Tuesday, September 29, 2015

JCPS rise in state rankings not all it seems

“If percentile ranks were used to determine proficiency and recalculated each year, then there would always be 70 percent of schools classified as ‘(needs) improvement’ and this method would not consider how much a school or district improved.” 

---Dena Dossett, JCPS’ planning and program evaluation director.

This from the Courier-Journal:
When Donna Hargens, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, wants to illustrate how the state’s largest school district is “moving and improving,” she tends to reach for one statistic in particular:
Donna Hargens

“We’ve risen from the ninth percentile to the 51st,” Hargens said during a GLI event in May. She used nearly the same words during a Louisville Forum event last year, as well as at several community conversations and school board meetings.

And that fact is true. In 2011, the state ranked JCPS as being in the ninth percentile of all school districts in Kentucky, making it one of the lowest-performing in terms of state accountability measurements. In 2014, the state announced that JCPS had risen to the 51st percentile.
But those numbers may be misleading to those who don’t understand how the Kentucky Department of Education calculates scores, in particular because what the state has been calculating in recent years is not truly a percentile rank.

In fact, if you ranked districts in 2013-2014 based on their accountability scores, JCPS was only in the 27th percentile last school year, not the 51st.

The difference in numbers is due to an intricacy in the state's calculations.

“It’s disappointing that something that seemed so (easy to reference) doesn’t mean what it means in plain English,” said David Jones Jr., JCPS’ board chairman. He said he has often used the percentile rankings as “shorthand” to try to explain JCPS’ progress, saying he didn’t realize until after talking with a Courier-Journal reporter exactly how the percentile rankings were calculated.

To be sure, JCPS has improved over the years. Last year, 96 of its schools met or exceeded yearly progress goals set by the state — 20 more than did so the year before. The district also has increased the percentage of students who are college and career ready, and its graduation rate rose last school year.

But other districts have made progress at the same time, meaning JCPS has not moved up through the district ranks as their percentile scores would suggest.

So as the state prepares to release the latest round of test scores and accountability data Oct. 1, here’s a rundown of what percentile ranks of schools and districts really means.

The basic gist is this: to allow school districts to show improvement, the state periodically “locks” schools’ and districts’ scores to a prior-year percentile, meaning that more recent “percentile rankings” are not true comparisons of how well one school district did compared to others.

Here’s how it works: schools and districts get an overall score based on a number of factors, such as graduation rates, test scores, the growth of different groups of students and college and career readiness.
In 2011-2012, schools and districts were ranked using those overall scores.

But the next year, the state placed the new overall scores that schools and districts received on the prior year’s percentile ranking scale.

For instance, in 2011-2012, a score of 58.4 put districts in the 71st percentile. In 2012-2013, districts who scored 58.4 were labeled in the 71st percentile, even though a score of 58.4 in 2012-2013 only put a school district about halfway through the pack instead of better than 70 percent of other districts.

It gets a bit trickier after that.

After the 2012-2013 results were released, the state added more components that it knew would be part of the 2013-2014 accountability system, creating a new overall score for 2012-2013 and resetting the percentile ranking.

When the 2013-2014 scores came out, they were tied back to that new percentile ranking.
Now, the state will go through the same process again with the 2014-2015 scores.
Confused? You’re not alone.
Some educators and others have lamented the percentile rankings as convoluted and confusing for parents and others.

Confusion abounds

Even some district administrators struggle when trying to accurately explain the percentile rankings.
"The percentile rank and growth have become so complex even people like me struggle to explain it to parents and community groups," said Dewey Hensley, JCPS' chief academic officer. "Hopefully the state will address the complexity and ensure our accountability system communicates clearly and fairly the progress districts make in this multi-layered system."

Indeed, Hensley last week mentioned that JCPS had moved to the 51st percentile during a meeting with the Louisville chapter of the NAACP. Hargens, who was sitting with him at the meeting, attempted to clarify the meaning of the percentile ranking, saying that  “the percentile rank is locked. … Our kids are progressing, but our state has locked the percentiles.”

She didn’t explain what it meant to lock a percentile, and no one in the room asked.

Hargens later said the statistic about JCPS’ percentile rankings is “never intended to be the whole picture,” saying that understanding where schools and students are requires looking at a number of data points. “The more you try to make one number describe the whole picture, the more you lose."
She said she tries to be honest with the community, showing other data points and noting that while JCPS is improving, “we’re still climbing the mountain.”

“We’re working to make progress every day,” she said. “Our schools are working to make progress every day. When they do, we recognize that and when they don’t, we recognize that, as well. Behind every data point is the heartbeat of a kid. … That’s that part people need to understand, the big picture.”

The reason the state does these convoluted calculations has to do with the way Kentucky’s accountability system is set up to rely on percentile rankings to categorize performance.

Under the state’s accountability system, schools in the 90th percentile or higher are considered “distinguished,” while those in the 70th percentile or higher are “proficient.” Any school or district below the 70th percentile is classified as “needs improvement.”

“If percentile ranks were used to determine proficiency and recalculated each year, then there would always be 70 percent of schools classified as ‘(needs) improvement’ and this method would not consider how much a school or district improved,” said Dena Dossett, JCPS’ planning and program evaluation director.

“This model gives schools a set standard to use as a goal, rather than setting a goal based on a relative ranking that would change yearly.”

But the bottom line is that schools’ and districts’ percentile rankings are not exactly what they seem.
In 2012-2013, JCPS was listed as being in the 32nd percentile, when actually it was only in the 14th percentile. In 2013-2014, its rank of 51st belied the fact that it was actually in the 27th percentile of school districts in the state for its score.

And JCPS is of course not alone; many districts and schools’ rankings are affected by the way the state calculates the percentiles.

For instance, Bullitt County Public Schools was ranked in the 75th percentile in the 2013-2014 school year. But a comparison of district scores showed that Bullitt was only actually in the 50th percentile.

Jan Stone, Bullitt’s director of assessment, data and research, said her superintendent asks her every year when test scores and accountability results come out to calculate where Bullitt stands on a true ranking of the state’s school districts.

“I’m not sure people generally understand what that overall score means because it’s so complex,” Stone said. “It’s my job to understand it, but when I talk to teachers and others, I ask, do you really understand what your overall score means?”

Changes sought

Some district testing administrators and others have been suggesting changes, saying that the “percentile ranking” calculation is difficult for the average parent and consumer to understand.
“If it takes me more than five minutes to explain the metrics, maybe it’s too hard,” said Jennifer Davis, director of elementary and secondary programs with Bowling Green City Schools. She noted that part of the point of an accountability system is for people to understand how well their school or district is performing.

“The system … is so complex that a lot of people outside of education don’t understand it,” Davis said. She said many people know what a percentile should mean, so they often turn to that number as an easy way to understand where a school or district stands.

She suggested the state use overall scores to determine schools’ and districts’ classifications and “eliminate the percentile ranking altogether.”

“We are all calling it a percentile, and the state (is), too. In actuality, it isn’t a percentile,” she said.
When the 2014-2015 score results are released next week, Kentucky parents will again see the percentile rankings.

They will be locked back to recalculated 2012-2013 rankings that will take into account a number of changes in the 2014-2015 accountability system, including the fact that the state is not counting elementary and middle school science scores this year and is adding new program reviews.

But Rebecca Blessing, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, recently announced that this year, for the first time, the state will release a ranking of schools and districts based on current-year data, as well as the locked calculation because it can be so tricky.

“We hope that will provide some clarity and some transparency,” said Rhonda Sims, an associate commissioner with the Kentucky Department of Education. She noted that the state will also add a footnote about the percentile rankings explaining the way the scores are locked.

Sims added that the state is open to hearing ideas on how to improve upon the accountability system, noting the state's new education commissioner, who is expected to be Stephen Pruitt, may have a different take.

But in the meantime, some remain frustrated.

“I have yet to talk to anyone who says, ‘We’re so glad to talk about percentiles,’” Davis said.

What is a percentile ranking?

Percentiles are used to rank a group of things in comparison to each other. Percentiles are used on a scale of 100, regardless of how many things are in the ranking. For instance, if a group of 12 students took a test, and one student did better than 92 percent of her classmates on the test, she would be in the 92nd percentile. If a 6-year-old boy weighs more than 80 percent of other boys his age nationwide, he would be in the 80th percentile.

How the state calculated its percentile rankings, by year:

2011-2012: The state used schools' overall scores to rank them in order, giving them a true percentile ranking based on where they fell compared to each other.

2012-2013: The state took schools' overall scores, but instead of comparing schools to each other like it did the previous year, it compared schools' scores to where the scores would have fallen on the 2011-2012 ranking. For instance, in 2011-2012, a score of 58.4 put districts in the 71st percentile. In 2012-2013, districts who scored 58.4 were labeled in the 71st percentile, even though a score of 58.4 in 2012-2013 only put a school district about halfway through the pack instead of better than 70 percent of other districts. 

2013-2014: Recognizing that it had made a number of changes to its accountability system, including adding a new program reviews element, the state retroactively recalculated schools' and districts' 2012-2013 rankings to include the new components. Then, it took schools' overall scores for 2013-2014 and compared them to where they would have fallen on that recalculated 2012-2013 ranking.

2014-2015: The state said it will again compare schools' overall scores to 2012-2013 rankings, but that the 2012-2013 rankings will have again been recalculated to account for more changes in this year's accountability system.

Fixing state teacher retirement not easy

Consultant says current system out of money by 2052

This from the Richmond Register:
Members of a task force appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to develop recommendations to shore up Kentucky’s teacher retirement system are fast learning it won’t be easy.
William B. “Flick” Fornia

The group’s consultant, William B. “Flick” Fornia of Pension Trust Advisors, ran through a number of potential options Friday but several of them met with concerned questions from members of the group.

Fornia showed the group several charts and scenarios, including one that if nothing is done the system will run out of money by 2054. Another indicated even with 5 percent benefit reductions for new teachers going forward, the system would gain only about eight years, likely going broke in 2062.

Fornia told the group that there’s little use in arguing about who is responsible for the problem. Teachers and retirees complain that lawmakers didn’t contribute the full annually required contribution or ARC while some lawmakers complain the problem was caused by disappointing investment earnings and liberal benefits.

According to Fornia, it was a combination of all of those.

To catch up on the ARC, the state would have to increase contributions by about 14 percent — assuming an investment return of 7.5 percent on earnings. Historically, the system has managed to do that and more, but in recent years during the economic slump returns fell well below that goal. Fornia’s calculations indicate the 14 percent shortfall translates into about $500 million each year.

Beshear appointed the group this summer after the General Assembly was unable to come up with a plan acceptable to both the Democratically controlled House and Republican controlled Senate. The House wanted to issue bonds of $3.3 billion to “buy time” for the fund which is now having to sell assets to pay current benefits, buying time for legislature to increase the ARC over time. The theory was the money could be borrowed a lower rates than the pension fund could earn by investing it.

But the Republican Senate said it wasn’t logical to borrow money to pay down debt and sought structural changes — essentially a change in benefits and costs to employees, probably involving moving newly hired teachers to some sort of 401-K type plan. Toward the end of the session, a conference committee discussed a combination of the proposals but reached no agreement.

The task force is to issue recommendations by the end of the year, in time for lawmakers to address the problem in the 2016 General Assembly which convenes in March.

After first hearing from various constituent groups, the task force met Friday to consider options — not to argue about solutions though there was a little debate between those who want to preserve benefits for teachers and those who believe the current system is “unsustainable.”

There are limitations on what reductions can be made because of an “inviolable contract” with employees which guarantees certain benefits to current retirees and employees. Basically reductions would be limited to minor changes such as reducing or eliminating cost of living adjustments, increasing retirement ages, and ending the use of unused sick time to calculate benefits.

Fornia said there aren’t any easy stand-alone solutions. He said pension obligation bonds can be helpful — if they are combined with contribution increases and possibly with benefit reductions.

But he warned the group that an incomplete solution — just pushing the final reckoning out in the future — is ultimately more costly and said he wanted to get them to fully funded levels as quickly as practical.

One way to do that would be a combination of 10 percent contribution increases, phased in over 10 years while extending an existing special 2.7 percent assessment, a 3 percent benefit reduction for new hires and a 1 percent benefit reduction for current members.

Assuming an average 7.5 percent return on investments, Fornia calculated the system could be fully funded by the year 2044 using such an approach.

The group will meet again on Oct. 16 to start hammering out which solutions it will recommend.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Malignant tumor removed during Fayette school superintendent's 18-hour sinus surgery

Praise for UK Med 

This from the Herald-Leader;
Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk underwent an 18-hour surgery last week to remove a malignant tumor from his sinus cavity, school officials said Monday.

Caulk, who became superintendent over the summer, said in a statement that "the good news is that doctors were able to remove the entire tumor. and I will make a full recovery."

School board chairman John Price, who has remained on the board while being treated for leukemia for the past two years, said Caulk had the full backing of the board.

"We knew from our very first interview with Manny that he was the right person to lead our district," Price said. "His spark, his drive and his passion remain strong. and we are thrilled that he is willing to work during his treatments."

Since moving to Lexington in August, Caulk had struggled with severe allergy problems, which led him to see several specialists.

He announced two weeks ago that he was undergoing sinus surgery.

"Had I not been offered the wonderful opportunity to become the superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools, my allergies wouldn't have flared up, and we might not have found the tumor in time for such an excellent outcome," he said in a news release.

"I didn't want to cause a distraction from our important work while waiting for my prognosis," Caulk said. "Nothing is more important to me than doing what's best for our students here in Fayette County. The good news is that doctors were able to remove the entire tumor, and I will make a full recovery."

His recovery is expected to take weeks.

Caulk will remain on the job during his recovery, holding meetings via phone and Skype, and staying connected through email and text. He said he would schedule early morning medical treatments so he would be able to conduct the business of the school district throughout the workday, a news release said.

"Nothing will keep me from the important work facing our school district," Caulk said. "Nearly 41,000 children are counting on us to deliver a brighter tomorrow than they have today, and it will take every ounce of commitment and energy we have to make that happen."

In the news release, Caulk praised University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, where he had the surgery, saying, "the men and women who work at the University of Kentucky Hospital are the best team."

Marlene Helm, who served as acting superintendent from January until last month, filled in for Caulk on Monday night at the regular school board meeting.

Caulk's letter to FCPS Families:
Dear FCPS Families:

Before I moved to Lexington, I thought that the best team at the University of Kentucky played on the hardwood at Rupp Arena. With utmost respect for Coach Cal and the Wildcats, I am now convinced that the men and women who work at the University of Kentucky hospital are the best team!

Thanks to them, my surgery last week was a success and I am making incredible progress each day.

Nothing is more important to me than doing what's best for our students here in Fayette County. I feel so strongly about keeping the focus on our students that as I headed into surgery I did want not to cause a distraction from our important work.

Now that I have all the facts, I want to share with you that during my 18-hour surgery last week, the doctors completely removed a malignant tumor from my sinuses. Had I not been offered the wonderful opportunity to become the superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools, my allergies wouldn't have flared up, and we might not have found the tumor in time for such an excellent outcome. Tests have confirmed that there was no spread elsewhere in my body.

Truly, this has been a blessing in the Bluegrass. My wife Christol and my mother-in-law Mary have been by my side the entire time, and I expect to make a full recovery. I think I'm driving them a little crazy because I keep talking about work.

My progress has been steady and speedy and I will do my best to work during my treatments and stay involved in the daily operations of the school district. Thank you for all your well wishes, notes and prayers these past couple weeks. It is an honor to serve as your superintendent.

Every child deserves the very best our district can provide and nothing will stop us from delivering on that promise!

Your Partner,


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/09/28/4061518_malignant-tumor-removed-during.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Kentucky education commissioner Stephen Pruitt 'can't wait' to get started

This from WDRB:
He's a third-generation educator who says he was initially in denial about what he says is his "true calling," but the passion Stephen Pruitt had for teaching children was just too strong to overcome.
On Wednesday, Pruitt, 47, will be named Kentucky's sixth education commissioner and will oversee the education of 675,000 students in Kentucky's public schools. He is expected to start on Oct. 16.
 "My grandmother was a teacher, my mother was a teacher and when I first went to college, I was sort of in denial," Pruitt told WDRB News in an interview. "I thought I would become an ophthalmologist, but the pull to teaching was just too strong. It’s all I could ever see myself really doing. It’s the greatest joy in the world."

The Kentucky Board of Education will meet at 2:30 p.m. to consider hiring a candidate to be the next commissioner of education and go into closed session to review and discuss the in-depth background check on the finalist, who they have previously identified Pruitt.

Following discussion about Pruitt's background check, the board will come back into open session and will consider a motion to authorize Kentucky Board of Education Chair Roger Marcum to make an offer of employment and negotiate the terms of employment with Pruitt.

"I am extremely excited about this opportunity – Kentucky has shown over the years a commitment to improving education for their children," Pruitt said. "For me, it’s the ultimate opportunity. The chance to serve Kentucky's students, teachers and parents is a dream job."

Pruitt is currently senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, where he has served since 2010. He has previously been a chief of staff, associate state superintendent, director of academic standards, and science and mathematics program manager with the Georgia Department of Education.

"Up until this job, I had never before applied for another commissioner job," Pruitt said. "I never really had a desire to apply anywhere, but when I saw that Kentucky was looking for a new leader, it was a perfect fit for me."

During his time at Achieve, Pruitt led the development of the Next Generation Science Standards -- the new set of academic guidelines that teachers across Kentucky put into practice last year.
Much like the Common Core Standards in math and language arts – which have been adopted by 43 states -- the science standards describe what students need to know before they complete each grade level. To date, 14 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., have implemented the science standards.
Pruitt said the standards are “certainly a foundation for good science instruction," but it's just as important to give children "authentic experiences in science."

"Kids are natural-born scientists, we need to embrace that," he said.

In terms of the Common Core Standards, "Kentucky will follow the process (previous commissioner) Terry Holliday started.

"The standards have been in Kentucky for awhile now and the department has been going through a review process of the standards," he said. "We will listen to feedback that we have received."

According to the application letter and resumes submitted by Pruitt to the Florida firm charged with helping the state board with its search process, he talked about his extensive experience in working with students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders. The documents were obtained by WDRB News from the Kentucky Department of Education through an open records request.

"I spent twelve years as a high school science teacher," Pruitt wrote in his letter. "I believe the position of Commissioner of Education needs to have come from a firm foundation of having been a teacher. I am most proud of my time in the classroom."

Pruitt says he is a "strong believer in the power and necessity of communication."

"A quality communicator is able to create a clear message, but also able to listen to stakeholders affected by the issue at hand," he wrote. "I have had the opportunity in my roles in state government and in the private sector to lead large, successful programs or initiatives. They were successful in large part because I know the value of communicating a plan, but also listening to district leaders and teachers."

Pruitt tells WDRB News that he will "hit the ground running" on Oct. 16.

"I will be spending a lot of time listening," he said. "I plan to set up some advisory boards very soon after arriving. I want to talk to students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents – and I want to meet with key legislators and gubernatorial candidates. I want to hear what has been going on and where they feel they are and what I can do to support them."

"I am a big believer that you just don’t come in and make arbitrary changes, you need to learn the current situation and then use the best available research and advice and then you make a decision," Pruitt said.

He adds that while he has a lot of things to learn about Kentucky's education system, "things like assessment and teacher evaluations and accountability are things I am going to have to get to know very quickly."

Pruitt said he will be visiting schools and communities across the commonwealth.

"Part of the role of commissioner – if they stay in Frankfort all the time, they can’t hear and see the needs of the districts," he said. "There is a balance I will have to strike between getting to know the agency and getting to know the districts. I can't wait to get started."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tentative Start for Edu Commish Pruitt Oct 16, pending background check completion

Plans being made for public introduction Oct. 6 in Frankfort

This from KSBA:

If all goes as expected, Dr. Stephen L. Pruitt officially will begin using his new title - commissioner of education for the Commonwealth of Kentucky– on Friday, Oct. 16.

Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Roger Marcum told eNews Thursday in an email interview that he expects to call the state board into special session next week for the purpose of authorizing him to work out an employment contract with Pruitt. At this time, the meeting is tentatively set for Wednesday.

“I expect the background check to be complete very soon so the KBE can meet next week to formally vote on the selection of Dr. Pruitt and to authorize me to begin contract negotiations. Our timeline still calls for approval of that contract at the beginning of the Oct. 6 meeting. Dr. Pruitt and his family plan to attend,” Marcum said.

On Sept. 4, the state board designated Pruitt as the final candidate in its four-month search for a successor to retired Commissioner Terry Holliday. Since then, an executive search firm specializing in deep background checks has been completing a personal review of Pruitt for the KBE.

Pruitt has worked in the nation’s capital for Achieve, Inc. since 2010, rising to his current post of senior vice president. In that role, he has worked with state education officials on development of English/ language arts, math, and science Common Core standards. He assisted KDE staff in creating the state's new core science standards and related classroom materials.
Pruitt started his career in education in 1991 as an AP and college prep chemistry teacher at a high school in Tyrone, Ga. He taught AP chemistry and gifted chemistry while he was department chair at a Fayetteville, Ga. high school until 2003. 
In 2003, Pruitt joined the Georgia Department of Education as a science and program manager. He later served as the agency’s director of academic standards, associate superintendent for assessment and accountability, and chief of staff.
Marcum also said that Pruitt’s tentative start date for an agreed-upon contract – and his first day on the job at the Department of Education – would be Friday, Oct. 16.

Since Holliday’s Aug. 31 retirement, Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin C. Brown has been serving as interim commissioner of education.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One-on-One: EKU president Michael Benson

This from the Lane Report:
Mark Green: EKU’s enrollment in 2010 was 16,567, which is close to present numbers. Your strategic plan elements include recruiting more students and enhancing their success. Is there a student body growth goal, and how does that fit into the overall strategy?
Michael Benson: I’ve been president of three institutions, and every school grapples with this question: What is our ultimate sweet spot? You don’t just chase growth for growth’s sake. It’s one thing to get students through the door and quite another thing to retain and graduate them, our ultimate goal. We need to make sure we have the infrastructure in place, whether it’s housing, food service options, the degree programs and the proper faculty-to-student ratio. EKU is not a Tier 1 research institution, so the faculty come here primarily to teach. We really believe in our small class size. We use a very high proportion of full-time faculty to teach – teaching within a setting that is very manageable.

MG: How does a regional comprehensive university like EKU fit into the state’s workforce development strategy?
Dr. Michael T. Benson is the 12th president of Eastern Kentucky University, a position he assumed in August 2013.  Prior to coming to EKU, Benson was president of Southern Utah University, where he directed the development and implementation a $100 million comprehensive campaign. Born in Salt Lake City and raised in Texas, Benson earned his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University with a major in political science and a double minor in English and history. He received his master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame and completed his doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history from the University of Oxford (St. Antony’s College). He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post as a featured blogger on higher-education issues and his book, “Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel” has been hailed as a landmark work in the area of American foreign policy and the U.S. presidency.
Dr. Michael T. Benson
MB: We try to be finely and highly attuned to the state’s needs. We for a long time have produced a great percentage of the teachers through our teacher education program. Among 108 degree programs, our most highly sought-after are our occupational therapy and nursing programs. We just started offering another doctorate; we now have four clinical doctoral programs. We now have a Psy.D., which is a psychology doctorate for a clinical practitioner. We have programs that the workforce demands.

I just came back from Ashland where we signed another Two Plus Two agreement for our aviation program. A student can go to the local community college, technical college, and get those two years of general coursework done, and then we bring our aviation program to them. That has proven to be hugely popular and very sought after.

MG: Does EKU have satellite campuses? How much of the overall class catalog do those students have access to? 
MB: We have two very handsome stand-alone structures in Corbin and Manchester for which the state legislature appropriated building funds. We then have operations in different leased spaces in Somerset, Danville and Lancaster. While we try to be as broad as we can in our offerings, access to everything is certainly not possible on a scale where you may not have the student demand.
A high-school student can come to one of our satellite locations and take a dual-credit class during his or her junior or senior year. We try to be attuned to what the needs are and address them.

MG: EKU has about 3,000 online students. What is EKU’s approach to online or “distance” learning?
MB: They can be anywhere. We have people from overseas. That’s the beauty of online: You can be literally around the globe and still dial in and get into the courses that you want to take. Some programs we’ve put wholly online and some are hybrids, a combination of face-to-face and online. A number of our 2,400 graduate students – that’s a high number – are through our online programs. Sometimes I’ll meet a student at graduation and they’ll tell me, “This is my first time on campus.”
Our bread and butter is the face-to-face, undergraduate teaching with a full-time professor in a small classroom. We try to be responsive, and online is a very popular, very sought-after mode of delivery these days.

MG: Describe EKU’s role in the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative to diversify the economy and increase economic opportunity, especially via homegrown entrepreneurship regionally.
MB: Two of our satellite campuses are hubs for what SOAR is trying to do as well as pushing broadband access out to Eastern Kentucky. We’ve offered several students and faculty to help support the work of the various committees that have spun out of SOAR. I’ve been part of the conversation from day one. I was invited by the governor to be on the larger panel discussion that we had. The first one was in Hazard. Then we went out to Pikeville for the statewide one. Our service region flows directly into the SOAR area. We’re very keen on helping as best we can on issues like this but also helping residents of the area get access to educational opportunities.

MG: EKU’s board of trustees approved demolition of Dupree, Martin and Todd residence halls, which have nearly 1,100 total beds, and the 700/800 blocks of Brockton Family Housing, with new residence halls to be built. Do 50-plus-year-old residence halls no longer well serve today’s student? 
MB: Fifty years ago, to accommodate the huge influx of students, campuses were forced to make decisions based on limited property, limited space. The trend was to go vertically and to build high-rises; you’ll find them at UK, at Western Kentucky University, here, at Morehead State. You have dorm rooms off a long corridor with showers and bathrooms at the end of the hallway. That’s not what students like anymore, so we’ve got to be responsive. What we’re seeing more is lower-slung buildings with more communal space, maybe a shared kitchen and on each floor a place students can congregate. They call them “living and learning communities” because you can learn as much from your classmates and in the social interaction and the skills one develops in interfacing with people who are different as one can learn in the classroom. We are trying to remake and recalibrate our housing offerings and be responsive to what students want today.

MG: Many public universities in the state are undertaking campus housing projects without tax dollars via public-private partnerships. How is EKU planning to finance its campus housing? 
MB: We were approved during the legislative session for $75 million worth of public-private partnerships. Our plan is to do three $25 million pods of housing that will replace these 50-year-old residence halls. Our first new residence hall in 40 years opened last year – and it’s the only LEED Gold-certified residence hall in Kentucky. The demand for that hall is off the charts because students like that it only has three or four stories. It has a big common kitchen on each floor; there are more spaces to get together and congregate and interact. That’s the model we’re after.

We begin construction on the first one, to replace Martin Hall, in January. The schedule has this going through 2018, 2019. So this is a good four- to five-year process where we will build, take down, build, take down, and try to stagger it as best we can to make it as little of an inconvenience for students as possible.

MG: A larger plan for a $215 million Center for Student Life includes a new rec center, renovated student union, new dining facilities and residence halls and other improvements. Financing would come from public-private partnerships, private support, university funds and a recently enacted student fee. Is this on track?
MB: It is. The student fee that kicked in this year addresses two projects. One is a new rec center, because our current rec center is nice but way too small. And number two is a renovated Powell Building, which was built in the ’60s and has not had a lot done to it since then. The students supported that fee. We hope to get approvals from the legislature in January to begin construction on the first phases in early summer of next year. The $215 million includes all the things you mentioned. It includes a new dining facility; we intend to leverage our relationships with our food vendor like what they did at UK with Aramark. Private donors have stepped forward to help fund, for example, the new pedestrian gate at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road. A private donation helped with our renovation of Roy Kidd Stadium, which we’re undertaking now.

Again, this is a four- to five-year process. When it’s all done you’ll see a reinvigoration of the center of our campus and a building boom that hasn’t been seen since when Robert R. Martin was president for 16 years, and our square footage went up almost fivefold. It’s time to replace some of that infrastructure that’s 50 and 60 years old. Students today are very sophisticated; they know what they want.

MG: The EKU budget approved by the board of trustees for 2015-16 is $348 million, up about 2 percent from the 2014-15 budget of $342 million. Please give us some perspective. 
MB: For a school our size, it’s probably close to the mean. We’ve had to be creative. Before I got here, the board and the administrative team took parts of our budget and reallocated them. That allowed us to do some things with regard to salary increases and positions and really acute-need areas. We’re trying our best to be good stewards of what the state gives us. I tell our folks all the time, you are supported by the taxpayers of the state of Kentucky, and you have an obligation to them to do your best work. We take that stewardship very seriously.

The unfortunate thing in higher education is, states all over are having increased demands and encumbrances on their budgets as it relates to Medicare, Medicaid, social services, health services, and roads and prisons. We’ve had to rely less on state support and instead put it in the form of a consumption tax on our students. Tuition is a targeted tax. You target a consumer, that’s true, but everyone knows that we benefit as a state from an educated populace. The more our citizenry has postsecondary credentials, whether that’s a certificate or a degree or so forth, the less reliant those people are on services that the state renders. They’re less inclined to go to prison. They’re less inclined to get in trouble. They’re more inclined to have better health, to volunteer. There are all these collateral benefits. What we’ve chosen to do, however, is tax that group of people that choose to go to college. Tuition has gone up in recent years because state support has dwindled. We all benefit from an educated populace, and if we want the state to be on a sound financial footing, now and in the future, we’re going to invest in the greatest asset we have, which is human capital.

MG: What are the university’s overall budget revenue sources? What are the major spending categories in the budget? 
MB: About 85 percent of our budget is tied to personnel, so it’s salaries and benefits. About 35 percent of our budget comes from the state; 65 percent comes from tuition and other sources. So we’re very reliant on that consumption tax I talked about. But we’re in the business of people, and we have full-time faculty and staff that need to be compensated at a level commensurate with their abilities and their experience. It’s an ongoing challenge to make sure we have the resources to pay our folks.

MG: What is the role of today’s university president in fundraising?
MB: I’ve been doing fundraising since I started in higher ed; that was my first job. I really quite like it. Some people don’t. Fundraising is sales, and if you’re selling a commodity that you believe in, there’s nothing that’s more gratifying than being able to pair a need with the desire of a donor. When those two intersect, it’s incredibly satisfying and very, very rewarding. I love education; education is the portal to a better life, and to be able to sell that, and to paint a vision of what education means to a young person who may not have access to it except for a scholarship, for example, is terribly exciting. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job to sit down with a donor and say, “All right, Donor X, this is our need. We know that you have the wherewithal to support this. Do you believe in what we’re doing, and will you help us?” The most compelling stories with donors come from students. The story of someone who came from a disadvantaged background, who was maybe the first one in his or her family to go to college, and changed forever the trajectory of his life or her life and those to follow. If you’re not inspired by that, then you’re in the wrong profession. That’s what I love about it. I really do.

MG: You have academic administrative experience in multiple states. How do you assess and rate Kentucky state government’s handling of its public university system?
MB: Well, first off, there are eight of us (university presidents) at the public level. We include KCTCS. We’re in the higher education business. The greatest investment a state can make is in its human capital, investing in people’s skills and developing their aptitude and increasing their knowledge. That’s just the most important thing any state economy can focus on. Would I have liked to have seen more support in the last session? Absolutely, in terms of our ongoing budget. But I’ve never, in my two decades plus, seen a legislature say, “We’re going to make a $540 million investment in capital projects across the system.” That’s just unheard of. Our good fortune was a $66.5 million Phase 2 of a science building. And everybody got their top project. That bodes very well; I think that speaks to the support that higher ed has in the General Assembly. We’ve certainly felt that from the governor’s office. We’ve felt it from our local officials. An investment in education is going to make us less reliant on all those other things that the state has to fund – the prison system, or health and human services, or any of those other things. We’re the only thing that is a panacea to all those ills. Nobody else can say that. And that’s why I love doing what I’m doing.

MG: What actions do you encourage the private sector to take to support educational attainment in the state?
MB: If the private sector is interested in hiring the very best workforce, invest in that workforce in the form of both K-12 education and particularly public higher education. Kentucky has a breadth of institutions that I have never seen before. Berea College here in Madison County is one of the most remarkable institutions in America. And Centre, Transylvania, and Morehead State and UK. Somebody told me that within a 60-mile radius we have 16 public and private institutions. That’s just remarkable. It has an impact on every community and the workforce. The private sector recognizes that if they want to hire the very, very best people, they can support educational attainment in the form of scholarships and private support and encouraging their employees with tuition programs. That’s one of the best investments the private sector can make.

MG: Do you have any closing comments, or is there an area we haven’t discussed that you’d like to address?
MB: I’m in the process of writing a book right now that we’re hoping to get out next year on kind of the democratic underpinnings of our democratic republic, and this tie to educational attainment and commitment that started all the way from George Washington – who, by the way, did not graduate college, but he was in support of a national university – all the way through Harry Truman, who was the only president in the last century, and my hero, who didn’t graduate from college but was a huge supporter of the G.I. Bill and access for all American citizens. If I can use the bully pulpit as president of a public university in a place like Kentucky, along with my colleagues, and say, “The best investment we can make as a state is in public higher education,” then at the end of the day I’ll be happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish.

Dr. Michael T. Benson is the 13th president of Eastern Kentucky University, a position he assumed in August 2013. Prior to coming to EKU, Benson was president of Southern Utah University, where he directed the development and implementation a $100 million comprehensive campaign. Born in Salt Lake City and raised in Texas, Benson earned his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University with a major in political science and a double minor in English and history. He received his master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame and completed his doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history from the University of Oxford (St. Antony’s College). He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post as a featured blogger on higher-education issues and his book, “Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel” has been hailed as a landmark work in the area of American foreign policy and the U.S. presidency.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Final check of Pruitt could be complete within the week

New commissioner may be on board by early October

This from KSBA:
If all goes as expected with an ongoing final background check, Dr. Stephen L. Pruitt could be in Frankfort on the job as Kentucky’s sixth commissioner of education within the month.

Dr. Stephen L. Pruitt
Pruitt, a Washington, D.C., education standards expert with extensive experience ranging from Georgia classrooms to that state’s Department of Education, was identified late Friday as the presumptive choice to succeed recently retired Commissioner Terry Holliday. Pruitt became the “likely” commissioner-to-be after his fellow finalist, former Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch, withdrew his candidacy Friday. No reason was given for Koch’s decision.

Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Roger Marcum told eNews during the weekend that the in-depth background check of Pruitt is underway and could be completed by the end of this week.

“As soon as the background check is complete, I intend to call a special meeting, based on the availability of KBE members,” Marcum said in an email interview. “Dr. Pruitt has indicated he could begin (the job) a week after all the steps in the hiring process are complete. I would hope he could be present for the Oct. 6 KBE meeting.”

Pruitt has worked in the nation’s capital for Achieve, Inc. since 2010, rising to his current post of senior vice president. In that role, he has worked with state education officials on development of English/ language arts, math, and science Common Core standards. He assisted KDE staff in creating the state's new core science standards and related classroom materials.

Pruitt started his career in education in 1991 as an AP and college prep chemistry teacher at a high school in Tyrone, Ga. He taught AP chemistry and gifted chemistry while he was department chair at a Fayetteville, Ga. high school until 2003.

In 2003, Pruitt joined the Georgia Department of Education as a science and program manager. He later served as the agency’s director of academic standards, associate superintendent for assessment and accountability, and chief of staff.

Marcum, a former teacher, administrator and superintendent, said he was struck both by Pruitt’s qualifications on paper but also his in-person qualities.

“(I was impressed by) Dr. Pruitt's experience in developing standards and assessment/accountability at the state and national level; also, his experience as a teacher,” Marcum said. “Both give a comprehensive understanding and perspective on improving student achievement through a standards-based approach.”

“He has the heart of a teacher,” Marcum said. “He places high value on building relationships. His communication skills coupled with his knowledge make him a highly qualified leader.”

Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin C. Brown is in charge at the Department of Education until the new commissioner begins his duties.

Benson on EKU

EKU President Michael T. Benson chats with Bill Bryant on Kentucky Newsmakers:

Monday, September 07, 2015

Caulk Chats up Commerce Lexington

Advocates Cradle to Career services for students to
live, learn and earn in Fayette Co

FCPS Superintendent Manny Caulk chatted with my ol' buddy Alan Stein at last week's Commerce Lexington breakfast. Mr. Baseball lobs his first great question @8:15.

Caulk shared stories about simple acts of kindness and community that helped shape his view of school as a young child going through desegregation as a child of poverty. He recalls the teacher who first got his attention, and the service workers - such as the bus driver (the first caring adult the students see) who kept books on the bus for the long ride to and from the formerly white-only school, and the cafeteria workers whose smiles and kindness meant so much to the hungry children.

Caulk also shared the Fayette County schools' transition from a small suburban district to a larger, more urban district. My colleague Roger Clevelend has been talking about this noteworthy shift for a couple of years now and Caulk put some numbers to it.

The Fayette Co schools ...where the 29 red schools are rated as "needs improvement"...

Friday, September 04, 2015

In Context: Stephen Pruitt and School Reform

And how does Achieve, Inc. fit in?

This from Chapter 2 of Combs & Fair (eds.) Meet Me at the Commons, New Forums (2015). Whose Standards Are These?: A Brief Historical Timeline of the Development of the Common Core State Standards with References to Next General Science Standards, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies by Richard Day

1989: The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) published their highly influential report, America’s choice: High skills or low wages! which called for new set of national educational performance standards to be bench­marked to the highest educational standards in the world and met by American students by age 16. Many states began enacting policies recommended by NCEE (National Center on Education and the Economy, 1990). 

1989: President George H. W. Bush invited the nation’s governors to an education summit, where influential AFT President Albert Shanker urged them to begin creating a national system of high standards and rigorous assessments with real consequences. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton took charge of the governors’ effort to draft national goals for the year 2000, a major policy shift away from keeping students in school without any real standards of achievement. 

1989: Kentucky drew national attention when its Supreme Court declared the entire system of schools to be unconstitu­tional in Rose v Council for Better Education, 790 S. W. 2d 186, (1989). The Rose court accepted a standards-based rationale for determining whether the state had met its constitutional obliga­tion, and that launched another wave of school reform litigation based on both equity and adequacy claims as expressed in state constitutions (Day, 2011). 

1990: In response to the Rose decision, the Kentucky General Assembly passed the nation’s most ambitious statewide school reform package, the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) (Day, 2011; Guskey & Oldham, 1997). Arguably, KERA’s most powerful feature was the advent of a new kind of high-stakes accountability system based on student achieve­ment outcomes (test scores). The old method of reporting only school-wide means concealed the substandard performance of as much as a third or more of the student population. The new data, disaggregated into subgroup performance, revealed those short-comings and changed the way educators talked about student success. The public reporting of student test score data by subgroups, along with the ranking of schools – a contribution of the news media - proved to be a powerful tool for driving change in this new era of high-stakes assessment. The promise of equality of educational opportunity that had guided American schools for a century was effectively replaced by a new goal – equity of student achievement outcomes (Day & Ewalt, 2014). 

1993: Separately, the National Research Council issued a set of national science standards, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science published its Benchmarks for Science Literacy (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study publish The Opportunity Equation calling for a common set of science standards (National Research Council, 2012). 

1994: President Bill Clinton’s effort to create voluntary national standards fell apart when history standards, which included social justice issues, were attacked by conservative groups as the epitome of left-wing political correctness (in Ravitch, 2010, pp. 16-22). Clinton backed away from national standards and provided funding under his Goals 2000 program for states to write their own standards, pick their own tests, and be account­able for achievement (Ravitch, 2010). 

1996: The National Governor’s Association, in concert with corporate leaders, created Achieve, Inc., an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization based in Washington D. C. that focused its efforts on helping states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, and strengthen accountability (American Diploma Project, 2011). 

2001: Achieve sponsored a National Education Summit and joined with the Education Trust, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and the National Alliance of Business to launch the American Diploma Project (ADP) to identify the must-have knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers. 

2001: When President George W. Bush signed the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act into law, a new definition of school reform became nationalized, one characterized by accountabil­ity (Ravitch, 2010). The Act required states to test every child annually in Grades 3 – 8 in reading and math and report disag­gregated test scores. This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was built upon a standards-based reform whose roots were found in policy responses to A Na­tion at Risk (Kaestle, 2006). Nationally, there was concern over the “vast differences in educational expectations [that] existed across the states” (Conley, 2014, p. 1). 

2004: The American Diploma Project (ADP) published, Ready or not: Creating a high school diploma that counts which described “specific content and skills in English and mathemat­ics graduates must master by the time they leave high school if they expect to succeed in postsecondary education or high-performance, high-growth jobs.” The standards were said to be “considerably more rigorous than [the existing] high school standards” (American Diploma Project, 2007, p. 7). 

In 2004, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher’s (R-Lexington) education agenda featured the idea of getting high schoolers ready for college and the workplace, including year-end assessments and better curriculum alignment across all core content areas. Fletcher’s plan was developed based on research conducted through the state's participation in the American Diploma Project, a joint effort of three Washington-based education reform groups: Achieve Inc., the Education Trust, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation – which are not coincidentally, also the groups behind the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).[1]

When Fletcher’s Education Secretary Virginia Fox met with the National Governor’s Association in February 2005, she reported that Kentucky already had a pre- K-16 council working to forge stronger ties between high schools and higher education. "We've been working very hard on the issue of alignment," added Ms. Fox. "That's a track we're on, and we'll continue aggressively - and, in fact, probably accelerate."[2]
2005: At the National Education Summit on high schools that year, governors from 45 states joined with business leaders and education officials to address a critical problem in American education – that too few students were graduating from high school prepared to meet the demands of college and careers in an increasingly competitive global economy. The result was ADP’s creation of a set of benchmarks that were proposed as anchors for other states’ high school standards-based assess­ments and graduation requirements. ADP identified an impor­tant convergence around the core knowledge and skills that both colleges and employers – within and beyond ADP states – require (American Diploma Project, 2004). The American Diploma Project set five goals and the criteria against which participating states were measured to determine if the goal had been met:  

Common Standards – The criteria are met if the standards’ writing process is guided by the expectations of the state’s postsecondary and business communities, if those com­munities verify that the resulting standards articulate the knowledge and skills required for success in college and the workplace, and if an external organization verifies the standards’ alignment to college- and career-ready expecta­tions (American Diploma Project, 2011).  

Graduation Requirements – High school graduates need to complete a challenging course of study in mathematics that includes the content typically taught through an Algebra II course (or its equivalent) and four years of grade-level English aligned with college- and career-ready standards (American Diploma Project, 2011).  

Assessments – States must have a component of their high school assessment system that measures students’ mastery of college- and career-ready content in English and mathematics. The assessment must have credibility with postsecondary institutions and employers such that a certain score indicates readiness (American Diploma Project, 2011).  

P-20 Data Systems – States must have unique student iden­tifiers to track each student through and beyond the K-12 system and must have “overcome all barriers to matching” and have “the capacity to match longitudinal student-level records between K-12 and postsecondary, and matches these records at least annually” (American Diploma Project, 2011, p. 18).  

Accountability Systems – States must value and reward the number of students who earn a college- and career-ready diploma, score college-ready on high school assessments, and enter college without the need for remediation (Ameri­can Diploma Project, 2011). 

   2006: ACT’s report, Reading between the lines argued that there are high costs ($16 billion per year in lost productivity and remediation) associated with students not being ready for col­lege level reading and suggested that students were actually losing momentum during high school, that poor readers struggle, are frequently blocked from advanced work, that low literacy levels prevent mastery of other subjects, and is commonly cited as a reason for dropping out (ACT, 2006). NAEP reading results from 1971-2004 showed average reading scores for 9-year-olds were the highest on record but scores for 13-year-olds had risen only slightly since 1975. Reading scores for 17-year-olds, however, had actually dropped five points between 1992-2004 (Perie, Moran, & Lutkus, 2005). 

2007: The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) issued a report that established the lack of any continuity among the various state accountability systems. Under the provisions of the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), states were re­quired to report annually the percentages of students achieving proficiency in reading and mathematics for grades 3 through 8. But the law allowed each state to select the tests and set the pro­ficiency standards by which it determines whether the state has met its adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals. The NCES report revealed that proficiency standards varied so much from state to state that comparisons were impossible. Students in states where cut scores for proficiency had been set low appeared to be achieving at remarkable rates. But when the performance in these states was mapped against the estimate of students achieving a “proficient” rating on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), there were substantial differ­ences found. The variations could be explained by differences in both content standards and student academic achievement from state to state, as well as from differences in the stringency of the standards adopted by the states. As a result, there was no way to directly compare state proficiency standards in an environment where different tests and standards were used (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007, p. 482).

November 2007: The Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) policy forum discussed the need for one set of shared academic standards. 

2008: Achieve report Benchmarking for success: Ensuring U.S. students receive a world-class education recommended states upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive (National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, & Achieve Inc., 2008). 

July 2008: With the release of Out of many one: Toward rigorous Common Core Standards from the ground up, CC­SSO Executive Director, Gene Wilhoit, argued that all students should graduate from high school prepared for the demands of postsecondary education, meaningful careers, and effective citizenship, and that a state-led effort is the fastest, most ef­fective way to ensure that more students graduate from high school ready for college and career, a universally accepted goal. “ADP Core has become the common core as a byproduct of the alignment work in each of the states.” (Achieve, Inc., Press Release, July31, 2008). 

Summer 2008: CCSSO’s Executive Director Gene Wilhoit and Student Achievement Partners Co-founder David Coleman convinced philanthropist Bill Gates to spend more than $200 million advancing Common Core. Over the next two years, Gates would fund groups across the political spectrum and by June 2009, CCSS would be adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia (Layton, 2014).

April 2009: NGA & CCSSO Summit in Chicago called for states to support shared standards. 

In April 2009, Stephen Pruitt was selected as Chief of Staff for the colorful Kathy Cox, in the Georgia Department of Education. He had been with the department in various capacities since 2003. He had previously been a high school AP Chemistry teacher.
May 2009: The CCSS Initiative development began on the college and career ready standards (National Governors Asso­ciation Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2014). 

In 2009, the Kentucky legislature passed Senate Bill 1 which was sponsored by a host of Republicans including former Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville) along with Sens. Katie Stine (R-Southgate) and Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) who have recently had second thoughts. SB1 directed the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Council of Postsecondary Education (CPE) to plan and imple­ment a comprehensive process for re­vising the core standards so they are fewer in number, more focused and in-depth, evidenced-based, incorpo­rate international benchmarks where possible, and are common from high school to postsecondary introduc­tory courses.
July 2009: Based on positive responses from the states Com­mon Core State Standards Writing Panels began their work. 

July 2009: President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced $4.35 billion in competitive Race to the Top (RTTT) grants. To be eligible, states had to adopt “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the work place” (U. S. Department of Education, 2009, para 4). But the support of the Obama administration for this hitherto voluntary national
effort would create confusion as to whether CCSS was a national effort or a federal effort. When viewed as a federal effort, CCSS became ripe for politicization. 

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday had been on the job less than a week, in August 2009, when he sat before the Interim Joint Committee on Education to talk about the implementation of Senate Bill 1. Listening were many of the key crafters of the bill including Rep Katie Stine (R-Southgate) .

“Kentucky has long been known for national leadership in education reform,” said Holliday. “Your insight and preparation in Senate Bill 1 will lead us into the next generation of education reform.” He made it clear that he was ready and able to follow their game plan.

A key provision of the bill seeks to ensure high school graduates are prepared for college or jobs eliminating the need for zero-credit developmental classes in the process. Holliday and CPE President Bob King confirmed to the SB1 sponsors that they understood the legislators’ desire for a Kentucky high school diploma to truly indicate the student has completed work which is synchronized with the course requirements needed for college success.

KDE staff handed out detailed time lines for implementing the deadlines imposed by the bill – which was to be fully implemented by 2011. College Readiness Workgroups had already been established to review the common core standards. After reviewing the time lines Stine encouraged Holliday and King saying, “It’s a tall task but it looks like you’re well on your way.”[3]
September 2009: 48 states (not Texas or Alaska), Washing­ton, D. C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were counted as participating in the CCSS effort (National Governors Associa­tion, 2009). 

January, 2010: Responding to fears that Common Core might squeeze social studies out of the curriculum, an alliance of social studies organizations, including a state collaborative working under the CCSSO called the Social Studies Assessment, Curricu­lum and Instruction (SSACI), the National Council for the Social Studies, and the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools (CMS) began an initiative to focus on the four state standards identified in the No Child Left Behind Act: Civics, Economics, Geography and History. The group expanded to include 15 organizations and formed the Task Force of Professional Organizations to work with SSACI (Swann & Griffin, 2013). 

February 11, 2010: Kentucky adopted CCSS, the first state to do so. 

March 2010: First draft of CCSS was officially released

June 2, 2010: The standards-development process was com­pleted in approximately one year by Achieve, Inc. (Mathis, 2010). The Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts and Math) were finalized on June 2, 2010 (Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2010). 

July 2010: Kentucky launched Leadership Networks for teacher, school, and district leaders around the implementa­tion of the Common Core State Standards within the context of highly effective teaching, learning, and assessment practices. 

September 2. 2010: Education Secretary Arne Duncan awarded $360 million to two multi-state consortia to develop standardized tests: The Partnership for Assessment of Readi­ness for College and Careers (PARCC) and The Smarter Bal­anced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) (U. S. Department of Education, 2010) 

July 1, 2011: The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study published A Framework for K-12 Science Education Standards: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, the guiding document for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

2011: Achieve began managing the state-led development of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards. 

At this point, Stephen Pruitt was in his first year at Achieve, serving as Vice President for Content, Research, and Development and developing instructional materials, including rubrics to assess the quality of instructional material. 

Spring 2012: Kentucky assessed CCSS in a new accountability system. 

In May 2013, Stephen Pruitt was promoted to Senior Vice President and coordinated the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Network and led the development of science materials. 

2013: Nationally, with bipartisan support for a conservative proposal, and much evidence-based rationale, CCSS seemed to be on track for a relatively easy adoption among the 45 states that remained committed. The thornier issue appeared to be whether a set of national exams based on the CCSS could be agreed to and would be affordable. But backlash against CCSS was surfacing in state legislatures in Alabama, Indiana, Michi­gan, Missouri, Pennsylvania Missouri, Georgia, South Dakota, and Kansas (Ujifusa, 2013).

April 9, 2013: The final Next Generation Science Standards were released. The standards required evidence of three-di­mensional learning (including practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas) and learning progressions outlined with stan­dards at all grade levels, including engineering, and connections with common core standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013). 

April 2013: The Republican National Committee surprised many educators when it passed a resolution bashing the standards. In a letter to colleagues on the appropriations subcommittee that handles education funding, Sen. Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) calls CCSS an “inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children” (Strauss, 2013, para. 3). Grassley asked Congress to cut off all future funds for CCSS and its assessments, and “restore state decision-mak­ing and accountability with respect to state academic content standards.” The letter said in part:

While the Common Core State Standards Initiative was initially billed as a voluntary effort between states, federal incentives have clouded the picture. Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a ‘common set of K-12 standards’ matching the description of the Common Core. The U.S. Department of Education also made adoption of ‘college- and career-ready standards’ meet­ing the description of the Common Core a condition to receive a state waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Educa­tion Act. Race to the Top funds were also used to fund two consortiums to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core and the Department is now in the process of evaluating these assessments. (Grassley, 2013, para. 2) 

Once a public policy issue becomes politicized, it is dif­ficult to accurately predict its future. But a report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) found that, while concern over funding for CCSS implementation was high, state education leaders said that the effort would go forward. In their report, Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: State Education Agencies Views on the Federal Role, CEP found that the majority of the 40 states responding to the survey, said that it is unlikely that their state would reverse, limit, or change its decision to adopt CCSS this year or next. Few state education leaders said that overcoming resistance to CCSS was a major challenge in their state (Renter, 2013).