Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm taking a few weeks off from my blog for summer vacation.
I'll be back at the keyboard with a new blog  on July 12.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Report Card on Teacher Prep Programs

This week, the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released the first ever national report on the quality of teacher preparation programs.  NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review provides data on the 1,130 institutions that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers. That data was used to determine overall ratings of the programs based on a set of key standards.

Among the key findings of the report:
--Less than 10 percent of rated programs earn three stars or more. Only four programs, all secondary, earn four stars: Lipscomb and Vanderbilt, both in Tennessee; Ohio State University; and Furman University in South Carolina. Only one institution, Ohio State, earns more than three stars for both an elementary (3½ stars) and a secondary (4 stars) program. 

--It is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program. Just over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of their class, compared with the highest-performing countries, which limit entry to the top third.

--Fewer than one in nine elementary programs and just over one-third of high school programs are preparing candidates in content at the level necessary to teach the new Common Core State Standards now being implemented in classrooms in 45 states and the
District of Columbia.

-- The “reading wars” are far from over. Three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers, from 30 percent to less than 10 percent. Instead, the teacher candidate is all too often told to develop his or her “own unique approach” to teaching reading.

--Just 7 percent of programs ensure that their student teachers will have uniformly strong experiences, such as only allowing them to be placed in classrooms taught by teachers who are themselves effective, not just willing volunteers.

Among the key findings for Kentucky:
High rated programs – Programs at Eastern Kentucky University (undergraduate secondary), the University of Kentucky (undergraduate and graduate secondary), and University of Louisville (undergraduate secondary) are on the Teacher Prep Review's Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars. Across the country, NCTQ identified 20 elementary programs (3 percent of those rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.

Selectivity in admissions -- The Review found that only 14 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Kentucky restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. Countries where students consistently outperform the U.S. typically set an even higher bar, with teacher prep programs recruiting candidates from the top third of the college-going population. Some worry that increasing admissions requirements will have a negative effect on the diversity of teacher candidates. By increasing the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher preparation, the profession will attract more talent, including talented minorities. This is not an impossible dream: 83 programs across the country earn a Strong Design designation on this standard because they are both selective and diverse, although no such programs were found in Kentucky.

Early reading instruction -- Just 29 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Kentucky are preparing teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, the same small percentage of programs providing such training nationally.

Elementary math -- A mere 19 percent of evaluated elementary programs nationwide provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics, training that mirrors the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore and South Korea. A notably higher percentage -- 36 percent -- of evaluated programs in Kentucky provide such training, although most programs in the state come up short.

Student teaching -- Of the evaluated elementary and secondary programs in Kentucky, 32 percent entirely fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. This is a much lower failure rate than the 71 percent found nationally. No Kentucky programs earn a perfect four stars, compared to 7 percent of evaluated programs across the country.

Classroom management -- Only 10 percent of the evaluated Kentucky elementary and secondary programs earn a perfect four stars for providing feedback to teacher candidates on concrete classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior, compared to 23 percent of evaluated programs nationwide.

Content preparation -- 13 percent of Kentucky's elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation, 11 percent of elementary programs do so nationwide. Digging deeper, more elementary programs (9 percent) earn a perfect four stars than their national counterparts (3 percent), and only 17 percent entirely fail this standard, compared to 44 percent nationally. At the high school level, only 27 percent of Kentucky secondary programs earn four stars for content preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide. But unlike 20 percent of programs across the country, no Kentucky secondary programs entirely fail the high school content standard.

Outcome data -- None of Kentucky's evaluated programs earn four stars for collecting data on their graduates, compared to 26 percent of evaluated programs in the national sample, although most programs do earn partial credit. In the absence of state efforts to connect student achievement data to teacher preparation programs, administer surveys of graduates and employers or require administration of teacher performance assessments (TPAs), programs that fare poorly on this standard have not taken the initiative to collect any such data on their own.

Having a highly effective teacher for every student in Kentucky is a goal of the Kentucky Board of Education. It is extremely important that our teacher preparation programs, Education Professional Standards Board, school districts, Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Kentucky Department of Education work closely to build on our strengths in Kentucky teacher preparation and improve in areas highlighted in this report.

Over the summer, I will highlight specific issues from this report, the Commission on Accreditation of Educator Preparation standards report, the Council of Chief State School Officers focus on teacher preparation and the results from our 2013 TELL Kentucky survey. All of these are interrelated and provide excellent data as we continue our work toward college- and career-readiness for all students in Kentucky.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kentucky Business Supports Common Core Standards

While opponents of the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics continue spreading misinformation, the business community in Kentucky is rallying in support of the Kentucky Board of Education’s decision to adopt the standards in 2010. Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson recently wrote a column posted on the U.S. Chamber’s Free  I thought it was important to share the business and economic  perspective on the standards with you, so this week he is my guest blogger. I have added links so you can see firsthand some of the things he references.

Leading the way on Common Core Standards
by Dave Adkisson

As we look to the future and think about the economic recovery, we can see the widening of a skills gap where the education and skill levels of Kentuckians don’t meet the requirements and supply of jobs. The challenge of filling this gap will become even more acute as thousands of baby boomers retire, leaving well-paying positions unfilled.

This bottom-line reality is the key motivation behind our aggressive support for the Common Core State Standards, known in Kentucky as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

Kentucky, in early 2010, was the first state in the nation to adopt these rigorous new learning guidelines developed by a consortium of states under the auspices of the Council for Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. Our state’s position as the first adopter was spurred by bipartisan legislation from our General Assembly a year earlier that mandated new standards and assessments for Kentucky’s education system.

As the Kentucky Chamber became familiar with the standards –- particularly their alignment with college and career expectations and their reflection of international benchmarks – we realized how critical they would be to the development of a world-class workforce. Reflecting our strong support, the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, in partnership with the state Department of Education, has spearheaded an initiative to help employers understand the standards and their impact.

To show a united front between education and business, and to reinforce the point about the important relationship between education and workforce quality, the state education commissioner and I conducted a series of nearly 20 joint appearances across the state.

Key to our messaging was the fact that Kentucky’s students are falling short of the mark in being adequately prepared for college or career. As we began our tour, data showed that only 38 percent of Kentucky students were college/career ready based on ACT scores, college placement tests and academic or technical benchmarks. (We have seen some recent improvement; the 2011-12 data showed a level of 47 percent – an uptick that followed the state’s emphasis on college and career preparation.)

In a video distributed statewide, we also emphasized the points of view of individual Kentucky employers who are grappling with the challenges of an under-skilled workforce. One of these was Rich Gimmel, president of Atlas Machine and Supply Inc., an industrial machinery company in Louisville.

“I can buy gas from a college graduate making $8 an hour, but I can’t find qualified machinists who could make an average salary of $70,000 a year,” he said. “Right now, if I had a truckload of journeymen machinists show up at our front door, we’d hire them on the spot.”

We reinforced the video with an employers’ communications tool kit that provided messaging templates for emails, letters, staff meetings and other ways to share information about the standards at the business and community level. Thousands of these kits were distributed to Chamber members across Kentucky to broaden the impact as much as possible.

To turn up the volume on the business voice, we worked with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in creating the Business Leader Champions for Education. Dozens of executives from every part of the state have joined this group to deliver a consistent message of support for Kentucky schools and the tougher standards that are now in place in our classrooms.

We’ve been pleased with the results to date. When Kentucky’s first test scores were, as predicted, lower than in previous years, parents, employers, community leaders and advocates were ready for the news and showed little inclination to abandon the standards.

We do know, however, that now is not the time to rest. We are aware of misinformation being distributed about the standards across the country and want to be sure Kentucky stands firm in using this rigorous course of study to prepare our students for the challenges of the future. They deserve nothing less than the best education we can provide for them, and their success will help ensure economic and civic progress for all of us.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Good News on Graduation Rate; Challenges Ahead

Education Week released its annual “Diplomas Count” study this week. The Diplomas Count project is an effort by the Editorial Projects in Education that publishes Education Week and is an ongoing study of high school graduation issues. The report includes national and state level data and can be accessed through the links above. There was some good news for Kentucky in the report and also some continuing concerns that our state must address.

The good news is that the Kentucky graduation rate for the Class of 2010 (the most recent data available for this report) was 77.2 percent -- better than the national average of 74.7 percent. Of particular importance was the fact that Kentucky ranked 3rd in the nation for most improvement in the graduation rate since 2000. Kentucky improved 13.5 percentage points compared to a national improvement of 7.9 points.

Kentucky legislators, who have often been concerned that we were over estimating the graduation rate since we were unable to move to the cohort graduation rate until the Class of 2013, should find solace in the “Diplomas Count” report.  According to the numbers Kentucky’s state-reported graduation rate is the same as the graduation rate calculated for this report.

While there is much to be proud of in Kentucky’s efforts toward improving high school graduation rates, there remain several areas that we need to work on to help more students graduate from high school. According to “Diplomas Count,” Kentucky had 53,524 students enter 9th grade in 2009-10. However, only 42,067 students were estimated to graduate four years later (2012-13). That means 11,457 students did not graduate within four years. This translates to 64 students dropping out of Kentucky high schools every day.

What do these 11,457 students look like and how does this impact the economy in Kentucky? More than 73 percent of the dropouts are white, more than 60 percent are male, and more than 72 percent of these dropouts are unemployed.

What if we were able to recover half of these students through dropout prevention work and recovery efforts with our community colleges?

According to research done by the Alliance for Excellence in Education, if we decreased the number of dropouts by half, the Kentucky economy would see $68 million in increased savings, $54 million in increased spending, $121 million in increased home sales, $7.1 million in increased auto sales, 450 new jobs, $80 million increase in gross state product, and a $5.9 million increase in state tax revenue PER YEAR!

As we close in on the date for SB 97 to take effect, we are hearing from districts that intend to adopt a policy that raises the dropout age from 16 to 18. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is providing planning grants of $10,000 per district to help develop a plan to implement their policy. While we guaranteed at least 57 districts would receive funding, we are working to increase that number with funds from other sources. My commitment to districts is that KDE will work to ensure we get funding for at least 55 percent of districts over the next two years so we can move forward with a statewide effort to increase the percentage of students who graduate from high school.

It is also critically important that districts have rigorous programs in place to ensure high school graduates are ready for college and career.

The numbers are very clear. While a high school diploma is a good start, it isn’t enough. The high school dropout unemployment rate is as high as 28 percent or higher for some demographics; for high school graduates it’s in excess of 10 percent. Yet, the unemployment rate for 2 or 4 year college graduates is less than 4 percent.

Educators should take a few moments and celebrate the successes in the “Diplomas Count” report and then begin working on specific plans and strategies to implement SB 97 and our work around college/career-readiness.