Investing in the Power of Education

Daviess County educator Jana Bryant offers her take on the need for investing in Kentucky’s schools:

Kentucky is making great progress increasing college- and career-readiness, but this progress cannot continue by failing to fund needs like textbooks and technology, necessary teacher training to implement the Common Core, and support services that increase opportunities to uplift underperforming and underrepresented students suffering from academic defeat and under realized potential.

Jana is the latest in a chorus of teacher voices singing out in the name of improved funding for Kentucky’s schools.  The song is the same:  We’ve done well, but that progress will stop unless Kentucky commits to continued investment in its public schools.

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

Is Kentucky Invested in the Future?

Not yet, according to Brad Clark, a Hope Street Group Fellow and teacher in Woodford County.

He writes passionately about the need to properly invest in Kentucky’s future by investing in its students and teachers.

He notes the need for additional resources in schools:

I am not exaggerating when I say that the fourth grade textbook we use to teach Kentucky History in 2014 is the exact same textbook — with a picture of Daniel Boone standing triumphantly on the front cover — that I used when I was in 4th grade in 1991.

And he notes the lack of investment in meaningful professional development for teachers:

 I have even designed and submitted a “Professional Growth Plan” that sits idle in a folder in an office in my building. Yet, I have no way of implementing my strategies for refining my craft. I do not blame my principal for this because he wants every student and teacher in his building to get better at what they do, but he lacks the necessary resources to make that happen.

His central point is that Kentucky is at a crossroads.  While investment in education increased steadily from 1990-2008 following the Kentucky Education Reform Act, that investment has tapered in recent years.  The per pupil funding provided by SEEK has actually declined.

Governor Beshear has proposed a budget that begins to reverse this trend, in some cases at the expense of other areas of state government.

While Kentucky made historic progress that garnered national attention during the years of investment following KERA, those gains are in danger. With new standards for students and new evaluations for teachers, now more than ever, Kentucky must invest in its schools.

Lawmakers would do well to heed the words of Mr. Clark and begin the process of re-investing in Kentucky schools.  They should also view this year’s investment as a starting point and find ways in the future to continue significant investment in Kentucky’s schools and its future.

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

The “War” for Teaching Talent

Stu Silberman from the Prichard Committee turns over his blog at EdWeek to Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt who discussed the need for a War for Talent in Teaching.

Sheratt argues that baby-boomer retirements and a growing focus on the importance of teacher quality mean states and districts must do more to improve the teaching field, including improving HR practices.

Here are a few key takeaways:

Teaching must    both be and be perceived to be an exciting career for college students with many other options – including in law, business, and other    high-paying fields that are aggressively recruiting the next generation of talent.

How to do this? Better pay, paid professional development, targeted marketing that highlights the strengths of the profession.

I’ve written before about the importance of improving teacher pay.

And that is very important.  Governor Beshear has made a commitment to at least giving Kentucky teachers a well-deserved raise.

It’s also important to increase the respect afforded teachers.  Paid professional development is a part of that.  A marketing campaign highlighting the amazing things teachers do every day can help, too.

But, it’s frustrating to hear again and again about how important teacher quality is and not to hear about realistic, focused plans to improve compensation and the professional environment for teachers.

States can make investments in improving pay and support for teachers, but they choose not to. While many states have changed teacher evaluation and added some use of test scores to evaluate teachers, those same states have not placed a similar focus on improving pay.

While 2% for Kentucky teachers this year is a good start, it’s not the move toward winning the “talent war” Kentucky or other states need.

Choosing investments in schools, including better pay and support for teachers, is critical to improving education outcomes.  It requires difficult choices and the prioritization of education over other budget items.  That means leadership.  The lack of which will mean we’ll continue reading stories about America’s struggling education system for years to come.

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

 

Common Core and Community Engagement

Deborah Walker of the Louisville-based Collaborative for Teaching and Learning offers thoughts on how to engage parents as Common Core State Standards become the norm.

She outlines three key principles:

1. School leaders should communicate the ways CCSS help support student academic success.

2. School leaders should note that CCSS are designed to guide students toward college and career readiness

3. School leaders should highlight the importance of nurturing a student’s future aspirations.

The Common Core State Standards were designed to help promote critical thinking and guide students to a deeper understanding of key concepts.

Whether or not that goal is achieved will be determined by how states implement the CCSS.  Parent and community engagement is one key to success.

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

 

 

Kicking PARCC to the Curb

Kentucky announced on Friday that it is withdrawing from the Common Core testing consortium known as PARCC.

Kentucky will allow PARCC (Pearson) to bid on new tests, but is also seeking alternate vendors to develop tests that meet the Common Core State Standards.  Kentucky was the first state to adopt the standards and implement testing based on them.

Kentucky will continue to use the CCSS to guide its curriculum, but will no longer use the common test, unless PARCC wins the contract.

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

 

Governor Beshear’s Proposed Education Investments

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear delivered his budget address last night. His proposed budget includes 5% cuts to most state programs while also including significant new investment in K-12 education and in infrastructure.

Here are the highlights of the K-12 education proposals:

Improving Competitiveness through Education: The most important investments in the Governor’s proposed budget are in K-12 education. The largest item is SEEK, the main funding formula for our classrooms. From 2000 to 2008, SEEK grew an average of 3.4 percent each year. But from 2008 to 2014, funding flatlined – even as enrollment expanded, costs increased and local support in some areas declined. In effect, per-pupil spending dropped, even though the annual SEEK allocation remained the same.

Governor Beshear recommends investing $189 million over the biennium into SEEK, bringing per pupil spending to its highest total ever.

That allocation will include pay increases for all teachers and classified school personnel (2 percent the first year, 1 percent the second year).

Gov. Beshear’s proposed education investments also include:

  • $95.4 million over the biennium for textbooks, professional development, school safety and Extended School Services (restoring funds to near-2008 levels)
  • $36 million over the biennium to expand preschool services to serve 5,125 more 4-year-olds by increasing eligibility from 150 percent of the poverty level to 160 percent. This is a 22 percent increase in enrollment.
  • $50 million for technology and school equipment upgrades, funded through General Fund-supported bonds •$100 million for school facilities construction to replace aging K-12 school buildings through General Fund-supported bonds

 

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

The Pension Petition

The Jefferson County Teachers Association is out with a Change.org petition calling on Governor Beshear and the Kentucky General Assembly to fully fund the pension fund (which they haven’t done since 2008).

As of this posting, they already have over 9000 signatures.

No doubt, many teachers and their families will be joining the fight soon.

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

 

 

On the New Evaluation System for Teachers

Lindsey Childers offers her thoughts on Kentucky’s Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) for teachers and administrators.

In short, she says that a well-thought out development process and a measured roll-out will strengthen the evaluation instrument when it is fully implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

 

Steve Beshear on Education

Last night, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear delivered his State of the Commonwealth address.  Here’s what he had to say about education in Kentucky and his plans for the upcoming legislative session:

I talk to business executives almost daily about what they need to make their companies successful. They tell me that factors like low taxes, incentives, good roads, logistical support and low utility rates are all important. But their No. 1 concern is their workforce finding enough talented, skilled, energetic, healthy and educated workers.

Many years ago, Kentucky’s national story when it came to education was cause for embarrassment. Scores were low, and on most measures we lagged far behind. But thanks to decades of hard work and aggressive policy changes, Kentucky has carved out a new reputation as a reform-minded state that is innovative, bold and determined.

That new reputation was further strengthened early in 2013, when Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report ranked Kentucky in the top 10 states in student performance and education progress …

and a few months later, when a Harvard study ranked us eighth in student performance improvement over the last two decades. We also rank sixth in the number of teachers earning National Board Certification. So now, when our educators attend national conferences, they are barraged with questions from leaders in other states who want to know: How is Kentucky doing it, and how can they replicate our success? ***

Since I became governor, our efforts have focused on three areas:
Improving early childhood education.
Raising the graduation rate.
And increasing the college and career readiness of our students, who will become the workforce upon which Kentucky’s economic future depends.

In the first area, early childhood, we have coalesced around a concept called “kindergarten readiness” and are implementing a kindergarten entry screener to evaluate where incoming students stand on cognitive, physical and emotional skills.

Three weeks ago, our efforts received a game-changing boost when we were awarded a $44.3 million Race to the Top grant to improve early learning programs for thousands of Kentucky preschoolers.
Here in Kentucky, the initiative is called the All-STARS plan — Accelerating learning Statewide Through an Advanced Rating System. I will seek legislation needed to implement the goals of the All-STARS plan which will  provide for more accountability and better transparency throughout our state’s early childcare system. Getting our children off to a better start in life
 all of our children, not just those in wealthy, two-parent households
 will dictate our success as a state.
In the second area, graduation rates, we are making huge strides.

Our graduation rate improved from 69.7 percent for the class of 2000 to 79.9 percent for the class of 2010. This year, Kentucky joined other states in using a more accurate way to measure the number of students who graduate. Our rate of 86 percent when measured against the most recent data from other states ranks us among the top states. And that rate will continue to improve as we implement the Graduation Bill passed last session and other important supports for these at-risk students. As you recall, Kentucky’s 173 school districts had the option of increasing the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18 for the 2015 school year, with the bill  becoming mandatory once 96 of the districts had done so. Well, it didn’t take long. We exceeded that goal in just two weeks, and the First Lady and I are so proud of our education community for stepping up so rapidly. So far, 140 of our 173 districts have adopted that new policy.

The third area, college and career readiness, is a measure of whether our schools are doing their job. In 2010, only 34 percent of Kentucky high school graduates were adequately prepared to take the next step in life. Today, that number is 54 percent putting us on target to meet the 2015 goal of 67  percent. That’s a huge jump, and it is partly the result of new standards for learning that hold students and teachers to a higher bar. Since 2011, public school educators have been using the Kentucky version of Common Core academic standards in English/language arts and mathematics, which define the minimum that students should know at each grade level. Core Content plays down rote memorization, and instead gives students the skills that today’s workplace demands: creative and critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, creativity and communication.

 

As the first state to adopt the standards, Kentucky won national recognition in a variety of places. TIME magazine, for example, said we “barreled headlong into the future.”

And I love the headline of the article in TIME: “What Every Child Can Learn from Kentucky.”
 We were also the second state to adopt the Next-Generation Science Standards, and now we’re creating standards for social studies and arts and the humanities. We also are implementing a new model of secondary career and technical education to make it more accessible to students at an earlier age, more rigorous academically and  better aligned with both postsecondary requirements and employer needs. Furthermore, we have seen a 28 percent increase in the number of students transferring credits from our two-year colleges to our four-year programs.
The bottom line: We are fitting the pieces together to create a seamless, cradle-to-career education system that is better preparing our students for this complex world.

I know that you and I want nothing less than to produce the brightest minds in the world and to create a workforce that companies fall all over themselves to come to Kentucky to hire. And we’re getting there. But ladies and gentlemen, that progress is in jeopardy with every dollar we cut out of education.

Throughout the recent historic recession, you and I protected SEEK, the basic funding formula for classrooms, from cuts. But preserving funding isn’t enough. From 2000 to 2008, SEEK grew an average of 3.4 percent each year. But from 2008 to 2014, it grew zero percent
 even as enrollment expanded, costs increased, and local support in some areas dropped. Furthermore, to balance our budget during the recession, we eliminated funding for textbooks and significantly reduced funding for teacher training and school safety.  Now, despite these austerity measures, Kentucky’s education community still made tremendous progress for our children, placing Kentucky on the leading edge of education reform in this country.

But they have stretched every dollar they have as far as they can — and now they’re out of options. To add to the pain, Kentucky schools are facing the delayed impact of the federal sequester cuts. They will have to figure out how to make up the loss of approximately $28 million in federal funding in the current fiscal year, with the potential for an additional $28 million hit in the next year.

If we continue to cut or freeze education funding, our schools face the prospect of laying off significant numbers of teachers, greatly increasing class room sizes and letting technology and equipment grow more outdated and useless. 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. I am determined to find money to reinvest in education
 – 
 even if I have to make harmful cuts in other areas to do so.
Beshear also mentioned the need to increase teacher pay to keep Kentucky competitive.
The education community was likely pleased, as they have been pushing for new funding in recent months.
By contrast, Senate President Robert Stivers released a GOP agenda that did not include education funding among it’s top 5 goals for 2014.
For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow us @KYEdReport

Senate GOP Top Priorities Don’t Include Education

The Kentucky Senate begins its 2014 session today and Senate Republicans have released a list of their top 5 priorities.

Senate President Robert Stivers issued a press release outlining the GOP’s goals for 2014. They include:

1) Reigning in the Governor by giving the legislature the power to overturn administrative regulations proposed by the administration.  This is largely in response to the hugely successful rollout of Kentucky’s healthcare exchange and Medicaid expansion, ideas that are apparently quite popular with Kentuckians but which the KY GOP opposed.

2) Limiting the General Fund debt limit.

3) Legislative Pension Fix — addressing the enlargement of a legislator’s pension when s/he leaves the legislature for a judgeship or executive branch job.

4) Informed consent before a woman receives an abortion.

5) Addressing Kentucky’s growing heroin problem.

Sure, the Senate GOP likely has other top priorities, but these are the five they’ve chosen to highlight.  The first one is simply about frustration with a Governor who has been fairly successful at managing the government even though Republicans disagree with where he’s going.

And yes, the other four items all merit some attention.

But, what’s missing? There’s no mention at all of education. No mention of restoring SEEK funding to 2008 levels. No mention of addressing teacher pay. No mention of investment needed to keep Kentucky schools moving forward.  Not even a mention of one of the Kentucky Chamber’s top goals, charter schools.

Does Kentucky’s GOP have an education agenda? It’s possible, but they sure aren’t talking about it.

 

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