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

 

 

Charter Schools in Kentucky?

Would adding charter schools to the mix help Kentucky reach its education goals? That’s the question the Prichard Committee is asking.

The answer, so far, is mixed. That’s because Prichard is looking at research on charters and finding out that the results of charters are mixed. Some do very well, some do not so well, and most are no better or worse than traditional public schools.

And the Prichard folks note that Kentucky made a different choice in terms of reform direction back in 1990 and that it has served the Commonwealth quite well.

That said, they are going to be doing more to understand if charter schools would be a useful tool as Kentucky seeks to continue improving its public schools.

Here’s a snapshot of the research, from CREDO, that demonstrates the results of America’s two-decade plus experiment with charter schools:

More on charter schools:

Kentucky Chamber Backs Charters

Charter Lessons from Ohio

Does Kentucky Need Charter Schools?

Rand Paul Gets it Wrong on Charter Schools

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

 

Core Pioneers

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt and implement the Common Core State Standards.  They’ve just finished their second year of Common Core tests.  So, how’s it going?

The good folks over at Hechinger Report have some analysis.

Here are some highlights:

1) Results are mixed.  This is to be expected.  It’s early on in the process.  Kentucky experienced similar “growing pains” with KERA and ultimately ended up with some pretty solid results — overall improvement on NAEP standings and stronger scores for low-income kids.  Are they where they want to be? No.  But the path of raising standards and focusing on both investment and equity has gotten results.  20 years ago, Kentucky and Tennessee were in roughly the same place in terms of NAEP standings.  Now, Kentucky’s students consistently test higher on NAEP.

2) The improvement is not fast enough. Scores on the Common Core tests are still pretty low.  So, state officials want faster improvement.  However, unlike the KERA reform, this reform has not been met with significant new investment in schools.  And, some advocates and even the Commissioner of Education are calling for a renewed commitment to investing in Kentucky schools.

3) It may be too much, too soon for some kids. Teachers and parents are expressing frustration over the “pushing down” of standards to lower and lower grade levels.  That is, what was once covered in 6th grade math is now expected in 5th grade.  There is some legitimate concern that younger children aren’t developmentally ready for what the Common Core expects.

4) There is some good news. Despite the somewhat bleak picture painted by Hechinger as they state, “Across the state, test scores are still dismal…,” a closer look at this year’s results offers some key points of optimism. Specifically, the Prichard Committee points out:

Looking at group patterns, students with disabilities improved in every subject, and the Gap, free and reduced meal, and African American groups improved in all but one–with most of those results being quite strong. 

So, other states should watch Kentucky — to see what’s working and what can be improved.  And Kentucky policymakers should focus on providing the necessary investments to make Common Core work.  Additionally, the Commissioner and Governor should be willing to make changes to implementation where necessary — and listen to educators for guidance on where those changes are needed.

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