PGES and the New Teacher

Todd County Central High School Science Teacher Pennye Rogers, a 2014-15 Hope Street Group Fellow, talks about the new PGES evaluation system and what it means for the beginning teacher.

Here are some highlights of what she has to say over at the Prichard Blog:

 I have heard conversations that stated: “PGES is not good for new teachers.” The explanation was that new teachers don’t have the skills necessary to promote student growth, nor are they competent in the strategies to teach the content. But, it is my understanding that the peer observer is to encourage the observed teacher to reflect upon his/her teaching practices and guide them toward improvement. It is important to note that a single peer observation may not be enough in this situation. However, a new teacher would most likely have a mentor already through the KY Teacher Internship Program. I find it disturbing that new teachers who have the potential to become great teachers may be let go at an increased rate and blamed on PGES because he/she cannot score high enough on the evaluation scale! New teachers simply don’t have the experience and confidence necessary to excel in all areas evaluated.

Here, Rogers is recommending that administrators take note of the potential impact of PGES on a new teacher. Additionally, a new teacher’s KTIP mentor should assist that teacher in advocating for his/her needs as it relates to the evaluation.

The KTIP program is a fairly intense mentorship of first-year teachers that provides support, feedback, and guidance in the critical early phase of teaching. Combining effective mentorship with the new evaluation model is an important element in the future success of PGES.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

Jeff Hoover on Teacher Pensions

House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover attempts to use teacher pension reform as an argument in favor of electing a GOP majority to the Kentucky House.

In an article for the Courier-Journal, he points out:

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report issued by KTRS this past December shows the system had approximately 75,000 active and 47,000 retired members. The report states the funding level this past year was 51.9 percent, with $13.85 billion in unfunded liabilities. According to data released by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce this past week, a key reason for this underfunding is actual employer contributions to the system have been significantly less than the amount required to sustain financial obligations.

Hoover is right to note that the teacher pension system may soon face problems. Not being able to pay benefits promised and owed would be devastating.

And, in his article, he’s simply calling for the creation of a task force to examine the issue and make recommendations.

That, too, seems reasonable.

Fixing the pension problem won’t be easy and it will take political courage.

But, let’s be clear: Teachers are not the ones who failed to properly fund the pension system for years and years. Teachers did not make promises they couldn’t meet. Teachers should not bear the brunt of any proposed pension reform. The budget in Kentucky should not be balanced on the backs of Kentucky’s teachers.

Comprehensive reform that ensures the teacher pension fund is able to meet future obligations must include proper funding of those obligations. That will mean that new revenue must go to the fund OR that other programs are cut to make room in the budget for teacher pensions.

Kentucky made a promise to its teachers. Kentucky’s political leadership should keep that promise.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

School Facilities and Student Learning

The Prichard Blog has a story today on what has happened to school facilities in Kentucky since the Rose case.  That’s the case that determined that Kentucky’s school funding was inadequate and mandated a new formula. It’s what led up to KERA and the SEEK funding formula.

The study, by Caroline Wilson, details the impact on student learning of school facilities.

Specifically, Wilson notes:

The findings suggest that the additional facilities funding since the Rose decision created a teaching and learning environment that supported the tenets of an adequate education that previously had not been realized.

That is to say that the Rose decision had a positive impact on the facilities available for student learning and that this, in turn, positively impacted student learning.

Wilson examined 5 building features to determine first, if they had improved and then, if the improvement had impacted student learning.

The features included:

Five features were selected for examination: security, technological readiness, lighting, thermal comfort and air quality.

The full study details exactly how the Rose decision impacted facility funding in Kentucky and how it specifically impacted the student learning environment under study.

The bottom line is this: The study suggests that the funding formula changes after the Rose decision have improved the learning environment for Kentucky kids.  Kentucky has continued to fund education reform and it appears to be paying off in terms of improved facilities and better outcomes for students.

For more on Kentucky education policy and politics, follow @KYEdReport

 

Community Outreach and Common Core Success

The Center for American Progress has a new report out: Roadmap for a Successful Transition to the Common Core in States and Districts in which recommendations for transitioning to the Common Core State Standards are made.

The report highlights states and districts getting things right about Common Core implementation. Specifically, the report mentions Kentucky’s efforts around community engagement and the Common Core State Standards.

Noteworthy is the mention of the aggressive communication efforts by the Kentucky Department of Education in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Regarding the success of these efforts, the report notes:

The expansive outreach campaign has helped the vast majority of teachers feel comfortable and ready to teach the Common Core standards. Last November and December, the Kentucky Department of Education conducted an anonymous, voluntary survey to gauge educator attitudes about the state’s new standards. According to survey findings, 86 percent of respondents believe that they are prepared to teach the standards, and 90 percent believe that the new standards are more rigorous than the previous standards.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards and the state has consistently communicated expectations to both teachers and the larger community.  The coordinated communication effort appears to be paying off in a successful implementation of the standards.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Building Partnerships for School Readiness

OVEC CEO Dr. Leon Mooneyhan has some thoughts on building partnerships for school readiness over at the Prichard Blog.

Here are some highlights:

Research by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman  shows that quality preschool experiences impact character development that leads to increases in monthly income and the probability of employment and decreases in lifetime arrests, felony arrests, violent crimes, teen pregnancy and tobacco use.

Keeping Heckman’s research in mind, the Hardin County Schools begin their work at birth. The district’s “Books for Babies” project provides every baby born at Hardin Memorial Hospital a copy of “Read to Your Bunny” by Rosemary Wells

Mooneyhan notes that the partnerships involve the entire community, including childcare providers, medical providers, and educators.  It’s a team effort to get kids off to the right start.  And in Hardin County, Kentucky it’s making a difference.

Read more

 

About Kentucky’s Governor’s Scholars Program

Today, the Prichard Blog features a guest post by Aristofanes Cedeño, Executive Director and Academic Dean of the Governor’s Scholars Program.

Here are some highlights:

Today, the Governor’s Scholars Program boasts more than 25,000 alumni. Approximately 77% of them live right here in the Commonwealth, but whether they reside around the corner or around the world, they are doing great things. They are educators, entrepreneurs, and artists; Olympic athletes and Congressmen. Through their service and their leadership, they serve as beacons whose impact radiates within and beyond their communities. For 31 years, the Governor’s Scholars Program has been nurturing Kentucky’s best and brightest students in order to make our Commonwealth even better and brighter. The 32 nd summer will continue igniting the extraordinary potential of our future leaders.

When the Governor’s Scholars Program opens its three sessions in the summer of 2014, it will welcome our next generation of leaders representing all areas of Kentucky: Eastern (23%), Western (23%), Northern (12.1%), Central (25.3%), and Jefferson County (17%). In looking to the future, some experiences in life are truly transformational. The Governor’s Scholars initiative is an example of such experiences that change participants’ lives. Whether in the arts, business, or civic and economic matters, the mission and goals of the Program address the future of the Commonwealth. In so doing, we seek to honor our past and to adhere to the educational legacy of academic excellence that we inherited from the visionary leaders who created the Governor’s Scholars Program.

Read more.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Beyond the Test: A Kentucky Experiment

Over at Tennessee Education Report there’s an article featuring highlights from a piece written by teacher Ezra Howard in Bluff City Ed. Howard notes that the current model of testing doesn’t work well for many students and argues for a move to a portfolio-based model of assessment.

Now, there’s this piece at NPR noting that in one school district in Kentucky, schools are moving toward a form of portfolio assessment.  Early results show this method of assessment holds some promise.

Here are the highlights from the NPR story:

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt the Common Core and the tests that align with it. This spring, the 1,700-student Danville district thinks it’s found a better way to teach the Core.

Danville has moved to performance-based assessments.  And at one middle school, here’s what that looks like:

The entire curriculum at this school has been redesigned around interdisciplinary projects, which take several weeks to complete. The English and social studies seventh-grade PBATs were group projects that took place in the fall.

One by one, the students stand and give a 20-minute solo presentation with a PowerPoint or video. Separately, they’ve handed in 15-page research papers. They’re giving these presentations to panels of judges made up of teachers from other grades or the high school, officials from a neighboring district, education students from the University of Kentucky, and fellow students.

I watch as student after student confidently answers questions about the steps of the scientific method, experimental design, math concepts like mean and median, and, most impressively, how the project relates to his or her life. And they listen respectfully to each other, giving helpful feedback.

Most projects are graded “outstanding” or “competent.” A few are judged “needs revision,” which means the students will keep working on them until they pass muster.

Better than the PARCC?

What makes the Danville experiment particularly noteworthy is that Kentucky was out ahead of the nation on adoption of the Common Core State Standards for English and math. Swann believes the standards are worthwhile, but thinks schools can do better than the tests that go with them. Though the new Common Core tests have been touted as improvements over what they replaced, she says they are really “the same old multiple choice,” and adds, “I feel like on a standardized test you’re really showing what kids don’t know.”

If performance-based assessment is so good, why keep standardized tests?

Of course, there are reasons U.S. schools have gravitated toward standardized tests instead. They’re (relatively) cheap, easily administered, and they carry the promise of some kind of “objective” measure. In other words, they’re “standardized.”

Growing Support?

The chief state school officers in Kentucky and eight other states have formed a group known as the Innovation Lab Network. These states have adopted performance-based learning as one of their “critical attributes” for a successful school. (The other states are California, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin.)

Several of these states are moving to include a performance-assessment option in public schools. Vermont is taking similar steps, and there is a New England Secondary School Consortium of 400 high schools using it as well.

In other words, a state can have both Common Core State Standards AND “authentic assessment.”

And while for now, the kids in Danville still use the state test as well, there’s a move in the legislature to allow exemptions for districts that implement performance-based testing.

Moving toward a hybrid model, where performance-based assessment becomes the primary means of assessment and standardized tests are used at key checkpoints in a child’s educational career, could be the educational wave of the future.

Yes, there are costs associated with administering and grading these assessments.  And they don’t easily fit into existing statistical “growth models” for teacher evaluation. But, shifting toward performance-based testing could facilitate a shift in the way teachers are evaluated — where teachers are assessed based on the actual, demonstrated growth of the students they actually teach.

Much is said in the world of education policy about the importance of putting students first and not doing what is convenient or expedient for adults. Performance-based assessment is student-focused and sets a high standard for teachers and school leaders. As Kentucky continues its exploration of this model, surely there are lessons that can be applied across the country.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

Teacher Preparation Changes in Kentucky

Dr. Ann Elisabeth Larson, Vice Dean and Professor, Dean-elect of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville, offers some insight on how teacher preparation is changing over at the Prichard Blog.

The bottom line: MORE classroom time for aspiring educators and stronger partnerships between universities training new teachers and the school districts hiring those teachers.

Some key takeaways:

New standards, priorities and reform in policy and practice will shape and be shaped by clinically rich, effective forms of teacher preparation programs. Dr. James Cibulka, president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), reflected on the transformation of teacher education: “One of the major themes of NCATE’s Blue Ribbon Panel Report, Transforming Teacher Education: A National Strategy for Preparing Effective Teachers, is the need for new types of partnerships between higher education and P-12 in the service of P-12 student learning (Cibulka, 2010).”

KACTE recognizes that by bringing together theory, practice, preparation and application in the clinical setting of a P-12 school, all stakeholders gain new knowledge and skills aimed at improved P-12 student learning. Teacher candidates have authentic teaching opportunities with excellent and dedicated teachers; teachers have professional development opportunities to develop innovative “best practice” teaching strategies; and inquiry and data based decision-making guide instructional and program improvement in both the school and university settings. The need for new types of partnerships between higher education and P-12 schools to educate teachers in the service of P-12 student learning has never been more compelling.

Essentially, lots more focus on actual classroom experience and feedback to adequately prepare teachers for the career they will enter.  And a stronger focus from colleges on providing the supply of teachers school districts need.

Read all of Dr. Larson’s piece.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Where Does the Money Go in JCPS?

Toni Konz at the Courier-Journal has a fascinating breakdown of the JCPS budget and where the money goes, school-by-school.  65%, or $733 million, goes directly to schools.

Eastern, Ballard, and PRP are the most expensive JCPS schools, coming in at around $12 million each.

 

 

The Importance of Family Engagement

Prichard Committee member Cory Curl writes about the importance of family engagement to the success of schools. In addition to being a Prichard Committee member, Curl has worked in the Tennessee Governor’s Office on education policy as well as for the Tennessee Department of Education.

One key takeaway from Curl’s article is the importance of training parents to be effective advocates not only for their own children, but their community’s schools.  Curl writes:

How can parents and families help their child’s school? My perspective is that the best things parents and families can do are to help their children learn at home, and to help other families do the same. In Kentucky, the Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (GCIPL), is a treasured resource to help parents learn about the education system and how to be education leaders. Most importantly, GCIPL guides parents in putting in practice what they have learned – and many end their training by launching a program in their child’s school or districts to help other parents.

Programs like GCIPL are also transformative in that they help parents and families understand what questions to ask administrators and teachers in their child’s school, to whom and how to ask the questions in order to both support the school’s efforts and spark action to make changes when needed.

Promoting community engagement around schools — rather than simply talking about the importance of community engagement — is critical to make schools successful.  Too often, parents don’t know how to be engaged or where to direct important questions.  Programs like GCIPL help address this concern and give parents the tools to be powerful advocates.  Education-minded groups in other states would do well to replicate a proven program like GCIPL.

For more from Cory Curl, read here.

For more on education policy and politics in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport