Tuesday, February 10, 2015

School funding model has merit, educators say

I still owe KSN&C readers a breakdown of the Council for Better Education's study conducted by Picus Odden & Associates, but haven't been able to get to it. In the meantime...
This from the Bowling Green Daily News:

A report that proposes a new model for Kentucky public school funding has merit, local educators said.

The 130-page report examines funding public education in Kentucky based on educational research, including comparisons with other states. The approach is called an evidence-based adequacy model, and there is an accompanying 28-page report that breaks down numbers for classified and certified positions, academic programs and other costs.

The largest district in southcentral Kentucky, Warren County Public Schools would see an increase of about $62 million annually in public school funding using this model, according to the study by Picus Odden & Associates, increasing education funding from about $133 million to $195 million annually. The report was prepared for the Kentucky Council for Better Education, a consortium of 168 school districts in the state.

“The report reveals that school districts are grossly underfunded in regard to the resources needed to provide our students with the quality of education each of them truly deserve,” Warren County Public School Superintendent Rob Clayton said in an email.

“In addition, it validates the long-standing concern of funding inadequacy by superintendents and school leaders across the state of Kentucky. Nothing is more important to the welfare of our community than providing all students the highest quality education and educational opportunities,” Clayton said. “Our students deserve it and the future of our community is dependent upon it. We are hopeful that this report leads to significant improvements in how we fund our schools.”

Bowling Green Independent School District would see a jump of about $15 million in public education funding according to the report, increasing from about $39 million to $54 million annually from the state of Kentucky.

“It (the report) certainly would make you step back and take a look at how you are doing things,” Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Joe Tinius said. Tinius said about 30 years ago, Kentucky funded public education through what was called a minimum foundation program.

“You received ‘X’ number of dollars for ‘X’ number of teachers based on enrollment,” Tinius recalled.

“Under this approach, you look at what the research shows, then design the funding around areas to get the best return for investment,” he said. “What they have tried to do is tie minimum foundation funding to educational research” in the report, he said.

The funding growth numbers for the city and county district are based on the evidence-based model in the report compared with the actual 2012-13 school year state funding.

Report calculates cost based on ed research

The evidence-based approach would be different from how public education in the commonwealth is currently funded: a combination of local and state taxes with federal grants thrown into the mix. For example, local districts receive Support Education Excellence in Kentucky funds from the state, and that allocation is determined through Kentucky Department of Education information given to the Kentucky General Assembly. Since the state education reforms in 1990, the funds are distributed in an equity approach so that tax-poor districts can measure up to tax-rich districts.

The report broke down the money:

“In 2012-13 Kentucky education revenues reached $7.83 billion, including $5.91 billion at the district level, as well as $1.10 billion in On-Behalf benefit payments, $20.95 million for Kentucky Department of Education, and $16.13 million for Kentucky schools for the Blind and Deaf at the state level,” the report noted. “During the 2012-13 school year, the EB (evidence-based) model suggests that all districts could reach adequacy with roughly $9.40 billion in the education system, or approximately $2.44 billion (25.98 percent) over the expenditures in the system. This $9.40 billion equates to $13,130 per pupil,” according to the report.

The state SEEK money was set at just under $4,000 per student in Kentucky for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

While the cost of the new model has grabbed the headlines – $2.4 billion more in public support over the about $7 billion in state and local funds going to public education – local educators and the new executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents say that sticker shock takes away from the merits of the study.

“We are not asking the state to fund an additional $2.4 billion in education; that is not the focus of the report,” said Tom Shelton, KASS executive director, former superintendent of the Fayette County Schools and immediate past president of The Council for Better Education. Shelton made his comments in a recent interview with the Kentucky School Boards Association’s Brad Hughes. Hughes is director of member support for the KSBA. 

The new model “says how much money should be put into education to adequately fund education,” Shelton told Hughes.

The Adequacy for Excellence in Kentucky funding study was conducted December 2013 through August. School districts throughout southcentral Kentucky helped pay for the report, and Shelton presented it to superintendents during a December meeting in Louisville.

“The real focus of the report is that this is an all-new model for education in Kentucky, not a study of the current funding structure or system,” Shelton told the KSBA. He said the report will be circulated this year with the intention to start a debate on public education strategies in 2016, when the Kentucky General Assembly will once again take up the state’s two-year budget, of which about 56 percent is public education funding. At one time, public education funding was 62 percent of the state budget in Kentucky, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said recently.
That percentage doesn’t include the local taxes and federal funding streams used to help pay to educate the schoolchildren annually; money that contributes to the about $7 billion price tag in Kentucky.

The report shows that over the past decade Kentucky has consistently funded its schools below the national average, but funding levels have shown varied results against comparable states, according to a news release from The Council for Better Education.

“The advantage of the report is the hours and hours of research that is now at our fingertips,” Logan County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hub said. “It is disappointing that it is not financially feasible, but it does address the impact of student enrollment on student achievement.”

Shelton said the report becomes a resource for school districts in Kentucky.

“The model and its resources can still be used and are viable, even if the schools don’t get another dime,” Shelton said in the KSBA interview. “It saves districts a lot of time because they have all the research in one place and a handbook that they can use.”

Staffing concepts could change

Shelton uses an example to illustrate his point.

“For example, the research shows that instructional coaches have one of the biggest impacts on improving student achievement, so if your district has limited resources and is trying to decide how to best use them, then the model shows that you should choose instructional coaches because of their impact,” he said.

With Kentucky’s current funding model, when a school district wants to think outside of the box – such as hire a college and career specialist as was done by Bowling Green High School at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year – the district has to scramble to find the money to fund the position, according to Tinius.

Both Bowling Green and Barren County schools have hired college and career specialists. Districts are placing more emphasis on college and career readiness for students. A college and career specialist works with students to help them determine definite career pathways following graduation.
Tinius said the report has merit. “Maybe what could come out of this is, for example, how districts are paid for professional development,” Tinius said. “There are pieces (of the report) you could turn to.”

Areas such as professional development, textbook purchase or technology upgrades have been funded unevenly by the state the past decade. So the report recommends a six-year textbook adoption cycle, where $120 is allocated for replacement books for each student at the elementary and middle school levels and $150 per student at the high school level. The report also recommends $250 per each preschool through 12th-grade student to pay for computer technology in classrooms.

Principal Gary Fields at Bowling Green High School said if a new school staffing approach was used at his school, “we would have to wipe the slate clean,” erasing all the specific certifications and placements of teachers and assistant principals throughout the building serving 1,200 students to embrace the new model.

“You almost have to start from zero,” Fields said.

The college and career specialists being hired at high schools in southcentral Kentucky is an example of school administrations reacting to the most-recent Kentucky Department of Education programming emphasis.

Educational approaches switch back and forth

“The pendulum swings one way, and then it swings back the other way,” Fields said. “It is currently swinging to career focus. It had been swinging to college focus.”

Basing many staffing decisions on evidence-based practices would change the approach, he said.
“You build from the ground up. It is daunting, but doable,” Fields said.

Superintendent Jim Flynn of Simpson County said the time spent to let the report sink into the public consciousness will allow public education funding priorities to be developed once the budget discussions begin in Frankfort in 2016.

“There is no (current) model to determine an adequate amount of money for public education” in Kentucky, Flynn said. The report can be the start of that discussion, he said.

“What is best to raise instructional achievement” is a large focus of the report, Allen County Superintendent Randall Jackson said.

“We will look at staffing for central office, our school centers (Pre-K-3, 4-6 and 7-8) and Allen County-Scottsville High School,” Jackson said. “It is a good starting point as we work on our tentative budget.”

This from the Kentucky School Advocate:

In Conversation With ... Dr. Tom Shelton, on the new K-12 school funding report

In Conversation With…features an interview between a leader or figure involved in public education and a representative of the Kentucky School Advocate. Dr. Tom Shelton became executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) on Jan.1, after heading first Daviess County and then Fayette County school districts.
As the immediate past president of the Council for Better Education, a consortium of 168 Kentucky public school districts that financed the yearlong study, “Adequacy and Equity for Excellence in Kentucky,” Shelton presented the study’s findings to KASS members at their annual conference in early December.

Q: The report “Adequacy and Equity for Excellence in Kentucky” has made headlines because it estimates that it will take another $2.4 billion, on top of the $7 billion spent now, to adequately fund K-12 education in the state.

A: We thought about not putting a number in the report because that is just side information, but we also knew people would ask how much it would cost. The real focus of the report is that this is an all-new model for education in Kentucky, not a study of the current funding structure or system.

We started with a prototype, a model of a successful school based on research. We looked at how an elementary school, a middle school and a high school should be staffed and how supplemental support should be provided from the district. We calculated the total costs. In costing out the model, we found it would require $9.4 billion. That is both state and local funds. We are not asking the state to fund an additional $2.4 billion in education; that is not the focus of the report.

Q: Explain the difference between Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the report.

A: Volume 1 includes the model, all of the research and the comparative state analysis – a comparison of high-performing states as well as states that are considered our peers. In effect, the report says: This is what research on successful schools tells us that needs to happen.

Volume 2 includes tables and charts that detail the funding associated with the model. Volume 2 is much smaller, with district-specific numbers. The model is built in Excel so you can go down to the individual school level and see the (funding) impact. We will be posting that information on the CBE website.

Q: The model spells out exactly what is required to ensure that students reach proficiency. Could you review these assumptions?

A: The first big assumption is universal preschool for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds for the entire state. Also, full funding for kindergarten (currently we receive only half funding); funding based on membership or enrollment instead of attendance; and a reduction in class sizes. In the model, kindergarten through third grade is staffed at 15:1 and fourth grade forward is 25:1. That is a big, big difference compared to the state caps now.

The fifth assumption is instructional coaches for all schools. Instructional coaches would work with teachers in development and training to improve the quality of instruction. Sixth is using certified teachers, which is what the model calls tutors and what we call instructional intervention and support beyond basic classroom teachers.

Q: Are other assumptions called for?

A: Yes. Other assumptions are nursing services, behavioral services and other instructional support services for all schools and additional support services for schools based on three areas of population: students in poverty, English language learners and students with some form of disability. The model expands the definition of poverty to those who qualify for free lunch and reduced-price lunch.

In the model, teachers would get 10 professional development days. Currently they get only four. That is a big change; it says that teachers need more time and recognizes that the effectiveness of teachers will determine the achievement level of students.

Q: The consultants who prepared this report and model have worked with 11 other states. Does Kentucky’s model look just like the models used in those other states?

A: No. We used an advisory council of Kentucky educators and stakeholder panels so that it didn’t look the same as say, Arkansas or Wyoming. We started with a model that was national, and we Kentucky-ized it by using the experience and knowledge of people within our state.

Q: You and others have said the report is a valuable planning tool, regardless of whether funding is received. Can you explain?

A: The model and its resources can still be used and are viable, even if the schools don’t get another dime. It saves districts a lot of time because they have all the research in one place and a handbook that they can use.

Q: Can you give an example of how this could work?

A: That is why we did such a long explanation of the model when we presented it, to show how the research can be used. For example, the research shows that instructional coaches have one of the biggest impacts on improving student achievement, so if your district has limited resources and is trying to decide how to best use them, then the model shows that you should choose instructional coaches because of their impact.

Another example: Let’s say a district is trying to reduce class size, but it doesn’t have the resources to reduce class size to 15:1. The research says that unless the class size is 15:1 or lower, it is not effective. So if a district is working to lower student-teacher ratio from 24:1 to 21:1, well, that’s good but it has not been proven effective by the research, so maybe the district should use its resources in a different way.

Q: Can the report aid school boards in their work? 

A: Yes. School boards approve staffing. This report has good information for boards to look at as to how schools are staffed. Using the information there, they can look at how their district is using its resources. Good policy decisions could be made based on the research the report provides.

Q: What happens next?

A: 2015 will be a year of education on the project. We wouldn’t ask the General Assembly to take action before 2016. It wouldn’t be fair to someone in General Assembly or otherwise who hasn’t had adequate time to study this report.

Q: How will information about the report be shared with educators, legislators and others?

A: We started with school superintendents at KASS in December because they needed to know and understand the model so they could discuss it with their constituencies. Everyone left the conference with copies of the report; the report can also be emailed in PDF format along with the PowerPoint presentation that the consultants used.

We anticipate doing sessions at Kentucky School Boards Association meetings and for other regional groups throughout the state.

I also hope that superintendents will be having retreats and work sessions with their staff to review the model so they can look at their own district to see how this model would play out and work. Everyone’s implementation will look different. The model is not intended to be prescriptive; the model basically says these are the resources needed for successful schools for all students.

Q: Other states have implemented similar models. How have they done so?

A: Some have been implemented into law. We don’t know about (doing) that. Some started as a concept bill; in other words, they said ‘We believe conceptually in the model but we don’t have funds’ so they adopt the model in concept, all or in part, and work to fund it over time.

Q: You have said it could take five to seven years to implement the model? Why

A: Because it would cost $2.4 billion, and there are no additional funds at the state level and limited funds at the local level. It will take time to get to that level of investment.

Q: Does the entire model have to be implemented at once?
A: We have had discussions: Do you implement the whole model, but only do it at 70 percent and then ramp it up to 100 percent or do you implement the pieces of the model that are priorities? We can cost out each component of the model. So, if we know that preschool has a big impact and the cost is approximately $572 million, maybe we say that is the first priority and then the other components are done over time.

Q: How is this approach different than the current approach to funding?

A: This report is not meant to say that anyone is doing anything wrong or that SEEK is not appropriate. It is proposing a methodology that everyone would know and understand so we didn’t have to have same discussion all the time. We will be able to say we need more money and what we need the money for and what the impact would be.

There is currently no funding model for education in Kentucky. SEEK is an allocation model. It takes the funds that the General Assembly arbitrarily allocates and it allocates the funds among the school districts to provide equity. Our formula is a model that says how much money should be put into education to adequately fund education.

Q: You make an interesting point about the difference between equality and equity.

A: Equal is not equitable. Students start from different places. We have to make sure resources are equitable based on the needs of students. The analogy I use, told to me by a friend, is “Equal means everybody gets a pair of shoes. Equitable means everyone’s shoes fit.”


Anonymous said...

I could not, in all honesty, print anything that Tom Shelton had to say about education. Under his watch, there was a steady loss of trust in the Fayette County Schools. I can't forgive his ineptitude, his defense of Central Office, his hasty retreat....

Strong leaders are what the Kentucky schoosl desperately needs. Dr. Shelton was not, by any measure, of these leaders.

Anonymous said...

Nice quote about equity. If memory serves, this was the analogy Rodney Jackson used. I wonder what other things Tom picked up from him? I wouldn't let Dr. Shelton watch my dogs, let alone run my organization.

Anonymous said...

As a non Fayette County educators, I can say that the best thing about Dr. Shelton stepping down is that I don't have to read anymore about how Stu. S. was such a terrible leader.

Richard Innes said...

If this approach will really cost $2.4 billion more a year, I doubt it has a ghost of a chance.

The unintended consequences in the Picus report may be even more dramatic. The completely unaffordable price tag implies Kentucky will not be able to develop its current public education system into what the state needs at any sort of cost it can afford. If educators push the report, they may actually trigger calls for the state to start a serious exploration of alternatives.

Could such alternatives put a lot of teachers’ jobs at risk?

Gates and others are out there right now pushing digital alternatives. They may or may not work, but they might look cheaper than a $2.4 billion price tag.

Do the math. The Picus price tag of $2.4 billion more works out to about another $3,700 per student. You can buy a lot of computers and software per student for those sorts of dollars. And, folks like Gates and Pearson know that.

Richard Day said...


Well, the approach can’t work, right? …not without tax reform, at least. This is about what we choose to afford.

No, the state won't be able to develop its current public education system into one that meets state goals. Consider the evidence. Why would anyone think otherwise?

But given the successes of the system, Kentucky schools, writ large, pretty well matches the concept of "an efficient system of public schools" as required by the constitution. I think the public is seeing better results than it should expect, given the level of state support. We're seeing middle third performance on a bottom third budget. Efficient.

The problem for CBE is that the report leans heavily on a remedy, and remedies are the exclusive province of the legislature. The court is not going to “go there” by adopting the report, and everybody knows it. CBE won’t push it that way, which will make the report easier to ignore. Expect a very deliberative process.

Are you implying that the present call for school choice options less than serious?

Are you thinking that teachers will become irrelevant, and teaching jobs will dry up? In your mind, when the end comes, would teachers’ jobs still be available through charter schools, or will jobs not be available because teachers will be replaced by machines?

Let’s do the math. And by all means let’s try to get off as cheaply as possible because they’re just kids. $3,700 per student would indeed buy a lot of computers and software…or one B-2 Stealth bomber.


Richard Innes said...


You wrote, “We're seeing middle third performance on a bottom third budget.”

You have to do apples to apples comparisons to know how Kentucky really compares. That means looking at disaggregated data because proportionately we are a lot whiter than most other states and the racial achievement gaps in all states give Kentucky an unfair advantage if you only look at the overall average scores.

Sadly, when you look at Kentucky’s 2013 NAEP math results, our white eighth grade students scored near the bottom. We only statistically significantly outscored whites in one other state, West Virginia.

If you only look at eighth grade whites eligible for the federal school lunch program, Kentucky still statistically significantly outscored just one other state, West Virginia.

If that result for poor whites seems strange, here’s another news flash. In the 2013 NAEP the percentage of Kentucky’s tested sample that qualified for the federal school lunch program was not statistically significantly different from the national average. The poverty excuse is gone for the Bluegrass State, at least on the 2013 NAEP.

If we look at the 2014 ACT results across the states that listed 100% graduate participation, Kentucky’s whites again scored low compared to whites in those other, comparable states. Here is a quick rundown:

• ENGLISH: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom among the 12 states that tested all graduates in 2014 and lost ground from its rank in 2013.

• MATHEMATICS: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom and made no relative improvement in ranking from 2013.

• READING: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom but did improve one slot from its performance in 2013.

• SCIENCE: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom and made no relative improvement from 2013.

• STUDENTS WHO MET BENCHMARK SCORES ACROSS ALL FOUR SUBJECTS: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom and made no relative improvement from 2013.

You wrote, “Are you thinking that teachers will become irrelevant, and teaching jobs will dry up?”

The answer is I don’t think so, but I am not throwing money around like Bill Gates, either. If you reread what I wrote, you will see my concern is that Gates might well think teachers could become largely irrelevant, and he might be spending money – a lot of money – towards that end.

Richard Day said...



There is certainly nothing wrong with assessing Kentucky's rank for per pupil expenditure and comparing it to the state's rank in student achievement. That is apples to apples. You are suggesting something else again.
Disaggregated rank order data? That's crazy. How many hundreds of such comparisons do you want? ...and how would such an approach be any different from simply cherry-picking certain data to complain about? Fairness should dictate a balanced appraisal. I'm just not seeing it in your suggestion.

Gates does not consider teachers irrelevant.


Richard Innes said...


You covered a lot of territory with your few remarks, so this is part 1 of my response.

You wrote: “There is certainly nothing wrong with assessing Kentucky's rank for per pupil expenditure and comparing it to the state's rank in student achievement. That is apples to apples.”
There is nothing wrong with ranking if the comparison numbers are really apples to apples. But, you are not doing real apples to apples when you only compare “all student” scores from the NAEP.

A lot has been written about this. Read just about any NAEP report card issued from 2005 on and you will find comments about comparing scores between states. Those comments say state-to-state comparisons should consider differences in student demographics.

Sometimes, the NAEP explanations have been more detailed. For example, check out the 2009 NAEP Science Report Card (http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2009/2011451.pdf). Go to page 32 and start reading about how Kentucky is used as the example of how the picture changes when you disaggregate data.

Some time ago I pointed to another real world example from a different test using the 2013 ACT results for Kentucky and Louisiana. If you look at the overall Composite average scores for all students, Kentucky edged Louisiana by 0.1 point. But, if you look at the data disaggregated by race, Louisiana outscored Kentucky for every racial category ACT lists. Find this blog here: http://www.bipps.org/act-scores-are-out-how-does-kentucky-compare-to-other-southern-states/

By the way, the problem of averages burying important performance differences that can only be understood when data is disaggregated is well-known. It even has a name, “Simpson’s Paradox.”

Richard Innes said...


Here is part 2 of my response.

You wrote: “Disaggregated rank order data? That's crazy.”

If you want to call NAEP reports “crazy,” have at it. It’s your credibility that is on the line, though.

You added: “How many hundreds of such comparisons do you want?”

That’s a good question. The answer is you may need to look at a number of different comparisons, but not a huge number. In the ACT example I mentioned earlier, ACT breaks out scores for seven different racial categories plus a line item for students who didn’t provide this demographic data. Is that too much to handle?

Finally you said, “...and how would such an approach be any different from simply cherry-picking certain data to complain about? Fairness should dictate a balanced appraisal. I'm just not seeing it in your suggestion.”

I submit that those who only look at overall average student scores are cherry picking data. They seem to have misled you, for example.

In any event, the ACT data I presented in the blog mentioned earlier was not “cherry picked.” I covered all of it.

You might want to jump on my emphasis on white data from NAEP, but I usually focus on whites with my NAEP discussions because the overwhelming proportion of Kentucky’s public school students is white. I think it ran about 83% or so in the 2013 NAEP. So, even looking at just white student data covers a huge proportion of our students. Furthermore, even in the latest NAEP results, no racial minority has NAEP scores reported in all 50 states, not even the blacks.

I have examined black students’ performance on NAEP. In NAEP Grade 8 Math, Kentucky’s blacks actually scored at the top among all blacks in other participating states when KERA got going in the early 1990s. The NAEP Data Explorer shows that no state got a statistically significantly higher score for blacks than Kentucky posted in 1990 among the 29 that participated and got scores.

As of 2013, our black kids have lost a bit of ground on NAEP Grade 8 Math. Out of the 43 states that got scores for blacks in 2013, 8 had black student scores statistically significantly higher than Kentucky’s. Six of those 8 states participated in the 1990 NAEP when no state outscored us. Those 6 moved ahead of us.

I cannot do a similar analysis in NAEP for other racial groups because their samples in Kentucky were so small in the early years of KERA that NAEP didn’t report scores for them.

Richard Day said...

Yes. This is certainly more than the public can handle.