Prichard Committee to tackle achievement gap in Kentucky schools

Bridget Blom Ramsey has been named executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, April 27, 2015. Handout photo
Bridget Blom Ramsey has been named executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, April 27, 2015. Handout photo

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is the latest group to take on Kentucky's achievement gap between minority, disabled or poor students and others.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director-elect, said the Prichard Committee would convene a study group to look at increasing achievement in Kentucky and closing the gaps.

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Co-chairs are being determined now, and members who have expertise in closing the achievement gap or have information about at-risk students will be named soon.

The Kentucky Department of Education, meanwhile, has a plan to reduce the number of students scoring at the novice level in Kentucky's accountability system.

Ramsey said that signaled "it is time for deeper, more sustained work to end these gaps."

State officials are trying the plan first in Fayette County Public Schools, a district where the problem is pronounced.

Ramsey said in an interview that the questions the Prichard study group would tackle include:

■ What are the persistent issues facing at-risk students?

■ How could the achievement gap be ended?

■ What are the specific strategies that we know work in Kentucky currently?

The group also will look at strategies that have worked in other states.

Recommendations will be released in January.

The ACT results that were released recently by the state Department of Education show positive trends for the 2015 graduating class overall but raise concerns about whether black, Hispanic and other minority students are receiving the full support they need, Ramsey said in a news release.

Members of the 2015 class as a whole looked stronger than their 2014 peers, she said. In English, mathematics and reading, more of them met Kentucky's benchmarks for college readiness.

But she said from the point of ACT composite scores, black graduates in 2015 did no better than their 2014 peers, and Hispanic graduates did slightly worse. Native American students improved just slightly faster than white students and not at a pace to close the big gap between the two groups. All three groups have results showing them less ready for college success than their white and Asian classmates.

The Prichard Committee study group will be working through the fall to analyze data, policy and practice.

"For Kentucky to flourish, we need for Kentucky students of every background to reach their potential and join in building a strong, shared future," Ramsey said.

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