Friday, February 28, 2014

Senate Bill 1: Plan...Do…Study…Act

Since Senate Bill 1 (2009) was enacted, Kentucky has certainly been seen as a leader in the nation for our work in implementing college/career-ready standards, assessments, a new accountability system and professional development for educators. As these core processes begin to stabilize after three full years of implementation, it is important that Kentucky look at the results of our efforts and make the necessary adjustments to help even more students graduate from high school who are prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.

Throughout the next year, Kentucky will be focused on several key topics. We will review results of our accountability system with all stakeholder groups and make recommendations for any adjustments to the Kentucky Board of Education. We will fully implement the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System for teachers, principals, and superintendents. Finally, we will be looking for innovative ways to deliver instruction and assess student performance that are grounded in what students need to be competitive in the 21st century.

The results from our Senate Bill 1 accountability model (now called Unbridled Learning) will be known to districts beginning in late summer. We are already talking with stakeholder groups about replacement assessments for the Explore and Plan tests that the ACT folks are discontinuing. Also, we are looking at replacement tests for our high school end-of-course assessments due to our concerns about alignment with our Kentucky Core Academic Standards and the poor delivery of the online assessments by ACT. These decisions will be made in late summer.

Our timeline for revisions to the Unbridled Learning system will include discussions with all advisory groups, public input, and culminate with the second annual local superintendent summit in September. The recommendations from all of the groups will result in key recommendations being made to the Kentucky Board of Education in the fall of 2014 and subsequent changes to the accountability regulations being made in the December – April time frame. The key question for our stakeholders and the Kentucky Board of Education will be the implementation date of new assessments and revisions to the state accountability model.

Through this blog, I am asking stakeholders to begin to think about two key questions.

     1. ACT has announced the end of the tests that Kentucky gives to all
     8th graders (EXPLORE) and 10th graders (PLAN). Kentucky has a
     choice to continue giving the test in the fall of 2014, however, that
     will be the final administration. A key question to consider is do we
     replace EXPLORE and PLAN for this coming year or do we
     administer one more time in the fall of 2014 and then replace in

     2. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has always been
     committed to reviewing the results of the Unbridled Learning
     accountability model after three years of data. The third year
     data will be released this fall. Should KDE implement stakeholder
     recommend changes for the 2014-15 accountability report cards
     or should KDE delay implementation of stakeholder
     recommendations until 2015-16?

There are many pros and cons for the choices prompted by these two questions. Through this blog and many upcoming meetings, KDE will be seeking input from stakeholders so we can bring forward well- informed recommendations to the Kentucky Board of Education this fall.

Thanks to all of our advisory groups for your careful thoughts and suggestions so that Kentucky education can continue to be seen as the leader in education reform in the nation and more importantly so we can continue to do what is right for our children.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Putting superintendent feedback to use

It’s been about six months since Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) leadership and I met with all Kentucky school district superintendents in Frankfort for a face-to-face Superintendents’ Summit. This provided an opportunity for me to explain the why, what and how of the P-12 components of the Unbridled Learning: College and Career Readiness for All system. In addition, superintendents heard presentations on key topics and had the opportunity through roundtable discussions to share feedback on the issues. This detailed feedback was compiled into a document that included responses from KDE staff to each comment/question submitted by superintendents. 

Since the summit, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) staff has studied and integrated this feedback into our work in an effort to be responsive to the needs of school districts. The feedback has been extremely valuable and KDE is appreciative of superintendents’ willingness to share it with us.

Below is an update on the many ways the superintendent feedback has had a positive impact on KDE’s work.

Assessment and Accountability
• Accountability Model – KDE will do a three-year review of the components of the accountability system looking for areas for continuation and adjustments. By allowing three years of data to be part of the review, it will provide a more consistent look at the scores. 

• State Tests – KDE issued a Request for Information (RFI) in November 2013 to begin exploring assessments to help with the issuing of a Response for Proposals (RFP) to replace the EXPLORE/PLAN tests at a minimum since the vendor is discontinuing them, but also possibly the high school end-of-course tests. KDE continues working with ACT to improve their current high school model and ACT has indicated that the turnaround times for paper tests this spring will be significantly shorter. 

• Growth – Both at the summit and later, superintendents focused attention on the growth model. Due to this concern, the Growth Component will be one of the main components we will be taking a look at during review of the accountability model. The review will look at purpose, use and weights of the growth component. 

• Program Reviews – KDE is launching major activities to help improve the Program Review model. Those activities include strengthening of the audit process, conducting research to determine the value and importance of Program Reviews, improving the scoring process, and reviewing and analyzing data to help inform future changes. 

Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES)
• Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) took up the first reading of the new regulation earlier this month. It comes back for a second reading and approval on April 9. In the interim, KDE is analyzing and considering all feedback on the regulation. Additionally, the KBE is holding a study session on the student growth component of the PGES model on April 8 prior to its board meeting.
• KDE has distributed the Model Certified Evaluation Plan (CEP).
• Regional trainings are taking place this month and next for district leadership teams to delve into the Model CEP.
• Educational cooperatives have been involved in this work and have been encouraged to share models of solid implementation from the statewide pilot of the system during their meetings.
• A closer look at time and funding to implement PGES is a part of the research agenda throughout the pilot.
• The Area Technology Centers/Career and Technical Education (ATC/CTE) pilot of PGES is currently underway and will expand during the upcoming academic school year.
• A subcommittee of the Steering Committee that has been guiding this work agreed on rubrics for “other professionals” in January. A pilot for the “other professionals” system will take place during the 2014-15 school year.
• Ongoing conversations between KDE and the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) have occurred to ensure local presidents are sharing a consistent message around the expectations for PGES.

Teacher PGES
• PGES consultants are providing greater support for all four domains.
• The Kentucky Teacher Internship Program (KTIP) and PGES will be merged. A pilot will be conducted in the 2014-15 academic school year with full implementation in 2015-16. 
• The summative model for the teacher PGES has been shared publicly and with the KBE. 
• Videos from teachers, principals, and superintendents will be shared in the coming weeks to provide information about the use of student growth in the system.

Principal PGES
• Questions about assistant principals and their role in the principal PGES have been addressed through PGES webcasts and newsletters.
• Great collaboration has occurred with the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) to ensure principal preparation programs are sharing the principal PGES as a part of the expectations for demonstrating effectiveness.
• Regional VAL-ED training has assisted with understanding of the tool.
• TELL Kentucky survey data is used as a source of evidence for the creation of principal goals but focuses primarily on working conditions and the goal for continuous improvement.
• A greater partnership with the Kentucky Leadership Academy (KLA) has been formed to support the principal PGES and teacher PGES.

Additional Curricular Information
• Science leadership networks are underway across the regions. Teachers have been participating and involved in conversations about the standards and updating local curricula.
• Regional social studies leadership networks are meeting so teachers may examine the C3 Social Studies Framework and develop new standards for future implementation. The social studies standards will not be introduced until late in the fall of 2014 at the earliest
• World Language Program Reviews will be piloted in 2014-15 in order to continue to build innovative models for language and cultural programs. 

• Based on the comments during the Superintendent’s Summit, KDE submitted a budget proposal to the Governor in November 2013 supporting the three priorities as agreed on by superintendents. These were restoration of funding for SEEK, Flexible Focus (textbooks, professional development, Extended School Services, school safety) and Technology. 
• The Governor’s budget proposal supports all of these areas in some fashion and KDE continues to advocate for restoration of K-12 funding as the legislative session moves forward.

Flexibility of Federal Funds
• KDE will issue a white paper in March to assist districts in using federal funds effectively.

Career and Technical Education
• In response to requests to expand the career readiness measures, the Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE) has developed an electronic form by which schools and districts can submit industry certifications for consideration. The form can be found on the KDE website at this link.
• In collaboration with the Office of Next-Generation Learners, OCTE has created workgroups to develop career pathways for the arts. Seven pathways and end-of-program assessments will be developed for students interested in the arts. Schools and districts will be able to implement the pathways during the 2014-15 school year.

Sharing Best Practices
• A “Best Practices” webpage now exists where districts can both submit best practices that have worked for them as well as access ideas from across the state.  The webpage is currently undergoing a redesign to make it easier for users to submit and find best practices.

• KDE continues to assist district and school staff with any issues regarding roles and levels in the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) through monthly webcasts as well as through the CIITS Help Desk.
• KDE has been working with the SchoolNet development team on an issue with the Educator Development Suite (EDS) recognizing only the teacher of record. The solution will make it possible for all certified staff to have access to self-reflection, student growth goal setting, professional growth plans, and student voice results that are a part of PGES. We are hopeful this will occur within the next three months.

Finally, plans are underway to schedule a second Superintendents’ Summit in September of this year. The main topic for the summit would be reviewing the existing accountability model and making recommendations for possible changes in the model to the Kentucky Board of Education.  After seeing the impact they can have, we hope all superintendents will once again take part.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The importance of teacher planning time

One of the issues most important to Kentucky educators is time. Recently, Representative Rita Smart filed HB 202 to require teachers be provided a minimum of 150 minutes per week for non-teaching activities. Below is a letter I sent to her in support of this legislation.

Dear Representative Smart:

Thank you for bringing HB 202 relative to teacher planning time forward. This is an issue that is critically important to Kentucky’s educators. 

In 2011 and again in 2013, education partners in Kentucky asked our teachers to respond to a working conditions survey. More than 86 percent responded to the survey, representing the voices of more than 43,000 teachers. Teachers are very positive about the working conditions in their schools with one major exception – time. Teachers feel they do not have adequate time for individual or collaborative planning, both of which have proven to be the most effective in improving student learning outcomes.

While many of our schools are doing an excellent job providing teachers with individual and collaborative planning time, the results show that more than 33 percent of our teachers do not feel that planning time is adequate. More than 26 percent of our teachers have less than one hour of individual planning time per week and more than 58 percent of our teachers have less than one hour of collaborative planning time per week.

I applaud you for being very clear that teacher planning time is essential to improve student learning outcomes. I am very supportive of your wording in the legislation that the nonteaching (planning) time should be “teacher-directed and SHALL be used for common planning time to collaborate on curriculum development and articulation, examine student work and review student performance data, and plan instruction and discuss instructional strategies for struggling students … .” The nonteaching time also will provide teachers with opportunities for job-embedded professional development.

I am very supportive of HB 202 because this legislation will provide teachers with time to improve their professional practice, learn from colleagues, and improve student learning outcomes. Throughout the last few years, Kentucky has asked much from its teachers. Senate Bill 1 of 2009 required teachers to implement new and more rigorous learning standards and more rigorous assessments. Our teachers have done a remarkable job without resources and without adequate time for planning and professional learning. While they have done a terrific job in improving college- and career-readiness rates, there still is much work left to do. Too many of our minority and disadvantaged children are not achieving success. Through HB 202, teachers will have more time to focus on the challenges of closing achievement gaps and helping all children reach college and career readiness.

In my analysis of schools and the working conditions survey data, I believe that many of our schools are already providing teachers with individual and collaborative planning time. Should HB 202 become law, the Kentucky Department of Education will certainly work with all school districts to identify best practices in scheduling and staffing to meet the required minutes. As a matter of fact, numerous states already have legislation like HB 202 that has been successfully implemented. Also, the top performing countries in the world focus on collaborative planning time as described in HB 202.

As a former local superintendent, I implemented legislation similar to HB 202 and was able to do so without additional funding as is the current case in Kentucky with the majority of our school systems. The only caution I would offer is there may be a few small districts that would not have adequate funding to achieve the required minutes. In those few cases, I would offer that the Kentucky Department of Education could work with those districts to identify resources and waive implementation of the 150 minutes until resources could be identified.

Thank you again for supporting the needs of our teachers and students in the Commonwealth.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Rethinking school discipline

Last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released a “Dear Colleague” letter to state chiefs regarding new discipline guidelines. The overarching purpose of the new discipline guidelines is to address apparent disparities in discipline data. 

In Kentucky, we have very safe schools and teachers feel strongly that school discipline policies are working. (See the TELL Kentucky Survey at Also, Kentucky has been working for a number of years to implement programs such as Positive Behavior Intervention Support throughout our schools. However, it is critical that local school districts review the guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and review some of Secretary Duncan’s remarks. Here are highlights from Secretary Duncan’s address announcing the new guidelines.

We’re gathered here today to talk about school disciplinewhich, far too often, is not applied equitably or as effectively as it could be in our nation’s schools.

So today, the Departments of Education and Justice are joining together to release a guidance package on school discipline for a broad range of stakeholders--educators, principals, district administrators, school board members, charter school heads, school resource officers, counselors, social workers, parents, community leaders--and, importantly, students themselves.

Our school discipline package has several elements, but I’ll just highlight two important ones.

 The first is a Dear Colleague Letter from Catherine Lhamon and Jocelyn Samuels, who head the civil rights offices, respectively, at ED and DOJ. Their joint letter provides information on how schools and districts can meet their legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

Racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem today, and not just an issue from 40 to 50 years ago. I want to thank Catherine and Jocelyn and their staffs for their tremendous leadership and commitment in addressing inequities in discipline that have been much discussed but rarely addressed. We must tackle these brutal truths head on—that is the only way to change the reality that our children face every day.

This is the first Administration to provide guidance to the public on discrimination in school discipline. And we want to continue to provide leadership on this critical problem going forward to ensure equal opportunity for all students.

The second part of the guidance package that I want to highlight is a Guiding Principles document that provides voluntary action steps for local leaders and educators. It lays out three core principles and related action steps to guide efforts to improve school climate and school discipline.

There is no single formula, no silver bullet for ensuring school discipline is equitable and effective. This work is too complex and too important to try to simplify it in that way.

Our Guiding Principles document highlights the need for locally-developed approaches to promote positive school climates and equitable discipline practices. Yet at the same time, we think those locally-tailored approaches should be grounded in research and promising practices--instead of being based on indiscriminate zero tolerance policies, or, at the other extreme, ad-hoc approaches to discipline.

The need to rethink and redesign school discipline practices is long overdue. Too many schools resort too quickly to exclusionary discipline, even for minor misbehaviors.

Exclusionary discipline is so common that in some cases, pre-K students as young as three- and four-years old are getting suspended. Here in Maryland, 91 pre-K students were suspended or expelled during the 2011-12 school year.

Schools should remove students from the classroom as a last resort, and only for appropriately serious infractions, like endangering the safety of other students, teachers, or themselves. 

Unfortunately today, suspensions and expulsions are not primarily used as a last resort for serious infractions.

A landmark study in Texas found nearly six in ten public school students—a majority of students--were suspended or expelled at least once between 7th and 12th grade.

Nationwide, as many as 95 percent of out-of-school suspensions are for nonviolent misbehavior--like being disruptive, acting disrespectfully, tardiness, profanity, and dress code violations.

Let me be clear—these are all issues that must be dealt with clearly, effectively, and with a sense of urgency when they arise. But I would just ask, is putting children out of school the best remedy, the best solution to the problem? In California, nearly half of the more than 700,000 suspensions statewide in the 2011-12 school year were for, quote, “willful defiance.”

Over time, the overreliance on exclusionary discipline has gotten much worse. The number of secondary school students suspended or expelled over the course of a school year has increased by roughly 40 percent in the last four decades.

In recent years, secondary schools have suspended or expelled an estimated two million students a year. That is a staggering amount of lost learning time--and lost opportunity to provide support.

Making matters worse, exclusionary discipline is applied disproportionately to children of color and students with disabilities. Educationally, and morally, that status quo is simply unacceptable.

Our department’s Civil Rights Data Collection shows that African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be expelled or suspended.

And we know that discipline policy and practices matter tremendously—there is nothing inevitable about high rates of suspension and expulsion. We can, and must, do much better.

According to CRDC data, schools in South Carolina suspended 12.7 percent of students—about one in eight students during the 2009-10 school year. By contrast, schools in North Dakota suspended 2.2 percent of students—about one out of every 50 students.

I am absolutely confident that students in South Carolina are not six times more likely than their peers in North Dakota to pose serious discipline problems worthy of an out-of-school suspension. That huge disparity is not caused by differences in children; it’s caused by differences in training, professional development, and discipline policies. It is adult behavior that needs to change.

The same gaping disparities show up at the district level. Across the country, more than 300 districts suspend over 25 percent of students with disabilities. Yet more than 600 districts suspend less than 3 percent of students with disabilities.

So, state and local policies and practices are both enormously variable and have a huge impact on exclusionary discipline. Those are just two reasons why this guidance package--spelling out three guiding principles for equitable school discipline—is so important.

USED offers several resources to schools and districts on the supportive school discipline 
initiative. You can access them on USED’s school climate and discipline webpage.

Terry Holliday, Ph.D.
Education Commissioner