Friday, December 19, 2014

Education issues and the 2015 General Assembly

Season’s greetings! I hope that readers of this blog will take time over the next couple of weeks to relax and spend time with family and friends. The holiday season is an excellent time to recharge your batteries.  I plan to do just that, so this will be my last blog for 2014, but will return to the keyboard for a January 9, 2015 entry.

As we look forward to the New Year, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is preparing for a busy legislative session. Here are some of the hot topics we predict will be on the education agenda for the upcoming General Assembly.

     1)  Charter Schools – we will again see legislation to create charter "
     schools in Kentucky. Our state is one of only eight states without
     charters. I am hearing about the possibility of a small pilot of
     five to six charter schools in districts that have very low-performing
     schools with significant achievement gaps.

     2)  Teacher Pension Plan – the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System
     has asked the General Assembly to consider a plan that would require
     a $3.3 billion bond to shore up the underfunded retirement system.
     This system is critical for recruitment and retention of high-quality

     3)  School Funding – while 2015 is not a budget session, there are
     a number of funding issues that could surface. The Council for
     Better Education report recently released at the Kentucky
     Association of School Superintendents’ winter meeting will garner
     a lot of attention. The 
$2 billion-plus price tag is sure to get attention. |
     Also, KDE will be releasing a report on funding of the career and
     technical education programs in Kentucky. Finally, we may see
     discussion of impact of revenue shortfall and SEEK shortfall.

     4)  Dual Credit – a recent set of recommendations from the dual
     credit task force will generate discussion about how to ensure
     quality, access, funding, and transferability of courses.

     5)  Merging County Systems – several county school systems
     have been identified for state assistance and state management.
     Some county systems are very close to not having a 2 percent
     fund balance. The General Assembly previously enacted legislation
     that allowed a financially insolvent independent district to merge
     with a county system; however, currently there are no statutes that
     allow for the merger of an insolvent county system to merge with
     another system.

     6)  Closing Achievement Gaps – this issue will be part of the
     charter school issue but will also be an overarching theme of the
     Education Committees. The achievement gap in Kentucky begins
     before students enter kindergarten, continues throughout P-12,
     postsecondary, and is very obvious when we look at labor and salary
     studies for adults.

At the national level, KDE will be working to support reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – most recently dubbed the No Child Left Behind Act – and the Carl Perkins Act which is the primary vehicle for federal funding of career and technical education. We are very excited about the potential of both bills moving forward very quickly under the leadership of Sen. Alexander of Tennessee and Majority Leader McConnell.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A model for superintendent evaluation

At the December Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) meeting, the board finalized my evaluation and agreed upon the goals that will be used for my 2014-15 evaluation. Viewers may read my evaluation summary and see the goals that KBE set for me for 2014-15. The Kentucky Board of Education has utilized this process during my tenure and on numerous occasions the board has strongly recommended that local superintendents and school boards utilize a similar process. 

Over the past three years, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has worked with stakeholders to develop a superintendent professional growth and effectiveness system. Chief of Staff, Dr. Tommy Floyd, has led this work over the last 18 months and the advisory committee of stakeholders developed excellent resources that can be utilized by superintendents and school boards.

As with any initiative, there remain questions and concerns about the new Superintendent Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (SPGES). A visit to the webpage should provide readers with clarity on most issues. However, I did want to respond to one issue that surfaced in recent meetings with the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) and the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS). There was some confusion on training and if districts could utilize a model other than the state-developed model. 

As to the training, it has always been our intent that the Kentucky School Boards Association will take the lead on training. Also, the webpage for the SPGES has more than adequate materials for a local school board to become familiar with the new system. 

The issue about using a model other than the state model is very simple. According to statute, KRS 156.557 (6)(a), a local school board must approve a superintendent evaluation model and submit that model to the KDE for approval. School boards must decide by the end of this month as to their local model for evaluation of the superintendent for 2015-16 and submit that model to KDE for approval. If the model chosen by the local board is the state developed model, then a local board is assured of approval. Should a local board submit a locally developed model, then that model will be reviewed against the key requirements established by the superintendent evaluation task force. The confusion across the state seems to come from KSBA wanting to submit a model for approval. To be clear, KSBA is not a school district. However, a local school board could submit the KSBA model for consideration by KDE. 

For additional questions or concerns about the Superintendent Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, please contact Dr. Tommy Floyd, or (502)564-3141.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kentucky Rising

“Kentucky's first settlers brought with them a dedication to democracy and a sense of limitless hope about the future. They were determined to participate in world progress in science, education, and manufacturing. The early years of statehood were an era of great optimism and progress and the eyes of the nation often focused on Kentucky. … Globally oriented Kentuckians were determined to transform the frontier into a network of communities exporting to the world market. …”

These words come from a book titled Kentucky Rising and while they describe Kentucky more than two centuries ago, they serve as inspiration today for a new initiative in our state on which work has already begun. We call it Kentucky Rising. 

In order for the economy of the Commonwealth to continue to grow and create jobs for our citizens, the education community must respond and create a stronger workforce that meets the requirements of foreign industries who are investing directly in Kentucky and industries that are creating trade with other countries. Kentucky Rising will establish criteria for a diploma/certificate/endorsement that certifies a high school graduate meets the requirements to take the next steps, whether that is pursuit of a career or postsecondary education, to ensure our workforce is an asset for global economic development. 

A joint meeting of the chairs and vice-chairs of the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) and Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) and their agency heads is being planned for some time in January to gain support for the Kentucky Rising initiative. A statewide meeting to gain support from multiple partners will follow. In addition, a comprehensive needs-assessment will be completed to identify current initiatives and programs that should be integrated with Kentucky Rising. 

All of these activities will be used to gather input for creating a unified plan in which CPE, EPSB, KBE and the Kentucky Department of Education, and other partners will have key roles and responsibilities. Funding and staff support for Kentucky Rising will be managed through The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky.

This is an exciting venture that holds great promise for our children and our state. I will share more about Kentucky Rising as we move forward.

On another topic, I wanted to briefly follow up to my blog, Politics as usual or not?, from several weeks ago about federal waivers and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Since then, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has notified Kentucky that our state is one of seven eligible to apply for a four-year renewal of its ESEA Flexibility Waiver (most states can apply for only a three-year renewal) and participate in an expedited review process. Our current waiver expires at the end of the current school year.

Kentucky was granted this opportunity because of the focused work that our educators, partners and state department staff have carried out to implement Kentucky’s plan under ESEA flexibility. By participating in the expedited review process, the due date for the revised waiver request will be January 30. USED will provide a final decision by the end of March.

As is customary when the waiver document is revised, it will be made available to education constituents, the public and the board for review and feedback before it is submitted. Any feedback that we receive is reported to USED as part of the waiver submission process.