High achieving Kentucky schools might not get top rating in new star system. Here’s why.

Commissioner Wayne Lewis
Commissioner Wayne Lewis

If Kentucky schools want to be rated at the top in the state’s new rating system, they will have to do much more than have a strong academic performance.

In Kentucky’s new 1 to 5 star rating system, black, low-income, disabled and other minority student groups must show progress as well, Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said at a Kentucky Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

“Significant gaps between the performance of student groups will result in limits in schools’ star ratings,” Lewis explained.

In some school districts in recent years, socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps have widened, Lewis said, adding that they “are both significant and pervasive.”

Lewis acknowledged that Wednesday’s announcement was “bold and ambitious” but necessary.

Statewide test scores are one component of the accountability system that rates schools.

For several years, Kentucky schools and districts received labels such as “needs improvement,” “proficient” and “distinguished” —which in Fayette County drove the real estate market when people wanted to live in the attendance zones of schools with the best labels.

The labels have been phased out. In the new system being implemented this academic year, elementary and middle schools will receive star ratings ranging from 1 star to 5 stars based on proficiency in reading, math, science, social studies and writing and student growth in reading and math.

High schools will be rated based on proficiency in reading, math, science and social studies; student growth in reading and math; the graduation rate and students’ readiness for college and careers.

Boyle County school officials in a presentation Wednesday told the state school board that they have done several things to close the gaps, including pairing special education teachers with regular classroom teachers and finding ways to give intense attention to “gap kids” who often feel disconnected.