Business community weighs in on importance of accountability in Kentucky schools

The state’s proposed system for holding schools accountable for student achievement should give parents, employers, civic leaders and other community members easy-to-understand information about school performance, according to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber has participated in a Department of Education review of the accountability system, a process that is needed to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Act that was passed in 2015.   The law gave states greater flexibility and more local control over accountability.

A draft state plan is being considered by the Kentucky Board of Education, which will adopt regulations to put a new accountability system in place.  After reviewing the draft, Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson outlined his organization’s concerns about the proposed plan in a letter to state board members.

Among other things, Adkisson called for more clarity on the labels proposed for rating schools, noting that the differences between categories such as “Outstanding” and “Excellent” are difficult to determine. The draft plan also includes items that will be counted, or rated, while others will only be reported. The distinction between rating and reported could be challenging for non-educators to understand, Adkisson added. His letter  also highlighted concerns about the creation of “low” and “high” Novice and Apprentice benchmarks for calculating student growth.

Travis Burton, Manager of Public Affairs at the Kentucky Chamber, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education. Burton praised the proposed accountability plan for taking steps toward incorporating essential skills into the state’s transition readiness measure. Essential Skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills,” are traits like showing up to work on time, basic communication skills, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. The lack of these skills in the workforce are a major concern to employers. Burton pointed out the need for the inclusion of a drug free element that will ensure all students know the importance of remaining drug free.

In his remarks, Burton also encouraged the board to ensure that the questions and concerns mentioned in Addkisson’s letter be addressed before regulations establishing the new accountability system are adopted.

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