Call to Order and Roll Call
TheEducation Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee meeting was held on<Day> Tuesday, September 26, 2017, at 1:00 p.m., in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Daniel Elliott, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Daniel Elliott, Co-Chair; Senators Alice Forgy Kerr, Gerald A. Neal, and Mike Wilson; Representatives Derrick Graham, Regina Huff, and Steve Riley.
Guests: Wayne Young, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Approval of August 15, 2017 Minutes
Senator Kerr made a motion to approve the minutes of the August 15, 2017 meeting, seconded by Senator Wilson. The motion passed by voice vote.
Preschool Program Review and Full-Day Kindergarten
Bart Liguori, Division Director, Office of Education Accountability (OEA), Sabrina Olds, Research Analyst, OEA, and Christopher Joffrion, Graduate Fellow, OEA, testified about the preschool and full-day kindergarten programs in Kentucky. Ms. Olds explained that the data used for the study came from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, and a survey sent by OEA to all district superintendents, which had a 100 percent response rate. The major conclusions regarding preschool were that opportunity has increased, but enrollment has not. By and large, districts think they are serving more students than they are and they spend more than twice the amount they receive from the state preschool grant. Additionally, funding fluctuations make long term planning difficult for districts. Regardless of this, the preschool program is effective in Kentucky. Major conclusions regarding full-day kindergarten programs were that most districts provide a full-day kindergarten and the additional cost for that varies widely. Full-day kindergarten is effective as it is associated with higher 3rd grade K-PREP proficiency rates.
Ms. Olds illustrated the fluctuations in funding for preschool from the General Assembly. In 1991, $18 million was appropriated for preschool programs, by 2007 the appropriation was $74 million, or approximately $88 million when adjusted for inflation. In the most recent school year, the General Assembly appropriated $82.6 million. When state-funded preschool was first established, the target age groups were 3- to 4-year-olds with disabilities, and at-risk students from families with incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2007, the eligibility requirements were broadened to serve students up to 150 percent of poverty level and in 2016 requirements were expanded to 160 percent of federal poverty level. In 2006, prior to eligibility increases, the number of preschool students was approximately 20,000. In 2016, the number of students served was 18,700 and in the most recent school year, 1,100 fewer students were served than before the increases in eligibility. While this shows that the number of students served has decreased since expanding eligibility, Ms. Olds illustrated that size of the at-risk population has increased. She showed the difference in funding per-pupil over time. In 2002, districts received approximately $2,500 per at-risk student. Ten years later, they received $2,800 and in 2016, they received $4,862. However, with reductions in appropriations to the Preschool Partnership Program, districts received $500 less in 2017.
Ms. Olds shared results from the survey of district superintendents on per-pupil preschool expenditures. On average, districts spend approximately $6,200 for regular preschool programming, $2,000 for special education services, and $1,000 for transportation. This brings the total per-pupil expenditure to approximately $9,300 in fiscal year 2016, which is almost twice the state appropriation. Because districts do not receive additional funds for preschool transportation, and because they are required to have driver assistants on any bus transporting preschool students, OEA staff suggests that KDE consider recommending that the Kentucky Board of Education allocate a portion of preschool funds to districts that transport preschool students. Ms. Olds highlighted this recommendation with statements from superintendents that the Preschool Partnership Grand funding should not have been reduced and that permanent funding should be provided to support full-day preschool and kindergarten as they represent a key strategy in novice reduction and closing the achievement gap in Kentucky.
Ms. Olds discussed the preschool program requirements put in place with the passage of Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990. First, districts must fully utilize Head Start funds before enrolling students in the state-funded preschool program. However, there is no definition of “full utilization” and agreements between districts and Head Start programs vary in their service of 4-year-olds. Several district superintendents stated in the OEA survey that the General Assembly should revisit full utilization requirements. OEA followed up with these districts and discovered that Head Start providers in their areas are not agreeing on a number of students served, which was hindering the districts’ ability to enroll eligible preschoolers. Other statutory requirements for preschool included: requirement for a minimum of 2.5 hours a day of instruction, 4 days a week; requirement for the provision of breakfast or lunch, and time allotted for meals not counting as instructional time; and recommendation for a 10-to-1 student to staff ratio.
Based on conversations with superintendents, and the fact that KDE is working collaboratively with Head Start providers and state-funded preschool coordinators, OEA recommends revision and modernization of the full utilization agreement process. KDE expects this to be completed soon and changes implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. Before implementation, however, OEA further recommends that KDE provide to the General Assembly a district-level analysis of the potential cost of increasing preschool enrollment of 4-year-old students, including an inventory of available space in district buildings, supplies, and playground equipment, to better inform appropriation decisions.
Approximately 40 percent of districts are providing a full-day preschool schedule four to five days a week. There are only two districts that do not provide any preschool services; they contract with Head Start to provide those services. However, since the inception of preschool, these contractors have not enrolled any students. Demographically, there are 5,159 3-year-old students currently enrolled, 65 percent of whom are male and 80 percent of whom are white. There are 14,232 4-year-old students enrolled, 55 percent of whom are male and 70 percent are white. Additionally, 82 percent of enrolled 4-year-olds qualify for free/reduced price lunch, 29 percent qualify for special education services, and eight percent have limited English proficiency. Ms. Olds noted that less than half of all limited English proficiency children participate, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of that population qualifies for free/reduced price lunch. They also may not be receiving the necessary special education services. Based on this information, OEA recommends that school districts, with support and guidance from KDE, should complete a needs assessment analysis of the education needs of preschool-aged, limited English proficiency students and should explore possible resources available to better meet the needs of these students.
Mr. Joffrion presented the review of the KDE Preschool Program Review (P2R) and preschool recruitment, enrollment, assessment, and data concerns. The P2R is KDE’s process for monitoring regulatory compliance at the district level. Of the 142 districts which have received a P2R evaluation since school year 2013, a total of 71 districts received at least one finding related to the district’s responsibility to conduct an annual self-evaluation of their preschool program. This means that 50 percent of reviewed programs were in some way noncompliant with the annual evaluation requirements. Of these findings, the most common related to the district’s obligation to monitor the success of participating children as they progress through the primary school program and to monitor and evaluate the participation of eligible children in the preschool program. As part of the OEA survey, districts were asked to submit their most recent self-evaluation. Only two districts provided documents which meet the requirements of the regulation and, therefore, OEA recommends that KDE should ensure that all districts complete an annual preschool evaluation that fulfills the requirements outlined in regulation.
Regulation also establishes requirements for the recruiting of students for the state-funded preschool program including the districts’ responsibility to: identify all eligible children, demonstrate an emphasis on recruiting eligible children not currently served by a preschool program, and establish a recruitment strategy that encourages the enrollment of eligible children. As part of the OEA survey, districts reported their estimate of the percentage of eligible students served, with 98 districts estimating they were serving 75 percent or more of the eligible population. In fact, data shows that three-quarters of districts are actually serving 50 percent or less of the eligible population. Participation rates of eligible 4-year-olds over the course of the three-year study period show an average enrollment of 63 percent of IEP students, but less than 40 percent of free/reduced price lunch students. This represents less than half of the over 100,000 eligible preschool students who began kindergarten in school year 2015 through 2017. The state-funded preschool program, however, is not the only publicly funded pre-kindergarten program for students in Kentucky. Head Start also enrolls 4-year-olds. Mr. Joffrion gave illustrations of the enrollment of students in either preschool or Head Start across the state. Statewide, 60 percent of eligible children were served by either program in the study period.
As mentioned earlier, districts are not serving the entire eligible student population. The percent of students with a prior setting of “home,” who were eligible for state-funded preschool, was illustrated by district for members in handouts. In the period from 2014-2016, more than 21,000 preschool eligible students remained at home prior to beginning kindergarten. In 145 school districts, more than 60 percent of students with a prior setting of home were eligible for state-funded preschool. In roughly ten percent of districts, more than 90 percent of students with a prior setting of home were eligible for preschool. Based upon this, OEA recommends that, with the support of KDE, regional training centers, and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, school districts should review and revise their recruitment strategies to increase the enrollment of eligible children to more fully comply with regulation.
In the area of preschool assessment and kindergarten readiness, state-funded preschool students are assessed each year using one of five preschool assessments which measure child development in three areas: social and emotional skills; knowledge and skills; and adaptive behavior. According to preschool teachers, only 37 percent of preschool students have achieved age-appropriate development in social and emotional skills, compared to 73 percent of parents who feel their children are average or above average. In all 173 districts, kindergarten readiness is measured by the Brigance Screens III. In school year 2017, 50.1 percent of all students entering kindergarten tested ready. As part of the OEA survey, superintendents were asked to provide copies of their preschool schedules and 68 districts complied. In districts that offered close to the minimum number of preschool hours, 42 percent of students tested ready for kindergarten. In districts where more than 16 hours of scheduled preschool time was provided, 55 percent of students tested ready. Rates of readiness for at-risk students and IEP students were also illustrated. Just over 50 percent of free/reduced price lunch students with a prior setting of only preschool tested ready. Only 37 percent of free/reduced price lunch non-preschool students tested ready and just 29 percent of free/reduced price lunch students with a prior setting of home tested ready. While the differing rates among IEP students based upon prior setting is not as great as among free/reduced price lunch students, IEP students with a prior setting of only preschool still perform better on kindergarten readiness than non-preschool peers. Mr. Joffrion said that the data suggests that for at-risk students, preschool provides better outcomes compared to other early childhood education settings. As a whole, the results of OEA’s assessment of the preschool program in Kentucky lead them to recommend a full and complete evaluation of the state-funded preschool program at least every five years beginning in 2020 and that the evaluation should be provided to the Kentucky Board of Education and to the General Assembly.
Previous OEA research has shown a significant achievement gap between white and non-white students beginning in the third grade. However, kindergarten readiness data analyzed for this study, shows a significant difference. With the exception of Hispanic students, preschool only students of all races are achieving kindergarten readiness at roughly the same rates. Additionally, a slightly larger percentage of black free/reduced price lunch preschool only students achieve kindergarten readiness than white peers. The screener used for all of this data was the Brigance kindergarten screener which Kentucky began using in the fall of 2012 as part of a pilot program. The findings from the pilot resulted in a statement from KDE that there was an opportunity to recalibrate the criterion for readiness based upon data gathered in the initial years of full implementation. Since then, however, there has not been any recalibration and the Brigance Screens III is used by all 173 districts.
The Brigance Kindergarten Screens III manual states that the screener was standardized based upon a sample of 167 5-year-olds representative of the demographic profile of the United States. Kentucky had 50,000 kindergarten students in 2017. The free/reduced price lunch percentage of the sample population was 40 percent, where Kentucky has a percentage of 65 percent. And the percentage below the cut score on the screener sample was 9 percent, compared to 50 percent of Kentucky students. According to the Brigance manual, the performance of the representative sample was standardized to have a mean score of 100 with a standard deviation of 15. In Kentucky the standardized mean was 86, suggesting that the mean of Kentucky’s kindergarten population is in the 16th percentile of the Brigance sample. Noting the difference between the Brigance sample and Kentucky’s population, OEA has concerns about the validity and generalizability of the Brigance Screens III. These concerns were submitted to Kentucky’s National Technical Advisory Panel on Assessment and Accountability (NTAPAA) whose members agreed with the concerns and provided additional feedback. Based on that feedback, OEA recommends that if KDE continues to use the Brigance Screen III to determine kindergarten readiness, it should recalibrate the standard for readiness based on data gathered in the initial years of its use as a common screener in Kentucky. Additionally, OEA recommends that the KDE engage in a longitudinal assessment of the relationship between kindergarten readiness, K-PREP, and other indicators of future academic success.
Ms. Olds then began the presentation on full-day kindergarten by stating the primary research questions of how many districts provide full-day kindergarten and what cost districts bear to provide the additional half-day. In 2017, six school districts offered half-day kindergarten and four districts offered a combination of full- and half-day kindergarten. This means that 163 districts provide full-day kindergarten in Kentucky. The OEA survey sent to superintendents shows that districts spent $161 million on salaries and $17 million on benefits for kindergarten staff in 2016. Additionally, districts reported spending $17 million on special education services, however, several districts did not provide an estimate of cost because they did not have expenses coded at that level. Together this data shows a per-pupil cost for kindergarten of at least $4,000. The Kentucky Board of Education has asked the General Assembly to fund full-day kindergarten in the 2018-2020 biennial budget, which would result in an increase of $171 million in SEEK appropriations per year.
Districts that switched to a full-day kindergarten between 2009 and 2017 were asked to submit the cost estimate associated with this decision. OEA also asked for additional documentation presented at board meetings where this transition was discussed. The data shows that district per-pupil costs varied from a low of $844 to a high of nearly $3,000 for the additional half-day. These costs reflect the need for additional teachers, aides, and instructional materials. The OEA survey also asked for additional comments from superintendents regarding the kindergarten program. Of those who responded, 21 said that kindergarten was underfunded and needed full funding support from the state. One superintendent, whose district has over half of its student population living in poverty, stated, “if the district did not have to bear the impact of the unfunded half day and the 40 percent loss of transportation we would be able to provide more mental and behavior[al] support for schools, more Response To Intervention (RTI) interventionists for our struggling students, lower teacher to student ratios, college and career coaches, and other very needed supports for our schools.”
OEA further performed a logistic regression analysis to determine if there was a statistical significance between 3rd grade performance on the K-PREP reading and math assessments for students who attended full-day or half-day kindergarten during the 2013 school year while controlling for demographic differences in the student population such as race, ethnicity, and gender. The data indicated that students who attended full-day kindergarten were 1.08 times more likely to score proficient or better on the K-PREP reading assessment relative to those who attended half-day kindergarten. On the K-PREP math assessment, students in full-day kindergarten were 1.12 times more likely to score proficient or better.
Ms. Olds presented OEA recommendations from the report that had not previously been highlighted. Of particular concern was the recommendation to increase preschool student eligibility to 160 percent of the federal poverty level which had been included in the current state biennial budget, but was line-item vetoed by the Governor. The veto caused conflict with current regulation which sets eligibility at 130 percent and OEA recommends that the Kentucky Board of Education revise the regulation to take current poverty levels into account. She expressed OEA’s concern that while regulation requires districts to record daily attendance of preschool students, about half of districts did not have any attendance records for preschool students, recommending that the regulation be enforced so the data could be analyzed to determine whether preschool attendance has any impact on outcomes. There was also significant discrepancy between reporting of preschool and Head Start enrollment, per-pupil funding, and readiness screening, so OEA made several recommendations to ensure that all future reporting is accurate and consistent.
In response to a question from Senator Wilson, Mr. Joffrion said that approximately 11,000 students in the three-year study period had prior setting of “other,” but that there was no further specificity of whether those students were with family or in a private childcare situation. Senator Wilson also expressed his concerns with the use of the Brigance screener and the data showing that preschool may not be providing as great an advantage in future achievement as would be expected.
In response to a question from Representative Graham, Ms. Olds said that the regulation states that schools should report attendance but KDE has not required it or verified it during the P2R audits. There is no requirement to use Infinite Campus for the reporting, but there is no other method specified in regulation and it would be the logical option for districts to use.
Representative Graham further commented that there is a program in the Jefferson County Public Schools district where the business community provided funding for preschool and kindergarten services. The first cohort from that program is currently in 3rd grade and he would be interested in knowing how that group has progressed. Mr. Joffrion said that the K-PREP data was still forthcoming, but should be available for that comparison in the next few weeks. Ms. Olds added that looking at Jefferson County data by itself indicates that the Jump Start program is providing some benefit. Mr. Liguori said that Jefferson County Public Schools had not provided specific partnership data, but OEA would be interested in looking into it on behalf of the committee.
In response to questions from Senator Neal, Ms. Olds said that the Pritchard Committee was in the process of making a report about what preschool and kindergarten costs should be to get the best use of resources. Additionally, Mr. Joffrion said that the quality of classrooms should be assessed separately as the P2R also assesses quality of classroom instruction in comparison to preschool best practices, but that was not included as part of this analysis.
Senator Neal requested that the OEA perform a qualitative evaluation of preschool and kindergarten to determine if any changes should be made to curriculum or instruction to make Kentucky’s programs internationally competitive. David Wickersham, Deputy Director, Office of Education Accountability, informed the committee that a preliminary report to that effect could be provided in a few weeks, but that it would also be suitable as a full study topic for next years’ research agenda.
With no further questions, Senator Wilson made a motion to accept the report as presented. Representative Riley seconded and the motion passed by voice vote.
Election of Senate Co-Chair
Chairman Elliot announced that Senator Wilson would no longer be serving as co-chair of the committee because of his election as Senate Majority Whip. Chairman Elliott opened the floor for nomination of a Senate Co-Chair. Senator Wilson nominated Senator Wise, seconded by Senator Kerr. There being no further nominations, Senator Wilson made a motion that nominations cease and that Senator Wise be elected by acclamation. Senator Kerr seconded the motion. Senator Wise was elected by voice vote to serve as the Senate Co-Chair.
Representative Graham expressed his congratulations to Senator Wilson on his new leadership position, stating that it has always been a pleasure working with him.
Chairman Elliot stated that the next meeting would be Tuesday, October, 17, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. in Annex Room 129. He encouraged members to be considering study topics to be included in the OEA Research Agenda that the committee would be approving in November. With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.