Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Education Commission of the States - Recent Research

I sometimes use the Sticky Note application on my desktop computer.  Not to store all my passwords, of course, but to keep track of interesting articles or studies that I want to look into "when I have time." 

One of my favorite sources for such articles is the Education Commission of the States.  The commission was started in the mid-sixties as a way for scholars and policy makers to share information and ideas across the country.   Today they produce great research and analysis on education policy and education system characteristics in each of the 50 states. 

Below are five studies they have released recently that have been on my "to review more in-depth when I have time" pile.

High School Feedback ReportsEducation Commission of the States researched high school feedback reports in all states to provide this comprehensive resource. This database reviews high school feedback reports and systems in all 50 states. A state received a “yes” if the state has established a system or report that provides data regarding postsecondary enrollment and/or postsecondary performance of high school graduates, broken down at the high school and/or district level.

Key takeaways

  • Forty-two states currently have a system or report that provides data regarding postsecondary enrollment and/or postsecondary performance of high school graduates, broken down at the high school and/or district level.
  • Twenty-four states provide one or more elements of this data broken down by race/ethnicity.
  • Twenty-one states provide one or more elements of this data broken down by income indicators.
  • Thirty-nine states’ high school feedback reports are publicly available.
  • State education agencies produce high school feedback reports or systems in 21 states, state higher education agencies produce them in 13 states, and P20W collaborative agencies or statewide longitudinal data systems produce them in eight states.

Advancing Student Success Through the Arts: This Education Trends report explores research on how the arts bolster the development of deeper learning skills, provides examples of programs that successfully increased access to the arts in education in public schools, and includes state- and local-level policy considerations.

State Innovations for Near Completers: This Promising Practices report overviews the 2017 policy landscape regarding near-completers, reviews three states’ outreach strategies to this population and includes policy considerations for state leaders.

The Civics Education Initiative 2015-17:  This Education Trends report provides an update on state adoption of the Civics Education Initiative, explains the impact of the initiative, looks at how states customized the initiative, and provides examples and opportunities for policymakers to build on civic education policy efforts, such as the Civics Education Initiative.

Outcomes-Based Funding: This Policy Snapshot defines and explores outcomes-based funding, and provides summary information on 2016 and 2017 legislative activities.

If you visit ECS's site, be sure to subscribe so you will receive notices when they release new reports.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

KASB Calendar Survey Data – Changes from 2016-17 to 2017-18

KASB recently released the 2017 Annual Calendar Survey Report, where we describe the information from districts related to the 2017-18 school year and all school years back to 2001-02.  In it, we discuss trends across this period, but do not focus on the changes from last year to this year. 
In this post, we will talk about what has apparently changed since last year, and why these changes might have happened.

Note that the data being used for the annual report and for this post represents 97% of the districts for 2016-17, and 77% of the districts for 2017-18, so some of the differences could be due to the districts who have not responded yet for this year.

Here are some of the changes from last year to this year that are worth noting:

  • Days:  The data shows that from 2001-02 through 2016-17, the average number of student contact days decreased steadily from 177.4 to 167.5, but then increased to 168.2 in 2017-18.  This is the first year the student contact days have increased since 2005-06.  In addition, in-service days increased from 6.4 last year to 6.7 this year, which is the highest average number of days reported so far on this survey.
  • Duration: The data shows that from 2001-02 through 2016-17, the number of hours spent at school per day by both students and teachers has been steadily increasing, with teachers spending about 10 minutes more per day at school in 2016-17 than they did in 2001-02, and with students spending about 15 minutes more.  However, from 2016-17 to 2017-18, the average time spent at school has decreased one minute for both students and teachers. 
  • Kindergarten Formats: The percent of kindergarten programs that are all day, every day has been increasing since 2001-02, with 34% of schools reported with full day programs in 2001-02 compared to 88% in 2016-17.  However, the percent of schools reported with all day every day programs increased to 94% in 2017-18, which is a much larger increase in percent than has been seen in recent years. 

In previous reports, we have noted that the general trend in Kansas was that teachers were working fewer days per year, but those days were longer.  One possible explanation for this is districts’ needs to save money by decreasing teacher contract days, and another is that districts decreased teacher contract days in lieu of salary increases as part of the teacher contract negotiations process. 

If either or both of these explanations are true, then the change in trends for days and duration could be due to the additional money districts received for the 2017-18 school year after several years of flat funding.  Districts may be moving towards having more student contact days and more teacher in-service days while shortening the actual school days themselves because they have the flexibility to do that with the additional funding received. 

In terms of Kindergarten formats, at the state and national levels, it has for some time been the consensus that all day, every day kindergarten formats are preferable to half day every day programs, all day every other day programs, or even half day every other day programs.  However, the state has not made the commitment to fully fund all day every day kindergarten programs until this year.  The larger increase in the number of schools reported with all day every day kindergarten programs is likely due to the additional money districts received for the 2017-18 school year for kindergarten classrooms.

To read the full KASB 2017 Calendar Survey Annual Report, click here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Teacher Perceptions on Professional Learning

Resources for Learning recently published a report entitled "The State of Teacher Professional Learning: Results from a Nationwide Survey."  The survey was conducted in partnership with NEA, LearningForward, and Corwin.

Over 6,300 educators nationwide responded to the online survey in 2016.  Here are the key findings, according to the report:

  1. Teachers report that leaders in their schools and systems are committed to professional learning. Teachers recognize that their school leaders advocate for resources that support professional learning.  Additionally, teachers tend to agree that their school leaders have confidence that all staff are capable of being professional learning leaders. 
  2. Teachers report that their schools use student achievement data to plan professional learning, but they don't use a variety of data to assess its effectiveness.  Teachers agree that a variety of student achievement data informs professional learning for school improvement. However, teachers do not necessarily see their schools as committed to using a variety of data in planning and evaluating professional learning.  They also do not necessarily believe that their school has a consistent approach to professional learning. 
  3. Teachers are not deeply involved in decisions about their own professional learning.  Just over half of survey respondents indicated they only had some say in professional learning decisions, and nearly twenty percent indicate they had no input at all.  Teachers also reported that professional learning expenses are not necessarily openly discussed at schools.  
  4. Teachers report that they are not provided adequate time during the school day to follow-up on their professional learning by practicing and applying new skills in the classroom. Only one fourth of respondents indicated that the majority of their professional learning takes place during school hours.  
The study recommends the following:
  1. Provide opportunities for continuous, job-embedded professional learning. Effective strategies include instructional coaching and participation in professional learning communities or school-based teams.
  2. Use a variety of sources of data to plan and assess professional learning.  Both student and teacher implementation data can and should inform objectives for professional learning, and ongoing monitoring can reveal whether teachers are effectively applying this new learning in the classroom.
  3. Include teachers in decision making about their own professional learning.  School leaders can invite teachers to reflect on their practice, listen deeply to their concerns, and bring them to the table to consider solutions, with a focus on collaboration and improved student learning.  
For the full report, click here.

The KASB's 2017 Calendar Survey Report will be released soon.  According to the survey data, in 2001-02 the average teacher prep time was between 48.2 and 58.2 minutes, compared to between 50.5 and 54.5 minutes in 2017-18.  However, during this same time the reported average number of minutes per week teachers spend working outside their scheduled work time increased from 59.2 minutes to 81.3.  In other words, in the past sixteen years teacher prep time has remained roughly the same, but the time teachers spend working after hours has increased over twenty minutes per week.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

ECS Study on AP Access and Success in Rural versus Urban Schools

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) recently released a report entitled "Advanced Placement Access and Success:  How do rural schools stack up?"  The report finds that "despite the growing rates of AP opportunities in rural high schools, students in rural areas remain less likely to attend a high school offering AP than their urban and suburban counterparts."

The report indicates that schools in rural areas serve nearly one-fifth of all public school students in the nation, with nearly thirty percent of all American public schools in rural communities with less than 2,500 residents.  These schools "struggle to attract and retain high-quality teachers" due to "geographic remoteness" and "shortcomings in infrastructure" such as lack of access to broadband internet.

Nonetheless, rural high school graduation rates are comparable for students in suburban areas and are often better than rates for students in urban schools.  However, rural students fall behind urban and suburban students at the postsecondary level.

"Data from the Department of Education's Schools and Staffing Survey indicate that in 2011, only 45 percent of high school graduates from rural schools attended four-year colleges immediately after graduating from high school, compared to 49 percent of urban high school graduates and 52 percent of suburban high school graduates.  Even with the inclusion of two-year college attendance, the survey results indicate that on-time college-going rates of rural high school graduates fell short of their urban and suburban peers."

Research shows that getting college credit via AP courses makes it more likely that a student will earn a postsecondary degree, so ensuring that these are made available to all students is important.

The ECS study focused on four metrics:
  • Student access to AP: Over the past 15 years, AP access increased for rural students, and gaps between rural students and their urban and suburban peers narrowed substantially.  If the rate of progress continues, rural students will soon have access to AP at the same rate as their urban and suburban peers. 
  • Student participation in AP exams: AP exam participation roughly doubled between 2001 and 2015 for rural, urban, and suburban students.  The AP participation gap between rural students and their urban and suburban counterparts narrows once the analysis is limited only to high schools offering AP, with rates for rural nearly the same as those for urban and suburban. 
  • Student performance on AP exams: Rural students score lower on AP exams overall than their urban and suburban counterparts, partially due to the fact that they have less opportunities to take these exams.  
  • Postsecondary success for high-performing students: High-performing rural students equal their peers in postsecondary success.  
Taken together, these four findings indicate that simply increasing access to AP exams for rural students should lead to higher rates of postsecondary success for these students.

KASB will soon be releasing our annual State Education Report Card, which includes information on how Kansas compares to other states in terms of population density and distribution.  Here are some facts about Kansas from the report:
  • Kansas ranks 40th in population per square mile as of 2016.
  • Kansas ranks 35th in the percent of the population in urbanized areas, 25th in the percent in urban areas, and 4th in percent in urban clusters.  Taken together, this suggests that Kansas is a largely rural state.
  • Other states similar to Kansas in population distribution are Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylania, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
You can read more about ECS's study here.  And keep watching for the 2017 KASB State Education Report Card, which should be available some time in September.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ECS State Governance Structures

The Education Commission of the States this week released the 2017 update to its  State Education Structures report.  The report describes the kinds of structures each of the 50 states uses to establish the state education governing bodies.   

The report indicates that most state governance models fall into one of four categories, as described below: 

  1. Model I:  Appointed Board, Appointed Chief.  This model involves the electorate electing the Governor, who then appoints both the State Board of Education and the Chief State School Officer.  10 states use this model:  Delaware, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. 

  1. Model II: Governor Appoints Board, Board Appoints Chief.  This model involves the electorate electing the Governor, who then appoints the State Board of Education, which in turn appoints the Chief State School Officer.  12 states use this model:  Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.  

  1. Model III:  Appointed Board, Elected Chief.  This model involves the electorate electing both the Governor and the Chief State School Officer, then the Governor appoints the State Board of Education.  10 states use this model:  Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. 

  1. Model IV: Elected Board, Board Appoints Chief.  This model involves the electorate electing both the Governor and the State Board of Education and the State Board electing the Chief State School Officer. 6 states use this model: Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Utah. 

The remaining 12 states (Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin) have modified versions of the four models described above. 

The model that Kansas uses (Model IV) is used by the fewest number of states, but is the same model as used by our neighbors Colorado and Nebraska.  Missouri and Oklahoma both use models where the Governor appoints the State Board of Education.   

The Education Commission of the States has the following to say about the model used by Kansas: 

Of the four models, Model IV provides the governor the least amount of direct authority over education governance. The state board of education is directly accountable to voters; however, the board’s ability to reshape policy is often limited by statutory constraints.  In an environment where governors have limited formal incentive to take a strong stance on education issues, this support may be difficult to obtain. As such, this governance dynamic produces a context where education leaders may be empowered to shape policy and remain flexible at the state level, but have limited ability to press for expansive policy changes that require significant funding or substantial policies changes. 

KASB will soon be releasing our 2017 State Education Report Card, where we rank the states on a variety of student attainment and achievement measures.  The following table shows how these different governance models align with the state student outcome ranks.   

Governance Model 
Rank Tier 
Average Rank 





States with Governance Model I, where the Governor appoints both the State Board and the Chief State School Officer, had an average student outcome rank of 13.8, which is higher than for the other four models.  Four states in this group were in the top ten, four in the top 20 and two were in the middle tier for outcome ranks. 

States with Governance Model IV, which includes Kansas, had the second highest average rank at 21.0.  Two states in this group (Kansas and Nebraska) were in the top ten, and the remaining states were in the middle tier or lower.   

States with Governance Model II had an average rank of 22.3, with three states in this group in the top ten, three in the top twenty, and the rest in the middle tier or lower.  

States with Governance Model III had an average rank of 33.1, with no states in this group in the top ten, two in the top twenty, and the rest in the middle tier or lower. 

The remaining states, represented by Governance Model V, had an average rank of 34.0, and were largely in the bottom two tiers for student outcome ranks.   

Though there is likely no direct connection between state governance models and student outcomes, it is interesting to note that in general states with the two models involving a top-down approach to governance, with the Governor appointing the State Board and either directly appointing the State Chief or influencing the appointment via the State Board, tend to have better student outcomes. These models would likely produce a governance structure with less conflict, as the Board and Chief would be more likely to agree with the Governor.  This could lead to higher student outcomes as all parties involved are on the same page when it comes to promoting the needs of the students. 

In Kansas, we are not so lucky to have a Governor, State Board, and State Education Chief that are all working from the same page.  Though we focus a lot on funding and policy as it impacts student outcomes, perhaps we need to consider how conflict at the top might impact the motivation and engagement of our students.   

For more information, check out the full report here.