Friday, February 25, 2011

Certified Staff Can TELL Kentucky

In the coming weeks, every certified staff member in Kentucky’s public schools will have an opportunity to provide feedback to their schools, districts and state agency concerning working conditions. Through a survey document called TELL Kentucky, we will be asking certified staff to let us know about working conditions in areas such as leadership, facilities, resources, professional development, empowerment and time.

TELL stands for Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning. As a local superintendent in North Carolina, I found the feedback from the survey extremely important in improving student learning results for our school system. Kentucky is now joining North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee and several other states in administering the survey. This summer, we will have comparative data on many survey questions, and we will have data on Kentucky specific issues.

There has been some confusion as to the sponsor of the survey. They survey was approved by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), and funding was provided through federal Title II funds and grant dollars. Many partners have supported the development of the communication and administration plans for the survey. We also have strong support from the Governor’s Office. For more information about the partners, please visit

There also has been some confusion over how the results will be used. The results WILL NOT be used as part of an accountability model. We are hoping to recognize schools and districts who have high percentages of participation. The results WILL be used by school-based decision making councils, schools, districts, the Kentucky Department of Education, KBE and numerous other organizations to improve the working conditions in our schools and districts. In the states that have been using the survey for a number of years, the survey results often have been used to implement school improvement team policy changes and local board policy changes, and even state statutes and regulations have been changed based on results from the survey.

I am very excited that we can offer this survey to all of our certified staff in Kentucky. I firmly believe that by addressing working conditions in our schools and districts, we will have a positive impact on student learning results, reduce teacher turnover rates and make a long-term impact on the economy of Kentucky.

I strongly encourage every certified staff member in Kentucky to take the survey and monitor the participation rates for your school and district through the TELL Kentucky Web page.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kentucky’s Moral, Economic and Civic Obligation

I recently read a very disturbing report. Incarceration and Social Inequity by Bruce Western and Becky Pettit was published in the summer 2010 Daedalus. Here are some interesting facts from the report.

· Incarceration rates are currently at eight times the historic average.
· Men make up 90 percent of those incarcerated.
· African-American males are seven times more likely than white males to be incarcerated.
· More than 70 percent of the prison population are high school dropouts.

Put in real numbers, for every 100 African-American males who enter high school, only about 50 will graduate, and about 25 will be incarcerated at some point. African-American males born into poverty have a 1 in 4 chance of being incarcerated and a 1 in 17 chance of getting a college degree. More than 10 million people are incarcerated every year locally, and over 700,000 are incarcerated at the state or federal level.

The impact on African-American families is that 1 in 10 have a parent in jail. We have the highest incarceration rate among industrialized countries, and Kentucky has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. In the United States, incarceration costs us more than $70 billion each year.

We have a moral obligation, an economic obligation and a civic obligation to do something about this. What can we do?

· We need more early childhood programs.
· We must improve alternative education options.
· We must improve our ability for early identification of at-risk children.
· Our poor communities should have access to more jobs programs.
· The dropout age must be raised.

We can invest now at about $10,000 per child, or we can pay much more later. The Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force report that will be released next week will provide recommendations addressing many of the suggestions from the report mentioned in this blog.

Let's take resources from programs not working and focus on strategies that will work. Now is the time for bold leaders. Let's get to work making a difference.

Friday, February 11, 2011

College and Career Readiness

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) has spent considerable amounts of time deliberating the proposed college and career readiness measures that are a component of the Senate Bill 1 (2009) accountability model.

Over the past few weeks, I have read numerous reports concerning the college and career readiness issue and how we as states and the nation must work to improve the readiness of our high school graduates -- or our nation faces loss of productivity and competitiveness. Of course, those of you have been in education for 40 or more years (like me) know that these challenges are not new. This issue has been around since the early 1800s, when Horace Mann was debating the purpose of schools. What is different now is the alignment of P-12 educators, businesses, government and higher education in promoting the agenda from one of access to opportunities for education to the new goal of universal SUCCESS for ALL children to reach proficiency and be prepared for success.

Some of the publications that I would recommend to readers are:
* Time magazine published an excellent group of articles in the January 17, 2011, issue entitled “Where the Jobs Are.”

* The Harvard Graduate School of Education published Pathways to Prosperity, which was released in early February. This report would seem to support the KBE focus on defining not only college-ready, but also career-ready.

* From ACT, Inc. last week, there was Breaking New Ground: Building a National Workforce Skills Credentialing System. This report also strongly supports the work of KBE in defining career-ready as well as college-ready.

Some statistics from the Time article caught my attention:
* Detroit currently has a 13.3 percent unemployment rate; however, businesses cannot find mechanical engineers to fill jobs.
* General Electric has a major expansion of jobs at Appliance Park in Louisville that will require postsecondary skills and training for the new “green” refrigeration systems.
* Consulting firm Deloitte is currently scouring college campuses for tax specialists, lawyers and auditors.
* Who is currently out of work? This recession has not impacted all segments of the population equally. The currently unemployment rates are 5 percent for bachelor’s degree holders, 10 percent for high school grads and 16 percent for those with less than a high school diploma.
* As the jobs are coming back, they will not be spread equally across all levels of education. More than 80 percent of new jobs will require some education beyond high school whether a one-year certificate or two- or four-year degrees. These jobs will be heavily located in professional/business services, education and health services, and most will have strong technology requirements.
* Who will get the existing jobs? Bachelor’s degree holders will get 38 percent; associate degree holders or higher, 10 percent; those with some college, 18 percent; and high school grads will get 26 percent. That means we need about 92 percent of the students who are currently in 8th grade to obtain a high school diploma, and we need at least 68 percent of current 8th graders to achieve education beyond high school.

These statistics highlight our challenges for Kentucky.
1. If we do not do something different in Kentucky, about 25 percent of our current 8th graders will not graduate from high school in 2015. That is more than 12,000 students who will not graduate and will be competing for about 8 percent of the jobs available -- and those jobs will most likely not pay a living wage. We NEED the dropout prevention bill that raises the compulsory attendance age and provides students with alternative programs and a stronger focus on career and technical education.

2. Currently, we project that only 34 percent or 17,000 of our current 8th-grade class will meet college and career readiness measures. That means our employers will be like Detroit -- they will not have a supply of workers with the skills needed for the jobs available. We have already heard this from the Chamber of Commerce in northern Kentucky and other business leaders across the Commonwealth.

3. The future of the Commonwealth and the future of our 8th-grade class and all subsequent groups of children is that we need to improve our percentage of high school graduates who are college and career ready from the current level of 34 percent to at least 65 percent by 2015. That means we need to better prepare at least 17,000 more students in our current 8th-grade class and subsequent groups of students.

We cannot wait until these 8th-grade students become high school seniors. We cannot ignore the students who are currently in high school. We cannot ignore students who are in preschool through 7th grade.

Over the next few months, the Kentucky Department of Education will have a “laser focus” on college- and career-readiness strategies. We will provide one strategy every two weeks that we are either implementing or plan to implement during 2011-12 school year. What is unique about our effort is that we will connect the strategies to the districts, schools, classrooms, teachers, students and parents.

I hope readers will help spread the word that Kentucky is focused on our children’s future and the future of our Commonwealth.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Being Comfortable in the “New Normal”

In a recent blog post, I stressed our need to embrace efficiency and productivity and define our own “New Normal.” By focusing on benchmarking, efficiency and productivity, we can increase our capacity and capability to do more with less. One of the most effective ways to increase efficiency and productivity is to share knowledge and learn from each other.

Imagine for a moment that a team in a Union County elementary school developed a breakthrough approach for helping students with disabilities make great learning gains; or a team at a high school in Clay County that greatly improved the utilization of the transportation fleet. How would the other 172 Kentucky school districts systematically learn of these new approaches and capitalize on them? If they could, the statewide benefits would be enormous.

Well, I have good news! We are now in the process of implementing a Web-based solution called the Performance Excellence Connection™. This tool is currently in use throughout Florida to share best practices among its 67 school districts and more than 3,500 public schools. Florida is in its second year of using the system, and best practices and process improvements are being submitted and shared for every aspect of the education process. We expect to derive similar benefits and perhaps share approaches with Florida educators.

In the Baldrige management system, there are about 200 specific areas that require effective, systematic approaches for accomplishing the work of education. I am convinced that, collectively, most of those areas have best practices or at least very sound approaches already in place somewhere in our 174 districts. However, what if we could find a way to share those approaches with each other so that we could be using all of them in every district? That’s what we hope to gain with the Performance Excellence Connection™.

In addition to sharing best practices and process improvements, the Performance Excellence Connection™ will serve as an efficiency and productivity improvement resource center, providing tools, techniques and information about KDE’s performance initiatives.

The Performance Excellence Connection™ is scheduled to launch on April 1. Our supplier, Electronic Training Solutions, Inc., a Florida performance consulting firm, is working closely with a KDE team and will most likely, beat that deadline. I am confident that this tool will help all of us to define the New Normal, and thrive in these uncertain times. Also, we are working closely with all of our education partners to plan a “Productivity and Efficiency Day” this spring or fall to bring together all districts in sharing best practices and learning about this new resource.