Groups Representing Diverse Interests Call for Strengthening KY’s New Accountability System

Children in a classroom raising their hands.

The new guidelines must declare ambitious goals for greater progress and intentionally focus on closing achievement gaps  

Organizations representing business, education advocates, civil rights groups and community leaders have jointly called for strengthening Kentucky’s proposed school accountability system.

In a letter earlier this week to Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt and members of the Kentucky Board of Education, the organizations called for more ambitious goals for student achievement, school and district accountability for the performance of groups of students and greater clarity in communicating school and district performance.

Signing the letter were leaders of:

  • The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • The Kentucky State Conference of NAACP Branches
  • The Louisville Urban League
  • The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
  • Teach for America – Appalachia

The groups called for a clearer focus on closing persistent achievement gaps for children of color, those who are poor or who are challenged by learning differences.

Signatories to the letter were closely involved as active participants in work leading up to the development of the draft accountability system and still have a strong interest in its effectiveness and success to ensure that all students acquire the skills to succeed in school and in life.

The letter speaks to the groups’ combined interest in ensuring Kentucky’s accountability system demands high and consistent expectations for all districts, schools and students while offering effective resources and supports for educators and district and school leaders to help all students improve.

The areas where the letter recommended strengthening the plan included:

Specific, ambitious goals must be specified — Specific, ambitious goals for the state, districts, and schools and interim benchmarks for all students and each student group should be specified. Goals and benchmarks should call for significant progress for all students, with greater progress for groups that start off farther behind. For example, at a minimum, a specific and ambitious goal would be for all students, and for each student group, to reduce the gap to 100 percent proficient by half within ten years. This would represent significant progress in closing achievement gaps across the board and continuing to increase overall student achievement with urgency.

Achievement must reflect growth toward and beyond proficiency — The system should appropriately value student growth and proficiency, each being important to ensuring students not only reach proficiency but are supported and encouraged to go beyond proficiency to levels of excellence.

Performance of all students and each student group should be included in the ratings – not just averages — School and district ratings that reflect the performance and progress of all students and each student group on each indicator should be used in ratings. This approach provides parents and the public a clearer understanding of student performance and progress than the current proposal’s use of averages to reflect student performance, which can mask the performance of individual student groups.

The five-star system lacks clarity and definition — The five-star rating system needs clarity and definition to communicate how indicators will be translated into stars and how, exactly, a certain star rating will reflect school performance. Furthermore, the calculation used to rate schools should not allow any school or district to be rated in the top two labels if there are significant achievement gaps between different populations of students.

The Local Measure indicator must not weaken local accountability — As a new indicator, Local Measure raises several questions. How will the reliability of data on varied measures be assured? Who will decide what counts as low, moderate, strong or very strong performance on the different local measures? What is to stop districts from choosing a local measure that will ensure top ratings every year?

Full and complete performance information must be made available to stakeholders — The system must provide parents, community and business leaders and the public generally with summative school and district ratings, in addition to a dashboard for other publicly reported data, that are based on the performance of each student group, and/or participation of each student group, instead of through school or district averages.

Parents must be more involved — Parent leadership and involvement must be encouraged and sustained through the development of the final accountability system and beyond. For example, the dashboard must be designed in close partnership with parents, educators, and community organizations to ensure it provides meaningful and easily understood information that clearly defines a school’s performance.

The letter also pointed out that the accountability model would provide a great deal of autonomy for local districts and schools, enabling them to make decisions about how they reach the outcome goals. If the districts are granted this expanded autonomy, the organizations believe that they should be expected to strive higher for students and be held accountable for results.

The letter concluded that a strong accountability system that truly holds schools accountable for the performance of all students is critical to achieving that goal and to building a prosperous future for our state and its citizens.

Signatories to the letter:

Dave Adkisson
President & CEO
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Sherron Jackson
Chair, Education Committee
Kentucky State Conference of NAACP Branches

Brigitte Blom Ramsey
Executive Director
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Sadiqa N. Reynolds, Esq.
President & CEO
Louisville Urban League

Joshua Sparks
Executive Director
Teach for America – Appalachia

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