Friday, April 13, 2012

Kentucky: Statewide implementation of response-to-intervention

Reading proficiently by 3rd grade or bust! That seems to be the rallying cry in many states in recent legislative sessions. While a number of states have taken the route of retaining students who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade, research and experience make clear that early identification and intervention are absolutely critical if students are to become successful readers in the early grades--retention policy or no retention policy.

Kudos to Kentucky, where H.B. 69 was enacted Wednesday to require all districts to implement districtwide use of a response-to-intervention (RTI) system for students in grades K-3. The RTI system must be be for general, compensatory, and special education students, and must provide "interventions implemented with fidelity to scientifically based research" (like the "implemented with fidelity to..." rather than simply requiring interventions to incorporate scientifically based research, since interventions are not always implemented with fidelity!) Districts are to implement RTI systems over a few years, with reading and writing to be implemented by August 2013, math by August 2014, and behavior by August 2015.

Some of the other key components of this legislation:
  • The department of education must make technical assistance and training available to all districts in implementing the RTI system districtwide
  • Technical assistance must be designed to improve specified components critical to the quality and effectiveness of interventions
  • The department must develop and maintain a Web-based resource, to provide ongoing support to teachers in all of the targeted areas--reading, writing, math, and behavior
  • The department must encourage districts to use both state and federal funds as appropriate to implement the districtwide RTI system
  • The department is not going this road alone. The legislation encourages the department to collaborate with postsecondary institutions on "technical assistance and training on current best practice interventions", and is required to collaborate with specified existing entities, including postsecondary teacher education programs, and state-supported centers focused on literacy development mathematics, and instructional discipline, "to ensure that teachers are prepared to utilize scientifically based interventions in reading, writing, mathematics, and behavior."
  • This is no "set it and forget it" policy--there's a reporting component. By November 30, 2013, and each year thereafter, the department is required to report specified components to the interim joint committee on education, including "data on the effectiveness of interventions in improving student performance" in schools in the state.

The aforementioned ECS report makes clear that many retention policies focused on the early grades are likely to minimally impact their goal--widespread reading proficiency by the end of grade 3--without early identification of difficulties and prompt, appropriate interventions. Kentucky's new legislation provides a promising approach to ensuring early identification plus interventions, as the bill states, "matched to individual student strengths and needs."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Delaware: Excellent coordinated state STEM plan

While labor market projections have galvanized many policymakers and education stakeholders to call for improved STEM education and a better-prepared future STEM workforce, in many cases the efforts that have resulted to date seem to be disjointed across the P-20 spectrum and across affected stakeholders (business community, various agencies and state and local policymaking entities).

Delaware's STEM Council, created a little over a year ago by Governor Jack Markell, provides one model for a coordinated state-level approach across education sectors and stakeholders. The council's first annual report, released earlier this month, concisely articulates Delaware's current state of STEM affairs, as identified by six committees - (1) business collaboration and communication, (2) women and minorities, (3) public education (P-12 education), (4) program evaluation and monitoring, (5) higher education recommendations, and (6) an advisory committee (cutting across agencies and education sectors) - as well as recommendations for 2012 action for each. Pages 16 and 17 represent a bold move, providing a March 2012-March 2013 quarter-by-quarter timeline for the council to act on its various recommendations.

The council has clearly done its homework, both in terms of (1) what the state is and isn't doing in STEM education and STEM business/education collaboration, and (2) what the state can and should be doing. The council and report together provide a fantastic model for other states to consider as they seek to improve quality, access and coordination between P-12 and higher education and the private sector on this important issue.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Georgia: Cheaters never prosper - literally

Legislation recently sent to the governor's desk in Georgia is intended to hit teachers who cheat where it counts--in their wallets. Very likely in response to the 2011 Atlanta testing scandal that made national news, H.B. 692 provides that any teacher or other certified staff member's salary increase or bonus based on an evaluation that included student assessment results found to be falsified is to be automatically forfeited. And any amount of the bonus or salary increase that the staff member already received before the cheating came to light must be repaid in full.

While states have been taking various approaches to curb cheating by teachers and administrators on student tests, I don't recall seeing states go after the salary increases or bonuses that the good or improved test scores would eventually result in. It will be interesting to see if this approach catches on elsewhere--particularly as an increasing number of states seem to be looking into teacher pay for performance, including barring pay increases for teachers scoring in the lowest tier in teacher evaluation systems.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kentucky: Taking concussion legislation to a new level

Over the last 2-3 years, the majority of states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to inform student athletes and parents about the nature and risk of concussions, and keep student athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion from returning to play until they've been given the all-clear from an appropriate medical professional. Some states have gone a step further, requiring coaches and other appropriate staff to receive training on identifying concussions.

However, legislation recently sent to the governor's desk in Kentucky is the first I've seen that addresses the fact that coaches and medical staff need to have a plan to act swiftly if the condition of a student who suffers a concussion begins to rapidly deteriorate--a particularly important policy component in rural areas, where the closest hospital or clinic may be a long, life-threatening drive away. Specifically, the legislation (again, pending governor's action as of this writing) directs the state board or department of education to adopt rules requiring each school with an interscholastic athletic program "to develop a venue-specific emergency action plan to deal with serious injuries and acute medical conditions in which" the patient's condition "may deteriorate rapidly. Each such plan must, among other components, "Include a delineation of role, methods of communication, available emergency equipment, and access to and plan for emergency transportation", be "posted conspicuously at all venues, and reviewed and rehearsed annually by all licensed athletic trainers, first responders, coaches, school nurses, athletic directors, and volunteers for interscholastic athletics."

To be clear, the safety plan doesn't single out concussion victims--it applies to any and all "serious injuries and acute medical conditions" for student athletes "in which the condition of the patient may deteriorate rapidly." The legislation has the potential not only to save lives, but reduce the potential severity of an injury--concussion or otherwise--if an injured student might have to travel a long distance to a hospital or clinic.