Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ravitch Shares Concerns About School Reforms in Louisville

This from WFPL:
She's against high-stakes testing, big business in schools, and doubts charters are the answer to improving public education. But Diane Ravitch, a New York University research professor who has become an influence voice in U.S. education, didn't always feel this way.
Ed historian Diane Ravitch
“It’s very difficult once you become embedded in a point of view to step back from it," Ravitch said Wednesday. "And I found that to be true because all your social networks tend to agree with you."
Ravitch spoke at WFPL studios Wednesday morning to an audience that included people who agreed and disagreed with her beliefs on how to improve public education.

Ravitch won the 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Education from the University of Louisville for her book, The Life and Death of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.

She explains how she worked on reforms for the U.S. Department of Education under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, but changed her mind on the policies she supported then.

She now says those policies now hurting students, teachers, and schools.

AUDIO here (1:03.00):  

Does she thinks our understanding of the way children learn has changed?

"I think what we understand is that there is no single understanding, that children are very different, and what we're trying to do today is to create standardization and it doesn't work," Ravitch told the audience in WFPL's studio.

"That children are so different and I hear this from teachers all the time and I know this from my own experience, that the sophistication about learning is to recognize that you have to be, as a teacher, flexible enough to respond to the children in front of you, which is why when you get non educators making policy, they don't understand that."

Ravtich also said the Common Core Standards, which Kentucky and a majority of states have adopted, will not answer public education's single biggest problem, the "vast inequality in our society."

"The standards will not change that. Where they could be helpful to teachers is, if there's a common guideline I think that's a good thing," she said. Ravitch argues that many of the standards are developmentally inappropriate for younger kids, and many non-educators were involved in the independent group that created the Common Core.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday will also consider revisions to the standards, which he said isn't a response to backlash the Common Core has seen elsewhere.

Ravitch also dismisses the idea of using standardized test scores to measure teachers' performance. But the Kentucky Board of Education just adopted a new teacher evaluation system that will use test scores to consider student growth among students who perform similarly. The Professional Growth and Effectiveness System also uses many other indicators such as observations, student surveys and personal growth plans to measure teachers.

But when asked about the accountability that test scores provide for public education, Ravitch said other accountability models that don't use test scores exist.

“I think about a program that has been tried very successfully now for 25 years in New York City where a group of high schools got an exemption from the state test," Ravitch said. "It was 1995 or so. And they said we think we will get better results if we rely not on the state’s standardized test but on our own performance assessments. It’s called the New York Performance Assessments Consortium.

"So, there are 25 high schools that have had generation after generation of young people, they mirror the proportion of students with disabilities and English learners that are in the public schools. Their kids tend to graduate at a higher rate. They go to college at a higher rate. They persist in college at a higher rate and it’s been a big success.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

1990 education reforms put Ky. schools on path to progress

This from Cindy Heine in the Herald-Leader:
As an advocate working for better schools for more than 30 years, I want to share my perspective in response to a commentary about the missed opportunity offered by the reform of Kentucky's education system in 1990.

Cindy Heine
When I started working with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in 1983, school board members did not have to be high-school graduates and, as candidates for office, could openly solicit campaign contributions from teachers and staff. We received calls from parents and taxpayers asking whether school board meetings were open to the public and what citizens could do about the misuse of school funds. Little attention was paid to what or whether students were learning.

Passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 created a sea change. For the first time, state policy asked that teachers pay attention to what students learned, not just what was taught. These are two vastly different things.

Under the old approach, if teachers covered the content in the textbooks and made it to the last page by the end of school, they had met their obligations. Under the new approach, teachers were held accountable for what students learned. That required standards to define what students should know and be able to do and measures or assessments to gauge whether students met those standards.

The new law also provided supports for teachers and students that included technology, preschool, family resource and youth services centers, professional development and money for a new equalized funding formula.

Laws were also changed to address the rampant nepotism and cronyism. All too frequently, teachers and principals were hired based on relatives, relationships and political affiliations. The rules changed in 1990, and hiring began to focus on whether teachers and principals had the skills to help students achieve academically.

The performance of Kentucky students, particularly those in elementary and middle schools, began to improve dramatically in language arts, mathematics and science. Kentucky's ranking among the states moved from 48th in 1990 to 33rd in 2009.

Although improving some, our high school dropout rates and the need for remediation in the first years of college remained unacceptably high. To address those areas and accelerate progress, the legislature enacted Senate Bill 1 in 2009. It called for higher standards and cooperation among elementary/secondary programs, higher education and the teacher certification board as Kentucky refocused on improving student readiness beyond high school.

It also asked for standards and assessments that would allow comparisons of our students with those across the country, something not possible with our unique Kentucky standards. The result was a new emphasis on high school performance and the goal of helping all students graduate ready for college and/or career.

We've come a long way since the early days of reform. More students are better prepared to succeed as adults, whether they go on to college or choose another career path. The state is stepping up its work to help all teachers improve their skills with the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System. Colleges and universities are revamping programs to better prepare teachers to deliver instruction based on the tougher academic standards.

We've just seen the governor and legislature restore some of the funding that was cut during the recession, and they chose to invest more money in early childhood programs. And wherever we travel, educators and policy makers in other states continue to ask how Kentucky has managed to make such important progress.

Do we still have much work to do? Of course. But, in my view, we should stop wasting time complaining about how we got here, celebrate the immense progress we have made, and direct our energy to providing support for teachers and students as they do the hard work to meet the demands of the challenging standards that will help ensure our students' long-term success.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/04/14/3195087/cindy-heine-1990-education-reforms.html?sp=/99/349/#storylink=cpy

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Political Dance over Common Core Continues


Three days ago Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told KSN&C:
Per Senate Bill 1 (2009), the goal is for our content standards to focus on critical knowledge, skills and capacities needed for success in the global economy. Our aim is to do that by preparing students for college and careers and we feel that these standards effectively do that. However, Kentucky’s intent always has been to do as it has with previous standards, and that is, to re-examine the standards after a period of time to see what, if anything, may need to be adjusted or changed based on research and practice.
That period of time has arrived.

As recently as August Holliday said he had not felt any pressure to change the the state's position on CCSS adoption.

Since then, some of the original sponsors of Senate Bill 1, like Republican state senators Daymon Thayer and Katie Stine, withdrew their support, and sponsored a bill that would not have reviewed the standards, but would have thrown them out. Holliday told the Herald-Leader that he is not reacting to that criticism. He indicated that the standards ought to be formally reviewed after about five years, so he is proposing a review after four.

We are assured by Stine that her motivation in plotting CCSS's demise was not political. Holliday won and CCSS is still alive. Stine lost. And now the commissioner seems to be seeking to change the focus of the debate away from federal issues, and toward the standards themselves. He seems to be seeking a middle ground that allows everyone to provide input and save face. Stine thinks the idea is "great."

Stine now approves of a review, but wishes that had been done before the core standards were implemented.  Of course, if she felt that way she might have proposed it in 2009 when she reviewed the timeline for CCSS's roll out, instead of tromping down on the gas pedal to accelerate Kentucky's implementation.

So much posturing.

This from the Herald-Leader:
State to seek critics' feedback on Kentucky Core Academic Standards, 
education commissioner says
In an initiative that begins this fall, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said he will ask Kentuckians to review state academic standards and suggest revisions.
Alison Wright, AP Calculus, Lafayette High School

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/04/10/3189884/state-to-seek-critics-feedback.html?sp=/99/164/142/#storylink=cpy

Holliday said in an interview Thursday that by initiating revisions to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, he is not reacting to criticism of the controversial national Common Core Standards, which are the basis for Kentucky's standards on what students should know in grades K-12.

Holliday said that since the Kentucky Core Academic Standards were implemented in 2010, he has always said they should be formally reviewed after about five years.

"We're going to challenge Kentuckians to read the standards," Holliday said. "It's time to start looking at the standards and tweaking them based on feedback" from parents, business leaders, teachers and others.

Holliday said he has heard criticism of how the standards were developed, but he said he wants to hear specifics about content.

"I have yet for any critic to say, 'I don't like that standard and here's why, and here's how you need to revise it,'" he said.

After the public provides feedback on the academic standards, a group of higher-education professionals, business leaders and teachers would review their concerns and make revisions in 2015-16, Holliday said. The revisions would become part of a regulation that would be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education and subject to review by state legislators.

Holliday said the initiative to get public feedback is tentatively called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge.

Holliday and teachers who spoke to the Herald-Leader said there is a misconception that core standards are curriculum. Actually, curriculum is set by local school leaders, Holliday said.
Critic Richard Innes, a spokesman for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said the Kentucky Core Academic Standards are more rigorous than what Kentucky had before 2010.

"However, the less-than-transparent, out-of-state process that created the new standards is troubling. So too is the appearance of possible federal overreach in support of the standards," Innes said.
State education officials have said that the federal government played no role in the development of the national Common Core Standards and does not govern them. The national standards were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers, of which Holliday is a member, and the National Governors Association.

Holliday said he had not heard criticism of Kentucky's academic standards from state Senate Republicans until President Barack Obama talked about the Common Core Standards in a State of the Union Speech.

Legislation was introduced this year in the General Assembly to eliminate the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in mathematics and English language arts and the Next Generation Science Standards. The bill mirrored others filed in states across the country.

A vote was not taken on the legislation, Senate Bill 224, sponsored by John Schickel, R-Union, but the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on it last month.

State Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, who cosponsored SB 224 and expressed concerns about Common Core at the hearing, said Thursday it was "great" that Holliday is asking Kentuckians for input, but she said she wished that had been done before the core standards were implemented. She said her concerns were not political; rather, she said she thinks the standards are not rigorous enough.
At the March Senate committee meeting, Holliday, Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler and Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, all told lawmakers that they supported the Kentucky's Core Academic Standards.

Kentucky's Core Academic Standards allow teachers to focus on a select number of important goals so they can better help students master a subject, said Winkler, whose organization represents school employees.

Meanwhile, Holliday described as invalid the criticism that science standards set to be implemented in the fall will result in chemistry and physics not being taught. However, Holliday said officials from the Department of Education and other professionals are reviewing those concerns from citizens as well.
Some KSN&C readers have questioned Kentucky's ability to legally alter the standards. KDE lawyers have looked at that issue and Holliday told KSN&C,
While the original Memorandum of Agreement that Governor Beshear and then Interim Commissioner Elaine Farris signed with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009 did, in fact, contain a provision that the Common Core would represent at least 85 percent of our standards in English/language arts and mathematics, the actual copyright and public license of the Common Core State Standards did not include this language. Since the Kentucky Core Academic Standards represent a floor, not a ceiling, teachers have the freedom to go beyond the standards at any time as long as they also cover what is included in the standards. We believe Kentucky has the authority to add new standards as we see fit.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Tower of Jell-o

As very quick search of news articles where Education Secretary Arne Duncan promoted or discussed Common Core returned 2,436 articles. Just sayin'.
  
This from Morning Education at Politico (via email):

COMMON CORE LOSES ITS BIGGEST CHEERLEADER

It was less than a year ago that Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a no-holds-barred defense of the Common Core in a speech to newspaper editors. He cited example after example of the benefits of common standards: Teachers in different states could use the same lesson plans; children of military personnel could move across country "without a hitch" in their schooling; and, first and foremost, "a child in Mississippi will face the same expectations as a child in Massachusetts." In short: "I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education," Duncan said.

-- That was then. This was Tuesday:

"Just to be very clear with this group," Duncan told the House Appropriations Committee, "I'm just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they're common or not is sort of secondary."

-- Duncan immediately added that his stance was "not news."

 
And his spokeswoman, Dorie Nolt, later pulled up audio from a press breakfast in January where Duncan was asked about whether the term "Common Core" was politically radioactive. "We're not interested in the term," he responded then. "We're interested in high standards. There are a couple ways to come at it." Indeed, the administration has never required states to adopt the Common Core; it just offered financial and policy incentives to adopt higher standards - and embracing the Common Core happened to be by far the quickest and easiest way to hit that bar.

-- Still, it was clear from the start - and from the $360 million the department spent developing shared assessments - that the "common" in Common Core was quite important to the Obama administration. Duncan's decision to soft-pedal that goal may well be a nod to the new reality: Indiana recently became the first state to scrap the standards; Oklahoma and South Carolina may follow. More significantly, a number of the 44 Common Core states have ditched the common assessments and are going their own way.

-- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) reacted to Duncan's words with skepticism. "I certainly believe in high standards," he said, "but I think the 'common' word is something that's very hard to glaze over."

Ky. orders review after questions raised about use of calculator software on statewide tests

ACT forbids calculators with built-in algebra systems, 
but not those that have had software like Zoom Math added to them!?


This from the Herald-Leader:

The Kentucky Department of Education has ordered a review of how students use advanced calculators on a statewide college-readiness test, citing concerns raised by experts that the devices could be artificially inflating scores.

At issue is the math portion of ACT's COMPASS test, which is used as a placement test for high school seniors who have not met college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT test they take as juniors.
According to ACT rules, which are followed by the state, students are allowed to use certain calculators on the test, including ones that have been loaded with an algebra software program called Zoom Math. ACT forbids calculators with built-in algebra systems, but not those that have had such software added to them.

Stephen Newman, a math professor at Northern Kentucky University, said he is alarmed by the expanding use of Zoom Math, which allows students to plug in algebraic equations and get the correct answer without understanding how to do the math.

In late March, he and some colleagues conducted an experiment to measure the potential impact of Zoom Math on COMPASS test scores. They took the test 10 times, using calculators with Zoom Math to answer all equation problems. On any word problems, they simply chose the multiple choice "A" every time. In all 10 cases, they scored well above the cutoff.

"Based on our experiment, about 55 percent of COMPASS problems can be done without thought using Zoom Math," he said. "This has national implications and it could become a disaster if it continues."

COMPASS assessments are taken by more than 2.2 million students across the U.S. annually in high schools and colleges, which use them for class placement. About 18,000 Kentucky high school students took the COMPASS test in the 2012-13 school year, according to the state Education Department.

ACT is standing firm by its corporate decision to allow use of the add-on software.

"Through ongoing research, ACT ensures that our test administration policies remain fair and consistently enforceable," according to a statement from the Iowa-based company. "ACT math specialists continually review new calculator models, as well as algebraic systems and software, to determine their potential impact on test questions. Our current policies, which prohibit calculators with built-in algebra systems, remain in effect. We are confident that math test scores achieved under our current policies are valid and representative of student achievement."

Kentucky education officials aren't as confident. Ken Draut, director of assessment for the Education Department, has ordered a review to determine if Kentucky needs more stringent rules than those set by ACT.

"We'll be getting together with ACT to discuss our findings no matter what they are," Draut said. "At this point, I'm not worried because I don't think it's widespread, but I want to nip this in the bud for the future. I don't think it has had a big effect yet, but I am worried about the future if this is a program that provides a score we can't consider valid."

According to an Internet search, at least nine Kentucky school districts have purchased Zoom Math. Fayette County Schools do not use the program, but it is used by students on tests in Jefferson County, although the school district would not say by how many schools.

Newman is part of a group of math educators who developed a similar statewide assessment for the Kentucky Department of Education called KYOTE; it is forbidden to use Zoom Math on that test. (Newman said he has no financial interest in the KYOTE test.)

Zoom Math started as a tool to help special education students, said Tammy Herrada, the software company's CEO. Although its software has been around since 2006, Herrada said she heard of its use on ACT tests only in the past year.

The company has never advocated the software as a testing aid, she said.

"It allows students to go over the things they've learned in the past," she said. "We're not selling it to pass any ACT tests. We're selling it to teach and benefit."

Some school officials said its use appears to be expanding around Kentucky.

Cindy Beals, the district assessment coordinator for Warren County Schools, said the district's high school students have access to Zoom Math, but she does not know to what extent they use it on the COMPASS test.

"As long as they are allowed, then we allow our kids to use it," she said.

Tamela Porter, a guidance counselor at Bath County High School, said students use Zoom Math on the ACT and COMPASS tests.

"We were always told that it was fine since KDE had approved it," Porter said. "We use it in daily instruction ... We felt like if we are using it in instruction every day, we don't want to change that once they go take the ACT."

Newman said he doesn't think Zoom Math would have as much benefit on the regular ACT test because there are more analytical word problems.

Still, he would like to see other experts try his experiment and is angry that ACT hasn't moved to ban the software.

"They're wrong," he said. "We cannot continue this fraud. People are suspicious of gains in college readiness. It's our college readiness program that is being threatened."

"Career and college readiness" benchmarks are part of a 2009 overhaul of the state testing system in which ACT products were adopted at nearly every grade level. In 2013, the percentage of students deemed ready for college or a career jumped to 54.1 percent, up from 34 percent in 2010.
However, it's not clear what role, if any, Zoom Math might have had in the 20-point jump, since that score includes results from COMPASS, KYOTE, ACT and other career tests, such as ACT WorkKeys.

At least one other state has already banned use of Zoom Math on statewide tests. Mississippi took that action in 2011 after its education department concluded that Zoom Math "provided students with an unfair advantage and compromised our ability to make specific claims about student learning based on our assessment," said spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle.

Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said new technology is constantly providing opportunities to give some kids a leg up.

"As high stakes testing moves into the computer area, teachers need to find ways to ensure that some students don't have tools that give them an advantage on the exam," he said.

Donna Caldwell, the district assessment coordinator for Madison County schools, said she heard of Zoom Math only a few weeks ago and doesn't know if individual schools might be using the software on tests.

But she said ACT and the Kentucky Department of Education need to address the issue as the availability of similar technologies expands.

"There's got to be some effect," she said. "Does it make the scores invalid? I don't know that you can say that. Do I think there's a huge impact? No, but a policy has to be developed, and it has to start with ACT."

Take the Time to Evaluate Teacher Evaluation

This from Education Week:

Do you remember New York City's Pascale Mauclair? She was an educator who primarily instructed English-language learners and won accolades for teaching excellence. But then she was labeled the worst teacher in New York City in 2012. Following the release of much-publicized assessment-based ratings by New York City's education department, stunned parents demanded that their children be instructed by a different teacher, and that Ms. Mauclair—whose test-based ratings were low—be fired. This happened despite tremendous support for the teacher from her principal. Later, it was revealed that her rating had failed to account for such factors as her students' English-language-learner status.

Pascale Mauclair
Thankfully, there is some good news for teacher-evaluation systems that could help avoid this type of error. Last June, the U.S. Department of Education agreed to allow some states to seek an additional year before they must rely on new evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores. Thus, their deadlines will be extended to the 2016-17 school year, giving those states a total of three years before teacher-evaluation systems must be used for high-stakes purposes, such as identifying teachers for sanctions or rewards.

This time frame is an absolute window of opportunity in which to conduct necessary validity studies. Without studies to support the use of student scores for evaluating educators, good teachers could be dismissed and teachers needing support, or those who should not be teaching at all, may not be identified.

When teachers challenge the validity of evaluation systems, it can appear self-serving. Because of this, it is the responsibility of testing professionals such as us to weigh in on the use of student scores in the evaluation of teachers. Testing professionals must lead the way in providing a framework for evaluating proposed systems that purport to measure teacher quality.

"Testing professionals must lead the way in providing a framework for evaluating proposed systems that purport to measure teacher quality."
In fact, unless appropriate validity studies are conducted, widespread use of student test scores for evaluating teachers will constitute a serious violation of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. These standards were developed collaboratively by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education with the intent of providing test developers, administrators, and users with criteria for evaluating both the quality of a test and its appropriate uses. A large component of the standards consists of guidance for evaluating the validity of proposed uses of test scores.

In a 2012 research paper, Lorrie A. Shepard, the dean of the education school at the University of Colorado at Boulder, emphasized that validation requires testing the viability of the assumptions underlying the use of test scores in teacher evaluation.

The following list identifies some of the assumptions that need to be verified as part of a study to ensure that when an evaluation declares a teacher "effective" or "ineffective," the label carries meaning:
  • The instruments (e.g., accountability assessments, teacher-observation protocols, student-satisfaction surveys) that make up the teacher-evaluation system are designed to be sensitive to classroom instruction and changes in classroom instruction across a diverse population of students.
  • The administration and implementation of the instruments are consistent with their protocols.
  • The scoring rules and rubrics used for instruments are appropriate.
  • Scores assigned by raters (e.g., peers, principals, students) are accurate, consistent with scoring protocols, and free of bias.
  • Observations used in the evaluation are fair, using multiple observers and representing the variety of conditions that could affect teacher performance (e.g., time of year, time of day, subject area covered), so that results are generalizable to teacher performance as a whole.
  • The measurement instruments are sufficiently reliable.
  • Teacher-evaluation scores do not significantly correlate with variables associated with the students they teach (e.g., English-language proficiency, prior performance on content, free or reduced-price lunch status). That is, the instruments address factors that can be changed by the teacher.
  • The instrument outcomes are related to the desired traits (e.g., those exhibited in classrooms that differentiate between higher- and lower-quality teachers).
  • Teachers with higher scores are more effective than teachers with lower scores.
  • Raters are able to appropriately assess teacher performance.
Some of these assumptions are easy to test, and data supporting them may already be available. Gathering and analyzing data for other assumptions will require more creative research designs.
Also critical is the evaluation of assumptions related to consequences of policy implementation. For example, policies concerning the use of teacher-evaluation measures typically rest on assumptions that decisionmakers understand and can effectively interpret and use the measures to select teachers for rewards, sanctions, and additional professional development, and that pay-for-performance incentives would increase teacher quality.

Likewise, undesirable consequences need to be explored and vetted for their impact. For example, personal concern for evaluation results and their associated rewards or sanctions may discourage teachers from accepting teaching assignments for specific student populations; or the number of effective teachers may be inadequate to replenish those who are removed through sanctions or who retire in discouragement from the teaching profession.

Most importantly, the public's and the education profession's trust in the labels placed on teachers is vital in enhancing the quality of education in the classroom. (On this matter, a lawsuit was recently filed in Tennessee over the state's value-added teacher-evaluation system, which relies on student test scores.) Ultimately, we need to gather evidence to support these labels and address possible consequences.

We plead: Evaluate the validity of claims made about teacher quality before moving forward. We now have an extra year granted to us by the Department of Education. We need to take this time to conduct essential validity studies for the sake of true accountability, student learning, and a just educational measurement system.

Community Development and the Rural-Urban Divide

This from William Hatcher in the PA Times:

The cultural, natural and environment assets of rural America have been and are a significant part of the nation’s identity. However, over the past century, a divide has grown between rural and urban America. With the current transition of the nation’s economy into a creative class, rural communities have a host of new challenges that may make this divide even more pronounced.

rural divideIn its latest issue, Governing has a series of articles on issues involving the rural and urban divide in this nation. Article in this series examine the problems of rural health care, the need for rural cities and counties to coordinate and the resilience of rural political power. Public administration and community development need to assist rural communities by giving sound advice in the designing of innovative administrative solutions that can help cities and counties pool resources and properly execute political power for policies based in the modern economy.

Consolidation, Cooperation, and Coordination

One administrative design, which isn’t that new or innovative but is highly effective, is for rural cities and counties to pool their resources. This is already occurring in many areas of public policy. Rural communities may combine resources to fund community health institutions. However, in many areas of governance, there are too many local government units, leading to ineffective public policy. Combining resources is difficult for local governments. The structure of the overall system often forces cities and counties to compete for finite resources—as James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 10, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” However, at the end of the day, these numerous units need to govern and their separated nature makes this difficult.

This is not an argument for complete consolidation of rural cities and counties. Over the nation’s history, only a small number of cities and counties (around 40) have consolidated. Georgia has by far the most consolidated local governments, with Bibb County and Macon being the latest examples. In many states, there are legal hurdles that make consolidation difficult if not impossible. And in all communities, consolidation is a very rare event because it is so politically difficult. Local officials are worried about losing their positions and influence. Furthermore, the limited research on consolidated governments has not produced convincing evidence that these arrangements are more efficient and effective than separated local governments. For instance, Edward J. Jepson, in an article in Planning Practice & Research, compared consolidated communities to similar ones that are not consolidated. He found little administrative difference between consolidated communities and non-consolidated ones. Among the cities in his study, consolidation did not produce more cost-efficient policy outcomes for the communities.

Perhaps targeted-coordination and encouraged-cooperation may be the best solutions for local governments to pool their resources. My colleague Dr. Matthew Howell and I have argued that community cooperation is a vital part of development. A pooling of resources in the form of local service agreements may help address many issues facing rural areas.

Resilient Political Power

Even with declining economic influence, rural communities have managed to retain a great deal of political power. Structural features of our political system, such as equal representation in the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College, reinforce political power in rural areas. The Republican Party’s leadership is largely pulled from rural communities. Even with the disjointed nature of American federalism that gives us over 87,000 local government units, rural America has maintained this political power. But many rural communities are using their political power to support policies that try to return them to the nation’s old economy.

Rural communities are using political power to engage in smokestack chasing economic development. Rural areas advocate and secure tax incentives for companies to either stay within their boundaries or relocate to them. Often these companies don’t relocate to rural communities because there are concerns about quality of infrastructure and the local workforce. As I’ve discussed in an earlier column, communities give away their local tax bases with these attraction-based tax incentives. These are valuable public resources that would most likely be better spent on investments in infrastructure and workforce. The manufacturing jobs that these communities wish to attract are no longer a strong part of the nation’s economy.

A Future for Rural America

Since the 1970s, the nation’s working class jobs, in particular manufacturing ones, have declined significantly. This economic trend has hollowed out many of our rural communities. Tax incentive packages and other attract-based policies will not change the power of this economic force. Rural communities should use their political power to advocate for innovative solutions to address health care weaknesses, a lack of cooperation and overall economic development. If rural communities focus on their assets and realistic visions that take into account the fact that these areas may be smaller in economic power and numbers, then there is a sustainable future. Rural areas have a great deal of amenities to attract creative workers. Research has shown that creative class workers are moving to rural areas to take advantage of these amenities. To attract creative class, rural areas need to invest in technology, such as broadband, access to allow for telecommuting; protect amenities, in particular natural amenities and environmental resources; and craft and market a clear vision.
Author: William Hatcher, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Government at Eastern Kentucky University.

Stereotypes Of Appalachia Obscure A Diverse Picture


Children in sepia-toned clothes with dirt-smeared faces. Weathered, sunken-eyed women on trailer steps chain-smoking Camels. Teenagers clad in Carhartt and Mossy Oak loitering outside long-shuttered businesses.
 
This from NPR:
When policymakers and news organizations need a snapshot of rural poverty in the United States, Appalachia — the area of land stretching from the mountains of southern New York through northern Alabama — is the default destination of choice. Poverty tours conducted by presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon, almost every member of the Kennedy clan, and religious leaders like Jesse Jackson have all painted the portrait of Appalachia the same way: poor, backward, and white.

While the economic despair and major health epidemics are an unsettling reality for the region, a glaring omission has been made from the "poverty porn" images fed to national audiences for generations: Appalachia's people of color.

Aaron Thompson
"When we tell the truth about Appalachia, it's only then that we tell the real story about who we are," said Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Growing up as an African-American outside Manchester, Ky. — a coal town home to the lowest per capita income in the state — Thompson has become one of the few outspoken role models for young people of color in his mountain home. "There's no one story of Appalachia, no one voice. It's time for everyone to feel like they can speak up, like their story is important."

The region's population growth is increasingly fueled by minorities, who have composed almost half of Appalachia's new residents (42 percent) over the past three decades and helped fuel awareness about the heterogeneous reality of mountain towns.

Appalachia's history as a mountainous melting pot dates to before the Revolutionary War, when the region's misty crags were an almost impenetrable Western frontier. Indian nations, including Cherokee and Shawnee, were the first to inhabit the area. A major wave of European settlers — primarily of Irish and Scottish descent — arrived via federal land grants in the early 18th century. African-Americans, both free and enslaved, arrived at this time as well. All these groups played key roles in shaping and molding the cultural traditions of the region.

African-Americans made up more than 10 percent of the region's population by 1860, with Appalachia's ethnic profile shifting dramatically as multiracial families boomed. (Later, those with blended Scots-Irish, Native American and African-American roots would come to be known as Melungeons.)


In the years following the Civil War, former slaves migrated north to the region to escape the persecution of the Deep South. In Eastern Kentucky, Berea College opened its doors in 1867 to students of all races, with the first year's class totaling 187 students: 96 African-American and 91 white.

The coal crescendo during the early part of the 20th century brought in even greater diversity, with tens of thousands of Hungarian, Italian and Eastern European immigrants flocking to the mountains to cash in on booming mining towns. After the Great Depression, many of these immigrants — along with African-American families — moved to urban centers such as Cincinnati and Detroit in pursuit of more stable and less backbreaking work. These pioneers were some of the first to create "urban Appalachian" enclaves, spreading the traditions of an isolated region to metropolitan areas across the Midwest.

This fusion is most obvious in Appalachia's signature food and music. The African akonting was a precursor to the banjo — the instrument now synonymous with the region's plucky, twangy bluegrass sound. Spoonbread, chowchow and succotash all point to both African and Native American influences and are celebrated as culinary specialties of the area.

Despite a long history of ethnic diversity, racism continues to be a problem in the region, particularly as Hispanic communities grow larger. While African-Americans remain the region's largest minority (bucking a national trend) and make up about 9 percent of Appalachian residents, the region's Latino population has increased by more than 240 percent over the past 20 years, composing just over 4 percent of Appalachians in 2010. Still, the stigma associated with transient migrant workers remains.
but
if you think
makin‚'shine from corn
is as hard as Kentucky coal
imagine being
an Affrilachian
poet
— from "," by Kentucky poet laureate Frank X Walker

"Even though Hispanic families have been here for decades, they're definitely still unfairly targeted," said Megan King, a photographer whose work captures portraits of Latino families in and around Johnson City, Tenn. "When I was at the police station one day photographing a couple of [Hispanic] cops, a call came in and said that two Latino men were trying to steal a police car. It was the officers I was photographing — it was their police car."

From the beginning, the topography of Appalachia has proved to be a double-edged sword. The hard-to-maneuver hills and valleys have created a wholly unique, blended culture and communities with remarkable closeness, but also a level of outsider skepticism and self-imposed isolation that have plagued progress in many areas, from economic growth to health care.

"People in Appalachia are more concerned about kinship than skin color," said Thompson. "When my high school was integrated, it was a struggle the first couple of years. By senior year, I was class president and prom king. That initial fear of the unfamiliar — whether it's people of another race or any outsiders— looms large."

While there still is a way to go, a less whitewashed portrait of Appalachia seems to be gaining a foothold nationally, thanks in part to the efforts of scholars and grass-roots organizations. The term "Affrilachia" — a portmanteau of "African" and "Appalachian" coined by Kentucky poet laureate Frank X Walker — has brought together a loose collective of multiracial artists previously excluded from conversations about what it means to be an Appalachian. The word is now an entry in the Oxford American Dictionary, second edition. In 2005, Appalachian State University professor Fred Hay successfully petitioned the Library of Congress to change the definition of Appalachians from "Mountain Whites" to "Appalachians (People)."

That movement toward a more holistic regional picture may be a strong step toward tackling the larger societal ills. "In order to fix the issues of the region," said Thompson, "we first have to recognize we have a diverse bunch of people living there."

FCPS Cuts May Drop to 3%

This from the Herald-Leader:
Fayette County schools could see a 3 percent cut in staffing rather than the previously discussed 5 percent reduction, Superintendent Tom Shelton says.

In an email message to the Herald-Leader on Monday, Shelton said he expected to discuss the 3 percent cut with principals at a meeting Wednesday. Under that scenario, the district still would see the $20 million cut that he announced weeks ago, but there would be more cuts "at the district level,"cushioning the blow for schools.

"We will not have a final answer for principals on Wednesday," he said.

"We are hoping to minimize the reduction at the school level," he said, "and that could mean a reduction of only 3 percent. But everything is preliminary right now. We want to hear from our front-line leaders before we finalize a recommendation for the board."

In March, when Shelton sent principals draft numbers for staff positions for next year, schools were shown what the worst-case scenario — a 5 percent cut — could look like. Shelton said at the time that principals should plan for a reduction of 3 percent to 5 percent.

Eighty-eight percent of the school district's $433.1 million budget is committed to salaries and benefits for the district's 5,815 employees. Teachers account for 3,000 of those jobs, Shelton has told the Herald-Leader.
He has said that a 5 percent cut would be the equivalent of about 150 teachers, and that the district could reach that number through attrition.

In 2013, for example, 75 teachers retired; 120 resigned.

Later Monday, Shelton sent an email to school board members to inform them of the potential 3 percent cut. He also commented on action taken by the General Assembly to provide funding for a required teacher pay raise of 1 percent in 2015. That means Fayette County schools will not have to make deeper cuts next year as a result of the pay raise.

"In other good news, we have been able to cut deeply enough at the district level that we believe the schools will only need to take a 3 percent reduction in allocated staffing as opposed to the worst-case scenario of 5 percent that we shared with them on March 1," the email said.

He told board members the 3 percent cut probably would mean the loss of 90 teaching positions. He said the district could easily reach figure through attrition, "as we lose many more than this through retirement and resignation."

Meanwhile, the email to board members said they would get a more defined draft budget proposal in a few days. At a district leadership meeting Wednesday, Shelton also will give principals more information.

Board vice chairwoman Melissa Bacon declined to comment on the email, saying, "It would be inappropriate for me to respond until I have a full budget proposal to consider."

Shelton has said that a primary goal is that budget cuts not affect students. He said the budget proposal the board will be asked to approve in May will include decisions that are responsive to input from residents — including parents, staff and students — who have voiced concerns about the $20 million cut. He has said that he will take a pay cut and recommend cutting two teacher work days when students aren't in attendance as part of trimming the budget.

State board discusses next steps after EXPLORE, PLAN tests go away this fall


This from KSBA:
The Kentucky Board of Education has begun examining its options for two major changes in the state's school accountability system that began with the 2009 passage of Senate Bill 1.

In a study session that began Tuesday afternoon, staff of the state Department of Education presented KBE members with a series of choices that must be made for amending the state's system of measuring student and school progress.

Some of the decisions include how to replace current elements of the state's school accountability system and what timetable for the actions should be adopted. 

Two primary factors are pushing the issue.

Currently, Kentucky eighth graders take the EXPLORE high school readiness exam each fall, while 10th-grade students take the PLAN college and career readiness test. Both are purchased by the state from ACT, which has announced it is discontinuing that product after the fall of 2014.

Meanwhile, ACT also supplies the "QualityCore End of Course (EOC)" exams used in Kentucky high schools to assess students' mastery in several course areas. Last year's EOC testing experienced serious problems with online administration.

Another factor the state is facing is that its plan calls for expanding EOC testing, but insufficient funds were allocated by the legislature to allow that to happen. Additionally, the current EOC exams don't cover all of the state's expanding content under the Kentucky Core Academic standards.

In documents released by KDE in advance of Tuesday's discussions, four options were spelled out for the KBE members' consideration:

Option A
* Replace the end-of-course assessment model with a summative, end-of-year testing model that provides broader coverage of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards at the high school level; this test would go into effect in 2014-15. The summative assessment would be given at the end of the year to all grade 10 students in the subjects of reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.
* Require the end-of-year results of the high school assessment mentioned above to provide the information required by the ACT PLAN test. The end-of-year test would, in essence, function as a single test meeting two requirements. • Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test. The K-PREP test would in essence function as a single test meeting two requirements. K-PREP grades 3-8 standard setting work used the distribution of students on the ACT scale; therefore, a score of Proficiency or Distinguished at grade 8 on the K-PREP test indicates the student is on track for meeting the ACT benchmarks and is ready for challenging high school courses.

Pros: Creates a better and more thorough alignment of the high school assessment system with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and college readiness. Eliminates ongoing problems with the current EOC online system and saves an estimated $2 million dollars.

Cons: Accountability trend lines end and must start over; high school curriculum and instruction must be adapted for the new assessment model at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Vendors who will have a product ready by spring 2015 will be limited. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.
Option B
* Adopt Option A above; however, implement it in the 2015-16 school year.

Pros: Same pros listed above and schools continue summer 2014 professional development and 2014-15 instruction/curriculum. Schools have advance notice of upcoming instructional/curriculum changes coming in 2015-16. Trend data stays intact for a fourth year. More vendors would have testing products by 2015-16. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. EOC online issues may or may not be solved by spring 2015, the final year of administration of EOC. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.
Option C
* Option C is a hybrid of A and B above. Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with an end-of-year summative test as discussed in Options A and B. The new grade 10 test would go into effect in 2014-15; however, EOC continues one last time in 2014-15.
* Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test.

* In 2015-16, the grade 10 EOY summative would replace the EOC as described in Options A and B above.

Pros: Allows phase-in of new test; schools can make instructional/curriculum adjustments; and the new test gets a one-year try out to determine its logistical and instructional feasibility. The option would increase savings in 2015-16. This option would provide a fourth year of trend data for accountability. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. The option has a slight increase in cost in 2014-15. In 2015-16, student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option D (for end of course tests)
* Continue with the EOC testing model; find a replacement for the ACT EXPLORE/PLAN. May need to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to address both increased coverage of standards and online issues. Or, KDE may add more EOC courses and associated tests in the existing contract to provide more coverage of standards.
* Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with fall testing schedule.
* Either use middle school K-PREP tests to provide the information required by the ACT EXPLORE test, or select a replacement test for the ACT EXPLORE.

Pros: Provides for less disruption to the high school work. Continues accountability and keeps current curriculum/instruction intact. If courses are added, it improves content coverage. This option maintains student motivation for state tests. It meets regulatory timelines.

Cons: Increased cost of adding more EOC tests occurs. Alignment to standards may remain a problem due to limited coverage of EOC subjects. May need to move to using another state’s EOC tests or create custom EOC tests.

According to the KDE document, the timing of the state board's decision becomes important to the timetable of making changes in the overall system:

"Three of the options will call for revisions to existing regulations. If there is a decision to adopt a new model of testing in the 2014-15 school year, there are some regulatory concerns related to timing. End-of-course tests and the ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN are written into three state regulations: (1) 703 KAR 5:200, Next-Generation Learners, (2) 703 KAR 5:240, Accountability Definitions and Procedures and (3) 703 KAR 3:305, Minimum Requirements for High School Graduation.

"In order to make the new assessment model operational for the 2014-15 school year, an RFP process and selection of the new assessments would need to be completed in the summer of 2014. The regulatory process, with its required timelines, could not be completed prior to the RFP process, thus resulting in the regulation lagging behind the RFP process.

"It is permissible for this to occur, assuming the KBE understands both the intent of the RFP process and the regulation; however, the timing of the regulation under this scenario would result in the regulation not becoming effective until the middle of the 2014-15 school year, at the earliest.

"This scenario gives us very little room for error if the regulation receives numerous comments or if it were to be found deficient. If the new regulations were not approved through the entire regulatory process, then the new testing program would not be approved even though the testing program would have started pursuant to the RFP."

Tuesday's KBE study session also covered discussions of the student "growth" measurement in the state assessment system and development of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system. The growth measurement has drawn considerable debate among local school leaders, especially at the elementary level.

While the KBE has its regular meeting on Wednesday, study session discussions frequently are slated for actual decisions later in the year.

The KBE meeting and study session were webcast via the KDE website and will be archived for later viewing.
State board to discussing next steps after EXPLORE, PLAN tests go away this fall
Staff report

The Kentucky Board of Education has begun examining its options for two major changes in the state's school accountability system that began with the 2009 passage of Senate Bill 1.

In a study session that began Tuesday afternoon, staff of the state Department of Education presented KBE members with a series of choices that must be made for amending the state's system of measuring student and school progress.

Some of the decisions include how to replace current elements of the state's school accountability system and what timetable for the actions should be adopted. 

Two primary factors are pushing the issue.

Currently, Kentucky eighth graders take the EXPLORE high school readiness exam each fall, while 10th-grade students take the PLAN college and career readiness test. Both are purchased by the state from ACT, which has announced it is discontinuing that product after the fall of 2014.

Meanwhile, ACT also supplies the "QualityCore End of Course (EOC)" exams used in Kentucky high schools to assess students' mastery in several course areas. Last year's EOC testing experienced serious problems with online administration.

Another factor the state is facing is that its plan calls for expanding EOC testing, but insufficient funds were allocated by the legislature to allow that to happen. Additionally, the current EOC exams don't cover all of the state's expanding content under the Kentucky Core Academic standards.

In documents released by KDE in advance of Tuesday's discussions, four options were spelled out for the KBE members' consideration:

Option A

* Replace the end-of-course assessment model with a summative, end-of-year testing model that provides broader coverage of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards at the high school level; this test would go into effect in 2014-15. The summative assessment would be given at the end of the year to all grade 10 students in the subjects of reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.

* Require the end-of-year results of the high school assessment mentioned above to provide the information required by the ACT PLAN test. The end-of-year test would, in essence, function as a single test meeting two requirements. • Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test. The K-PREP test would in essence function as a single test meeting two requirements. K-PREP grades 3-8 standard setting work used the distribution of students on the ACT scale; therefore, a score of Proficiency or Distinguished at grade 8 on the K-PREP test indicates the student is on track for meeting the ACT benchmarks and is ready for challenging high school courses.

Pros: Creates a better and more thorough alignment of the high school assessment system with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and college readiness. Eliminates ongoing problems with the current EOC online system and saves an estimated $2 million dollars.

Cons: Accountability trend lines end and must start over; high school curriculum and instruction must be adapted for the new assessment model at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Vendors who will have a product ready by spring 2015 will be limited. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option B

* Adopt Option A above; however, implement it in the 2015-16 school year.

Pros: Same pros listed above and schools continue summer 2014 professional development and 2014-15 instruction/curriculum. Schools have advance notice of upcoming instructional/curriculum changes coming in 2015-16. Trend data stays intact for a fourth year. More vendors would have testing products by 2015-16. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. EOC online issues may or may not be solved by spring 2015, the final year of administration of EOC. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option C

* Option C is a hybrid of A and B above. Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with an end-of-year summative test as discussed in Options A and B. The new grade 10 test would go into effect in 2014-15; however, EOC continues one last time in 2014-15.

* Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test.

* In 2015-16, the grade 10 EOY summative would replace the EOC as described in Options A and B above.

Pros: Allows phase-in of new test; schools can make instructional/curriculum adjustments; and the new test gets a one-year try out to determine its logistical and instructional feasibility. The option would increase savings in 2015-16. This option would provide a fourth year of trend data for accountability. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. The option has a slight increase in cost in 2014-15. In 2015-16, student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option D (for end of course tests)

* Continue with the EOC testing model; find a replacement for the ACT EXPLORE/PLAN. May need to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to address both increased coverage of standards and online issues. Or, KDE may add more EOC courses and associated tests in the existing contract to provide more coverage of standards.
* Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with fall testing schedule.
* Either use middle school K-PREP tests to provide the information required by the ACT EXPLORE test, or select a replacement test for the ACT EXPLORE.

Pros: Provides for less disruption to the high school work. Continues accountability and keeps current curriculum/instruction intact. If courses are added, it improves content coverage. This option maintains student motivation for state tests. It meets regulatory timelines.

Cons: Increased cost of adding more EOC tests occurs. Alignment to standards may remain a problem due to limited coverage of EOC subjects. May need to move to using another state’s EOC tests or create custom EOC tests.

According to the KDE document, the timing of the state board's decision becomes important to the timetable of making changes in the overall system:

"Three of the options will call for revisions to existing regulations. If there is a decision to adopt a new model of testing in the 2014-15 school year, there are some regulatory concerns related to timing. End-of-course tests and the ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN are written into three state regulations: (1) 703 KAR 5:200, Next-Generation Learners, (2) 703 KAR 5:240, Accountability Definitions and Procedures and (3) 703 KAR 3:305, Minimum Requirements for High School Graduation.

"In order to make the new assessment model operational for the 2014-15 school year, an RFP process and selection of the new assessments would need to be completed in the summer of 2014. The regulatory process, with its required timelines, could not be completed prior to the RFP process, thus resulting in the regulation lagging behind the RFP process.

"It is permissible for this to occur, assuming the KBE understands both the intent of the RFP process and the regulation; however, the timing of the regulation under this scenario would result in the regulation not becoming effective until the middle of the 2014-15 school year, at the earliest.

"This scenario gives us very little room for error if the regulation receives numerous comments or if it were to be found deficient. If the new regulations were not approved through the entire regulatory process, then the new testing program would not be approved even though the testing program would have started pursuant to the RFP."

Tuesday's KBE study session also covered discussions of the student "growth" measurement in the state assessment system and development of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system. The growth measurement has drawn considerable debate among local school leaders, especially at the elementary level.

While the KBE has its regular meeting on Wednesday, study session discussions frequently are slated for actual decisions later in the year.

The KBE meeting and study session were webcast via the KDE website and will be archived for later viewing.
- See more at: http://www.ksba.org/protected/ArticleView.aspx?iid=6YBYA32&dasi=3UBI#sthash.qoF21jX3.dpuf
State board to discussing next steps after EXPLORE, PLAN tests go away this fall
Staff report

The Kentucky Board of Education has begun examining its options for two major changes in the state's school accountability system that began with the 2009 passage of Senate Bill 1.

In a study session that began Tuesday afternoon, staff of the state Department of Education presented KBE members with a series of choices that must be made for amending the state's system of measuring student and school progress.

Some of the decisions include how to replace current elements of the state's school accountability system and what timetable for the actions should be adopted. 

Two primary factors are pushing the issue.

Currently, Kentucky eighth graders take the EXPLORE high school readiness exam each fall, while 10th-grade students take the PLAN college and career readiness test. Both are purchased by the state from ACT, which has announced it is discontinuing that product after the fall of 2014.

Meanwhile, ACT also supplies the "QualityCore End of Course (EOC)" exams used in Kentucky high schools to assess students' mastery in several course areas. Last year's EOC testing experienced serious problems with online administration.

Another factor the state is facing is that its plan calls for expanding EOC testing, but insufficient funds were allocated by the legislature to allow that to happen. Additionally, the current EOC exams don't cover all of the state's expanding content under the Kentucky Core Academic standards.

In documents released by KDE in advance of Tuesday's discussions, four options were spelled out for the KBE members' consideration:

Option A

* Replace the end-of-course assessment model with a summative, end-of-year testing model that provides broader coverage of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards at the high school level; this test would go into effect in 2014-15. The summative assessment would be given at the end of the year to all grade 10 students in the subjects of reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.

* Require the end-of-year results of the high school assessment mentioned above to provide the information required by the ACT PLAN test. The end-of-year test would, in essence, function as a single test meeting two requirements. • Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test. The K-PREP test would in essence function as a single test meeting two requirements. K-PREP grades 3-8 standard setting work used the distribution of students on the ACT scale; therefore, a score of Proficiency or Distinguished at grade 8 on the K-PREP test indicates the student is on track for meeting the ACT benchmarks and is ready for challenging high school courses.

Pros: Creates a better and more thorough alignment of the high school assessment system with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and college readiness. Eliminates ongoing problems with the current EOC online system and saves an estimated $2 million dollars.

Cons: Accountability trend lines end and must start over; high school curriculum and instruction must be adapted for the new assessment model at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Vendors who will have a product ready by spring 2015 will be limited. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option B

* Adopt Option A above; however, implement it in the 2015-16 school year.

Pros: Same pros listed above and schools continue summer 2014 professional development and 2014-15 instruction/curriculum. Schools have advance notice of upcoming instructional/curriculum changes coming in 2015-16. Trend data stays intact for a fourth year. More vendors would have testing products by 2015-16. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. EOC online issues may or may not be solved by spring 2015, the final year of administration of EOC. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option C

* Option C is a hybrid of A and B above. Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with an end-of-year summative test as discussed in Options A and B. The new grade 10 test would go into effect in 2014-15; however, EOC continues one last time in 2014-15.

* Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test.

* In 2015-16, the grade 10 EOY summative would replace the EOC as described in Options A and B above.

Pros: Allows phase-in of new test; schools can make instructional/curriculum adjustments; and the new test gets a one-year try out to determine its logistical and instructional feasibility. The option would increase savings in 2015-16. This option would provide a fourth year of trend data for accountability. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. The option has a slight increase in cost in 2014-15. In 2015-16, student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option D (for end of course tests)

* Continue with the EOC testing model; find a replacement for the ACT EXPLORE/PLAN. May need to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to address both increased coverage of standards and online issues. Or, KDE may add more EOC courses and associated tests in the existing contract to provide more coverage of standards.
* Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with fall testing schedule.
* Either use middle school K-PREP tests to provide the information required by the ACT EXPLORE test, or select a replacement test for the ACT EXPLORE.

Pros: Provides for less disruption to the high school work. Continues accountability and keeps current curriculum/instruction intact. If courses are added, it improves content coverage. This option maintains student motivation for state tests. It meets regulatory timelines.

Cons: Increased cost of adding more EOC tests occurs. Alignment to standards may remain a problem due to limited coverage of EOC subjects. May need to move to using another state’s EOC tests or create custom EOC tests.

According to the KDE document, the timing of the state board's decision becomes important to the timetable of making changes in the overall system:

"Three of the options will call for revisions to existing regulations. If there is a decision to adopt a new model of testing in the 2014-15 school year, there are some regulatory concerns related to timing. End-of-course tests and the ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN are written into three state regulations: (1) 703 KAR 5:200, Next-Generation Learners, (2) 703 KAR 5:240, Accountability Definitions and Procedures and (3) 703 KAR 3:305, Minimum Requirements for High School Graduation.

"In order to make the new assessment model operational for the 2014-15 school year, an RFP process and selection of the new assessments would need to be completed in the summer of 2014. The regulatory process, with its required timelines, could not be completed prior to the RFP process, thus resulting in the regulation lagging behind the RFP process.

"It is permissible for this to occur, assuming the KBE understands both the intent of the RFP process and the regulation; however, the timing of the regulation under this scenario would result in the regulation not becoming effective until the middle of the 2014-15 school year, at the earliest.

"This scenario gives us very little room for error if the regulation receives numerous comments or if it were to be found deficient. If the new regulations were not approved through the entire regulatory process, then the new testing program would not be approved even though the testing program would have started pursuant to the RFP."

Tuesday's KBE study session also covered discussions of the student "growth" measurement in the state assessment system and development of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system. The growth measurement has drawn considerable debate among local school leaders, especially at the elementary level.

While the KBE has its regular meeting on Wednesday, study session discussions frequently are slated for actual decisions later in the year.

The KBE meeting and study session were webcast via the KDE website and will be archived for later viewing.
- See more at: http://www.ksba.org/protected/ArticleView.aspx?iid=6YBYA32&dasi=3UBI#sthash.qoF21jX3.dpuf
State board to discussing next steps after EXPLORE, PLAN tests go away this fall
Staff report

The Kentucky Board of Education has begun examining its options for two major changes in the state's school accountability system that began with the 2009 passage of Senate Bill 1.

In a study session that began Tuesday afternoon, staff of the state Department of Education presented KBE members with a series of choices that must be made for amending the state's system of measuring student and school progress.

Some of the decisions include how to replace current elements of the state's school accountability system and what timetable for the actions should be adopted. 

Two primary factors are pushing the issue.

Currently, Kentucky eighth graders take the EXPLORE high school readiness exam each fall, while 10th-grade students take the PLAN college and career readiness test. Both are purchased by the state from ACT, which has announced it is discontinuing that product after the fall of 2014.

Meanwhile, ACT also supplies the "QualityCore End of Course (EOC)" exams used in Kentucky high schools to assess students' mastery in several course areas. Last year's EOC testing experienced serious problems with online administration.

Another factor the state is facing is that its plan calls for expanding EOC testing, but insufficient funds were allocated by the legislature to allow that to happen. Additionally, the current EOC exams don't cover all of the state's expanding content under the Kentucky Core Academic standards.

In documents released by KDE in advance of Tuesday's discussions, four options were spelled out for the KBE members' consideration:

Option A

* Replace the end-of-course assessment model with a summative, end-of-year testing model that provides broader coverage of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards at the high school level; this test would go into effect in 2014-15. The summative assessment would be given at the end of the year to all grade 10 students in the subjects of reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.

* Require the end-of-year results of the high school assessment mentioned above to provide the information required by the ACT PLAN test. The end-of-year test would, in essence, function as a single test meeting two requirements. • Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test. The K-PREP test would in essence function as a single test meeting two requirements. K-PREP grades 3-8 standard setting work used the distribution of students on the ACT scale; therefore, a score of Proficiency or Distinguished at grade 8 on the K-PREP test indicates the student is on track for meeting the ACT benchmarks and is ready for challenging high school courses.

Pros: Creates a better and more thorough alignment of the high school assessment system with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and college readiness. Eliminates ongoing problems with the current EOC online system and saves an estimated $2 million dollars.

Cons: Accountability trend lines end and must start over; high school curriculum and instruction must be adapted for the new assessment model at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Vendors who will have a product ready by spring 2015 will be limited. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option B

* Adopt Option A above; however, implement it in the 2015-16 school year.

Pros: Same pros listed above and schools continue summer 2014 professional development and 2014-15 instruction/curriculum. Schools have advance notice of upcoming instructional/curriculum changes coming in 2015-16. Trend data stays intact for a fourth year. More vendors would have testing products by 2015-16. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. EOC online issues may or may not be solved by spring 2015, the final year of administration of EOC. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option C

* Option C is a hybrid of A and B above. Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with an end-of-year summative test as discussed in Options A and B. The new grade 10 test would go into effect in 2014-15; however, EOC continues one last time in 2014-15.

* Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test.

* In 2015-16, the grade 10 EOY summative would replace the EOC as described in Options A and B above.

Pros: Allows phase-in of new test; schools can make instructional/curriculum adjustments; and the new test gets a one-year try out to determine its logistical and instructional feasibility. The option would increase savings in 2015-16. This option would provide a fourth year of trend data for accountability. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. The option has a slight increase in cost in 2014-15. In 2015-16, student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option D (for end of course tests)

* Continue with the EOC testing model; find a replacement for the ACT EXPLORE/PLAN. May need to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to address both increased coverage of standards and online issues. Or, KDE may add more EOC courses and associated tests in the existing contract to provide more coverage of standards.
* Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with fall testing schedule.
* Either use middle school K-PREP tests to provide the information required by the ACT EXPLORE test, or select a replacement test for the ACT EXPLORE.

Pros: Provides for less disruption to the high school work. Continues accountability and keeps current curriculum/instruction intact. If courses are added, it improves content coverage. This option maintains student motivation for state tests. It meets regulatory timelines.

Cons: Increased cost of adding more EOC tests occurs. Alignment to standards may remain a problem due to limited coverage of EOC subjects. May need to move to using another state’s EOC tests or create custom EOC tests.

According to the KDE document, the timing of the state board's decision becomes important to the timetable of making changes in the overall system:

"Three of the options will call for revisions to existing regulations. If there is a decision to adopt a new model of testing in the 2014-15 school year, there are some regulatory concerns related to timing. End-of-course tests and the ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN are written into three state regulations: (1) 703 KAR 5:200, Next-Generation Learners, (2) 703 KAR 5:240, Accountability Definitions and Procedures and (3) 703 KAR 3:305, Minimum Requirements for High School Graduation.

"In order to make the new assessment model operational for the 2014-15 school year, an RFP process and selection of the new assessments would need to be completed in the summer of 2014. The regulatory process, with its required timelines, could not be completed prior to the RFP process, thus resulting in the regulation lagging behind the RFP process.

"It is permissible for this to occur, assuming the KBE understands both the intent of the RFP process and the regulation; however, the timing of the regulation under this scenario would result in the regulation not becoming effective until the middle of the 2014-15 school year, at the earliest.

"This scenario gives us very little room for error if the regulation receives numerous comments or if it were to be found deficient. If the new regulations were not approved through the entire regulatory process, then the new testing program would not be approved even though the testing program would have started pursuant to the RFP."

Tuesday's KBE study session also covered discussions of the student "growth" measurement in the state assessment system and development of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system. The growth measurement has drawn considerable debate among local school leaders, especially at the elementary level.

While the KBE has its regular meeting on Wednesday, study session discussions frequently are slated for actual decisions later in the year.

The KBE meeting and study session were webcast via the KDE website and will be archived for later viewing.
- See more at: http://www.ksba.org/protected/ArticleView.aspx?iid=6YBYA32&dasi=3UBI#sthash.qoF21jX3.dpuf
State board to discussing next steps after EXPLORE, PLAN tests go away this fall
Staff report

The Kentucky Board of Education has begun examining its options for two major changes in the state's school accountability system that began with the 2009 passage of Senate Bill 1.

In a study session that began Tuesday afternoon, staff of the state Department of Education presented KBE members with a series of choices that must be made for amending the state's system of measuring student and school progress.

Some of the decisions include how to replace current elements of the state's school accountability system and what timetable for the actions should be adopted. 

Two primary factors are pushing the issue.

Currently, Kentucky eighth graders take the EXPLORE high school readiness exam each fall, while 10th-grade students take the PLAN college and career readiness test. Both are purchased by the state from ACT, which has announced it is discontinuing that product after the fall of 2014.

Meanwhile, ACT also supplies the "QualityCore End of Course (EOC)" exams used in Kentucky high schools to assess students' mastery in several course areas. Last year's EOC testing experienced serious problems with online administration.

Another factor the state is facing is that its plan calls for expanding EOC testing, but insufficient funds were allocated by the legislature to allow that to happen. Additionally, the current EOC exams don't cover all of the state's expanding content under the Kentucky Core Academic standards.

In documents released by KDE in advance of Tuesday's discussions, four options were spelled out for the KBE members' consideration:

Option A

* Replace the end-of-course assessment model with a summative, end-of-year testing model that provides broader coverage of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards at the high school level; this test would go into effect in 2014-15. The summative assessment would be given at the end of the year to all grade 10 students in the subjects of reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.

* Require the end-of-year results of the high school assessment mentioned above to provide the information required by the ACT PLAN test. The end-of-year test would, in essence, function as a single test meeting two requirements. • Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test. The K-PREP test would in essence function as a single test meeting two requirements. K-PREP grades 3-8 standard setting work used the distribution of students on the ACT scale; therefore, a score of Proficiency or Distinguished at grade 8 on the K-PREP test indicates the student is on track for meeting the ACT benchmarks and is ready for challenging high school courses.

Pros: Creates a better and more thorough alignment of the high school assessment system with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and college readiness. Eliminates ongoing problems with the current EOC online system and saves an estimated $2 million dollars.

Cons: Accountability trend lines end and must start over; high school curriculum and instruction must be adapted for the new assessment model at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Vendors who will have a product ready by spring 2015 will be limited. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option B

* Adopt Option A above; however, implement it in the 2015-16 school year.

Pros: Same pros listed above and schools continue summer 2014 professional development and 2014-15 instruction/curriculum. Schools have advance notice of upcoming instructional/curriculum changes coming in 2015-16. Trend data stays intact for a fourth year. More vendors would have testing products by 2015-16. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. EOC online issues may or may not be solved by spring 2015, the final year of administration of EOC. Student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option C

* Option C is a hybrid of A and B above. Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with an end-of-year summative test as discussed in Options A and B. The new grade 10 test would go into effect in 2014-15; however, EOC continues one last time in 2014-15.

* Use the current K-PREP middle school tests to provide the information required as a part of the ACT EXPLORE test.

* In 2015-16, the grade 10 EOY summative would replace the EOC as described in Options A and B above.

Pros: Allows phase-in of new test; schools can make instructional/curriculum adjustments; and the new test gets a one-year try out to determine its logistical and instructional feasibility. The option would increase savings in 2015-16. This option would provide a fourth year of trend data for accountability. The phase-in will meet regulatory timelines.

Cons: Accountability trend lines start over in 2015-16 school year. The delay pushes out changes an extra year. The option has a slight increase in cost in 2014-15. In 2015-16, student motivation becomes an issue because EOY test results are usually not available in a timely fashion and the link between an EOY test and a specific course is very difficult to determine.

Option D (for end of course tests)

* Continue with the EOC testing model; find a replacement for the ACT EXPLORE/PLAN. May need to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to address both increased coverage of standards and online issues. Or, KDE may add more EOC courses and associated tests in the existing contract to provide more coverage of standards.
* Replace the grade 10 ACT PLAN test with fall testing schedule.
* Either use middle school K-PREP tests to provide the information required by the ACT EXPLORE test, or select a replacement test for the ACT EXPLORE.

Pros: Provides for less disruption to the high school work. Continues accountability and keeps current curriculum/instruction intact. If courses are added, it improves content coverage. This option maintains student motivation for state tests. It meets regulatory timelines.

Cons: Increased cost of adding more EOC tests occurs. Alignment to standards may remain a problem due to limited coverage of EOC subjects. May need to move to using another state’s EOC tests or create custom EOC tests.

According to the KDE document, the timing of the state board's decision becomes important to the timetable of making changes in the overall system:

"Three of the options will call for revisions to existing regulations. If there is a decision to adopt a new model of testing in the 2014-15 school year, there are some regulatory concerns related to timing. End-of-course tests and the ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN are written into three state regulations: (1) 703 KAR 5:200, Next-Generation Learners, (2) 703 KAR 5:240, Accountability Definitions and Procedures and (3) 703 KAR 3:305, Minimum Requirements for High School Graduation.

"In order to make the new assessment model operational for the 2014-15 school year, an RFP process and selection of the new assessments would need to be completed in the summer of 2014. The regulatory process, with its required timelines, could not be completed prior to the RFP process, thus resulting in the regulation lagging behind the RFP process.

"It is permissible for this to occur, assuming the KBE understands both the intent of the RFP process and the regulation; however, the timing of the regulation under this scenario would result in the regulation not becoming effective until the middle of the 2014-15 school year, at the earliest.

"This scenario gives us very little room for error if the regulation receives numerous comments or if it were to be found deficient. If the new regulations were not approved through the entire regulatory process, then the new testing program would not be approved even though the testing program would have started pursuant to the RFP."

Tuesday's KBE study session also covered discussions of the student "growth" measurement in the state assessment system and development of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system. The growth measurement has drawn considerable debate among local school leaders, especially at the elementary level.

While the KBE has its regular meeting on Wednesday, study session discussions frequently are slated for actual decisions later in the year.

The KBE meeting and study session were webcast via the KDE website and will be archived for later viewing.
- See more at: http://www.ksba.org/protected/ArticleView.aspx?iid=6YBYA32&dasi=3UBI#sthash.qoF21jX3.dpuf