After the Kentucky General Assembly closes the Regular Session, interim sessions follow, and interim joint committees meet, “to provide a continuity of study and action between sessions.”

Interim committees are subcommittees of the Legislative Research Commission.

The Interim Joint Committee on Education, a committee formed by representatives and senators of standing committees on education, met on June 1 for their first 2021 interim session. The committee’s business is to conduct educational research and action that lays the groundwork for the next regular session — bills are pre-filed as a result.

Three items for discussion were the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, 2020 House Bill 419, and student participation, engagement, and intervention concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erin Klarer, vice president for Governmental Relations Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, KHEAA, presented the factors to consider when revising KEES, a merit-based scholarship established in 1998 by KHEAA.

Its three primary goals are to incentivize students to work harder in high school, to encourage students to stay in Kentucky for postsecondary education, and to incentivize students to work harder in college.

Whereas other scholarships are needs-based, KEES awards students higher fund amounts based on academic performance, which are then banked for college expenses. Once KEES use begins, students must achieve postsecondary academic standards to renew their award eligibility each year, according to the presentation.

KEES is funded 100% from Kentucky Lottery revenue. According to the presentation, KEES has provided $1,749,022,100, reaching 911,000 high school graduates with postsecondary education.

Aaron Thompson, president of Council on Postsecondary Education, presented with David Mahan, vice president of Data, Research, and Advance Analytics, CPE, and Jessica Cunningham, executive director KYSTATS.

The purpose of House Bill 419, the Kentucky Students’ Right To Know Act, is to establish postsecondary transparency. An application demo demonstrated data and resources available at the KYSTATS webpage, where the Kentucky Students’ Right To Know interactive tool can be accessed.

Thompson said incorporating the tool at an early stage in the student’s school career is a strategy building reliable and impactful pipelines to postsecondary education.

According to the presentation, Kentucky Students’ Right to Know was “designed to help prospective students make more informed decisions about their futures and ensure that they are adequately aware of career paths, employment outcomes, and the cost of college.”

Thompson said students can be schooled on what bad business is when planning for postsecondary education by accepting that the outcome of a degree or certificate may not pay for a loan. Calculating tuition, loan interest, and job market data, Kentucky Students’ Right to Know users can forecast their income and debt to a certain degree.

During the third and final part of the meeting, student participation during the COVID-19 pandemic was reported on by Robin Kinney, associate commissioner, Office of Finance and Operations Kentucky Department of Education, Jessi Carlton, assistant director, Division of District Support KDE, Sally Sugg, Shelby County School superintendent, Robert Harmon, Adair County Schools director of pupil personnel, and Steve Hill, director of pupil personnel Fayette County Public Schools.

According to the report, 2020 and 2021 in-person daily participation rates were captured by attendance recorded by teachers.

Remote instruction daily participation was captured four different ways: students log of learning management software, submission of paper-based assignments, one-on-one video communication or phone calls, and group phone calls or video communication. A student-level report is a student participation report that is used to determine student needs and truancy issues.

Conversely, the aggregate report provides a district-wide participation percentage.

Participation rates in 2018 and 2019 ranged from 89.6 to 96.9; whereas, participation rates during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 ranged from 82.6 to 99.8.

Kentucky Department of Education reviewed participation in schools by randomly selecting 29 school districts. The next statewide district participation report will be performed in July.

The report concluded participation was highest when students engaged through learning management software systems—PCs.