Friday, January 31, 2014

Footing the bill for dual credit courses

This week, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 87 out of committee.  Sen. Stan Humphries has done an excellent job bringing this bill back to the General Assembly --the bill passed the Senate in 2013. This legislation would support dual credit courses in our high schools. 

Dual credit is defined in KRS 164.002 (4) as a “college-level course of study developed in accordance with KRS 164.098 (Council on Postsecondary Education standards) in which a student receives credit from both the high school and postsecondary institution.” Under SB 87, students could use Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money they had earned to pay for tuition of up to six college credits per year.

Below is an excerpt from a blog I wrote in 2012 about the need for dual credit funding.
The Need for College Credit for High School Students 

Recently, The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)              
        conducted a survey of school districts to ask about dual credit
        • more than 32 percent of school districts do not offer dual credit
           for career and technical courses
        • more than 97 percent of school districts do offer dual credit for
           college general education courses
        • more than 60 percent of the districts require parents/students
           to pay for tuition costs
        • more than 60 percent of districts require parents/students to
           pay for textbooks
        • more than 30 percent of districts utilize virtual learning for
          dual credit

As I visit school districts across Kentucky, I find many variations
        in the cost of dual credit. In some locations, the postsecondary
        institution has funding to offer dual credit at no cost to students.
        In other locations, students pay the full tuition costs that a
        college student would pay.

 The results of our survey and my personal visits reveal a number
         of concerns about equity of opportunity across Kentucky for
         students to have equal access to dual credit courses.
         Why is dual credit a good idea?

 A recent study from Jobs for the Future – Taking College
         Courses in High School: A Strategy for College Readiness –
         studied the impact of dual credit courses in Texas. Texas has
         had a strategy around college readiness and dual credit for
         a number of years. Here are some of the findings
         • Students who take dual credit courses were 2.2 times
            more likely to enroll in higher education.
         • Students who took dual credit courses were 2 times
            more likely to return for a second year of college.
         • Students who took dual credit courses were 1.7 times
            more likely to complete a college degree.

I strongly support SB 87 for the following reasons.
• Dual credit works. As evidenced in my 2012 blog, students
   who take dual credit courses are more successful in
• Funding will actually save money. Providing KEES
   funding for high school students taking dual credit courses
   will actually save money in the long run. Students who
   receive dual credit tuition funding through KEES will be
   more likely to complete postsecondary degrees which will
   lead to better paying jobs and improved revenue for the state.
• Funding for dual credit addresses inequity. Students in
   Pikeville should have the same opportunity to take dual credit
   courses as students in Paducah and receive tuition support
   from the state. Our current system reveals huge inequities
   across school 
systems and higher education service regions.
   Why should one 
student pay $190 per credit hour in one part
   of the state and 
another student receive the course for no cost?
 There are no long term costs. SB 87 would provide the
   funding for tuition through KEES funds, however, no student
   would get more KEES funding than they would have earned
   under the existing  program. There will be a short term cost
   as the program is implemented for high school seniors in
   2014-15 and high school juniors in 2015-16.
• Funding will increase our college- and career-readiness
 In 2009, Senate Bill 1 set a goal of 67 percent of KY high
   school graduates reaching college and career readiness by 2015.
   Students who successfully complete dual credit courses in either
   general education or career/technical education are twice as
   likely to reach college- and career-readiness as students who do
   not take dual credit courses.
• Funding will enhance career and technical education.
   Prior to 2012-13, there was no significant cost for many students
   who took dual credit career and technical courses. Since that
   time, enrollment has dramatically decreased due to students
   having to pay an administrative fee to take the courses. This
   decline in dual credit enrollment in career and technical courses
   will have a significant impact on students able to gain industry
   recognized certifications which in turn means Kentucky will
   have a less skilled workforce.
 Dual credit benefits many students. Dual credit is not just
   for our brightest students. More than 3,700 students earned in
   excess of 22,000 credit hours in 2012-13 and thousands more
   earned dual credit in general education courses. In many school
   districts, better than 40 percent of high school seniors graduate
   with six or more credit hours thanks to dual credit. In many
   of our early college models,  students can graduate with 30
   hours or more of dual credit. 
• Dual credit saves parents and students money. By gaining
   dual credit through an early college program or career technical
   program, students achieve college- and career- readiness at
   higher rates meaning they should not have to take non-credit
   bearing remedial courses in college which will save parents and
   students money.

As a member of the board that oversees the KEES funding, I do recognize that we must work out the initial impact of SB 87; however, I do hope that we will not sacrifice long term benefits for our students, our postsecondary programs, and our economy for the sake of short term inability to provide adequate funding. I hope we can come together in the next few weeks to resolve the issues around

Friday, January 24, 2014

Strong leadership will let Kentucky soar, not stagnate

Governor Beshear recently convened a group of business leaders, legislators, educators, and policy makers from across the southern region to study career and technical education. This group was convened under the support of the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) for which Governor Beshear is the chair in 2014. The group will complete its work with a report in late summer. I was excited to be a part of the group since KDE was also conducting a career and technical education study with the support of the Southern Region Education Board.

During a recent meeting, all of the southern region states made presentations about different aspects of career and technical education. We had presentations from national and international leaders.  And we received numerous research reports that will inform our final recommendations. One of the reports comes from Anthony Carnevale, one of the most respected researchers in the field of education and workforce, at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The report is titled “A Decade Behind: Breaking Out of the Low-Skill Trap in the Southern Economy.” I want to share a few of the findings from the report since they will inform eventual recommendations not only for the SREB report but also for the Kentucky specific report.

Jobs will require more technical skills and training beyond high school. By 2020, 66 percent of jobs in the United States will require some postsecondary training. In the Southern Region, the projection is 59 percent and in Kentucky, 54 percent. Unless we do something different, in the south and in Kentucky, we will not have as many well-paying jobs as other states and that will have an impact on our region’s and our state’s economy.

There is a low-wage and low-skill equilibrium in the south and in Kentucky. Supply and demand for skill are balanced with low education and low wage levels. In recent days, this has been exactly the conversation that the Saving Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative has been having in Eastern Kentucky.

How do you break out of the low-wage and low-skill equilibrium? There are two strategies to do this and both strategies must work closely together and develop simultaneously. We can produce more high-skill talent through postsecondary training and we must modernize existing industries and attract new industries that have high-skill and high-wage jobs.

What happens if one comes before the other? If you have more postsecondary talent and few high-skill and high-wage jobs, then you will have a brain drain to other states where the jobs exist. If you have the high-skill and high-wage jobs but the workforce is low-skill, then the business will import talent from other states. This is exactly the pattern that we have seen first with Toyota and in more recent days with General Electric and Ford. Importing talent from other states may help the economy, however, it does not help Kentucky workers land higher paying jobs.

Governor Beshear understands the issues and I feel certain that our General Assembly also understands that the recruitment of high-skill and high-wage jobs requires an equal push to develop a highly skilled workforce.  A highly skilled workforce comes through investment in education from early childhood through postsecondary attainment. 

I am excited that Governor Beshear’s budget is focused on the competitiveness of Kentucky and his budget priorities are evidenced in his focus on early childhood and K-12 education and economic development (from cradle to career). However, there remains much work to do with investment in postsecondary education and training. 

I encourage our lawmakers to look for additional revenue sources to invest in postsecondary education and training. 

There are those that will say the time is not right. There are those that will say we must cut in order to live within our means and we cannot raise revenue. However, the message from all of the research, reports, and practical experience of business leaders and policy makers is that we should not be swayed by the false dichotomy of investment versus no revenue. 

The long term benefits of investment in education and training will greatly outweigh the short term push back on expanding revenue sources. Kentucky can lead or watch other states soar beyond us. Difficult times require strong leaders who can make tough decisions. Governor Beshear exhibited his strong leadership this week. Now it is up to the General Assembly.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Elevating and integrating career and tech ed

In a few weeks, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will release findings from a study of our career and technical education programs. KDE requested the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) study pursuant to recent legislation that merged the former Office of Career and Technical Education within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet with our local Carl Perkins programs in the Department of Education. It was important for the department to have an independent outside voice make key findings and recommendations on how to elevate and integrate career and technical education in the Commonwealth. Once we report the findings, we will ask the House and Senate Education chairs to provide time either during session or during the interim period to review the findings and recommendation from the report. 

Why do we want to elevate and integrate career and technical education in Kentucky? The simple answer is that we need to do a better job preparing and advising students for the career options that are available in Kentucky and the United States. While some of these jobs will require 4-year degrees, the vast majority of jobs that pay a living wage require 1-year technical or 2-year associate degrees.

A few years ago, I read a book titled “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton. Mr. Clifton provides projections that globally, more than 3 billion people are looking for jobs that pay a living wage; there are currently only 1.2 billion such jobs. That leaves a gap of 1.8 billion jobs.

U.S. companies are more and more internationally based. They will place their companies where they can find a qualified work force at the lowest cost. Nations who are surpassing the U.S. on international tests like PISA and TIMSS are most certainly focused on increasing the talent pool so they can attract more economic development and more jobs. International test scores do impact the economy.

We have already seen many jobs losses in our country. The loss of U.S. jobs has affected our adult population; however, the biggest impact is in our 18-24 year-old population. Too many of these young people lack the skills required for 21st century jobs. The unemployment rate for the 18-24 year- old group is double that of the general population (15 percent vs. 7.3 percent). When you breakout the data by subgroups, we find that black males, 18-24 years old, have an unemployment rate that exceeds 30 percent. The vast majority of these young people graduated from high school. When you look at high school dropouts, the numbers of unemployed greatly increase.

Why are so many young people unemployed and underemployed? The reasons are clear.

1. More than 50 percent of employers state that these young people do not have the skills for the jobs that are available. There are more than 3.2 million jobs unfilled in the U.S. -- many in manufacturing and health care. These jobs are unfilled because employers cannot find candidates with the skills needed. Many of these jobs require only 1-year technical or 2-year associate degrees. 

2. Our students do not receive adequate career counseling and they make poor career decisions. Too often our students enter career studies where very few jobs exist and pass over career studies that have job openings. Too often we hear stories of students who graduate from a 4-year college and are unable to find a job in their chosen area so they take a low-paying and low-skills job. We also hear the opposite – an employer has numerous openings for jobs that pay a living wage and cannot find applicants who are qualified.

Career and technical education must be elevated and integrated into P-12 education in Kentucky. 
We must raise it to a level equal to college or academic preparation. 
We must do a better job of advising students on what jobs are available and then matching them to their career interest through a career pathway. 
We must integrate career and technical education through new delivery models that integrate CTE and academic requirements in full day programs that do not require lost time in transportation between programs. 
We must eliminate career and technical programs that are out-of-date and do not have positive job prospects. 
We must start new career and technical programs based on local and regional industry needs. 
We must communicate and collaborate with industry to create model programs like our Advance Manufacturing program in Scott County with Toyota. 
We must update facilities and equipment in our career and technical programs to help prepare students for the high-tech and high-skills jobs. 

As we roll out the findings and recommendations from the Southern Region Education Board, I hope readers will help communicate the importance of career and technical education throughout the Commonwealth. 

Terry Holliday, Ph.D.
Education Commissioner

Friday, January 10, 2014

Prioritizing education from cradle to career

It was my honor to attend the 2014 State of the Commonwealth address by Governor Steve Beshear this week. Education was a highlight of the speech (to watch the speech click here; to listen to the speech click here).

I was very excited about the emphasis on cradle-to-career education. This phrase captures our work with early childhood, Senate Bill 1, college/career-readiness and the recent push from the Council on Postsecondary Education for “15 to Finish.” 

The Governor was very clear about the need to reinvest in education in order to ensure a highly skilled workforce for the future.  A strong workforce is an educated workforce, and Kentucky has made enormous progress in creating a seamless, cradle-to-career education system that is better preparing students for a complex world.

With special focus on early childhood education, raising the graduation rate, and increasing college- and career-readiness for all students, Kentucky’s schools are emerging as national leaders in education reform and measurable student progress.

In 2013, Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” report ranked Kentucky in the top 10 states in student performance and education progress. The state is implementing the Graduation Bill passed last session, which will require students to stay in school until age 18. And last month, Kentucky won a $44.3 million federal Race to the Top grant to improve early learning programs for thousands of Kentucky preschoolers.

But schools have stretched their dollars as far as they can, the Governor warned, and will lose ground without new investment.

Kentucky has frozen SEEK – the basic funding formula for K-12 classrooms – for six years, even as student enrollment expanded, costs increased and local support in some areas dropped. Plus, budget pressures forced deep cuts in areas ranging from textbooks to teacher training and school safety. Meanwhile, because of impending federal sequester cuts, schools face the prospect of significant layoffs, increased classroom sizes and out-of-date technology.

“We are in danger of losing all of the positive momentum which has been built up. And I am not going to allow that to happen,” the Governor said. “I am determined to find money to reinvest in education – even if I have to make harmful cuts in other areas to do so.”

Fiscal discipline and aggressive managing of the budget – including some $1.6 billion in spending cuts – helped Kentucky get through the recession, but in some areas the cuts went deep enough to damage programs and services critical to building a stronger future.

“We cannot continue making progress by paying teachers less than they deserve, by ignoring needs like textbooks and technology, by delaying research into innovative energy production, by pricing college out of reach, by leaving needed cancer screenings unfunded, and by retreating from things like child care and mental health services,” Gov. Beshear said.

The Governor identified two possible sources of new, recurring revenue with which to make investments: tax reform -- increasing competitiveness by broadening our tax base and improving our business climate will help stabilize future budgets -- and gaming.

Gov. Beshear said he would ask the General Assembly again to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot related to expanded gaming.

Over the years several economic studies of various gaming scenarios have projected potential Kentucky tax revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars – money that is currently crossing the border “to fund roads and schools in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and other states.”

Kentuckians “want to vote on this issue,” he said.