman Edmonds said the next meeting of the subcommittee will be in Frankfort, on October 8, 2007.
There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 11:45 A.M.