Voluntary Vouchers?

Gary Houchens writes about an interesting approach to vouchers in Kentucky. I’m not sure this proposal will go very far, but here’s a summary of the proposal:

HB 384 would allow private citizens or corporations to make donations to tuition assistance programs that would provide subsidies for children who cannot afford private school tuition, and then receive a credit on their state tax bill for half the amount of their donation.  These tuition assistance programs would provide help to poor and middle class families with annual household incomes up to $60,000, with $10,000 added to that threshold for each additional school-aged child in the family.

Also, HB 384 would allow citizens and companies to make similar donations to the Commonwealth School Improvement Fund (CSIF), which was established by the state legislature several years ago to support struggling public schools in their improvement efforts.  These donations would also be subject to the 50% state tax credit.  In this way, HB 384 is a great mechanism for supporting both public and non-public schools.

Gary explains his reasons for supporting the legislation in his post.

Here are some thoughts I have on the pros and cons of this approach:

PROS

Donations to the fund are strictly voluntary. No tax dollars go directly to supporting schools accepting the tuition assistance (voucher).

Because the program is a tax credit, per pupil dollars are not directly taken from school systems in the way they are in traditional voucher programs.

The bill also encourages funding for a school improvement program designed to help struggling schools – I find the approach of offering more support/assistance to struggling schools preferable to punishing those schools.

CONS

The funding may vary from year to year, so it is not clear what happens if donations aren’t enough to cover commitments as the voucher program expands.

Ultimately, there would be an adjustment to funds public school systems receive as the SEEK formula is calculated in years following a student leaving via a voucher

The uncertainty of the funding may discourage some families from accepting the voucher, thus limiting any positive impact it may have

School improvement funding should not be contingent on voluntary funds

I think the idea of providing tax credits to individuals and corporations who support a school improvement fund is a novel approach to a particularly tricky problem. Likewise, because the donations are voluntary and the ultimate cost in terms of public dollars, even with tax credits, is likely minimal – this voucher scheme seems less onerous than others around the country.

It will be interesting to see how the program evolves if it receives sufficient support to become law.

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

 

Professional Development: Accepted and Expected

This article was submitted by Hope Street Group Fellows Kip Hottman and Angela Baker. Baker teaches English/Language Arts and Journalism in Berea Community Schools. Read her full bio. Hottman is a Spanish teacher at Oldham County High School. Read his full bio.

Kentucky Education Report continues to seek submissions from teachers who wish to comment on education policy in Kentucky.

This year Kentucky joined many states throughout the U.S. in implementing a more comprehensive teacher evaluation program. Kentucky teachers have been piloting the new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) for the last two years, but this year full implementation is occurring, with full accountability being postponed until the 2015-2016 school year.

Across the nation many teachers are taking part in initiatives that integrate and embed professional learning within the teacher evaluation. While professional development has been part of teachers’ ongoing training throughout schools for years, school administrators and local decision making councils are currently looking at how to improve individual teacher’s skills. PGES will allow individual teachers to tailor their professional learning to their needs rather than enduring school-wide professional development that most likely does not match their individual areas of improvement. At the heart of the decision making about a teacher’s effectiveness is data; data about his or her students (such as summative test scores and daily, formative academic gains), classroom observations and teacher reflection. With information from multiple measures, teachers, through collaboration with the administrator, are able to create student-centered goals and increasingly intentional plans to improve their effectiveness.

In October of 2013 Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, visited Williamsburg, Kentucky to encourage and acknowledge the state’s efforts within Early Childhood Development. At the town hall convening, Secretary Duncan was asked to provide a specific example of a teacher evaluation system in the United States that is successful. He immediately responded with Montgomery County, Maryland, and their use of a program called Peer Assistance and Review (PAR – http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ngt/par/)

The purpose of the PAR program is to assist all teachers to meet standards for proficient teaching. It is a program that has been instituted to truly help teachers be as successful as possible, continue to learn and continue to grow as an educator. The system was instituted in the early 2000’s and uses multiple measures to determine a teacher’s professional development (PD) needs. The multiple measures are as follows:

  • Formal and informal observations by school administration or a consulting teacher
  • Student achievement data
  • Non-evaluative observations by a staff development teacher, reading specialist, math specialist or math content coach
  • Student learning objective data
  • Peer walk-throughs
  • Formative assessment data and marking period data

When Assistant Principal Greg Mullenholz of Maryvale Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland was asked about strengths and weaknesses of the PAR program, he said, “The evaluation has an outcome that is rooted in Professional Development. Meaning, the observation of the teacher is used to analyze the effectiveness of their practice. A problem that could arise if the observation isn’t solid because the goal will be misaligned to the actual need of the teacher. The support structure also has to be in place so the Professional Development will be available once a goal is defined.”

In the past, growth was viewed as a common thread amongst departments in schools, and most teachers focused on the same goal as their peers. The PAR program is groundbreaking because it is teacher-centered as they have the opportunity to create their own professional growth goal. The teacher is held accountable for his or her goal and provides evidence of change in student achievement through their adopted changes in practice.

Mr. Mullenholz also discussed his personal opinion of PAR and its effect on growing teachers professionally through collaboration: “Since its implementation over a decade ago, PAR has been a strong model. I love that it was collaboratively developed and that the school system and the union are both architects. The “peer” part is critical as the evaluation or observation must have an expectation for improvement in the teacher’s practice, or there is no set-up for success.”

While Montgomery County School district implemented an evaluation system with an eye toward teacher development, others took this one step further and created incentives for improved performance. One example of this is the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in San Fernando, California.

The Vaughn Next Century Learning Center has a history of offering high quality professional development integrated with teacher evaluation for performance pay over an interval of several years. They also use the PAR program and, like other teacher evaluation systems, professional development needs are determined by a combination of test scores and areas of need identified through observations by both lead teachers and administrators. As an independent charter school, the curriculum committee looks at the needs of the entire school and plans professional development based on numerous local factors.

Nicole Mohr, teacher and Curriculum committee Chair to the Board of Directors at the Vaughn Center stated, “It is an ever growing, ever changing process. Teachers who are on the performance assistance and review team meet regularly, several times a year and each summer to discuss how the program is meeting the needs of the school.” Most schools meet regularly to desegregate data from state tests, other assessments and even non-cognitive data to make plans to improve the school.

Teachers receive pay incentives based on numerous areas: their skills/knowledge base (Designing Coherent Instruction, Managing Classroom Procedures, Managing Student Behavior, Engaging Students in Learning, Reflecting on Teaching, and Showing Professionalism) evaluated during observations, contingency base (student attendance), outcomes base (graduation rate and Average Percentage Increased), expertise base (department chair, coach, mentor, tutor, etc) and measurable student growth.

Ms. Mohr cautioned that the downside of incentives or merit pay is “[teachers] may look for ways to prove [they] are meeting the requirements rather than looking for ways to improve [instructional practices]”. Authentically excellent teachers usually do have the evidence to prove they are meeting expectations, which shows the overall importance and benefit of accountability.” While accountability may mean merit pay for some, for most schools evaluation is used to make decisions about retention.

Mella Baxter, English and reading teacher in Flagler County Schools in Florida is at a school that does not use PAR but is integrating professional development with teacher evaluation. Ms. Baxter stated, “[Professional Development] is not differentiated by individual teacher needs, but rather each Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting focuses on how to get highly effective in one of the indicators on the evaluation tool. Then the rest of the PLC teachers work together to create lessons, assessment, etc. based on student data designed to get students to the level they need to be for teachers to get a highly effective rating.”

Aligning the professional development to the evaluation tool that is then linked to best practices seems to be a simple and effective idea. Ms. Baxter, who is also a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow, is designing a space on the Virtual Engagement Platform for Hope Street Group that will list indicators for Florida’s teacher evaluation tool and link each one to resources that will help teachers achieve a highly effective rating in that category. Her plan is to allow teachers to “further individually tailor their PD.” Once completed it will allow features such as uploading videos of teachers as exemplars or to attain feedback.

Teachers are more than capable of designing evaluative tools that encompass the complexity of the teaching profession. The most effective teachers are life-long learners. Professional development ought not to be a matter of compliance; it ought to be a tool for satisfying a teacher’s quest for daily improvement of practice. Being treated like a professional is a first step toward redesigning a career ladder that will keep the best teachers in the classroom and proud to be there helping American students.

More on Career Pathways for Teachers

More on Peer Assistance and Review (PAR)

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

 

A Kentucky Teacher Talks Poverty and Testing

Kentucky Education Report is always looking to highlight teacher voices on education policy issues. Too often, education debates leave out input from the frontline players: The teachers.

Today, teacher Tiffany Dunn shares with us her thoughts on two key issues: Poverty and testing.

About Tiffany Dunn:

I am a parent whose child (3rd grade) attends one of the highest performing elementary schools in the state (Kenwood Station – OCPS) and a teacher in one of the lowest performing middle schools in the state (Lassiter Middle – JCPS).  I am in my 6th year of teaching and this is my 2nd year as an ESL teacher at Lassiter, a “low performing” school.

How she became an education activist:

I became involved in education activism after starting my first year at Lassiter.  Going into the position (after seeing their KPREP scores – oh my!), I thought “great, I’ll stay here one year and get the heck out as soon as I can apply for a transfer!” BUT I soon found out that Lassiter is an amazing school with so many wonderful kids…poor kids.  I found out that Lassiter has many great teachers, that the reason for the “low performance” wasn’t the teachers, it was the socioeconomic status of our students.  Who knew all the bad teachers didn’t just congregate at all the “low performing” schools?!?!  Now I’m telling anyone who will listen about the real crisis in education, poverty.

How poverty impacts the kids Tiffany teaches:
Lassiter is over 85% free and reduced lunch.  We have a large ESL/LEP population.  These kids are at a disadvantage.  Most of them started school behind and they will stay behind because of the conditions they live in.  They worry.  They worry about food.  They worry about utility bills.  They worry about clothing.  No child thinking about these things can give their all in school.

Is all that testing and test prep helping the kids at Lassiter?

Unfortunately, we are not addressing this issue.  Instead of putting an assault on childhood poverty, we’re pumping money into ill-advised standards and testing.  We tests these kids ALL the time.  On top of all the state/federal mandated tests our district has its own mandated diagnostic and proficiency assessments.  They require us to teach certain CCSS standards each 9 weeks and then test them.  This is ON TOP of our own classroom and PLC assessments!  All in the name of the almighty KPREP.  The district uses these tests as a predictor as to how well kids will do on KPREP.  Because this ONE test is how we label our kids, our schools and our teachers.    As an ESL teacher, I can’t keep up with the teaching/testing schedule.  My kids are way too low.  It is educational malpractice to set kids in front a test knowing they are going to fail or move them along at a pace that is too fast.  Best practice would be to take all of this time testing and test prepping and put it into actual teaching.

On Labels from Tests and Opting Out:

I could go on and on about the wrong direction we’re taking in education.  I refuse to accept the labeling of our children and schools by one test score, by one set of standards.  Ranking, filing and pitting schools against one another is wrong.  There will always be a “loser” in this system.  I will be opting my own daughter out of any and all testing that does not guide classroom instruction; this includes KPREP.  Teachers and especially parents must speak up and demand more for our kids!

Are you a Kentucky teacher with a story to tell? Email me at andy@spearsstrategy.com

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

 

 

The Danger of Achievement

Drew Perkins of Perkins Ed Consulting writes about the Culture of Achievement and how it can be harmful to students.

Perkins specializes in professional development related to Project-based learning, a topic I’ve written about before.

This column originally appeared on his blog, and is republished here with the author’s permission.

Achievement sounds great doesn’t it? What parent doesn’t want their child to achieve? What teacher doesn’t hope their students achieve at a high level? Of course achievement in general is a good thing but the Culture of Achievement created by high stakes accountability measures is having a dangerous effect on education.

A culture of achievement places it’s focus on the most easily quantifiable and measurable results, test scores. As superintendents and building administrators work to keep their jobs and show they are successful it’s somewhat understandable (if not short-sighted) that this would be a focus. Test scores are the currency in which the general public uses to judge schools. Want to know which schools are the best just ask Google and the top results show rankings like US News & World Report and SchoolDigger.com who state very clearly that test scores are a major factor in their ratings system. For example, US News & World Report explain they begin their rating of schools by “…using performance on state proficiency tests as the benchmarks.” The unfortunate truth is that these tests are not measuring things important to creating the type of graduates society needs and is longing for. Most standardized tests attempt to measure content knowledge and understanding and not skills or thinking you would find on the upper parts of Bloom’s taxonomy. What this often creates then is an approach by administrators that demands a focus on identifying exactly what parts of the test students are not performing well (disaggregating the data) and pulling those students for intentional work on shoring up those specific shortcomings. Sometimes these are called RTI classes and other times teachers are just asked to analyze student data in their PLC’s and reteach or somehow get these students to “achieve” so they can compete with other students and schools.
This detachment from the purpose of school and learning creates a level of frustration, anxiety and burnout that I experienced first-hand as a teacher and from students who have little to no interest in playing school. The misplaced focus of a Culture of Achievement manifests itself in ways that include test prep, students working on and celebrating closing of achievement score gaps, emphasis on coverage of content and almost always an unacceptable level of anxiety & burnout. Perhaps the most saddening part of a Culture of Achievement is it’s low ceiling. While it may be politically and strategically smart to pursue the quick hits of raising test scores it’s a fool’s bargain that limits the potential of our students in a myriad of ways.
What if we pursued a Culture of Teaching and Learning? One that placed an emphasis on things like deep, rich inquiry and craftsmanship? What if the learning had no ceiling and students were authentically assessed and did real-world work where they uncovered and discovered content? What if instead of disaggregating data our teachers engaged in quality professional discourse about their work in ways that excited them and their students? A Culture of Teaching and Learning often produces great (test scores) achievement but a Culture of Achievement rarely results in great teaching and learning. A Culture of Teaching and Learning rewards and professionalizes teaching and helps create students who are empowered by their possibilities and less than concerned with test performance.
If your school is looking to create great thinkers and learners and not just students stuffed full of content take a look at your culture. If your school is wishing your students were excited to be there instead of feeling the tension of just trying to attend and endure take a look at your culture. Is your focus on test scores and “achievement” or do your teachers and students engage in ways that allow them to grow and make meaning out of their learning in ways that tests don’t measure and quantify? Is the purpose of your school to produce great test scores or students capable of thinking creatively and critically about things that matter?
Are you interested in improving your Culture of Teaching and Learning?
For more on moving toward a Culture of Teaching and Learning, visit Drew’s site.
For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Maximizing Effectiveness through Shared Leadership

Dr. Mike Stacy is the Chief Academic Officer for Woodford County Schools and is a former elementary, middle and high school administrator.

One reoccurring theme in administrative meetings across the state is the question, “how do we manage all of the new things required by the state and run a school at the same time?” As a district level administrator overseeing curriculum and instruction, I’ve asked myself this question for several months and I’ve only found one solution: We, as administrators, must enable our teacher leaders to lead from the front of the classroom.

Teacher leaders are not a new phenomenon. Nor is the process of developing them to help run an effective school. Our top administrators in the state have been doing this for years with successful instructional and institutional outcomes. Teacher leadership is not new to Kentucky, but as a state-wide system, we have not found enough ways to leverage our most effective teachers on the scale necessary to radically improve teaching and learning.

Until recently, I had not added teacher leadership onto the list of initiatives I had intentionally pursued from my central office position. Teacher leadership was something that I expected good leaders to cultivate and explore on their own…teacher leadership was a principal issue, not mine.

This school year, we have shifted our focus. We have created teacher leader cadres with representatives from every elementary, middle and high school to help amplify and support the most effective teachers in our district. We have made time for our teacher leaders to meet, identify problems of practice and share solutions to various topics, such as, the implementation of our new teacher evaluation system, the role of professional learning in increasing student growth, evaluating the effectiveness of our current grading practices, and improving school climate throughout our district.

Why should we support teacher leadership right now?

It is currently impossible for most principals to complete all of the required tasks on their duty list. Therefore, we must look to teacher leaders and a shared leadership model to help maximize the effectiveness of our schools over the next decade.

Since the start of this school year, I have had the opportunity to be involved in a few teacher leader-based projects with Hope Street Group, CTQ (The Center for Teaching Quality), and Achieve. Coming away from these projects, I am shocked at the wealth of new research and high quality resources available for our teachers and administrators. Why are we reinventing the wheel? How can we leverage the know-how coming from the non-profit sector in education?

In many of the discussions and brainstorming sessions via these teacher leader organizations, we explored how to more effectively leverage and support teacher leaders. I was reminded of many administrative leadership meetings that I’ve attended over the last 15 years. Most of those meetings centered around how I could be a better leader, how I can improve my building, how I can impact change, etc. Over the years I’ve realized that “I” can’t do much of anything. It’s the team I surround myself with and what they can do that’s important.

So why should I support teacher leadership right now?

I believe in building capacity in a school and having a shared leadership model. It is by far the most efficient and effective way to improve teaching and learning.

Neither teacher leaders nor administrators can maximize their leadership potential without the strength and support of one another. If we focus our time, energy, and resources on building teacher leaders but never teach our building leaders how to effectively use them, then we are missing out on a golden opportunity for our students. Experience has shown us that it takes a team of effective professionals to make great leaders, and it takes shared leadership to make a great school.

At the end of the day students are the reasons we all exist in the education profession. We need to always keep their success in the forefront of the various initiatives we initiate and implement. We must find more opportunities for teachers and administrators to work together toward the ultimate goal of continuing to improve teaching and learning. If we do this, we will all become more effective at what we do and Kentucky students will reap the benefits.

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

 

Core Reversal

Legislation (HB33) has been filed in the Kentucky General Assembly that would repeal the Common Core State Standards now in place in Kentucky and prohibit adoption or use of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Governor Steve Beshear previously stood up for the science standards when a committee of legislators opposed them.

Here’s a legislative summary including a list of bill sponsors:

HB 33 (BR 97) – T. Kerr, L. Bechler, R. Bunch, K. Imes, T. Moore, S. Santoro, D. St. Onge

AN ACT relating to public school standards.
Create a new section to KRS Chapter 158 to prohibit the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education from implementing the English language arts and mathematics academic content standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative and the science academic content standards developed by the Next Generation Science Standards Initiative; require the state board to recommend new content standards to school districts and schools after consultation with the Council on Postsecondary Education; require public involvement in standards development; clarify the authority of the local board of education to adopt standards which differ from or exceed the standards approved by the state board; clarify that the school-based decision making councils shall develop policies based upon the standards adopted by the local boards of education; prohibit state officials from ceding control of education content standards and assessments; prohibit withholding of state funds from school districts for adopting different academic content standards; amend KRS 156.070 to limit disclosure of personally identifiable information; direct the Kentucky Board of Education to require that the Department of Education and all school districts adhere to transparency and privacy standards when outsourcing data and Web-based tasks to vendors; clarify vendor contract requirements; amend KRS 158.6453 to permit a local board of education to supplement the state board-approved academic content standards with higher and more rigorous standards and require school councils to use them to fulfill curriculum policy requirements; amend KRS 160.345 to clarify school council curriculum policy authority.

More on Kentucky’s experience with Common Core:

Core Defense

Core Pioneers

Kicking PARCC to the Curb

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

Charter Legislation Filed

As predicted by Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, legislation allowing charter schools in Kentucky has been filed for this legislative session.

Kentucky is one of 8 states that doesn’t allow charter schools, and in spite of two decades of steady education progress, there is some pressure to authorize charters for districts with a significant number of “low-performing” schools.

Holliday has suggested probably allowing four or five charters to start, and the most likely location would be Jefferson County Public Schools.

Here’s the summary of the bill, which includes the current House sponsors:

HB 174/LM/AA (BR 237) – B. Montell, R. Benvenuti III, J. Fischer, M. Harmon, A. Koenig, S. Lee, J. Miller, T. Moore, D. Osborne, D. St. Onge, R. Webber

AN ACT relating to charter schools and making an appropriation therefor.
Create new sections of KRS Chapter 160 to describe the intent of the General Assembly and the purposes of authorizing public charter schools; define terms; establish the Kentucky Public Charter School Commission and identify membership selection and responsibilities of members; outline the requirements and limitations on the establishment of charter schools including identification of charter school authorizers; describe responsibilities of authorizers; describe charter school application, renewal, and revocation processes; establish the Kentucky Public Charter School Commission trust fund and identify uses of the fund; create a new section of KRS Chapter 159 to identify student enrollment and withdrawal requirements to be followed by a charter school; create a new section of KRS Chapter 161 to identify employment conditions for charter school staff; create a new section of KRS Chapter 157 to require local, state, and federal funds to be distributed to charter schools using formulas and allocation processes used in public schools; amend KRS 161.220 to include a teacher employed by a board of directors of a public charter school as a member within the state retirement system; amend KRS 161.220 to include employees of boards of directors of public charter schools in the state-sponsored retirement system; amend KRS 78.510 to include noncertified employees of public charter schools in the state-sponsored retirement system.

 

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

PGES Skepticism

Gary Houchens expressed skepticism about the ability of Kentucky’s new teacher evaluation system (PGES) to effectively differentiate teacher performance back in 2013.  And he has noted since that he remains skeptical.

Houchens cites research that suggests that not much changes in terms of measurable teacher performance no matter the evaluation tool. More specifically, he notes that despite spending significant dollars on new systems, many states still weren’t seeing much differentiation among teachers on evaluations.

He writes:

Last Spring I wrote about a New York Times article exploring the results of new teacher evaluations in multiple states, including Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Connecticut, and Washington, DC.  After investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours in new evaluation systems designed to better distinguish levels of teacher performance, these states found that principals were still rating more than 90 percent of all teachers as effective or highly effective. Only tiny percentages of teachers were identified as “ineffective” or “developing.”

It would seem these efforts were a monumental waste of time and money with only a handful of possible explanations for the results.

Houchens then goes on to note that leadership at the principal level is what makes an impact on teaching practice, regardless of the evaluation model used.

He notes:

Furthermore, Murphy and colleagues identify four larger categories of principal behaviors that make a difference in teaching quality:

…providing actionable feedback to teachers…developing communities of practice in which teachers share goals, work, and responsibility for student outcomes…offering abundant support for the work of teachers..and creating systems in which teachers have the opportunity to routinely develop and refine their skills.

None of these principal activities must rely on the teacher evaluation system for their effectiveness.  In fact, these activities are most likely high-leverage behaviors even under the old, clunky teacher evaluation system.  Perhaps we could save all this time and money we are currently investing in PGES and focus, instead, on leadership behaviors that really make a difference.

I want to zoom in on the actionable feedback piece of the research cited by Houchens. To me, that is the biggest shortcoming in most evaluation systems. That is, even if principals found areas for improvement for a specific teacher, directing them to ways to improve practice can at times prove difficult. Content-specific professional development may not be readily available, for example. Access to mentors and coaches is often limited, if it exists at all.

And, as Houchens notes, time constraints placed on principals may prevent them from providing the coaching/guidance teachers most need.

One of the biggest complainst I hear from teachers, regardless of the evaluation model used, is that professional development is not connected in any way to what’s written on the evaluation.

A teacher rated “meets expectations” (a 3 on Tennessee’s 1-5 teacher rating system), likely has earned 1s or 2s in some categories of the rubric. Yet the attendant professional development is simply not offered or available. That’s just one example of actionable feedback.  So, teacher X now knows he is struggling in a few areas, but doesn’t know quite what to do to improve.

It could be something as simple as release time to observe other teachers who are strong where that teacher is weak. So, while mentors and coaches are helpful, the solution doesn’t necessarily have to carry a high cost.

Moreover, what is the cost of NOT investing in teachers to help them improve practice? First, it’s disrespectful to teachers as professionals. Professional educators want to improve their practice. An evaluation system that identifies areas for improvement but fails to provide actionable feedback on how to improve is insulting and demoralizing. Second, it’s not fair to students. School leaders know that a certain teacher needs help in specific areas, but that help is not provided. So, students continue to miss out on the best possible instruction.

How we treat teachers says a lot about how much we truly value our students. Treating them like professionals may carry costs in terms of both time and money. But those costs are worth it if we truly want every child to have access to a great education.

And, as Houchens notes, maybe instead of spending on fancy new evaluation systems with tremendous potential, we should spend on leadership development and training as well as provision of the feedback mechanisms that will truly improve instructional practice.

 

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

Charters, Pensions, and Funding

Those are the Big 3 issues identified by Commissioner Terry Holliday for the 2015 legislative session.

Holliday outlined his thoughts on the 2015 session in a December post on his blog.

He notes that if charters are adopted at all, it will likely be a small pilot program that would allow for a handful of charters in districts with especially troubling achievement gaps (likely JCPS).

The Prichard Committee has been reviewing the research on charters and will likely weigh-in at some point, too.

Teacher pension reform has been and will continue to be a hot legislative topic.

Essentially, the Kentucky General Assembly balanced the state budget for years in part by under-funding the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System.

Now, their negligence has caught up with them and teachers may see benefit changes or reductions in future payments by way of adjusted (down) cost-0f-living increases.

Holliday also says that while the session is not a budget session, some funding issues may surface.

Another potential topic of interest is allowing school systems to merge in order to maximize financial efficiency.

Tune in this session for more on the big education issues facing Kentucky policymakers.

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

 

Pension Reform in 2015?

Kentucky legislators will consider a number of plans designed to reform the state’s pension plan for teachers, the Courier-Journal reports.

The Kentucky General Assembly has been tinkering with the pension plan in recent years in an attempt to shore up unfunded liabilities.

Proposals this year would seek to adjust future benefit payments and decrease cost-of-living increases.

The shortfall is a result of lack of proper funding over time by the General Assembly.

Some proposals would continue the practice of using borrowing through bonds to fund pension obligations, but it is likely that changes to benefits will also be required.

According to the report, a number of lawmakers oppose additional bonds to fund the system and are looking at more significant reform.

From the story:

So far, legislators have pre-filed at least four bills that would alter some aspect of teacher pensions, and leaders from both the House and Senate say any bonding needs to be paired with reforms.

“There is not a lot of enthusiasm for borrowing more money to pay off the KTRS debt without structural changes accompanying that effort,” said Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

 

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