Kentucky public schools and districts would no longer receive an overall numerical rating and would receive new labels under a proposed new system discussed this week by the state board of education.
Currently, public schools and districts in Kentucky are, based on performance, given labels each year that include Needs Improvement, Proficient and Distinguished. Schools and districts receive an overall number indicating their performance.
Under the proposed system discussed by the Kentucky Board of Education in a work session Tuesday, there would be no numerical rating that allows comparison of schools. That is prohibited by a new education reform law. But schools and districts would receive one of six overall ratings: Outstanding, Excellent, Good, Fair and either Concern or Intervention for low-performing schools.
“There’s a lot you can hide with just a number,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said Wednesday in an interview.”You have districts that are considered distinguished right now that also have huge achievement gaps and that have a disproportionate number of students who are not getting access to courses.”
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Pruitt said a dashboard that lets people see how a school is performing on proficiency, growth and other indicators will give people more detail than saying a school “scored a 92.”
A school would be noted for having small achievement gaps or a large achievement gap for one or more student groups.
Special attention has been paid to ensure the system is fair and that it minimizes schools being able to manipulate their rating, state school officials said.
Rhonda Sims, associate commissioner for Assessment and Accountability, said the public will start to see this fall a transition from just reporting a single number.
The timeline calls for the board to consider regulations on implementation of a new accountability system at its June meeting. Kentucky will submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Education in September with transition to the new system beginning in the 2017-18 school year and full implementation in the 2018-19 school year.
Any changes to Kentucky’s accountability system must be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education, and the changes must move through Kentucky’s regulatory process.
The draft proposal coincides with the new education reform law, called Senate Bill 1 in the 2017 General Assembly, which was signed Monday by Gov. Matt Bevin and calls for changes to statewide tests and accountability, school improvement and academic standards.
State board members had several questions on Tuesday about the proposed new system of rating schools, which has been under development by teams of educators and others from across the state for the past 10 months and is being vetted at public town hall meetings across Kentucky.
The proposed new system is designed to ensure all Kentucky students have rigorous courses and access to high-quality instruction, officials said.
“If we are ever going to close the achievement gap, under-served populations have got to have access to higher learning,” board chairman Bill Twyman said. “It’s just common sense.”
Kentucky Department of Education officials are still working on the proposed system in which schools and districts are evaluated in student performance on state tests in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, language mechanics and writing; on whether and how quickly individual elementary and middle school students are improving academically; and on the achievement gap marked by disparity in performance between student groups.
Schools and districts will be rated on whether students have the skills for success in college, on the job or in the military and whether students have a well-rounded education and equitable access to learning opportunities.
The proposed system includes an interactive, online dashboard that would display school, district and state performance.