Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee




<MeetMDY1> June 9, 2008


The<MeetNo2> meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on<Day> Monday,<MeetMDY2> June 9, 2008, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, in<Room> Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.


Present were:


Members:<Members> Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair; Representative Harry Moberly Jr., Co-Chair; Senator Ken Winters; Representatives Bill Farmer, Mary Lou Marzian, and Frank Rasche.


Guests:  Dr. Jaesook Gilbert, Northern Kentucky University; Annette Bridges, Kentucky Department of Education; Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and Jefferson County Public Schools; and B. Ramsey, United Way of Greater Cincinnati.


LRC Staff:  Sandy Deaton, Audrey Carr, Ken Warlick, and Lisa Moore.


Senator Westwood asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the February 8, 2008 meeting. Representative Rasche made the motion to approve the minutes, seconded by Senator Winters. The motion was approved by voice vote.


Senator Westwood introduced Dr. Jaesook Gilbert, Assistant Professor, College of Education and Human Services, Northern Kentucky Univers ity, who discussed preparedness for kindergarten. She said children being prepared for kingdergarten requires collaboration between the home, school, and the community.


Dr. Gilbert said there were several ways to measure a child's readiness for kindergarten including: 1) physical well-being and motor development; 2) social and emotional development; 3) approaches to learning; 4) language usage, and 5) cognition and general knowledge. She defined school readiness as being able to accommodate all children at whatever level they come in as and help them grow in their learning and development.


Dr. Gilbert said assessment of children upon entering kindergarten is essential and children are screened to identify those who may not be meeting developmental milestones. She said those children will then need to be evaluated further with a diagnostic instrument, and pending the result from the diagnostic assessment, children will be identified for special services. She noted the screening allows the teacher to gain a snapshot of children's capabilities and becomes a starting point for teachers to begin continuous curriculum-based assessment.


Dr. Gilbert also said that there was no consensus within the 18 public school districts in the Northern Kentucky P-16 Council's service area, other than the age requirement of being five by October 1st, for developmentally appropriate expectations. She also said schools use a variety of assessment tools, including screening, curriculum-based, diagnostic, home-made, or none at all.


Dr. Gilbert said a definition of kindergarten readiness was developed for northern Kentucky, with a screening recommendation, that incorporated school and community input, literature review findings, and was aligned with Kentucky's Early Childhood Standards. She also said the Kindergarten Steering Committee, with the assistance of Vision 2015, will roll out the kindergarten readiness document to school districts by meeting with preschool coordinators, elementary school principals, and special education coordinators.


Senator Westwood asked why there was a problem receiving consensus within the 18 public school districts in northern Kentucky on the developmentally appropriate expectations for kindergarten besides the age requirement. Dr. Gilbert said the document exists that has consensus, but not everyone is aware of its existence. She said the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has worked very hard at getting the message out, but communications were focused on Pre-K, and now the kindergarten level teachers need to be briefed.


Senator Westwood said it seems like the matter is not that there is dispute as to whether these are appropriate developmental benchmarks, but more of a lack of awareness by teachers that the benchmarks exist, and asked if this is accurate for the entire state as well. Dr. Gilbert said she would think so.


Senator Westwood said all interested parties in the state should review these standards and be aware that they exist. Dr. Gilbert said the guide is thick and can be over-whelming, and said a condensed summary that is more manageable should be created and distributed across the state.


Representative Rasche discussed the five factors of child readiness and asked if the approaches to learning really get better for children over time. Dr. Gilbert said children are eager to learn when they are born, but somehow that quality diminishes as they age. She said it is important not to test children too much, and to let them play and learn through active engagement.  


Representative Rasche said there has been discussion to adjust the age requirement from October 1 to August 1 for children to begin kindergarten so they can gain an average of two more months maturity. He said Dr. Gilbert's findings show there is not much difference in the children's skill levels between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten so he does not see the value of adjusting the date.


Dr. Gilbert said there is a select group of at-risk children that can be identified at the screening for kindergarten that could benefit from enrichment activities in the summer. She said there will always be a group of children who are too young or too old no matter what cut-off date is used, and children all develop at different rates.


Representative Marzian said a child's eagerness to learn can be affected by being hungry or having a toothache. She said Kentucky is a high poverty state that has many students with problems that can be a hindrance to learning and are factors that cannot be measured on an assessment test. She said teachers need resources in order to identify these student needs and address them.


Dr. Gilbert said teachers who are well-trained in early childhood understand the importance of working with the child's family and the community. She said home visits can be very beneficial to give the teacher an idea of the child's background.


Senator Westwood asked Dr. Gilbert what suggestions she could give to parents or local communities on getting children eager to learn, while they are in the early developmental years prior to kindergarten.


Dr. Gilbert said parents sometimes inadvertently squelch the eagerness to learn in their children by snapping at them when they ask too many questions. She said parents should make learning into a game with their kids and quality of time is just as important as quantity.


Senator Westwood said it is very important for the physical needs of children to be met to enhance their learning capabilities. He also said parents should take advantage of everyday outings with their children and use trips to the grocery store as educational experiences.


Senator Westwood introduced Ms. Julie Hawkins, Director, Elementary School Services, Fayette County Schools, who discussed children being prepared for kindergarten. She showed the members a short video that demonstrated the assessment process for a child entering kindergarten in Fayette County.


Ms. Hawkins said one reason she believes that children lose their eagerness to learn is because their curriculum in kindergarten is duplicative of their curriculum in preschool. She said Fayette County's screening for children prior to entering kindergarten ensures that each child will have an individual curriculum based upon his or her needs and skill levels. The results will be shared with parents during the first parent and teacher conference.


Ms. Hawkins stressed the importance of communicating the screening to parents prior to their child beginning kindergarten. She said they are informing the public by meeting with preschool providers, talking with parents during kindergarten registration, distributing flyers and posters throughout the community, and mailing calendars to parents of incoming kindergarten students.


Representative Marzian asked what Fayette County does for children who are not as advanced as others upon entering kindergarten. Ms. Hawkins said literacy groups are formed where children are grouped in comparable levels, and special services teachers and reading intervention teachers are available for the lower level literacy groups to give children additional reading assistance. She said the literacy groups are flexible, and children can move up and down as needed. She noted that children usually catch up very quickly and can normally advance two years in one year.


Senator Westwood asked what the timeframe is for the screening process. Ms. Hawkins said the screening process for children is about 20 minutes. She said there are speech pathologists on hand at the screening to assess children who may need those services. She also noted the screening takes place on August 1st so that actual instruction begins on the child's first day of kindergarten.


Senator Westwood introduced Ms. Jamie Spugnardi, Associate Commissioner, Office of Teaching and Learning, KDE, who gave the state level's perspective of children being ready for school. She said the vision for Kentucky is that all young children in Kentucky are healthy and safe, possess the foundation that will enable schools and personal success, and live in strong families that are supported and strengthened within their communities. This vision statement of the KIDS NOW initiative describes what all young children need to be successful.


Ms. Spugnardi said the readiness of children is not just about whether a child can demonstrate certain skills, but looks at all aspects of development including physical well-being and motor development, social-emotional, approaches to learning, language development, and cognition and general learning. These were identified by the 2005 National Governor's Association Taskforce on School Readiness.


Ms. Spugnardi said schools must be ready and prepared to receive children where they are. She said no school should have a readiness checklist that a child must pass to be in the system.


Ms. Spugnardi discussed early childhood standards and said they provide a guideline so that all those in Kentucky who are in contact with young children are on the same page. She said these linkages to P-12 identify the skills and behaviors from the birth of the child through age four and show how these behaviors are linked to later school success.


Ms. Spugnardi said the continuous assessment guide measures the child's progress and improvement as it relates to the Early Childhood Standards. As these standards are the foundation for learning, they are also the foundation for the assessment of young children. She said all school districts have received these notebooks and have been trained in how to use the screeners, the diagnostics, and the continuous assessment. The diagnostic assessments are only used for children if concerns are identified in the general screening.


Ms. Spugnardi said the Kentucky Early Childhood Data System (KEDS) is being implemented in phases. The phase-in process for KEDS began in 2006 through 2007 and is scheduled for completion by 2010 through 2011. She said this data will eventually provide information that will be distributed to kindergarten teachers and supplement screening efforts for school readiness.


Ms. Spugnardi said Kentucky has developed the Building A Strong Foundation for School Success Series taking the whole child approach and keeping the dimensions of school readiness in place. These products were rolled out in 2003 through 2005 and include the Early Childhood Standards, the Early Childhood Continuous Assessment Guide, and Parent Guides to the standards. The Quality Self Study helps programs evaluate their services. She said this document focuses on ensuring that the standards for quality are the same for private center based child care programs and for school-based settings. All of the documents establish the foundation for high quality early childhood policies in Kentucky and are available in written format or on the Web.


Ms. Spugnardi concluded by saying it is the responsibility of schools to meet the needs of children as they enter school and to provide whatever services are needed to help each child reach his or her fullest potential.


Senator Westwood introduced Ms. Marcia Ford Seiler, Director, Dr. Ken Chilton, Director of Research, Ms. Sabrina Olds, Analyst, Office of Education Accountability (OEA), to discuss the Kentucky district data profiles. Ms. Seiler explained that the purpose of the study was to focus on Kentucky district-level data by identifying demographic trends, staffing, finance, and performance. She said profiles are user-friendly and provide access to the most pertinent district-level data.


Dr. Chilton said the comprehensive data can be used to compare various geographies, peer districts, wealth quintiles, area planning districts, and political districts. He said the report includes the State of Kentucky Profile with aggregated state data and will be updated annually, providing decision-makers with up-to-date data on district trends.


Dr. Chilton discussed the overview and trends variables in the report. They are: A1 schools; end of year average daily attendance; membership; calendar days and hours; free and reduced lunch; migrant and exceptional child count; pre-school membership; ethnicity; attainment such as graduation rates, certificates, dropouts, and retention rates; and discipline, such as expulsions and suspensions.


Dr. Chilton said there are sources listed for each section of the report provided by the KDE. Some sources include: specific data requests; final Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) calculations; Superintendent's Annual Attendance Report (SAAR); common core data; non-academic data; the Kentucky Center for School Safety; and the Kentucky Nutrition and Health Services.


Dr. Chilton said the staffing variables provide an overview of district personnel by salary, experience, classification, and rank. He said it covers classified and certified personnel, full time equivalent count (FTE), pupil to teacher ratios, average administrator salaries, teacher experience levels, teacher rank, and salary schedule by rank and experience. The sources include specific data requests, professional staff data, certified staff data, and the SAAR.


Dr. Chilton said the financial variables include two sections. The first section are expenditures by function including: instruction; instructional support; direct and school administrative support; non-instructional support; facilities construction; debt service; and contingency percent and balance. The other section includes the 2007 tax rates that looks at the different tax mechanisms being used in each district and the rates on assessed value in each district. The sources for this data come from the annual finance reports, the local district tax levies, the SEEK Detail District Payment Schedule, and the final SEEK calculation.


Dr. Chilton said the performance variables in the report included the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT scores of students; the advanced placement students, exams, and scores; and the 2007 Kentucky Core Content Tests. The sources for this data were the EXPLORE and PLAN results and the OEA, as well as the College Board.


Dr. Chilton concluded that district profiles provide easy access to commonly used education data for legislators, administrators, and parents. The report is holistic in scope, and can provide quick reference for constituent services. He said it fits well with the OEA Compendium of Education Statistics, which analyzes national data. He also said it will be updated annually to include new variables, maps, and groupings.


Dr. Chilton discussed the upcoming reports. These include the State Data Compendium, the Special Education Study, and a Review of Education Technology Initiatives.


Senator Westwood thanked the staff for their hard work and said the report will be extremely useful in comparing school districts.


Senator Winters said he will be looking forward to seeing the advanced placement numbers for 2007 in the updated report next year, as well being able to compare the ACT scores of all students. He said it was interesting to see the vast differences within his school districts. He asked if the data in this report could generate a rank order of performance for individual schools instead of just elementary, middle, and high schools. He also said the core content performance comparisons would be helpful and projections for where schools will be in the year 2014.


Ms. Seiler said her staff has already begun work on the database at the school level. She said it would be a monstrous report to print, but summary data could be very helpful. Senator Winters said summary data would be very useful. She said they have not started on projection data yet, but they are headed in that direction.


With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.