Friday, October 26, 2012

Restraint and Seclusion in Kentucky

Over the past 18 months, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) have been working with a number of stakeholders to address parent and community concerns about the use of restraints and seclusions in Kentucky schools.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has brought this issue to the forefront through publications and recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education. The KBE recently approved a Statement of Consideration that was the final step in the process of approving a regulation on restraint and seclusion for submission to the General Assembly.

I am dedicating my blog space this week to a recent press release from one of our key partners, Kentucky Protection and Advocacy. I encourage all readers to review the press release below and the new booklet, Restraint & Seclusion – The Reality in Kentucky Schools. The booklet is available here.

Our efforts at KDE and KBE are to make schools safer for students and staff. Only through clear guidelines and training can we address the growing concerns about improper use of restraints and seclusion. We have listened to all stakeholders and modified the regulation where possible to meet concerns of stakeholders. It is now time for Kentucky educators to come together and move forward with improving the safety of our schools for students and staff.

 Press Release

Contact: Marsha Hockensmith                                  
or Lucy Heskins
Phone: 502.564.2967                                     
Kentucky Protection & Advocacy

10:00 AM EDT, October 25, 2012 


FRANKFORT KY, OCTOBER 25, 2012: Kentucky

Kentucky does not have any law regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. Kentucky teachers can restrain children for any (or no) reason using restraint techniques that have been proven to be dangerous and even deadly. Kentucky teachers can also seclude children by locking them in a closet or small room with no lighting or ventilation, without access to food or a bathroom, for hours or even all day. Like restraint, seclusion techniques have injured, traumatized, and even killed children. Significantly, schools are not required to tell parents when their child is restrained or secluded.

Kentucky Protection & Advocacy, a client-directed legal rights agency that protects and promotes the rights of individuals with disabilities, and the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities, an agency that promotes systemic changes through advocacy and capacity building, release “Restraint & Seclusion – The Reality in Kentucky Schools.” This booklet details stories of Kentucky children and youth who have been hurt by restraint or seclusion in public schools. The booklet also details alternatives to the use of restraint and seclusion being used in one school district in Kentucky, and information about rules for restraint and seclusion currently proposed by the Kentucky Department of Education.

~ End ~

Friday, October 19, 2012

Career and Technical Education in Kentucky

On October 16, pursuant to an executive order issued by Governor Steve Beshear, the Office of Career and Technical Education was merged with the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Carl Perkins branch to form the KDE Office of Career and Technical Education (CTE). Associate Commissioner Dale Winkler will head this new office. I am personally very excited about the potential to elevate and integrate career and technical education within the department.

Why is this so important to education and the economy in Kentucky? Here is one example.

Governor Beshear recently proclaimed October 5 as Manufacturing Day in Kentucky. The National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and the Foundation for Kentucky Industry have designated the day as a launch point to emphasize the many values of manufacturing.

Governor Beshear stated that “manufacturing is a wonderful career path for highly skilled workers within a crucial sector of the economy. The manufacturing community is a key economic driver in the Commonwealth, representing $27 billion, or 17 percent, of Kentucky’s GDP, with more than 215,000 people working in manufacturing in Kentucky.”

This week, I had the opportunity to tour an exciting program that is focused on manufacturing. I visited the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT) at the Toyota Georgetown manufacturing plant. The AMT program has become a national model of how business can collaborate with education to create bright futures for students. In collaboration with numerous school districts in the region, Bluegrass Community and Technical College and other local businesses, students are offered a two-year intensive program that combines the technical, work and academic skills to prepare students for manufacturing jobs.

Of interest to me was the statement that over 600,000 manufacturing job openings are available in the U.S., and industry is having a hard time finding workers with the technical skills and work skills to fill these jobs that pay a living wage. What great news for students in this program and other similar programs across the U.S. It also was exciting to hear that there is significant interest to expand this type of program in Kentucky.

In talking with the students and instructors, I heard several suggestions for the new Office of Career and Technical Education. Among these suggestions was the expansion of our Project Lead the Way program, integration of more rigorous academic skills in career and technical courses, focusing instruction on projects and application of academic and technical skills in an integrated fashion, allowing communities to focus on specific job sector courses rather than one-size-fits-all courses, and heavily involving business and industry in career and technical programs.

Kentucky has focused on elevating and integrating career and technical education. Our Unbridled Learning accountability model gives equal weighting to college and career readiness with bonus points for students who graduate with both. Jobs are available for students who graduate with career and technical skills, as evidenced by the number of job openings in manufacturing.

Over the next few years, I hope our CTE program -- through the integration of academic and career/technical -- will provide numerous opportunities across the state that are similar to the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Program.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Restoring Faith in Public Education

A good friend and professional colleague, Malbert Smith, sent me this article from Education Week. Malbert co-authored the article and the white paper that supports it. Malbert is research professor for early childhood, special education and literacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I encourage readers to review the article, but here are a few highlights.

The premise of the article is that America is losing faith in public education. Gallup’s June 2012 Confidence in Institutions survey shows confidence in public schools has eroded from 58 percent who have a “great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in public schools in 1970 to 29 percent in 2012. Of course, the good news is that public schools rank much higher than the U.S. Congress, but, that is indeed a low bar.

Malbert shows the interesting paradox between public confidence and actual school performance. Measures such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show significant gains in math and reading scores since 1970. Dropout rates are down, and graduation rates are up. While many think that our international rankings were once among the top in the world, this assumption is incorrect, and actual international rankings have actually improved in a few areas and remained flat in others. Certainly, there are many who debate the international rankings and the national test scores; however, the bottom line is that public faith in public education has eroded as has public faith in most institutions. The real question is what can we do to restore public faith in education? Malbert suggests a couple of strategies.

1 – To remain economically and politically relevant, our high school graduates must be prepared for the demands of a global economy. Adoption of college- and career-ready standards for all graduates is a good first step. Kentucky has led the way in these efforts with Common Core State Standards.
2 – Implementation of the Common Core Standards will help restore confidence. Again, Kentucky has led the way with the implementation of Common Core in 2011-12 and with testing and accountability models implemented in 2011-12. Readers should look to the results of our measures for college and career readiness to be released at the end of the month.
3 – Our leaders of both political parties have to take responsibility for restoring confidence in public education by being clear about priorities and strategies to improve public education.
4 – Educators must improve outcomes for children, and we must share not only our areas for improvement but also our success stories.

From my experience this week at the Kentucky Board of Education meeting, I would add another strategy. The media has to become more balanced.

This week, the Kentucky Department of Education reported the results from our field test of a common kindergarten screener and estimates of the number of 2012 graduates who reached college- and career-ready standards. The media only picked up on the kindergarten screener results, since the numbers indicated that only one in four students are ready for kindergarten. The media completely ignored the great news that we had seen double-digit gains in students graduating college/career-ready.

We increased the number of high school graduates who met college/career-ready standards by over 4,000. We helped parents and students save more than $5 million in cost avoidance for developmental courses. We doubled the chances of these students to graduate from a two- or four-year college. As we prepare our communities for the release of the new accountability results, hopefully this article will help you in addressing public confidence in public schools.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Getting Ready for the Numbers

The work done over the past three years by legislators, staff at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), teachers, administrators, school staff, students, parents, community members and education partners will start to bear fruit soon. Next week at the Kentucky Board of Education meeting, I’ll share some estimates of state-level performance connected to the Unbridled Learning assessment and accountability system. School districts are reviewing their data closely, and in a few weeks, district- and school-level data related to the system will be released publicly.

This work began before I accepted the post of commissioner of education, with the passage of 2009’s Senate Bill 1. From the very earliest discussions and plans for a new system, a primary goal was to involve as many groups and individuals as possible and to communicate the work broadly. I believe these efforts have been very successful.

Although it’s a challenge to communicate information about new test scores and accountability categories before we have data in hand, we’ve engaged in a series of activities over the past 12 months to reach out to the audiences that will be impacted by and interested in the data.

I and other KDE staff have visited the state’s educational cooperatives and presented information on the upcoming data release. We’ve produced parent-friendly brochures and FAQs on the system and shared those widely. KDE’s flagship publication, Kentucky Teacher, has featured assessment and accountability in many stories. Our advisory groups have included discussion about the new system on their agendas. I recently hosted a webcast targeted at reporters and editors who will be covering the results of the new system.

Behind the scenes, KDE staff are involved in projects like designing the new School Report Card, which will be our primary vehicle for sharing the new data. Cross-agency teams are ensuring that staff in each office is kept up to date on the latest developments related to Unbridled Learning. We’re even redesigning the agency’s website to make it easier for visitors to find information.

We realized early on that KDE could not communicate about this ongoing work without the help of our partners, who have contributed their time, staff and energy to sharing information.

The Prichard Committee’s ReadyKentucky initiative, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s summer speaking tour, the chamber’s Business Leader Champions for Education initiative, the discussions at the state’s educational cooperative meetings, the Kentucky School Boards Association’s (KSBA’s) video on how to talk to the media about test scores and accountability, and the work in our school districts to prepare local communities and media outlets for the coming data release have been vital to spreading the word about the Unbridled Learning system.

All of this is in preparation for what will be the start of a new era in Kentucky public education; a time during which we will focus on the ultimate goal of college and career readiness for all students. These data are crucial to planning and improvement – for our schools, districts and this agency – and providing information about what it all will mean is a shared effort.