Call to Order and Roll Call
Thefourth meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, November 8, 2010, 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.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., David Givens, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Linda Belcher, John "Bam" Carney, Marie Rader, Carl Rollins II, Kent Stevens, Wilson Stone, Alecia Webb-Edgington, and Jill York.
Guest Legislator: Representative Addia Wuchner.
Guests: Mike Ford, Director of Pupil Personnel, Boone County Schools; Rick Culross, Executive Director of Student Supervision and Pupil Personnel, Kenton County Schools; Terri Sparks; William and Cindy Taylor; Robin Dixon; Colleen Dixon; Tracy Goff Herman, Legislative Liaison, Kentucky Department of Education; Clyde Caudill, Legislative Agent, Jefferson County Public Schools and Kentucky Association of School Administrators; and Jim Thompson, Legislative Liaison, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
LRC Staff: Janet Stevens, Audrey Carr, and Janet Oliver.
Approval of Minutes
††††††††††† Representative York made a motion to approve the minutes of the August 9, 2010, and September 13, 2010, meetings. Senator McGaha seconded the motion and the motion was approved by voice vote.
††††††††††† Representative Wuchner thanked the committee for allowing testimony on special needs education and the types of completion certificates awarded to special needs students. She said many special needs students who are tested with alternative assessments exceed the criteria for certificates of attainment although they may not meet the criteria for a traditional high school diploma. Representative Wuchner said she plans to develop legislation that would allow students who fall in this educational gap to be awarded a different type certificate or diploma that would better represent their academic achievements and help them pursue career and postsecondary educational goals.†
Certificates of Attainment and High School Diplomas
††††††††††† Larry Taylor, Director, Division of Learning Services, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), presented information on the special needs education program. Dr. Meada Hall, Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky, also provided information on community-based services provided through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Committee members were provided background information, including applicable statutes and regulations.
††††††††††† Mr. Taylor said that certificates of attainment may be awarded to students with significant intellectual disabilities; to students requiring extensive direct instruction in multiple settings so they can apply functional and career-readiness skills in school, work, home, and community environments; and to students who are unable to acquire, maintain, and generalize skills without intensive, frequent, and individualized community-based instruction. Community-based instruction includes consumer activities and life skills, such as reading and understanding product labels, identifying products, paying for products, et.al, which are taught in real life settings, such as supermarkets and other retail establishments.
††††††††††† There are currently 106,046 students in Kentucky between the ages of 3-21 with individual education plans (IEPs). Included in this group are 101,215 students participating in assessments to receive a standard diploma and 4,831 students participating in the alternate assessment education curriculum to receive certificates of attainment. Each studentís IEP is evaluated annually to determine progress being made in meeting educational goals and objectives.
††††††††††† The requirements to obtain a diploma or a certificate of attainment are included in Regulation 704 KAR 3:305. A minimum of 22 credits is required to receive a high school diploma with the local option to add additional requirements. Mr. Taylor said that in 2006, the regulation was amended to change the name of the certificate awarded to students whose disabilities are severe enough to preclude them from participating in a course of study to meet traditional high school graduation requirements from certificate of completion to certificate of attainment. KDE sought input from local district representatives when amending the regulation to find a term that would more adequately describe the specific skill levels achieved by this group of students. Kentucky assesses all students and uses an alternate assessment for students with IEPs. Federal regulations require that students who participate in alternate assessments as well as all students who take longer than four years to complete high school be statistically reported as dropouts. Mr. Taylor said that KDE representatives are working with various professional organizations, such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, to collectively make recommendations to change the definition of dropout when the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are reauthorized so that students who are still attending school will not be included in dropout statistics and states will be recognized for educating their entire student population.
††††††††††† Mr. Taylor said that the alternate assessment for students with moderate or severe disabilities includes a portfolio of instructional samples used to measure the effectiveness of the IEP; attainment tasks in which students are asked to complete a task, working step by step as directed by the teacher; and a transition attainment record, which is a checklist to evaluate the studentís readiness in reading, mathematics and science for postsecondary education or the workforce. †Mr. Taylor said that one of the KDE initiatives to help students successfully transition is the Community Based Work Transition Program, which is a jointly funded program between the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and a number of school districts in the state. He asked Dr. Hall to provide information on the program.
††††††††††† Dr. Hall said a job coach or student employment coordinator works with the students during their last two years of school with the goal of helping them find a competitive paying job with benefits in integrated settings. They work with the students and their families to determine a career or educational path suitable for the studentís skills and abilities and develop the necessary support around the student so they can be successful after high school. Districts can be reimbursed up to 75% of the cost of the program and currently 68 school districts are participating. Mr. Taylor said it is important that employers and community leaders be continually informed about the contributions these students can make because their support is crucial to the effectiveness of the transition program.
††††††††††† In response to questions from Senator Givens, Mr. Taylor said that the terminology used to identify completion of high school by special needs students varies among states. He said that all test scores, including those from alternate assessments, are counted in a schoolís accountability index. A parent or guardian can request that their special needs student not be assessed with an alternate assessment.
††††††††††† In response to questions from Representative Stone, Mr. Taylor said an alternate assessment and an assessment with accommodations are not the same. Representative Stone said he was not aware that students who have been in high school for more than four years are included in the dropout statistics. Mr. Taylor said that many districts have expressed a desire to have two separate accountability reports issued, one to comply with federal regulations and another that truly reflects student enrollment and accountability. He said further discussion is needed to educate the public on the skills and abilities of students with disabilities, regardless of the name of the certificate or diploma, with a focus toward helping them to effectively transition into the workforce or postsecondary education.
††††††††††† In response to a question from Representative Belcher, Mr. Taylor said that prior to 2007, the alternate assessment included seven content areas and an alternate portfolio containing a compilation of a studentís work. Three assessments were used to test students, one for elementary, one for middle, and one for high school. Federal law now requires that special needs students be assessed with a grade level instrument mirroring the assessment given to non-disabled students which incorporates all grade level content areas. The alternate assessment is standardized across the state. Dr. Hall said that standards for students with disabilities are more broad and limited in number than those of traditional assessments. Representative Belcher said she has been informed by some teachers in her area that special needs students are being asked to perform above their skill level and are being evaluated by people who do not have firsthand knowledge of the students. Mr. Taylor said that the current alternate assessment system was implemented quickly to allow federal dollars to continue to flow to the school districts. When the new assessment system is implemented, changes will need to be made to the alternate assessment to ensure that it mirrors the new system and professional development will be important to effective implementation.
††††††††††† In response to questions from Senator Westwood, Mr. Taylor said that all students being tested with alternate assessments are considered dropouts as well as any student who attends high school longer than four years. He said that as long as a student is attending school, the school continues to receive per pupil SEEK funding, the SEEK IEP add-on funding, and federal dollars for the special needs students.
††††††††††† In response to a question from Representative Rollins, Mr. Taylor said that federal laws require each student to be assessed in similar fashion on the same content areas for the same grade levels, although students who participate in alternate assessments are taught a reduced number of standards that are lesser in depth and breadth. Representative Rollins expressed concern that all special needs students should be assessed based on their IEPs and that accomplishments be rewarded, regardless of federal requirements.
††††††††††† In response to a question from Representative Carney about specific problem areas, Mr. Taylor said that students, schools, and school districts need to receive credit for every studentís growth; students who stay in school longer than four years up to age 21 should not be counted as dropouts and districts and schools should not be penalized; the alternate assessment needs to be further refined; and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitationís community-based transition program needs to be expanded to all districts.
††††††††††† In response to a question from Senator Blevins, Mr. Taylor said there has been a decrease in the number of students participating in alternate assessment since 2005. He said he would provide information to the committee on the number of students participating each year since 2005 and the amount of federal dollars districts receive for this student population. He said some districts use other initiatives, instead of the vocational rehabilitation program, to help transition students into work and higher education environments.
††††††††††† Representative Stevens said that Kentuckyís educational system needs to prepare all students for success. He said that, as a former educator, he was aware that a negative stigma exists with special needs education and everything possible needs to be done to remove that image.
Alternative Education Diploma for Students with Disabilities - Parents/Student Presentation
††††††††††† Robin Dixon, parent of Colleen Dixon, said her daughter, who has Downís syndrome, attends school in Boone County. She said in addition to attending school, Colleen participates in many extracurricular school and community activities. She expressed a desire that Colleen be afforded the same opportunities as her other daughter, who received a high school diploma and is enrolled in a postsecondary institution. †She said because Colleen is tested with an alternate assessment, she currently can only receive a certificate of attainment, although other states provide various other options and some award a high school diploma. Ms. Dixon said it is unfair to students like her daughter, who dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort, to be classified as a dropout and ineligible to receive a diploma, which presents employment and higher education barriers. She said even though the University of Kentucky and Northern Kentucky University are now offering programs specifically designed for students with special needs, other opportunities and resources will not be available for the students without a high school diploma.†
††††††††††† Colleen Dixon thanked the committee for inviting her to the meeting and expressed her desire to earn a high school diploma.
††††††††††† William and Cindy Taylor provided information on their 13 year old son Zach, who is a special needs student in the sixth grade in the Boone County school system. Ms. Taylor said her son is involved in many school activities and works very hard to accomplish educational goals and deserves to be awarded a diploma upon completion of school rather than a certificate of attainment. Ms. Taylor said although the curriculum is challenging for her son, he does receive accommodations. She said the IEP meetings with school personnel are very intimidating for the parents even though school personnel are trying to meet his educational needs. Ms. Taylor said she wants her son and other special needs children to feel successful and receive appropriate recognition for their achievements.
††††††††††† Terri Sparks said that her 15 year old daughter Lindsay is a freshman at Cooper High School in Boone County. She said Lindsay also participates in various extracurricular activities and is especially good with computer technology. She said that Lindsay had an IEP since first grade and when she was to enter eighth grade, the teachers recommended and she agreed to place Lindsay on a certificate of attainment track. Ms. Sparks said she was not aware at the time of the stigma attached to certificates of attainment, such as being statistically identified as a dropout, and the employment and educational barriers created from having only a certificate of attainment.†
††††††††††† In response to a question from Representative Belcher, Mr. Taylor said that students with a certificate of attainment may be admitted to various colleges and universities that have programs of studies designed for special needs students. Ms. Taylor said she had contacted the community college in her area to find out the requirements for automobile mechanic certification and was informed that her son could attend but would not be eligible for financial aid unless he had a high school diploma or a general education development (GED) diploma. †
††††††††††† Senator McGaha thanked the parents for their presentations and for informing the committee of the challenges they and their children face in the school environment. He said he would provide support in the Senate for legislation that Representative Wuchner may develop to provide a different type of diploma for students in the gap between certificate of attainment and traditional high school diploma criteria. †
Dr. Harold Kleinert, Executive Director, Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky, said as a former teacher of students with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities he fully understands the tremendous effort students and their families put forth to achieve educational goals. He said the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 specifically states that students with intellectual disabilities, even those without a high school diploma, are eligible for Pell grants and work studies in universities and colleges offering programs of studies for special needs students. He said Gateway Community and Technical College has not yet applied to be a part of the program of studies for special needs children, but Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Northern Kentucky University are participating and have students without high school diplomas enrolled in their programs. Dr. Kleinert said a new document is needed to recognize the educational achievement of students in the gap and the business community also needs to be informed about the positive contributions these students can make in a work environment.
In response to a question from Representative Belcher, Dr. Kleinert said that the community based transition program helps develop customized employment for special needs students. Representative Belcher said it is also important for parents to not have misconceptions based on document titles but realistic expectations based on student ability.†
William Taylor, parent of Zach, said this group of special needs students should be provided the opportunity to earn a diploma so they can seek out education and work environments where they can be successful.
Representative Wuchner said the issue is very complex, emotional, and complicated and thanked the committee members for the discussion. She said the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce had representatives at the meeting to hear the testimony and will provide input on behalf of employers.
Closing Remarks and Adjournment
††††††††††† Representative Edmonds thanked the members for attending the subcommittee meetings and committee staff for providing the necessary support to ensure successful meetings.
††††††††††† There being no further business to discuss the meeting adjourned at 11:50 AM.