Call to Order and Roll Call
Thesecond meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, August 9, 2010, at<MeetTime> 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.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., David Givens, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Linda Belcher, Hubert Collins, Marie Rader, Carl Rollins II, Kent Stevens, Wilson Stone, and Alecia Webb-Edgington.
Guests: Howard K. Osborne, Superintendent, Boyd County Schools; Denny Locey, CEO, Ramey-Estep Homes; Linda Trimboli, Ramey-Estep High School; Wayne Young, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Jim Thompson, Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development; Robin Rhea, Office of State Budget Director; and Clyde Caudill, Legislative Agent, Jefferson County Public Schools.
Approval of Minutes
Upon motion by Representative Collins, seconded by Representative Stevens, the minutes of the July 12, 2010, meeting were approved by voice vote.
Overview: Kentucky’s Alternative Education Programs
Ms. Felicia Smith, Associate Commissioner, Office of Next Generation Learners, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), gave an overview of alternative education programs. Ms. Sherri Clusky, Consultant, KDE Division of Learning Services; and Dr. Ronnie Nolan, Director, Kentucky Educational Collaboration for State Agency Children, (KECSAC), Eastern Kentucky University, also provided comments. Copies of KDE’s PowerPoint slides and KECSAC’s Annual Census report were provided to committee members.
Ms. Smith explained that A-5 programs are operated by local school districts in district controlled facilities and A-6 programs use district school teachers to provide educational services for state agency children, such as those in the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Community Based Services programs. KDE has identified 11 best practice sites based on curriculum, instruction, and assessment; school climate and culture, support services, and staff professional development; and leadership ability including resource allocation and program planning.
KDE concerns and considerations include ensuring that A-5 and A-6 programs have highly qualified, effective teachers; adequate facilities; rigorous instruction; adequate resources and teaching materials; adequate funding; and appropriate entry and exit academic assessments. KDE future plans include partnering with the University of Kentucky on its P-20 innovation lab focusing on motivation techniques in alternative settings and transitioning plans; developing more comprehensive program reviews of A-5 and A-6 programs; and improving the pre- and post-assessments of students in the programs.
In response to a question from Senator McGaha about a complaint he has received that the testing window is too narrow to adequately test students in the alternative schools since the students are on many different grade levels, Ms. Smith said that she has not heard that complaint but would certainly check into the matter and report back to Senator McGaha.
In response to a question from Representative Belcher, Dr. Nolan said that A-6 programs are reviewed annually and Ms. Clusky said that A-5 programs are monitored through attendance audits and academics are monitored when a district undergoes a scholastic audit. Attendance audits are based on a rotation depending on the average daily attendance enrollment, but she was unsure as to when scholastic audits are done and she offered to find the information and provide it to Rep. Belcher. Ms. Smith said the department does plan to implement a more comprehensive review. She said Senate Bill 1 (2009) program review requirements will allow KDE to capture more information on academic achievement. Dr. Nolan said A-6 programs are monitored annually through on- site visits with a team of professionals using the Standards and Indicators for School Improvement document developed for use in all schools in Kentucky. Follow-up visits are conducted if issues are noted.
In response to questions from Representative Belcher, Ms. Smith said an area that needs to be strengthened is the transition from alternative schools to the traditional classroom and the department needs to provide stronger guidance about how students are moving in and out of A-5 programs. Dr. Nolan said that his agency recently completed a study of transition services for students in the care or custody of the state and transition effects on the students and they have made recommendations to KDE. Many times decisions are made not by educators but by the judicial system, social workers, and others outside the educational setting.
In response to a question from Representative Collins about the difference in the programs, Ms. Smith said that the handout provided to the committee lists the criteria used to identify best practices in A-5 and A-6 programs. A-5 programs are typically within a traditional school setting, such as a wing or a classroom or their own building, and are district run and operated; and A-6 programs are in non-district operated institutions or schools and serve state agency children. Ms. Smith said the test scores for students within A-5 and A-6 programs are reported back to their A-1 local school. One of the recommendations is to have pre- and post-assessments upon entry and exit of A-5 and A-6 programs. Ms. Clusky said that currently A-5 students are given the Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) upon entry and exit from the program. Mr. Nolan said A-6 students are required to take a pre-assessment within 30 days of enrollment and most of the programs do a post-assessment using the same instrument. The difficulty is that assessments vary from program to program and the agency is hoping for a standardized assessment. Other factors such as court order changes to a student’s residence may affect post-assessment capability. Mr. Nolan said there are 100 A-6 programs located in 54 school districts serving 16,000 youth from every school district in the state. Ms. Smith said she believes there is an alternative A-5 program in every district. Mr. Nolan said their visits are announced to ensure ease of data collection but often follow-up visits are unannounced. A-6 students are required to attend school 33 additional days beyond a traditional school calendar. Representative Collins said that announced visits more than likely do not always give a true picture of what is occurring in a school system.
In response to a question from Representative Stevens about the adequacy of the evaluations being conducted on these important programs, Ms. Smith responded that the department is currently reviewing the evaluation system for the programs and is involving other affected agencies in the process. Mr. Nolan said typical children in an A-6 program are children in the care of the Department of Community Based Services and have often been placed in Community Based Services because they are being abused or neglected by a parent or guardian. They are not typically involved with law enforcement and they generally live in a group home setting. They have emotional or behavioral issues and 43% have an identified disability, as compared with about 16% of the general student population in Kentucky, so a large number have special needs. Ms. Clusky said a typical A-5 student is often from a broken home. Some just didn’t do well in a large school environment, some are there on a volunteer basis, and some are court ordered. Mr. Nolan said most of the students in an A-6 program are behind several grade levels in reading and math upon entry into the program. Mr. Nolan referred committee members to a handout he provided which gave more information on social and demographic profiles of state agency children.
In response to a question from Senator Westwood on funding for A-6 children, Mr. Noland said educational funding for A-6 children is provided by the General Assembly through the Department of Education’s budget which is then funneled through the Department of Juvenile Justice to the A-6 programs. He said Juvenile Justice provides other treatment services for the youth so if they opened additional facilities, their budget would be impacted for the services they provide such as counseling, alcohol and drug abuse treatments, and related services. Mr. Nolan said there are approximately 16,000 students that utilized A-6 services each year and Ms. Clusky said there are approximately 45,000 students in the A-5 programs each year. Ms. Clusky said that A-5 students are placed through various means including principal referral, parent request, or court ordered. The placement is often an alternative to suspension or expulsion.
In response to a question from Representative Webb-Edgington about the number of A-5 and A-6 schools, Ms. Smith said the exact number of A-5 programs is difficult to account for since they can be as small as a classroom in a large high school or a wing or a separate building. Ms. Smith said that eleven sites were selected as best practice programs through a self-nominating process and then out of the 26 that self-nominated a committee of seven people selected the eleven which included onsite visits. Representative Webb-Edgington said it is a travesty that the number of students and programs cannot be identified even though students and youth are the Commonwealth’s most precious resource. She said it is a clear indication that solutions are needed and KDE needs to present recommendations to the General Assembly on how to address the needs of these students.
Senator Givens said it is apparent that there is not the detail level data to determine exactly what is involved in alternative education. In response to a question from Senator Givens about the selection of the best practice process, Ms. Clusky said 11 of the 26 self- nominated alternative schools were selected through the screening process and only those 11 were visited. Ms. Smith said they do not have the manpower to review every program in the state. Senator Givens said he would be interested in knowing the percent of total learning time that is spent in alternative education and related data and the amount of money spent on alternative education per student and if more time is now devoted to the alternative environment or less. Mr. Nolan said the information is contained in the KECSAC Annual Census Report on A-6 children. He said the cost of educating state agency children is significantly higher than a traditional school because there are no more than 10 students per classroom per teacher unless there is a teacher’s aide in the same classroom which increases student-teacher ratio to 15 to 1. State agency children have 210 instructional days in a year’s time. He said there is $9.5 million that is allocated through the General Assembly each year that is divided out to the 54 school districts on a per student basis. That comes out to about $3,100 per student each year to supplement services provided to A-6 students.
In response to a question from Representative Belcher about the availability of counselors and social workers, Ms. Smith said the resources are available in A-5 programs for counseling and Mr. Nolan said almost all of the A-6 programs are partnered with a private child caring agency and the homes for children provides the treatment and counseling services for those youth. The DJJ has youth care workers on staff working in those capacities. Representative Belcher said counseling services are essential for youth needing help.
In response to question from Representative Stone, Ms. Clusky said the usual grades served in an A-5 school are 7-12; students are referred based on certain behaviors that are similar throughout the school systems; some students are referred to improve academic ability; and assessment results are included in the school from which they came. Ms. Smith said they are not alternative schools but alternative programs which are intervention-like services that can be offered in a particular school setting with alternative programs. Alternative programs vary from district to district which is the impetus for reviewing and evaluating the programs to improve alternative education delivery.
In response to a question from Representative Collins about the effectiveness of alternative programs, especially when they are still in the same facilities as traditional students, Ms. Clusky said alternative program students are separated out from the regular school population, but the best situation would be off-site programs. Jessamine County has an excellent alternative program with its own building, transportation, gymnasium and related facilities. Alternative programs vary throughout the school systems with some operating in isolation and some integrated with the traditional students for various activities. Representative Collins expressed concern about students receiving a high school diploma even though they did not follow a traditional pattern to graduation.
Representative Stevens expressed his concern about the difficulties public education faces in providing an adequate education for all students and the importance of ensuring that every opportunity is given to each child. He emphasized the importance of having high quality leadership in schools.
Presentation: Exemplary Alternative Education Programs
Ms. Ann Brewster, Principal, Ramey-Estep High School, in Boyd County provided information on the A-6 school. Committee members received a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.
Ramey-Estep High School has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement and has been recognized as a best practice site for alternative education for the past two years. The school has 22 certified staff, including the principal, counselor, librarian, and 19 certified teachers, and 3 classified staff. The school is located on 216 acres in Boyd County and serves all youth who are in the residential Ramey-Estep Home. The average length of stay is 9 months and most of the students are court appointed to DCBS or DJJ. The school is funded primarily with SEEK monies and receives support from the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children (KECSAC) in the areas of professional development, technical support, and evaluations as well as financial support. Other funding comes from Title I funds, local school district professional development funds, and other sources. Ramey-Estep Home actually owns and maintains the building. Block scheduling is used that allows students to at least obtain a half credit while attending the school. Course offerings each semester include at least two classes in core subjects, two courses in vocational and or fine arts/humanities, and classes in character education. There are no foreign language classes offered because of lack of resources and length of stay. Thirty (30) days of school are offered during the summer, during which time core classes are taught by resident staff and teachers from the local area. The school also has a credit recovery program. Students are assessed using various assessment instruments upon entering and exiting the program. The school graduates an average of 50 students per year from high school and the graduation is celebrated the same as with any traditional high school graduation. Some of the students take the General Educational Development (GED) test, and some students are allowed to take 3 credit hours in General Education 101 from Ashland Community and Technical College. The school has an aftercare program to assist the students in transitioning back into their communities and home schools. When students are returned to a traditional school, they are often required to go into an alternative program at that school, which may not be the best placement for them. The students at the school have published three books and are working on a fourth. The books are entitled “The Circle” and contain student written pieces and artwork that provide a glimpse into the lives of Kentucky’s state agency children. The school also has a herpetology lab, a sugar tree nature trail with 17 learning stations, a maple sugar production activity, a drama club, and a fall festival. The school has a state-of-the-art library and a reading laboratory financed by the Ramey-Estep Home and other donations. Students participate in a project appreciation activity for soldiers stationed overseas and also participate in other civic programs, such as preschool literacy, 4-H activities, and blood drives.
Ms. Brewster contributed the success of the program to the dedication of the teachers and staff. She said the worse place to put ineffective teachers is in alternative education programs.
Presenting information on the Buckhorn Children’s Center School in Perry County were Ms. Lisa Weist, Principal, Buckhorn School; Ms. Robin Gabbard, Public Relations Director, Buckhorn Children’s Center; and Ms. Stephanie Miller, a teacher at the school. A pamphlet was provided to committee members regarding the school. Ms. Weist said Buckhorn School is an A-6 program and has many of the same characteristics as Ramey-Estep, but is much smaller. The school has three classrooms and the majority of the students are psychiatric, residential treatment facility students and some that have pre-delinquent behaviors. None of the students are in the DJJ system. One way that the treatment staff collaborates with educational staff is the use of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” program in character education classes. Students carry the book with them at all times. The school uses the online Predictive Assessment Skills Test, a universal screening developed by Discovery Learning, which is a tool to assess a student’s math or reading level and identify the skills they need to learn. The school uses block scheduling and SmartBoard technology. All of the teachers are state certified in special education and all staff are trained in Safe Crisis Management. The student teacher ratio is 4 adults to 10 students, which includes a teacher, an aide, and two youth residential workers in each classroom. The school also does GED preparations, partnering with Hazard Technical Community College for GED instructors. Population is generally 20 to 25 students because of the population being served.
Ms. Gabbard provided a brief history of the Buckhorn Center which began as an orphanage developed by a Presbyterian church over 100 years ago to serve educational and other needs in the impoverished area. Today the center is known as Buckhorn Children and Family Services to capture all available funding to serve the area. The service has two residential treatment facilities: the Buckhorn Children’s Center, where the Buckhorn Alternative School is located, and Dessie Scott Children’s Home in Wolfe County. The agency children live on-site at each of the locations in cottages with 8 to 10 children per cottage. Both facilities have Masters’ level therapists who work directly with the children, and mental health associates and residential youth workers. Children at Buckhorn are mostly categorized by the state as Level 5, which are those suffering with the most severe emotional and behavioral issues. Buckhorn also offers psychiatric residential treatment. Numerous other services are provided to the children and their families in trying to solve the problems of these youth.
Ms. Miller provided responses to various questions the committee members had asked about alternative education programs from a teacher’s point of view. She thinks unannounced visits would be helpful to ensure that data is current and that the school is operating as it should, but the self-nominating process also depicts a school staff who believe they are providing exemplary services and exceed standards. With regard to discipline, teachers need to think “out-of-the box” and be structured, consistent, and caring enough to reach children on an emotional level, especially in alternative education classes. With regard to testing, other support staff in the classroom, such as the youth workers, are also receiving CATS testing and procedures training to assist the teacher in testing students of various grade levels in one classroom. Teachers need to help with transitioning residential alternative students back into the traditional school system. Buckhorn keeps an assessment notebook on each student who comes into the center so they will have a historical academic record. The record goes with the student when she or he leaves the program. Many of the students in A-5 and A-6 alternative education, even though they are suffering from emotional and behavioral issues, may also be gifted and talented and their behavior may overshadow their talents. Longer academic hours for children suffering with emotional and behavioral issues may not be beneficial. Costs of educating A-5 and A-6 students may be higher than a traditional classroom but the students have issues beyond a student not confronting the same problems. Buckhorn transitions their students into the local school system before returning them to their local districts, so they will have Buckhorn staff for support and reinforcement of proper behaviors. ACT scores are returned to the Buckhorn center and the CATS Assessment scores are returned to the student’s local school district but the Buckhorn principal also has the information. Also, there are students who graduate from Buckhorn who have earned a high school diploma and are entitled to a high school diploma just as any other student in the traditional school system.
Representative Edmonds thanked all the participants for the informative program. He announced that the next meeting of the subcommittee will be held on Monday, September 13th, in Bowling Green.
There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 12:10 PM.