Friday, July 30, 2010

Early Childhood Benefits/Teacher Evaluations

In these days of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other services that provide daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute updates, I get lots of information about reports, studies and education events. This week , on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, I highlighted two of the more interesting reports.

* a terrific new report on long-term benefits of early childhood education:
* an interesting report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), which reinforces Kentucky’s caution on using value-added criteria for high-stakes decisions:

Readers of these reports may find conflicting information. The early childhood report was mentioned in a New York Times article entitled “The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers.” The report came from Harvard economist Raj Chetty. Many critics of government spending on early childhood education allege that the early gains for children often wash out over the course of the school years. I really liked a quote attributed to Mr. Chetty – “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.”

Mr. Chetty and his team reviewed the adult outcomes for students who were part of the Tennessee Star Project from the ‘80s. They found students who were in the most effective kindergarten classrooms were more likely as adults to go to college, less likely to be single parents, more likely to be saving for retirement and more likely to earn more than their peers in the same study who were in less effective classrooms. So, the article and study seem to support the big idea of teacher effectiveness having a major role in student learning and adult outcomes.

In a somewhat conflicting report from the National Center for Education and Evaluation, researchers raised many cautions about using teacher effectiveness data for high-stakes decisions like merit pay and tenure. The report, Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Test Score Gains, highlighted concerns about error rates when using this data. The report states that three years of teacher data that classifies teachers as low performing could be erroneous as much as one out of four times. The report shows that data classifying a teacher as high-performing also could be erroneous as much as one out of four times. With five years of data, the results become a little more stable, and if the data are used mainly for school classification, then the error rates decline. Regardless, this research does raise much concern about the use of one, two or even three years of data to make high-stakes decisions.

So, the question becomes, “how do we resolve the apparent conflict in these two reports with regard to outcomes and the impact of teachers on the learning outcomes?” The answer is in multiple measures. I have been clear with policy makers, superintendents, teachers and other stakeholders. Kentucky will not depend solely on test scores for high-stakes decisions for teachers and principals. Both of these studies point out concerns with just using test scores. In Kentucky, we will continue to work with teachers, principals and other stakeholders to develop evaluation systems that utilize multiple measures of effectiveness.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Challenges and Changing Times

Highlights from my remarks to the Kentucky Association of School Administrators Summer Conference in Louisville this morning.

A quote that I often use in presentations comes from Martin Luther King, Jr. “A man’s true measure is not where he stands in moments of comfort but in times of challenge.”

Given the many challenges that we face in Kentucky and across the nation, I think this quote is very much on target. As leaders, we have to make a decision. Will we rise to the challenge or will we fold under the pressure? As the leader of P-12 education in Kentucky, I am asking you today to rise to the challenge of leadership during difficult times.

Why is it so important to rise to this challenge? Over the past few weeks, there have been some remarkable events in our world. Amazon recently announced that the sale of e-books exceeded the sale of paper books for the first time in history. The U.S. is no longer the number-one user of energy in the world. We have been replaced by China. A Department of Agriculture employee’s video clips went viral and overshadowed the passage of the most expansive financial reform legislation since the Great Depression. Another story that went viral this week concerned an 11-year-old who was provided a computer, webcam and unrestricted Internet access by her parents, then became the brunt of an e-attack by a powerful online user group whose stated purpose is to attack people who annoy them. A report revealed that the nation has gone from leading the world in percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree to lagging most of the industrialized nations (we rank 12th now). Another report documents that, in the 1970s, the percentage of the workforce with a high school degree or less was more than 70 percent. The same report predicts that almost 70 percent of the workforce in 2018 will need a postsecondary degree.

With a 1.5 percent decrease in funding, our challenges seem to pale in comparison to the other challenges around us. Furloughs seem insignificant when compared against what is happening to the citizens in Louisiana and other states as a result of the oil spill. As we fly our flags at half-staff in Kentucky to honor fallen soldiers, I do not take a lot of time concerning myself with who is hosting or not hosting a political fundraiser. What I challenge each of us to do is focus on the bigger picture of enabling the generation of children we have in front of us today to become better educated and more employable in the future. In 1990, bold leaders faced with difficult times did not back away from the challenge of KERA. Bold leaders stepped up to the plate and made a difference for a generation of children.

In 2010, we are provided another opportunity to also be bold leaders. We have been provided the platform for transforming the educational experience for a generation of children. In my 39 years of education, I have never seen the alignment so clear. Senate Bill 1, Race to the Top, the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force are providing the road map to a brighter future for Kentucky children.

Let us not waste this opportunity to reshape the future. Let us not be sidetracked by the barriers and challenges we are faced with on a daily basis. So I ask … where will you stand in these challenging times? Will you join me in standing up for increasing the rigor of our academic standards in Kentucky? Will you stand up for measuring the effectiveness of teachers, principals, school-based councils, superintendents and school boards in part based on student learning outcomes? Will you stand up for better assessments that measure what children should be able to do rather than simple recall of facts? Will you stand up for the goal of EVERY child graduating from high school ready for college and career?

And most of all … will you stand up for the least among the children? Will you stand up for closing achievement gaps and ensuring that every child regardless of wealth, gender, color or zip code not only has the opportunity for success, but actually succeeds in school?

Thank you for rising to this challenge. You make a difference in your schools and districts. You make a difference for children. You make a difference for the future of Kentucky. Best wishes on a successful start to the school year!

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Interesting, Interconnected Week

This week was a very interesting week. Governor Beshear dropped in to visit with the Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK) task force. His message was very clear and visionary. He recharged the task force with developing recommendations that will refocus our efforts in Kentucky to help prepare more children for the challenges they will face.

This charge is clear. ALL students must be prepared for college and career through a more challenging and rigorous education. After his message, the task force heard from our career and technical education (CTE) staff about the excellent work going on in this program. The message was clear that the current CTE program is not your father’s shop class anymore. The program integrates academics and technical skills to prepare students for jobs of the 21st century.

Gene Bottoms of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) delivered an excellent presentation on how to ensure more students graduate from high school with college- and career-ready skills. His presentation also included several excellent policy recommendations that the task force will certainly be reviewing for possible inclusion in the final report.

Also, this week, First Lady Jane Beshear was honored by the SREB for her leadership with the Graduate Kentucky Project. And, I had the honor to present at the Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit. All of these events are very much related.

I have begun to focus on the “Three Es.” Education, employment and the economy are tightly linked, and all of the events this week showed that linkage very clearly. A report I received in an e-mail from the Alliance for Excellent Education pulled it all together. Excerpts from the report are below, and I encourage readers to review the information for the nation and for our largest urban system – Louisville/Jefferson County.

Excerpts from the article:

In the nation's forty-five largest metropolitan areas, students of color made up a sizable portion of the estimated 600,000 students who dropped out from the Class of 2008: 113,600 African American, 200,000 Latino, 3,750 American Indian, and 30,800 Asian American1 students are estimated to have dropped out from this class.

Cutting the number of these dropouts in half would likely produce vast economic benefits by boosting the spending power of these communities of color and spurring job and economic growth in these regions. Below, see the likely contributions that these “new graduates” would make to their regional economies.
· All told, the students of color within this one class of new graduates could produce enormous benefits for their local economies:
· Together, their additional spending would likely generate 17,450 new jobs and boost the gross regional products of these areas by as much as $3.1 billion by the time they reach the midpoint of their careers.
· As a result of their increased wages and higher levels of spending, state and local tax revenues within these regions would likely grow by as much as $249.7 million during an average year.
· The regions would likely see increased human capital, with 48 percent of these new graduates likely continuing on to pursue some type of postsecondary education after earning a high school diploma.

To view the full report, visit

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Busy Week at KDE

This week, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) saw much work on several key issues. The Teacher Effectiveness Steering Committee, Principal Effectiveness Steering Committee and the Teacher/Principal Working Conditions Survey Committee met to work on proposals to revise teacher and principal evaluation systems in Kentucky.

Why are we working on changes to the evaluation process? In my travels throughout the state, I hear from superintendents, principals and teachers that the current system of evaluation in Kentucky may not be as strong as we need, given the research on the impact of teachers and principals on student learning. Also, the Race to the Top application, Title I reauthorization, federal grants and foundation grants are all focusing on effective teachers and principals. Readers should note that the vocabulary is changing from “highly qualified” to “effective.” Much of the research over the past 10 years has clearly shown the strong correlation between effective teachers and principals and improving student learning results.

What is the timeline for the revisions? Our committees are working slowly to go fast later. In the 2009-10 school year, we had four districts that worked to develop a process for teacher effectiveness. This work was funded through our grant from the Wallace Foundation. Also, based on Wallace Foundation work, Kentucky has been one of the lead states in the nation for the development of principal effectiveness measures. We have 23 districts that have volunteered to help the steering committees this year through field tests of various items from the proposed system of measuring effectiveness.

What are the components of teacher effectiveness? The research around this is mixed; however, there does seem to be agreement that a strong teacher effectiveness system must have multiple measures. In Kentucky, we are looking at student growth, teacher self-assessment, observations, 360-degree assessment, artifacts/evidences and student voice. For principals, there will be similar measures.

The other exciting work this week was the advisory committee for the teacher and principal working conditions survey. More details about this survey will be forthcoming over the next few months. Should readers be interested in learning more about the survey, they may view the work in Maryland at Kentucky and Tennessee recently became the 11th and 12th states in the nation, along with several large urban school districts, to use this survey.

The staff at KDE very much appreciates all the teachers, principals, superintendents, college faculty, parents, business leaders and organization leaders who have volunteered their time to work on these very important committees. Readers also may be interested in the presentation I will be making to the Interim Joint Committee on Education at its July 12 meeting in Frankfort. That presentation will be posted on the KDE website at