Monday, June 06, 2016

Kentucky education commissioner fires 'a shot' at US education secretary

This from WLKY (VIDEO):
The head of education in Kentucky sent a scathing letter the United States' head of education, claiming he was being asked to compromise his integrity.
WLKY obtained Dr. Stephen Pruitt's letter, dated May 16, that accuses U.S. Education Secretary John King's staff of "being mired in a bureaucratic checkbox mentality."  Pruitt details a May 5 call with Ann Whalen, senior adviser to the secretary, during which Pruitt says she "insisted that Kentucky implement science assessments and performance levels that do not measure Kentucky's actual science standards."

Read the letter

Standardized science tests are not considered for Kentucky's current Unbridled Learning Accountability Model, which grades school performance and progress. However, the state must give a science test and does give what is called a norm referenced test.  Scores from norm referenced tests are based on the performance of other students. For example, the highest score may not be a "100 percent" or perfect score.  Instead, it's uniformly the top score in comparison to all others.  Much like an ACT test, a score is a moving target and results are represented by the classic bell curve.
Pruitt claims Whalen told him that in order to be complaint, Kentucky needed to label students’ scores as Distinguished, Proficient, Apprentice, or Novice much like other standardized tests.  However, the Kentucky Department of Education argued that because scores are relative, such labels wouldn't honestly tell parents how their student fared. Statisticians tell WLKY such labels wouldn't necessarily be statistically representative of a child's performance.

Pruitt claims the U.S. Department of Education (USED) offered another option, insisting Kentucky should administer an old test used years ago that was designed for Distinguished, Proficient, Apprentice, or Novice performance levels. However, Pruitt says that old test wouldn't be reflective of a student's mastery of standards.

"I felt that we, as a commonwealth, as an agency, were being asked to do some things (that) would compromise, especially, our integrity," Pruitt said in an interview.

But his harsh words for King didn't end there.

Pruitt also tells WLKY that USED told him he must designate more schools as "priority" or low-performing for the next two years.  That label is used for schools that consistently score in the bottom 5 percent of the state. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act will result in new state accountability systems across the country in two years. Kentucky's new model, which has yet to be created, will go into effect for 2017-18. Pruitt says it's "not fair" to put new schools on a recovery tract when the measurements for recovery will change for them a year later.

"We needed to, sort of, fire a shot over the bow to say, 'Look, the new statute says that states get to determine their accountability system and I take that seriously. So we need you to back off a little bit,'" Pruitt said.

On May 25 -- after Pruitt's letter --USED issued proposed guidelines for the accountability transition.  It reads in part:
"In order to provide time for an orderly transition to new ESSA accountability systems and to ensure there is not a gap in supports for students, the proposed regulations require that all states identify schools for comprehensive and additional targeted support for the 2017-2018 school year, with annual identification of schools with consistently underperforming subgroups for targeted support beginning in the 2018-2019 school year."
We asked a USED spokesperson how schools should be identified for 2017-18 and if that confirms Pruitt's claim of designating new Priority Schools under the soon-to-be old accountability model. That question was never directly answered. However, press secretary Dorie Nolt released this statement:

“Like educators, parents, and many others, we're eager to implement a new, broader vision of accountability that goes beyond just test scores as soon as possible. That said, in order to provide time for the transition, our proposed regulations call for new systems to be in place in 2017-18, not 2016-17. We welcome comment on this timeline as we work together to implement this new, broader vision of accountability as swiftly and smartly as possible."

Kentucky administered the science test it had already planned to administer this year. Pruitt says he intends to do the same until the new Next Generation Science Standards and new accountability model go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

USED offered no direct response to questions about Pruitt's assertions regarding Whalen.

1 comment:

Richard Day said...

Skip Kifer wrote to say...

"This is pretty much nonsense. The same test score can be interpreted in either a norm-based or criterion-based way. A 65 can be both at the 85th percentile and be at the proficient cut-point. KDE has done equating of the NAPD with percentiles.

So much more testing; so much more ignorance."