Thethird meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, October 8, 2007, at 10:15 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Vernie McGaha, Presiding Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Larry Belcher, Hubert Collins, Jon Draud, Jeff Greer, Rick G. Nelson, Marie Rader, Frank Rasche, and Ron Weston.
Guests: Fred P. Carter, Deputy Secretary, Kentucky Education Cabinet; Tom Denton, Vice-President, Kentucky Education Association; Debbie Hicks, Division of Federal Programs and Instructional Equity, Kentucky Department of Education; Wayne Young, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; and Clyde Caudill, Legislative Agent, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools.
LRC Staff: Janet Stevens, Audrey Carr, and Janet Oliver.
Chairman McGaha called the meeting to order at 10:15 A.M.
Chairman McGaha asked for approval of the minutes of the August 13, 2007, and September 10, 2007, meetings. Upon motion by Representative Collins, seconded by Representative Nelson, the minutes were approved by voice vote.
Chairman McGaha related that House Concurrent Resolution 214, passed in the 2006 legislative session, directed the Interim Joint Committee on Education to study how to effectively provide assistance to those schools not meeting established student achievement goals. He said that Senator Westwood and Representative Rasche co-chaired the study committee and will present several issues identified in the preliminary report. He related that the study committee did not complete its work because of time constraints and other factors and the co-chairs asked that the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee complete the report.
Representative Rasche said that the study committee discussed many issues and visited several schools. He said the focus of his comments would center on capacity building, defining capacity relating to schools as a belief by all those involved in the system that achieving positive results and improvement is possible if all resources are utilized to achieve those results. He identified one of the resources available for building capacity is the Highly Skilled Educator (HSE).
Representative Rasche said the study committee's only recommendation regarding HSEs is that the program continue, although minor modifications may be needed. He explained that when an HSE arrives at a low performing school, he or she must continue assessments noted by the scholastic audit team, develop a cordial working relationship in what may be a hostile or resentment filled atmosphere, conduct intensive and ongoing training on how learning and change occurs, and implement changes that will have permanence when their work is completed.
Representative Rasche said that the HSE's capacity building involves the desire to effect change with continued growth. He described the HSE's responsibilities may include sharing best practice strategies; embedding professional development by modeling lesson design and delivery; observing instructional practices and providing feedback on changes needed to enhance student achievement; and conducting classroom walkthroughs and providing meaningful feedback to staff. He said that principals in assistance level schools are required to have twelve additional hours of professional development and HSEs are instrumental in providing the professional development.
Representative Rasche said the HSE also facilitates the development of a plan to address the school's deficiencies as outlined in the scholastic audit report and develops instructional leadership teams, which is a capacity that will remain when the HSE leaves. The HSE also facilitates alignment of curriculum instruction and assessment; and, together with teachers, parents, and students, the HSE assists in the development and refinement of policies to improve student achievement. The HSE may also facilitate the revision of the comprehensive school improvement plan to meet the needs of all students using recommendations from the scholastic audit, including developing procedures to procure the resources needed by staff to support school initiatives. Representative Rasche said many outstanding principals actually serve in central office for a period of time and are therefore aware of the resources available and how to obtain those resources for their schools. He said it is very important for the HSE to implement changes in such a way that the methodology will remain upon his or her departure so a capacity within the system is developed.
Representative Rasche then discussed the Voluntary Partnership Assistance Team (VPAT) as one of the options available to schools in Tier 3 status. He said the five-member team consists of representatives from the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA), and the Kentucky Association of School Superintendent (KASS), an HSE, and an achievement gap coordinator. He related that a school in Tier 3 status may suffer harsh consequences such as deferment of programmatic funds and replacement of district personnel. Representative Rasche said the team's objective is to build internal capacity with the belief that the local school community will ultimately determine the success or failure of their local schools. The interventions provided by the team relate to school culture, leadership, articulated curriculum, effective instruction, and data-driven decision making. He said the HSE becomes the leader and remains on site full time.
Representative Rasche said the local board has to exhibit a genuine willingness to support and actively collaborate with the VPAT to develop, implement, and evaluate best practices for school improvements. KDE provides the HSE who designs, implements, and monitors research-based data-driven school improvement strategies and an administrator or gap coordinator monitors programmatic strategies and evaluates the improvement plan based on benchmarks set by the team. KASS provides a skilled experienced mentor to support the superintendent in the total operation of the school district and KSBA facilitates the design and monitoring of research-based data driven school board strategies to improve student achievement and provides appropriate, timely, and effective specialized training for each board based on survey instruments.
Representative Rasche said that at least sixteen districts are currently utilizing VPATs and one of the recommendations to the subcommittee was that a school-based version of the VPAT be developed. He said that HSEs are currently available to schools in Tier 1, 2 or 3 statuses, although Tier 3 is required to have intervention.
Representative Rasche said that discussing capacity building in schools is important but currently KDE cannot always provide the necessary personnel to all schools requesting assistance and it is important that the legislature review this lack of resource in the upcoming budget. He said that even though some HSEs may be criticized, an important statistic is that 95.7% of the Tier 3 schools served by HSEs since 1998 have moved out of Tier 3 classification by meeting or exceeding their goals. Also, the number of schools in assistance has declined from 141 in 2000 to 38 in 2006 and 204 of the 230 schools served by HSEs have remained out of assistance during the past two biennia. He said capacity building, the ability to carry on when the HSE leaves, in most of the cases has occurred.
Representative Draud said that the idea of building capacity is critical to long term success in schools. He related that, when he was a school superintendent in a district with many socio-economic problems, he implemented a 45 minute team building period in the morning where rotating teams of teachers and building administrators met to discuss methods to improve instruction, which proved very successful. Representative Draud said that he has always supported the HSE program and asked if there are any other programs in education that has produced similar successful results. Representative Rasche responded that often other resources are available but because of time constraints and other factors, it is difficult to tap into those resources.
Representative Collins said that constructive criticism is not always easily accepted, which makes it difficult to change one's behavior and work ethic. He also said that even though a superintendent or principal may see or be aware of needed changes, they may hesitate in suggesting changes for fear of creating an unpleasant working environment. Representative Collins asked how often school personnel leave the classroom for a central office position and then come back to the school again to which Representative Rasche responded that it apparently does not occur often enough. Representative Collins asked if schools not utilizing the services of an HSE have also shown improvement. Representative Rasche said one would never know because if a triggering event does not occur, an HSE is not required.
Representative Collins said that a very successful middle school in Johnson County utilizes a team concept of teaching, which may be beneficial in other schools throughout the state. He said that successful schools also appear to have a very high energy level but it takes a lot of work to maintain that level. Representative Collins said it is his opinion that all schools should have the same number of weeks of instruction prior to testing, even though their calendars may vary because of start dates, snow days, etc., instead of requiring a statewide window for testing. He said he has prefiled a bill which would change the dates of the assessments so that each school's testing window will be three weeks before the end of its respective school year. He said he is aware of the argument that it may affect test security, although there are plans to utilize Web-based testing which is not always totally secure. He said he is also aware of the argument that current contract test graders cannot get results back in time and his answer to that would be to hire someone else.
Chairman McGaha said it appears that each member of the committee shares the same concerns and hears the same comments from constituents. He said it also seems evident that a school's achievement level may be directly reflective of the leadership in the building. He said the quality of leadership has improved drastically and the focus is changing from total occupation with discipline, athletics, and other similar extracurricular activities to providing the leadership and guidance necessary to achieve academic success.
Representative Nelson said a team concept is very important but he has heard some complaints from former principals that some HSEs may seem too authoritative and leave a negative initial impression, which sets a negative tone for the entire time they are working with the school.
Chairman McGaha said that the Program Review and Investigations Committee, on which he serves, did a study of the correlation between the Commonwealth School Improvement Fund, the scholastic audit, and HSEs. The conclusion was that without the grant from the School Improvement Fund and the scholastic audit, an HSE performing alone did not always result in improvement. He asked if the assistance committee had any feedback or comment on the study. Representative Rasche said that overall school reform is a result of several strands used together and very few elements in improvement exist in isolation. He said the legislature itself at times created unintentional negative consequences, such as the dismantling of the regional service centers, some of which were used extensively to provide resources to struggling schools.
Senator Westwood said the purpose of the Subcommittee on Assistance to Schools was to study how to effectively provide assistance to schools not meeting established goals for student achievement. He said under No Child Left Behind benchmarks, all schools must have 80% of their students classified as proficient by 2014 and there was concern that many schools were not making adequate progress toward meeting those goals. Senator Westwood said the subcommittee was unable to complete its study because of time constraints and other factors and it is hoped that this subcommittee could go forward with some of the recommendations.
Senator Westwood said that various agencies were requested to provide recommendations to help struggling schools meet the 2014 proficiency goals, including the Kentucky Association of School Councils, the Prichard Committee, Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky School Board Association, parent-teacher associations, and others. He said the committee received many good recommendations from various perspectives, although many of the recommendations need further discussion and review.
Senator Westwood said one of the recommendations was to convene a study commission to fully examine available research with particular attention on emerging trends and best practices for school reconstruction or reconstitution. He said reconstitution of schools would have enormous implications and could include such things as actively involving the community surrounding the school, changing the school calendar, changing the school day, changing the curriculum, perhaps looking at an academy-type focus, integrating certain courses, and other methods.
Senator Westwood said other recommendations included extending the current review of the school council authority to include schools that are Tier 3 status two out of three biennia and provide the opportunity for a student to move from a low performing school to another school; and developing a turnaround principal leadership academy emphasizing work with low performing schools, which would lead to certification for new principals or endorsement for those who already have an administrative certificate. Senator Westwood said he believes administrators need to accept more responsibility in assuring the success of their schools and that much of the work done by an HSE could be done by a highly skilled principal without the associated cost and inconvenience of transferring a highly skilled educator from one school system to another. He said that the idea of a principal academy was introduced last year by former Governor John Y. Brown, Jr., and needs more in-depth study.
Senator Westwood said other recommendations included allowing authorization for school restructuring to include hiring of a new principal and teaching staff and implementation of a new instructional program by either the superintendent or turnaround principal and review of the protections provided to tenured teachers who are in a school that consistently performs low, by locating them to another school to protect their tenure or possibly removing tenure if the teacher is part of the cause of low performance.
Senator Westwood said that some models exist that would be helpful in designing a leadership program for principals and central office instructional leaders similar to the training provided for HSEs. He said other recommendations were to develop a staffing protocol that would require a school council of any assistance school to hire a principal from qualified candidates recommended by the superintendent and to review laws and regulations about how principals are selected assuring that only highly qualified staff are assigned to a school in state assistance or a school in need of improvement under federal rules and perhaps using only fully certified teachers in those schools. Senator Westwood said that using only fully certified teachers would be especially important in the areas of math and science, where the state is struggling to find highly qualified teachers. He said it was also discussed that an alternative certification measure may be an option for math and science classes by allowing retired engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and other industry professionals to share their expertise in a classroom.
Senator Westwood said the committee also looked at teacher preparation in postsecondary institutions and that a CPE review, as part of the double the numbers by 2020 campaign, found the perception is that 101 classes have been used not so much as to educate but to cull students so that focus could be placed on those students most likely to succeed, which is not an acceptable procedure. He said the procedures for teacher preparation have been virtually unchanged since the 1940s and need to be reviewed and that a report issued by Arthur Levine had many recommendations worth examining. Senator Westwood said other recommendations related to incentive pay for math and science teachers and teachers willing to work in assistance schools, where poverty may be prominent.
Representative Draud said he has long been involved in principal leadership and training efforts. He related that he has been serving on a committee for the Education Professional Standards Board and the committee will soon be presenting recommendations on changes in training for school principals for certification purposes. He said that some of the recommendations were developed from the Levine report and research conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board. He said that a principal training academy is a good idea and that a number of districts are already trying to nurture and develop their own principals.
Representative Draud said it is his understanding that some schools in Fayette County have already developed a partnership with local businesses that are paying engineers to assist with teaching math and science, which he felt was a win-win situation for both entities. He also agreed with Senator Westwood's comments that it is important to find out what high achieving schools do differently than low performing schools so those efforts can be replicated.
Senator Westwood said there has been much discussion about alternative certification and alternative teachers, such as using retired veterans, based on a theory that they have held positions of authority and could therefore teach while maintaining discipline. He said he also would support developing partnerships between schools and industries, since many of the technical schools and colleges cannot afford to purchase the equipment needed to provide training, especially with future industries such as robotics, information technology, and others.
Representative Collins said he also liked the highly skilled principal concept. He said it is important to continue support of the vocational system because not all students will want to pursue academic careers. He also liked the idea of loan forgiveness for math and science teachers.
Representative Collins asked Representative Rasche and Senator Westwood if they could identify three top recommendations of the Assistance to Schools Subcommittee. Senator Westwood said one would be the principal leadership academy and another would be parental involvement, although that cannot be legislated. He also said that improving student preparation in math would help ensure college success and that ineffective practices in schools need to be eliminated. Representative Collins said he believes it is important for a teacher to gain the confidence of their students and it may be helpful if a teacher had information on their students' backgrounds to help them understand a student's lack of interest and motivation.
Representative Rader said that a particular school in her district has been in Tier 5 status for six years and that she has received numerous telephone calls from concerned parents and citizens about the situation. She related that some of the school board members have been embedded in their positions for 15 years and have done things such as raising or lowering school taxes depending on election cycles and have even been discussing a four-day school week. She said she has attended many meetings regarding the situation and would offer the school as a "poster child" for low performing schools. Senator Westwood said that leadership can be a problem but usually it is combined with a myriad of other issues in low performing schools which overlap and may vary from district to district. He said many times it is mentioned that schools with a predominance of students participating in free and reduced price lunches may be a predictor of low performing schools but that is not always the case, so making sure there is no poverty in the district is not the answer.
Representative Greer also expressed his support of a principal academy. He also encouraged continued support of technology throughout the schools systems. He said that technology, such as Webcams and the internet, not only assist students with learning but can also be used to provide teacher training without the teacher having to leave their building. He said requiring technology can be legislated and it is important for the two bodies of the legislature to work together to bring about the changes needed to take Kentucky to another level. Senator Westwood said there are a number of the recommendations that would require legislative intervention and cooperation between the chambers to develop legislation that would address these problems.
Senator McGaha thanked Representative Rasche and Senator Westwood for bringing the issues to the committee. He said each community in Kentucky has its own individual culture which is also reflected in their school systems and negative cultures can only be changed if the citizenry demand it and require effective and positive leadership in their schools, with the assistance of their legislators. Senator McGaha said it would be difficult to prioritize the information presented but would welcome a priority list from Representative Rasche and Senator Westwood.
Senator McGaha said the next meeting will be on November 5, 2007. There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 11:40 P.M.