Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee




<MeetMDY1> August 15, 2017


Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 3rd meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on<Day> Tuesday,<MeetMDY2> August 15, 2017, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Mike Wilson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.


Present were:


Members:<Members> Senators Mike Wilson, Alice Forgy Kerr, and Max Wise; Representatives Daniel Elliott, Derrick Graham, and Steve Riley.


Guests: Wayne Young, KASA; Christina Water, KDE; and Alex Spurrier, KDE.


LRC Staff: Joshua Collins, Yvette Perry, and Chris White.


David Wickersham, Deputy Director of the Office of Education Accountability (OEA), introduced OEA’s two new investigators, Terri Collins and Katherine (Katy) Moran.


Senator Wilson recognized Karen Timmell’s long-standing service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and extended congratulations on her upcoming retirement in September from the Office of Education Accountability.


Approval of June 20, 2017 Minutes

            On a motion by Representative Elliott and a second from Senator Wise, the minutes of the June 20, 2017, were accepted by voice vote.


Presentation: School Attendance in Kentucky

            Senator Wilson invited the OEA to begin their presentation of School Attendance in Kentucky, which explain attendance trends at the state and district levels and includes comparisons to other states.


Members of the OEA staff introduced themselves as Bart Liguori, Research Division Director, Logan Rupard, Research Analyst, and Chris Riley, Research Analyst.


            Mr. Rupard said the study analyzed full attendance in Kentucky at the state, district, school, and student levels and compares the state to the nation. It used Kentucky data to examine several issues associated with school attendance in national research. A particular focus on data findings was relevant as the state prepares to implement new federal requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires measuring chronic absenteeism. The study used a variety of data sources, including the student information system (SIS), known as Infinite Campus, which included almost all of Kentucky attendance-related data.


OEA administered an electronic survey to measure districts’ feedback regarding attendance-related legislation and attendance issues. The survey requested detailed steps that districts are using to address attendance issues. The survey was sent to all superintendents and the response rate was 100 percent; however, not all items on the survey were addressed 100 percent. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) data was used to compare Kentucky’s chronic absenteeism rates to those of other states and the nation.


Mr. Rupard detailed major conclusions from the report, including an analysis on attendance, results from chronic absenteeism modeling, and a summary of the electronic survey conducted by OEA. The survey included specific questions to measure the districts’ perceptions of SB 97 from 2013 and SB 200 from 2014.


In previous literature, chronically absent was defined as students absent more than 10 percent of scheduled school days. The number of days used for the purpose of this study was 17.4 days. The days were calculated using 10 percent of the weighted number of calendar days based on enrollment per district, or 174 days. The study contains 12 major conclusions and was broken down into attendance, rates of chronic absenteeism, outcomes, survey results, and other findings.


Regarding attendance-related conclusions, OEA identified a majority of students as truant each year. Compared to seven surrounding states, Kentucky has the second highest rate of chronic absenteeism overall, with the highest rates concentrated in Eastern Kentucky and Jefferson County.


Mr. Rupard said findings show that Free or Reduced-Priced Lunch (FRPL) students have a higher rate of chronic absenteeism compared to students not eligible for FRPL. When comparing the rates between races/ethnicities, black students have the highest rates, although it appears this figure is higher due to a higher number of black students qualifying for FRPL.


For elementary students, chronic absenteeism is highest for those in kindergarten and 1st grade. OEA found that chronically absent and mobile students are negatively impacted and students transferring within a single district are particularly impacted. Once a student misses 10 days, academic performance begins to be negatively impacted.


In response to OEA’s survey, the majority of survey respondents indicated that Senate Bill 97, the law raising compulsory attendance age to 18, had increased the number of truant students. Almost two-thirds of the respondents implied the number of students entering home school increased. Data also indicated the number of students entering home school increased over the previous five years. Approximately 55 percent of survey respondents suggested Senate Bill 200, the juvenile justice bill, increased the number of student absences.


Mr. Rupard said that being absent during the first month of school is a large predictor of a student becoming chronically absent. Because attendance rates can sometimes obscure the chronic absenteeism rate of individual students within schools, it could possibly lead to schools with similar attendance rates experiencing substantially different chronic absenteeism rates.


Mr. Rupard said truant students are those absent or tardy from school without a valid excuse for three or more days. A habitually truant student is one who has been truant two or more times. Kentucky is one of 22 states providing the definition of truant, with Illinois being the only surrounding state offering a state definition. Local Boards of Education are allowed to set the definitions for excused and unexcused absences which can impact the number of truant or habitually truant students.


According to those definitions, over 60 percent of Kentucky students were truant in 2016, while 40 percent were habitually truant students under the terms of KRS 159.150. These values have remained consistent for each of the past five years, which led OEA to Recommendation 2.1. The prevalence of truancy in Kentucky may reduce the impact of labelling students as truant or habitually truant. OEA’s analysis suggests the General Assembly should explore how schools and local boards of education implement KRS 159.150, including reviewing and revising the statute to redefine truancy in a manner that provides schools and districts assistance for students suffering negative consequences of poor attendance.


The chronic absenteeism rate for Kentucky and the surrounding states was broken down into the elementary, middle, and high school levels as well as overall national ranking. Mr. Rupard referred to a chart showing the percentage of chronically absent students, the state ranking, and the overall national percentage and ranking. The information was compiled from OCR data and established chronic absenteeism at 15 days to allow for comparison between states. For the ranking, one is given to the highest rate of chronic absenteeism and 51 is the lowest.


At the elementary level, Kentucky had the 24th highest rate in the nation and third highest among surrounding states. This is the only level Kentucky is below the national average. At the middle school level, Kentucky had the 19th highest rate nationally, and second compared to surrounding states. At the high school level, Kentucky had the 10th highest rate in the nation, 4 percentage points higher than the national average and the highest among surrounding states.


Mr. Rupard referred to a map with the top ten percent of schools by level. The map displays a large concentration of schools in Jefferson County and eastern Kentucky. The top ten percent of schools include students with higher FRPL rates, a higher percentages of black and Hispanic students, students with an individualized education program (IEP) and homeless students, and corresponds to schools with the highest rates of chronic absenteeism.


Referring to another chart, Mr. Rupard explained chronic absenteeism rates by program eligibility. He said FRPL and Non-Limited English Proficiency (NLEP) student chronic absenteeism rates have nearly double compared to Non-FRPL and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students. Homeless and IEP students are higher than students not included in these groups, with over one in four homeless students and nearly one in five students with an IEP being chronically absent.


The chronic absenteeism rates by race and ethnicity for the previous five school years were displayed in another chart. Black students were recorded with the highest rate at nearly 17 percent in 2016. However, as a later analysis will show, poverty seems to be a large contributor to chronic absenteeism.


Chronic absenteeism rates associated with discipline were also a factor. Almost half of students having an out-of-school suspension and 25 percent of students receiving an in-school removal were chronically absent. Twelve percent of students receiving neither an in-school or out-of-school removal were chronically absent. While days missed due to an out-of-school suspension were included toward chronic absenteeism days, time missed for in-school removal were not included.


In 2016, the chronic absenteeism rate for kindergarten students was 15 percent and decreased through third grade. In grades 4 through 12, almost a third of students were chronically absent. While grades 2-5 have the lowest rates, kindergarten and 1st grades have rates above 10 percent, which led to OEA’s next recommendation.


Recommendation 2.2 suggests Kentucky school districts, with support from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), should monitor student attendance in kindergarten and 1st grade, as those students are more likely to be chronically absent than other students at the elementary level.


Mr. Rupard said the attendance rate is the proportion of students in attendance during the school year and measures the percentage of student in the building. The chronic absenteeism rate is the percentage of students missing (17.4 days for the purpose of this study) and measures how many students are missing regularly.


Another chart detailed the attendance rate and chronic absenteeism rate for the previous five years. The attendance rate held steadily around 94.5 percent. The chronic absenteeism rate fluctuated between 13 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2016, without much impact on the attendance rate.


The attendance rate for the state, as well as two elementary schools, were provided. Both schools had an attendance rate higher than the state, or 95-96 percent; however, when comparing the same schools’ chronic-absenteeism rates, the results were quite different with Elementary 1 having a rate under five percent and elementary 2 having a rate of 18 percent. While these schools are located in different parts of the state, they have a similar percentage of FRPL students.


Mr. Chris Riley said prior research attempted to show the relationship between chronic absenteeism and various educational outcomes. This report explored how chronic absenteeism is associated with test scores, including the American College Testing (ACT) and Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) assessments. OEA also examined the relationship between chronic absenteeism and GPAs, promotion rates, and student discipline.


Statistical modeling was used to determine the relationship of the listed explanatory variables with the probability of student being chronic absenteeism. The output of the model assigned a percentage point effect for each of the explanatory variables within the model relative to the mean of the control group. In the example explained, white female students had zero absences during the first month of instruction, did not receive FRPL or IEP services, and were not homeless. According to the analysis, an absence of any kind during the first month of instruction increases the probability of chronic absenteeism by nearly 11 percentage points relative to the control group mean. The model was designed to be additive, therefore more than one explanatory variable may be applied. As an example, an FRPL student with one absence during the first month would have a 19.4 percent probability of being chronically absent before the end of the school year. The model suggests that absences early on in the school year can be predictive factors of chronic absenteeism.


This analysis led to OEA’s Recommendation 2.3, which proposes Kentucky school districts, with the support and guidance of the KDE, identify students at risk of becoming chronically absent early in the school year.


The ACT composite score gap for 11th grade students were 2 points higher for students not chronically absent in comparison to the students who were. Chronically absent students struggled relative to their peers who were not chronically absent in all outcomes outlined in the report regardless of race or ethnicity. In relation to achievement gaps, the outcome showed that among the 11th grade population of students that were FRPL and homeless, those that were chronically absent struggled more on the ACT relative to students who were not chronically absent. As with race and ethnicity, OEA found this relationship holds true for each group and outcome analyzed within the report.


OEA focused on the relationship between chronic absenteeism and promotion rates. The promotion rates in grades K-11 for chronically absent students ranged from 86 to 88 percent while non-chronically absent students were at 94 percent. During the 2015 school year, the promotion rate gap was especially pronounced in grades 9 through 11, with the promotion rate gap between chronically absent and non-chronically absent students extending to more than 14 percent.


Mr. Riley said the negative relationship between chronic absenteeism and educational outcome is apparent. OEA used statistical modeling to test the relationship of various absence levels on test scores and grade point average (GPA). The report provided figures of the projected effect of five different absence levels on ACT composite scores and unweighted GPAs. The modeling indicates 10 to 15 absences of any kind is the projected point at which ACT composite scores and unweighted GPAs begin to trend downward. This finding led to OEA’s Recommendation 3.1, which suggests that the KDE should consider lowering the threshold for chronic absenteeism to ten absences rather than ten percent of days enrolled.


A primary focus of the report is the negative relationship between chronic absenteeism and educational outcomes; however, OEA also examined the relationship between outcomes and student mobility. Students are considered mobile if they made at least one transfer during the school year. ACT composite scores for students in grade 11 who did not transfer during the school year scored 2 points higher than students who transferred outside their district and more than three points higher than students who transferred within the same district. Students that transferred within the same school district during the school year struggled the most in terms of ACT composite scores during the observation period.


In the spring and summer of 2016, OEA administered an electronic survey to all districts which included multiple choice and open response items as a means of measuring feedback. Open response items were reviewed by OEA staff and responses were coded into different constructs with similar responses and detailed some of the findings.


Mr. Riley said Senate Bill 97, raising the compulsory attendance age to 18, was voluntary until 55 percent, or 96 districts, adopted the policy. By January of 2015, the boards of education of all 173 school districts had approved raising the age of compulsory attendance.


Relating to questions regarding Senate Bill 97, Mr. Riley highlighted two responses in which 51.6 percent of respondents indicated an increase in the number of truant students; however, he said the number of truant students has remained relatively constant during the previous five years. Mr. Riley said students entering home schooling increased 65.4 percent. Comparing home school to dropout trends in grades K-8, home school transfers increased 27 percent. In high school, the increase was 37 percent but the number of dropouts decreased by 55 percent.


The impacts of Senate Bill 200, the substantial overhaul of Kentucky’s juvenile justice system, amended or created new obligations for a variety agencies and individuals. More than half of the respondents, or 53.9 percent, indicated SB 200 increased the number of absences and forty-one percent reported that disciplinary events increased as well.


When OEA asked what attendance issues districts face, respondents specified 36.6 percent observed courts legislation, and lack of consequences; 32.5 percent indicated truancy and chronic absenteeism; family and home issues were highlighted by 17.9 percent; older students by 14.6 percent; health related issues by 10.6 percent; doctor appointments by 8.1 percent; and home schools by 4.9 percent. One district associate superintendent noted students who are non-compliant with respect to school attendance face no real consequences.


Mr. Riley said OEA received common responses from districts regarding how they were addressing their attendance issues and gave the percentage of responses for each. These included home visits and family outreach at 50.4 percent; student incentives at 19.2 percent; truancy diversion programs at 12.8 percent; additional academic offerings at 7.2 percent; health services referrals at 5.6 percent; and social worker involvement at 1.6 percent.


In response to questions from Senator Wilson, Mr. Rupard said three or more days of unexcused absences in the school year are considered truant and 17.4 days are considered habitually truancy, for this study. While most previous research used 10 percent, OEA took an average of the school calendar days per district based on enrollment, or 10 percent of 174. There are no regulations or statutes in place and ESSA has no set definition. KDE plans to use 10 percent to compute chronic absenteeism. Survey respondents indicated the dropout rate was lower and homeschool transfers increased. Actual data indicated a 54.5 percent decrease in dropouts and a 37.2 percent increase in homeschool transfers.


Representative Riley, as a former high school administrator, said many absences are due to lack of parental control and commonly found in single-parent homes. While the attendance decrease began when the compulsory age changed to 18, the number of students entering homeschool is often done to keep the parents out of trouble with the schools and courts. In many cases, the parents did not complete high school. Chronic absenteeism is a huge problem and more predominant in certain areas of the state. He said we must figure out ways to get students in school and improve the academic environment.


In response to a question from Senator Kerr, Mr. Rupard said the percentage of district survey respondents who indicated Senate Bill 97 had an impact on the number of students enrolling in homeschooling is 65.4 percent. The actual increase of high school students enrolling in home school from 2012 to 2016 was 37.2 percent.


In response to a question by Senator Kerr, Mr. Wickersham said the criteria for opening a home school requires the parent notify the board for exemption from compulsory attendance and withdraw the student. Since home schools are considered private schools under Kentucky law, legislative, KDE and executive branch oversight is limited. Senator Wilson added a parent must file a letter with the school district and the district has the ability for additional oversight through inspection of required homeschool records. Mr. Wickersham confirmed that homeschools are required by law to be open to inspection by the Director of Pupil Personnel (DPP), which is written in the statute.


In response to questions from Representative Graham, Mr. Wickersham suggested the OEA could study laws in the other 49 states regarding homeschool laws. Representative Graham said he believes Kentucky is the only state with no degree of strong homeschool oversight to ensure students are receiving a proper education. Of the many that operate in Kentucky, the DPPs have made an effort to visit the homes without success. He suggested the legislature introduce some kind of limited measures that could be administered with the KDE or the 173 individual districts and the measures should be closer to the local district level since kids entering homeschool affect their budgets. While many homeschool programs have great providers, he admits there are problems with others. Representative Riley requested OEA provide the exact number of students in Kentucky who are enrolled in homeschool. Mr. Riley said the FRPL is not the only indicator of rates of chronic absenteeism and that first-month absences are a larger contributor than poverty. Representative Graham requested analytical factors be provided which contribute to students from the demographic areas shown, in addition to FRPL. Mr. Ligouri said that another factor is students who are absent within the first month have a larger impact on chronic absenteeism. Mr. Riley said other factors are homelessness and students having an IEP, as well as gender and race.


Representative Graham suggested schools have trained personnel to help build relationships between students, faculty, and administration to better understand, relate to, and work with children who come from economically disadvantaged families. Mr. Riley said the survey specifically asked how districts are addressing the issue. The presentation showed the most common results of responses from the districts, which included over half of the respondents indicating home visits or family outreach. OEA lacked time to evaluate programs in specific schools or districts but could gather information in a follow-up study and provide successful methods being utilized in other areas and incorporate those ideas into districts experiencing less success. Representative Graham added that it is important to address homeschool students not being properly educated.


Senator Wilson said committee staff will send a reminder to members asking for items which need to be included in the 2017 OEA study. He added there are approximately 600,000 students in public education, but said OEA staff will provide the actual number of homeschool students in the state.


In response to a question from Senator Kerr, Mr. Wickersham said a student cannot initiate homeschooling since a parent or guardian is legally responsible for school the student’s attendance until age 18. Because school or formal education is mandatory, it is unlikely a local school or district would discourage students from attending public schools. He said the goal is to attract and keep children in school to provide them opportunities of academic proficiency and access to available social activities. Mr. Wickersham said the frustration with Senate Bill 200 may be due how school districts can use the court system to encourage attendance. One item Senate Bill 200 did not touch upon is that Kentucky’s educational neglect statutes are focused clearly on the parent’s role in forcing the student to come to school and there are opportunities throughout KRS 159 enabling schools to collect fines assessed against parents for their children being chronically absent. Mr. Wickersham said the institutional interest is in encouraging attendance as opposed to discouraging it.


In response to Senator Kerr’s question, Mr. Wickersham said the DPPs have clearly outlined statutory obligations to become familiar with the child’s home situation and a reciprocal obligation to educate families about the benefits of education, whether it be parents and grandparents. He said the General Assembly has made some provisions for education regarding truancy and subsequent consequences.


(Interruption in question/answer session for election of House Co-Chair while quorum is present)

Election of House Co-Chair

On a motion by Representative Graham and a second by Representative Riley, Representative Elliott was nominated as the House Co-Chair. On a motion by Representative Graham and a second by Representative Riley, nominations ceased and Representative Elliott was elected House Co-Chair by voice vote.


Continuation of Questions on Presentation: School Attendance in Kentucky

Senator Wise expressed concern about parental oversight, giving examples of when one child has an appointment and the other children miss school and come to the appointment as well. Agreeing with Representative Graham, he said it is important to pinpoint specific reasons relating to chronic absenteeism, whether it be transportation or weather related.


Representative Riley requested that the previously requested research on the exact number of home schooled children be presented by grade to determine if it is more prevalent in high school than in elementary or middle school. Senator Wilson said less than three percent of children of overall students are homeschooled in Kentucky and asked Representative Riley to add this item to the list of study topics to the committee.


Mr. Rupard said new data visualization was utilized throughout the presentation. For today only, the links below are available to everyone and in the future hopes these will be displayed on the OEA webpage. He invited everyone to access the website via phone or laptop for the presentation.


OEA introduced an interactive tool available to committee members and staff by logging on to and


One link shows an attendance map with chronic absenteeism rate for each district. The darker the blue color indicates the higher incidents of chronic absenteeism. Filters for the school year and educational co-op and levels are shown as well. The levels are divided into elementary, middle, and high school grades.


            The other link shows the state chronic absenteeism rate and the attendance rate and is available for years 2012-2016. Filters for this display allow choosing one or multiple districts to view side-by-side.


            Mr. Rupard said that once publication standards have been created, OEA hopes the visualizations will be added to OEA’s website and viewed on computer, tablet, or phone and allow interactive use.


            Upon a motion by Senator Kerr and a second Senator Wise, the report was accepted and passed by voice vote.


            Senator Wilson said the next meeting will be Tuesday, September 26th, at 1:00 p.m. and the committee anticipates adopting the 2018 OEA Research Agenda at the October 17, 2017, meeting. He reminded members to forward any suggested topics to the EAARS committee staff for research topics.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:15.