Saturday, February 11, 2017

Coming to Kentucky: A new way of evaluating public schools

This from Valarie Honeycutt Spears: at the Herald-Leader:
In Kentucky, most families want their child in a school rated by the state as “distinguished” or at least “proficient” instead of “needs improvement.”
Kentucky Board of Education

But the labels given in the statewide accountability system that evaluates public schools and districts would change under a proposal reviewed for the first time last week by the Kentucky Board of Education.
Under the proposed system, schools would receive overall ratings that would include the classifications “outstanding,” “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” “concern” and “intervention.”

The labels “concern” and “intervention” would be applied to schools that scored low on a variety of measures. Under the proposal, schools would be evaluated on how they achieve standards instead of based on comparing one school to another school.

The proposal was released to the state board Tuesday by a steering committee of educators, parents, and business and community leaders including Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk.

Several features of the proposed system are similar to those in previous systems, but some, such as the labels or some measures to evaluate schools, would change, state education officials said.

It’s unclear how soon changes would occur to Kentucky’s system, but it won’t be for this school year, state Education Department spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said. The results of statewide testing for the previous academic year are released each fall . In some places, such as Lexington, the results can even drive the real estate market when people want to live in a certain school district.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said he thought Senate Bill 1, wide-ranging education legislation that is in the General Assembly, would allow for the changes. Pruitt said he wanted the new system to be simpler and easier for parents to understand, and to improve student success. State education officials said the proposed plan is in development.

Schools would be evaluated for the first time in Kentucky on whether every student has equal access to opportunities, programs and courses. Schools would also be evaluated on whether students have skills to transition to college or the workplace.

Under the proposal:
▪ A student’s proficiency in a subject would continue to be important. There would be new focus on how much English-language learners progress.

▪ Student growth would be measured differently. At the elementary and middle school levels, growth would be based on each student’s progress measured against a personal target for improvement and the school’s work to help the student catch up, keep up and move up.

▪ The achievement gap separating minority, low-income and disabled students from other students would be evaluated to provide more transparency and minimize unintended consequences for schools that have low numbers of students in certain groups. Schools that excel at closing the achievement gap and those that are struggling to close the gap would be easily identified.
Pruitt said that he doesn’t think the development of the new accountability system or education policy in Kentucky would be impeded or significantly affected by the appointment of Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary.

The New York Times reported that DeVos’ support for charter schools and vouchers — which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools — has been criticized as reflecting a deep disconnect from public schools.

But Pruitt said, “She seems to be pretty supportive of states’ rights to do what they need to do.” He said that from all indications, she is going to follow federal law.

“There’s been no indication that she’s going to make any major changes,” he said. “At this point, I’m not too worried about it.”

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