Seeking a Commissioner

With the retirement of Commissioner Terry Holliday, Kentucky finds itself searching for a new Commissioner of Education.  Here’s the official job posting:

The Kentucky Board of Education invites applications and nominations for the position of Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner reports to the 11-member Kentucky Board of Education and leads the Kentucky Department of Education in providing resources and guidance to Kentucky’s public schools and districts as they implement the Commonwealth’s P-12 education requirements. The department also serves as the Commonwealth’s liaison for federal education requirements and funding opportunities. Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, the department has approximately 1,100 full-time employees (includes the Kentucky School for the Deaf, Kentucky School for the Blind, Kentucky Department of Education Frankfort-based employees, Office of Career and Technical Education Frankfort-based central office staff and 53 area technical centers).

The board is seeking an individual who shares its commitment to putting the needs and interests of students first and foremost and preparing them for success in their education, career and citizenship. Partnering with educators to collectively deliver on this promise presents the selected person the chance to apply innovative approaches in order to move students beyond college- and career-readiness toward global competency. The individual also must pursue difficult issues with a firmness of purpose, exhibit respect of others, show consistency and depth of thought, and present a deep appreciation and respect for diversity and inclusion.
The successful candidate must provide leadership that assists the board in developing the vision, strategy and objectives to advance the Commonwealth’s priorities of rigorous standards–based education. Further, the commissioner must build consensus among constituency groups such as legislative, business, community and school leaders.
An advanced degree is required. The successful candidate must have experience in leading complex organizations as well as a deep commitment to reaching proficiency in teaching and learning for all Kentucky schools.
Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. is assisting the Kentucky Board of Education in the search. Initial screening of applications will begin immediately and will continue until an appointment is made. For best consideration, submit your materials by July 17, 2015. Individuals who wish to nominate a candidate should submit a letter of nomination including contact information for the nominee. Application materials should include a letter addressing how the candidate’s experiences match the position requirements, a curriculum vitae or resume and five references. Submission of materials as PDF attachments is strongly encouraged. Confidential inquiries, nominations and application materials should be directed to:
Jan Greenwood, Betty Turner Asher, Partners
Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc.
42 Business Centre Drive, Suite 206
Miramar Beach, Florida 32550
Phone: 850-650-2277 / Fax: 850-650-2272
Email: jangreenwood@greenwoodsearch.com
Email: bettyasher@greenwoodsearch.com
Email: shelleyfeather@greenwoodsearch.com
To see the posting at the Department’s site, click here.
For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

PBL as Turnaround Strategy

One elementary school in Lexington is using Project-Based Learning to turnaround its performance. An article detailing the approach also notes it is a multi-year commitment focused on success, not immediate results.

I previously wrote about Danville’s use of PBL as a hopeful experiment and an interesting reconnection to Kentucky’s KERA reforms of the 1990s.

Now, it seems Mary Todd Elementary in Lexington is embracing the approach as a way to improve results for the school. Interestingly, the emphasis on hands-on learning means field trips and technology are needed — that is, more investment in the school.

From the story:

The school in north Lexington is trying to transform student achievement with a concept called project-based learning. It is a system in which students learn classroom subjects by doing meaningful projects that relate to real situations in the community. The concept prepares students for college and careers, Kirchner said.
It is a three-to five-year process, “not a quick fix,” she said.

First- and third-graders are trying the method first, and Kirchner hopes to implement it schoolwide by 2017.
 
The transformation is needed in part because Mary Todd is considered a low-performing school. It had a score of 52.9 out of 100 in Kentucky’s testing and accountability program in 2013-14. Mary Todd is classified by the state as “needs improvement/progressing” as opposed to “proficient” or “distinguished.”
The story is an interesting one because of the approach — using more field trips, hands-on experiences, and projects to promote the learning students need to excel.
Rather than attempting to improve test scores by endless drilling, this approach focuses on providing education that illuminates concepts through experience.
And the school’s principal notes the effort doesn’t come without a cost:
The achievement gap between poor, disabled and minority students and other students is not going to close immediately, Kirchner said.

 
“Nor is it going to close based on the budget and staffing that we are given by the school district,” she said.
To do PBL well, it takes a commitment of time and an investment of resources.
For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

How to Become a Teacher in Kentucky

The Prichard Blog has a guest post up from Gabe Duverge at Campbellsville University. The post goes into detail on the steps one must take to become a Kentucky teacher.

The post is especially timely in light of another recent article detailing the loss of so many of Kentucky’s early career teachers.

Duverge starts out with a note for those who are called to teach:

Politician Brad Henry once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.” Teachers can have a truly profound impact on their students, from pre-K to adulthood. But there are requirements to be considered qualified to teach. Although these requirements vary by state, Kentucky has some of the most stringent standards in the nation. This guide will help you navigate the complex, and occasionally confusing, world of Kentucky regulations so you can understand what you need to do to follow your passion and change the lives of others in the classroom.

And, as promised, the post details the steps necessary to become a teacher — from undergraduate education to internship to graduate work and everything else. It’s a direct and straightforward approach to what can seem a complex process.

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

Common Core Success

The Wall Street Journal has a story out today on Kentucky’s success with the Common Core State Standards and the relatively minimal pushback the standards have seen there relative to other states.

I’ve written before about Kentucky’s Common Core pioneering and the early start and strong communication tactics used to help ensure success there.

Specifically, on communication and community engagement, it has been noted:

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.

Despite an earlier report noting some fairly dismal scores as the state shifted to Common Core, current trends indicate an improvement in both scores and high school graduation rates.

Kentucky has, since 1990, been an education policy pioneer. One hallmark of the success experienced in the Bluegrass State is an aggressive communication strategy that includes all stakeholders. Additionally, the state engages both educators and the business community early on in any reform discussion.

While it may be too late for some states currently struggling to get a handle on Common Core dissent, Kentucky’s experience suggests a model for other states in terms of how to handle education reform generally.

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

 

 

Why is Kentucky Losing New Teachers?

The Prichard Blog poses this question in light of some startling data from the Kentucky Board of Education:

For every 100 teachers who were new hires of the 2009-10 school year:

  • 18 were out of Kentucky teaching by the next year
  • 12 more were gone by the year after that
  • 7  were teaching in a different district by their second year
  • 7  were in the same district, but at a different school
  • 56 were still at their original schools

That means after two years, 30% of teachers who start teaching in Kentucky no longer teach in Kentucky. Perhaps they leave teaching altogether or perhaps they just move out of state. It also shows that after two years, only 1 out of 2 new teachers hired are still teaching at the same school.

As Prichard notes, this raises some important questions. Certainly, this type of turnover is both expensive and challenging for school districts.

But, what can be done?

One possible solution is a new teacher mentoring program. Yes, Kentucky has KTIP, but perhaps a program that goes deeper and does more to support new teachers is in order. Investing in early career teaching matters:

It is absolutely imperative that early career teachers receive adequate support and assistance so they develop into excellent teachers.  It’s also critical that those teachers are encouraged to stay in the field.  High teacher turnover costs districts (and taxpayers) money and deprives students of the valuable benefits of strong, stable teachers.  One proven method of retaining new teachers that also results in improved student learning is early career mentoring.  Research at the New Teacher Center suggests that placing a trained mentor with a new teacher in the first two years of teaching both improves teacher retention and shows a positive impact on student learning.

Additionally, adopting a more comprehensive support system — perhaps within the PGES framework, could help. Combining the new evaluation system with a Peer Assistance and Review program could also bolster the support new teachers receive in their early career development:

This Harvard Guide looks at seven PAR programs and discusses their impact. The bottom line is that the programs are generally well-received by both teachers and administrators and demonstrate a level of effectiveness at both preparing new teachers and improving veteran teachers.

Here are a few key takeaways:

Districts with PAR programs say that, although the program can be expensive, it has many important benefits. PAR’s mentoring component helps beginning teachers succeed and, thus, increases retention. PAR also makes it possible to help ineffective tenured teachers improve or to dismiss them without undue delay and cost because of the program’s clear assessment process and the labor-management collaboration that underpins it. This process of selective retention can lead to a stronger teaching force and promote an organizational culture focused on sound teaching practice. Union leaders say that the program professionalizes teaching by making teachers responsible for mentoring and evaluating their peers. With its specialized roles for Consulting Teachers (CTs), PAR also has the potential to differentiate the work and career opportunities of teachers.

When nearly one out of every three new teachers hired in Kentucky leaves the profession after two years, something needs to be done. Certainly, no one wants to keep people in a profession for which they are not well-suited. But high turnover is not desirable for districts, for students, and for taxpayers. Certainly, many of those who chose teaching sincerely want to do the job and have the ability to do it well.

Kentucky would do well to find a way to better support early career teachers and improve their development as professionals.

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

 

Prichard Committee Gets New Leader

From a press release:

LEXINGTON, Ky. – An education policy leader and long-time advocate for Kentucky’s children has been named executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey was chosen by the committee’s board of directors to succeed Stu Silberman, who will retire effective September 4, 2015. She has been associate executive director of the statewide citizens’ group since May of last year.

“We are very excited Brigitte has agreed to serve as our next executive director,” said Franklin Jelsma, a Louisville attorney who chairs the committee’s board. “Above all else, we were looking for a leader who is passionate about improving public education in Kentucky. That is Brigitte in a nutshell. She is driven by her desire to help children.”

Ramsey, a resident of Falmouth, is former director of public policy for United Way of Greater Cincinnati, where she provided leadership on early education initiatives and efforts to improve education funding. She served on the Kentucky Board of Education from May 2008, when she was appointed by the governor, until April 2014, when she left the board to take the Prichard Committee post. She held the position of vice chair during her last year on the state board.

Her background also includes work as an advocate for children and extensive experience as a researcher on state tax and budget issues and poverty in Kentucky. She’s been a member of Kentucky’s Early Childhood Advisory Council since 2010 and was an elected member of the Pendleton County Board of Education from 1998 to 2008. Ramsey holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Kentucky’s Martin School and undergraduate degrees from Northern Kentucky University.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the next generation of the Prichard Committee’s work,” Ramsey said. “The progress in education and citizen engagement over the last three decades has been remarkable. I look forward to working with the committee’s members all across Kentucky to ensure our future success – on behalf of our students, our schools and our communities.”
Jelsma expressed the committee’s appreciation to Silberman, whose retirement will follow four years with the organization and 41 years in education, including work as superintendent of the Fayette County and Daviess County public school systems.

“We are deeply indebted to him for his years of service and his tireless work on behalf of education,” Jelsma said.

Silberman expressed strong support for his successor and excitement about the work ahead.
“Brigitte will do a fantastic job and continue the great work that began in 1983” when the committee was founded. “It has been a blessing to work beside her during this year, and I look forward to the four-month transition we will have together. The committee is in good hands as we move into the future.”

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

 

Accountability Changes

Susan Weston has a report over at the Prichard Blog that details recent actions taken by the State Board of Education that will change (and tighten) accountability standards for Kentucky schools.

The changes include additional gap reporting, tightening the monitoring of focus schools relative to graduation rates, strengthening the requirements for AMOs, and an additional reporting element in growth results.

It seems to be a step forward, in that it strengthens existing requirements, keeps some reporting, and adds some higher standards.

The full report and the documents can be found in Susan’s blog.

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

 

Can the Internet Replace Great Teaching?

Susan Weston says no:

I’m provoked because I think he’s missed the most exciting current thought about teaching and learning.  Everything I’m hearing in Kentucky education says that live adults, actively engaged with students as individuals and team participants, will always be essential to the kind of learning that matters most.

Live teachers!

That’s what kids need, she says.

Here’s her full analysis.

Holliday Announces Retirement

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday announced today he plans to retire from his post effective August 31st. Although the move came on April 1st, it was most certainly not a joke.

Holliday informed his staff in the morning, then presented a letter to the State Board of Education. He has served as Education Commissioner since 2010.

No word yet on the process to replace him.

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

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