Thethird meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, November 17, 2008, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Ted Edmonds, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Ms. Elaine Farris, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education; Mr. Frank Rasche, Legislative Liaison, Kentucky Department of Education; Mr. James Neihof, Superintendent, Shelby County Schools.
LRC Staff: Janet Stevens, Sandy Deaton, and Janet Oliver.
Representative Edmonds said that every school district receives Extended School Services (ESS) funds to operate programs for students experiencing academic difficulties and that the programs may be offered at various times throughout the day. He said the Office of Education Accountability (OEA) had conducted a study of the program and will present findings and recommendations on how to improve the program. Members were provided a copy of OEA’s PowerPoint presentation and other documentation related to the study.
Ms. Marcia Seiler, Director, Office of Education Accountability, said the review of the ESS program was conducted as part of OEA’s study agenda for 2007 and the ESS study was reported to the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) in February 2008. She said OEA also did a report on the Flexible Focus Fund Program, which includes funding for ESS, preschool, professional development, textbooks, and safe schools; and both reports are available should any member want a copy. Ms. Seiler said OEA’s Kentucky District Data Profiles Report, which gives a summary of each school district’s data, such as funding, staffing, performance, assessment, CATS, AP, expenditures, and other relevant information, may be helpful to legislators during the upcoming session.
Ms. Deborah Nelson, OEA Research Analyst, said the goal of ESS as defined in statute is to provide supplemental instruction to struggling students to help them achieve Kentucky’s educational goals. She said the program serves approximately one-fourth of Kentucky students although cuts in program funding from $32 million in FY 08 to $13 million in FY 09 may affect the numbers served. Ms. Nelson said that although funding from other state and federal programs is utilized to assist struggling students, ESS is the only program that provides funds directly for supplemental assistance for those students. Districts are allowed flexibility in the use of ESS funds with the most popular programs being after school, daytime waiver and before school. The daytime waiver option introduced in 2002 resulted in a doubling of the number of students being served between 2004 and 2006 and its benefits include reduced transportation costs and ease of coordination of instruction between ESS instructors and regular classroom teachers. Information was provided on participation by program type and grade level and showed that after school programs are mostly utilized in middle and high school and daytime waiver programs are primarily used at elementary schools.
Ms. Nelson said OEA had hoped to answer important questions about the effectiveness of the program and ensure funding was being properly utilized but instead found some disturbing indicators. District and school ESS staff responses to survey questions revealed that the perception of the program is that it is effective in achieving improvement in content area rather than effective in the more ambitious role of reducing dropout rates or improving achievement gaps. Ms. Nelson said OEA made site visits to fifteen randomly chosen districts and, although sampling was small, other available data tends to support their findings.
Ms. Nelson said that research shows that schools effective in improving outcomes for struggling students are aggressive in using data to identify student needs at the school, classroom, and individual levels and using all available resources to address those needs. She said although this type of strategic planning is required in Kentucky through the District Consolidated Planning Process and the school process, OEA found that in many district and school plans ESS is often implemented in relative isolation from other relevant factors, such as student achievement, KCCT, interim assessments, etc. Also, there is little alignment of resources, such as differentiated learning, with ESS at the school, district, or state level. Ms. Nelson said the federal government has an intervention program called Response to Intervention (RTI) that provides systematic and tiered intervention to students prior to referral to special education, but there is little evidence of linking of the RTI program with ESS although they would be mutually reinforcing. A few of the schools surveyed were integrating resources and using assessment data to identify students needing assistance, even using general fund dollars to supplement ESS funds so that full-time instructors could be hired to work with those students, although such planning contrasted greatly with activities observed in the majority of schools.
Ms. Nelson said that OEA staff reviewed the quality of instruction provided through ESS as compared to recommended practices in education research which indicates the focus should be on specific goals and skills with both student and teacher aware of what the student needs to master to move to the next level and gain independence. Research also shows that instruction should be varied since students have varying learning styles, motivations, and interests, and continuous assessment should be given to show progression of student learning with instruction being adjusted based on that knowledge. Ms. Nelson said that in the fifteen districts visited, all of the recommended practices of strategic planning, instruction, attendance and evaluation were only observed in four elementary schools and that six high schools showed no evidence of any of the recommended practices. Senator Kelly asked if she was referring only to the schools visited in the district, which were not all the schools in the district, and Ms. Nelson responded that was correct.
Representative Collins asked if OEA announced visits to the schools to which Ms. Nelson replied that they did contact the schools prior to visiting. Representative Collins said that a truer picture of classroom activities would occur in unannounced visits. Ms. Nelson said that was not the case in this instance because the requirements of the regulation, such as continuous assessments, were not being met. She said research shows that numerous visits are required to get a true picture although in this study OEA was only looking for shallow indicators, such as whether the ESS instructor could identify why a student was in ESS, could describe the instruction being provided, and could determine if the student was progressing, which makes the evidence found even more disturbing. Representative Collins expressed concern that students may be advancing from one grade to the next without being properly prepared. Ms. Nelson said that his concern is justified because the focus appeared to be on completion of assignments rather than mastery of skills. She provided examples observed by OEA staff that seemed to be the default model used by many schools, especially in before and after school ESS programs, where the time is used to allow students to complete assignments which they had failed to turn in to raise a class grade or to complete makeup tests rather than focusing on mastery of the skills needed to complete assignments or pass tests. She provided other examples of misuse of the program in middle and high schools but said this was not the case in most of the elementary schools observed because they were using appropriate techniques and assessments to identify students needing assistance and had the resources to provide appropriate intervention strategies.
Representative Webb-Edgington asked if she understood correctly that there is not a way to clearly identify a performance based outcome metric. Ms. Nelson replied that the regulations actually specify that a school must identify what the learning goals are and assess those goals before the student exits the program, but schools are allowed great flexibility in identifying the goals and in determining if a student met the goal. She said practices such as completing assignments with the help of an ESS teacher is not the intended purpose of the regulation although teachers and administrators could say they are meeting regulatory requirements by evidence of completed assignments and improved grades with no proof of mastery of skills.
Representative Webb-Edgington asked if regulatory changes were needed to clarify the goals of the regulation and how to accomplish those goals. Ms. Nelson replied that there is a difference between the goal of the program in statute and the goal of the program in regulation. She said that statutory language references Kentucky’s educational goals with words such as knowledge, skill, and understanding, but regulatory language also permits schools to use the program to accomplish other goals such as providing assistance to students in danger of not passing to the next grade. She said one of OEA’s recommendations was that KDE review the regulation to ensure compliance with statutory intent.
Representative Collins asked if they found evidence that ESS was being used to complete homework assignments unrelated to areas needing improvement. Ms. Nelson said they did not review that aspect of the program.
Ms. Nelson said middle and high school teachers and administrators were seeking information on effective models and that staffing challenges, especially since the funding has been cut, is also creating problems. She said student and staff scheduling in middle and high schools creates additional barriers to overcome in providing ESS services and that lack of resources in advanced curriculum is also an obstacle. She said one of the most surprising aspects in middle and high schools was that students referred to ESS were not monitored to ensure they actually attended the program. Another issue relating to attendance was the number of hours of instruction being given to students to master skills with data showing that 59% of high school students needing ESS received less than five total hours of instruction per year.
Ms. Nelson said their review raised questions about the effectiveness of ESS instruction and that EPAS and KCCT data supports those concerns. She said that although districts are required to submit data to KDE on their ESS programs, the data is rarely used in association with student outcomes and many of the KDE reporting fields are unclear and subject to interpretation. Major areas of concern were that evaluation of data and planning of ESS is not linked; ESS is not coordinated with all available resources, such as reading and math intervention grants; and district and school administrators and teachers lack the necessary models and resources to provide effective intervention strategies. She said schools should already be using data to provide interventions, such as EPAS data required by Senate Bill 130, but they do not appear to know how to use the data to isolate the group of students to provide intervention.
Ms. Nelson said that OEA recommended that KDE do an overall review of the ESS program, including a review of statutory and regulatory alignment to ensure regulatory requirements meet statutory goals; that data being collected is used for a specific purpose at both the state and local levels; and that KDE communicate and collaborate with other agencies, such as the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), to ensure coordination and availability of resources to assist local school districts. Ms. Nelson said that OEA has reviewed KDE’s proposed changes to the regulation, but stressed that the problem was not so much the regulatory language but a lack of communicating to local districts how to comply with the regulation and put an effective program in place.
Representative Nelson asked why the study was conducted in only fifteen schools and how OEA selected the districts. Ms. Nelson said the districts were randomly selected and then different levels of schools with different types of programs were observed. Representative Nelson asked what type of paperwork KDE requires schools to submit on ESS. Ms. Nelson said the data includes identification of the subject with which the student needs assistance, information on the instructor, and if the goal of the ESS was met. Representative Nelson asked if the data is standardized and used by all schools. Ms. Nelson said schools use a standardized form but interpretation varies widely and is subject to opinion of the person entering the data. Representative Nelson said perhaps schools are being allowed too much flexibility with ESS but he also could understand a school’s reluctance in providing student transportation for before or after school programs because of increased fuel costs and lack of student motivation. Ms. Nelson said the type of program is left to the discretion of school administrators and teachers based on available personnel, scheduling, and other factors.
Senator Westwood said it appears that there is a large discrepancy in the effectiveness of the program in elementary schools versus middle and high schools and raised the question of whether the program should even be continued in middle and high schools. Ms. Nelson said that helping students with homework as was witnessed in the middle and high schools may still be helpful, although allowing schools to use ESS funds to support more defined interventions, such as math or reading, would be more beneficial. She said effective models are needed for upper grade levels. Senator Westwood said it is important that ESS funds be used to assist students with mastery of skills rather than passing a class or improving test grades. Ms. Nelson said that other programs, such as credit recovery, summer schools, etc., may also be helping students graduate but not master skills.
Representative Collins said it had always been difficult to require students to attend school outside of normal school hours. He asked Ms. Nelson if in her opinion the program is successful in high school. Ms. Nelson said that OEA does not have sufficient data to answer that question, although they have concerns that current practices which may be common across the state are not the most effective. Representative Collins said that employers assume that high school graduates have mastered certain skills and it certainly is a negative reflection on the school system if they find out differently when they hire them. Ms. Seiler said that would also be evidenced by the high remediation rate at the postsecondary level.
Senator Kelly said that obviously effective intervention strategies are available and being used in elementary schools although it appears the same is not true in middle and high schools because of a lack of resources, scheduling conflicts, and skilled staff. He said that the purpose of Senate Bill 130 was to identify students needing assistance and hopefully intervention strategies could be identified to assist them. He asked if there is information being generated from EPAS data which is formulating strategies for remediation. Ms. Seiler said the OEA study of ESS was conducted prior to initial release of EPAS data. Ms. Nelson said it is less common for high school teachers because of scheduling and time constraints and specialized training to encourage remediation of groups of students.
Representative Greer said that he has seen success with ESS in his legislative district and that the program is very valuable, but more so in elementary schools than middle or high schools. He said evaluation of the program needs to continue and effective models need to be explored, but the legislature certainly does not need to scrap the program. He said the cuts in funding of the program are already hurting kids in his district. He said ESS is Kentucky’s tutoring program and that it needs improvement but does not need to be dissolved.
Representative Edmonds asked the staff from KDE to give their response to OEA’s findings and an update on steps being taken to address OEA’s recommendations. Committee members were provided a copy of KDE’s PowerPoint presentation, a copy of the ESS regulation with proposed changes, and other documentation regarding their response.
Ms. Jamie Spugnardi, Associate Commissioner, Office of Teaching and Learning, said that OEA staff has been helpful and KDE has been working on the issues.
Ms. Chris Powell, Director, Division of Secondary and Virtual Learning, said KDE is committed to improving the effectiveness of ESS, especially at the middle and high school levels. She said that OEA’s first recommendation related to best practices for interventions, eliminating the need for the daytime waiver request, and helping schools meet improvement goals. Ms. Powell said the proposed changes to the regulation will allow schools to use the existing waiver process or document the use of the daytime waiver in their School Improvement Plan. KDE has also developed a guidance document for effective interventions, which has been posted on the KDE Website, and assist teams are available to help low performing schools design and implement effective intervention models. Specific regulatory language is also being proposed to require schools to develop goals, timelines, and measurable outcomes for students needing intervention. KDE has recommended to the districts that programs be based on mastery of skills and content and that formative assessments be used to determine when a student is ready to leave the ESS program.
Senator Westwood referred to Page 8 of Regulation 704 KAR 3:390 and asked if students are in ESS on a voluntary basis or are required to attend based on learning goals and benchmarks. Ms. Powell said some schools require students to attend ESS and others allow voluntary attendance. Senator Westwood asked if some schools require attendance at after school or Saturday ESS programs, to which Ms. Powell replied that some schools contact parents to advise them of the need of the student to attend ESS programs. Senator Westwood asked if the regulation is being changed to require ESS attendance. Ms. Powell said the intervention module and Individual Learning Plan (ILP) will require schools to document the need for intervention and when the student is ready to exit the program.
Ms. Powell said OEA Recommendation 2 was that KDE review the data collection process. She said KDE staff is working with Infinite Campus and the Kentucky Instructional Data System (KIDS) staff to incorporate ESS information into the entire data system so the effectiveness of ESS can be easily assessed.
Ms. Powell said OEA Recommendation 3 was about the training needs relating to technical and data issues. She said KDE has documents to provide technical assistance, complete with screen shots and step-by-step processes, available on the KDE Website and a guidance manual for schools and districts is nearing completion, which will highlight best practices and model programs, especially at middle and high school levels.
Representative Webb-Edgington asked if in-service funds may be used to provide comprehensive training for staff and if KDE has created a standardized template to help districts meet any new requirements in the regulation. Ms. Powell responded that KDE has a document to assist with training although it is not stand alone and requires professional development which is offered at various conferences around the state or is provided by assist teams working with struggling schools. Ms. Faith Thompson, Branch Manager, Secondary Education, related that the new guidance document on key components of the ESS program will be available in March of 2009 at the KDE Teaching and Learning Conference, which is attended by ESS coordinators. Representative Webb-Edgington asked if this is additional training required of teachers or if it is in-service and allows them to earn continuing education credits. Ms. Thompson said the ESS coordinators are invited to the meeting and they in turn train the teachers in their districts on the new strategies and interventions that are to be implemented. Ms. Powell added that current funding is only sufficient to train district coordinators so district coordinators will need to train the school coordinators. She said that KDE is capable of providing professional development and technical assistance but current funding levels are not sufficient to allow further training, although Web-based tools are available to provide training and technical assistance in addition to training provided by district coordinators. Ms. Powell said that KDE also has ESS consultants who are available to provide ongoing assistance to teachers and ESS coordinators around the state.
Ms. Powell said that OEA Recommendation 4 highlighted the need for assessment data interpretation so that effective interventions can be designed to meet individual student needs. She said that KDE’s guidance manual which is nearing completion will include best practice evidence and model programs for districts and schools to use. She said approximately three-fourths of the ESS programs are dedicated to math and literacy interventions for students who have fallen below grade level and that the interventions will be documented in each student’s individual learning plan (ILP). Each student’s ILP will include college readiness benchmarks with indicators showing if a student has failed to meet those benchmarks; information on any interventions that have occurred; whether the intervention was school-wide if it was more curriculum or access related or if it is a targeted intervention for a small group of students; and other related information pertaining to the individual student. She said the live ILP will be available before the end of the current year.
Representative Collins said that the information provided indicates that local boards may adopt policies requiring students to participate in ESS programs and he asked how many boards of education have required students to participate. Ms. Spugnardi said they did not have the information on hand but would get the information and provide it to the committee.
Ms. Thompson said that OEA Recommendation 5 is that KDE needs to ensure that intervention and support initiatives are taking place in a coordinated effort and data is in an easily accessible format. She said OEA Recommendation 6 is that KDE promote awareness and availability of information to school personnel, KDE staff, and other agencies involved in the program and require training of program support teams. Ms. Thompson said that KDE has coordinated intra- and across-agency efforts through the Blue Ribbon Task Force established by KDE Commissioner Jon Draud and overseen by Deputy Commissioner Elaine Farris. She said a panel of the task force created a document called “The Improvement Imperative” to assist low performing schools that includes best practices and proven strategies.
Ms. Thompson said OEA Recommendation 7 related to KDE collaboration with EPSB and CPE to provide training on research based strategies to school personnel. She said that KDE has partnered with those agencies through ACT summits relating to college readiness and is also working with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) on dual credit course development. She said the P-16 Dual Credit Task Force Recommendations also correspond with the partnership KDE has with KCTCS in trying to remove barriers and provide access and opportunities to those students who traditionally have not had access to dual credit courses.
Ms. Thompson said that OEA Recommendation 8 also related to collaboration with EPSB and CPE on professional development related to effective intervention. She said that KDE has been working with CPE in their “Know How to Go” initiative, which makes students aware of steps they need to take to attend college and with the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP). KDE staff has also worked with the America Diploma Project in helping to align Kentucky standards with college readiness standards.
Ms. Spugnardi said that the KDE also has a Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) grant which unites all partners and ensures that KDE has an action plan; evaluates the policies to ensure they are in alignment; and then outlines the needs and causes them to create a joint action plan across partner agencies to ensure joint ownership and responsibility for preparing students for college and successful careers.
Ms. Spugnardi said that the major cut of approximately 67% in funding for the Flexible Focus Fund, in particular to the ESS program, has resulted in a potential decrease of 90,000 students not being served by ESS. She pointed out that, although much of the discussion revolved around inadequate ESS services in middle and high school, elementary schools also receive federal Title I funding to support supplemental services for low performing students whereas ESS is the only avenue available to most middle and high schools to provide remediation services.
Senator Westwood asked Ms. Powell if she would explain KDE’s response to OEA Recommendation 1 which references a proposal to allow school choice with regard to the daytime waiver process for ESS. Ms. Powell said that schools must apply for a daytime waiver program either by making a formal request to KDE or by incorporating the daytime waiver in their School Improvement Plan and document it on the waiver request form. Ms. Spugnardi said that the waiver is required by statute so therefore the regulation cannot supersede that requirement.
Senator Kelly asked if using EPAS data that is being collected was discussed at the ACT conference and if the department will make more information available to teachers. Ms. Thompson responded that the EPAS data was discussed at each breakout session with screen shots of actual testing forms that will be available to schools and districts. She said information on the instructional implications of the assessment data and how to make sound instructional decisions based upon the information were also discussed.
Senator Kelly said that the data provided is only an average and does not help one discriminate so the more useful information would be the percentage of students who are meeting the benchmarks in schools and then the individual information so teachers may analyze where intervention is needed. He said he hoped all the money being spent to obtain the data will help schools create effective interventions. Ms. Spugnardi said that is exactly the plan and the Kentucky System of Interventions document has a decision-making wheel which schools use to make decisions about interventions.
There being no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 11:45 AM.