Ken Draut talks about the recent assessment test scores during the Kentucky Board of Education meeting. Photo by Amy Wallot, Dec. 3, 2012

Ken Draut talks about the recent assessment test scores during the Kentucky Board of Education meeting.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Dec. 3, 2012

By Matthew Tungate

Results from the first use of Kentucky’s new assessment and accountability model – Unbridled Learning: College/Career Readiness for All – show the system worked the way it was supposed to with few exceptions, according to the system’s main architect.

Ken Draut, associate commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Assessment and Accountability, said the goal of the new system was to create a continuous improvement model that would give schools and districts incentives to work with all students in more subjects than just mathematics and reading.

“This is a broad view of our schools,” he said.

So after calculating the combined scores for five categories – achievement, gap, growth, college/career readiness and graduation rate – Draut said he was pleased with the distribution on the scale from 0-100. The state has never combined five large areas into one assessment system, he said, and he and his staff weren’t sure if scores would be spread out or clumped together.

For instance, the overall score for elementary schools ranged from 28 to 85.2; for middle schools, from 29.3 to 91.6; and for high schools, 29.9 to 87.3. While not pleased with the low scores, Draut said the high scores send a strong message.

“It also sets a model that says ‘We can do this,’” he said. “If some schools can do this, all schools can do this.”

The Unbridled Learning assessment model is based on different standards than in the past, showing as early as 3rd grade if students are on track to be prepared for college by the time they graduate. Unlike previous models, in which elementary, middle and high schools had widely different scores, results of the new model showed all three to have a similar scores. Overall, elementary schools averaged 57.3, middle schools averaged 53.5 and high schools averaged 54.8.

Draut said that also shows the system is working as it should.

However, there were some issues with the model, he said.

For instance, schools are expected to improve a certain amount each year based on a mathematical calculation known as a standard deviation, or how far apart the numbers are, to achieve their annual measurable objective (AMO). Draut said, based on the numbers, schools will need to improve their overall scores 1 point to reach their AMOs.

Board member Roger Marcum, a former superintendent, said some people are concerned that number is too low. If a school scored in low 30s and is only expected to grow one point per year, “you’re still a long way from 100 in that period of time.”

However, Commissioner Terry Holliday reminded Marcum that even though Unbridled Learning is a scale from 0-100, “To think that our goal is to get to 100 is not accurate.”

The goal is to reach proficiency, he said. There likely will never be a school or district reach 100, he said, because there is always room for improvement. For the first release of Unbridled Learning data, proficiency was set at the 70th percentile.

Draut said the state’s technical advisory group has suggested not changing the AMO formula until results come out next year, and then evaluating it annually. The board did not change the formula.

Draut also said there was in issue with how Gap Group scores were calculated. Schools could be identified as Focus Schools – needing supports in working with their gap groups if their scores fell within the lowest 10 percent overall or had any group fall three standard deviations from the average.

The problem was that three standard deviations in math and some other areas fell below the score of zero. Since the scale only goes to zero, no gap groups were identified in mathematics. Draut said this will be corrected by using zero as the lowest possible score when calculating the standard deviation.

The final issue with the new system is how some schools can be named Schools of Distinction (in the top 5 percent in overall score) if they have performance gaps between student groups, Draut said. He gave the example of a school in Jefferson County that was marked as a School of Distinction despite having wide gaps in reading and math between white and black students.

However, the black students at the school outperformed their statewide peers, and because the gap calculates the distance from 100 – not between groups of students – the school was not identified as a Focus School, Draut said. Focus Schools will not eligible to be named Schools of Distinction, he said. The board did not make any changes to how Schools of Distinction are identified.

The board also discussed its ongoing attempt to pass a regulation outlining the appropriate uses of physical restraint and seclusion. Holliday told the board that he continues to work with legislators and superintendents on the issue, which has met resistance from some school districts and groups.

KDE staff have prepared a report in advance of the regulation going before the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee (ARRS) of the state legislature. The report is intended to clear up any misinformation about the regulation and provide clarity on what it says, he said.

Holliday showed the board a story that ABC News’ Nightline recently did on the issue. The video includes reference to an 8-year-old Kentucky student who was put in a bag as therapy. He said the regulation says the use of seclusion and restraint should be used only where there is imminent physical danger and provides training and support for teachers in their use.

“We’re going to provide that training and support to make sure that we don’t read in Kentucky about kids being put in duffel bags, and hopefully we never read in Kentucky about children dying because of prone or supine restraints,” he said.

Board Chair David Karem said that, as a lawyer, he can’t imagine districts not having a policy.

“I think it’s a mistake not to have a written policy,” he said. “It seems almost absurd not having a policy.”

Holliday said some districts do have seclusion and restraint policies. Some of those feel they are being forced to use a state policy rather than their local policies. Other districts simply don’t like a few words or phrases in the proposed regulation, he said. However, they will see many benefits of having a seclusion and restraint policy, Holliday said.

A board committee received a presentation on the Comprehensive Learning System for Kentucky Educators, a report by the Professional Learning Task Force (PLTF), a KDE advisory group on creating a systemic infrastructure for supporting the growth and learning of all educators.

In other business, the board:

  • agreed to state management of the Breathitt County school district and state assistance in the Monticello Independent school district
  • approved its 2013 legislative agenda, which includes changing to the teacher effectiveness system, adjusting the funding formula for preschool; merging the state’s two career and technical education systems under KDE; and raising the compulsory school age for attendance from 16 to 18
  • issued a proclamation supporting the 2012 Ten Percent Challenge, a violence reduction and education awareness campaign sponsored by the nonprofit Win the War Against Violence organization
  • issued a proclamation supporting the Work Ready Communities initiative
  • approved the requests of the Knox, Leslie, Owsley and Wolfe County school districts for a waiver of language in Section (4) of 702 KAR 7:125 to allow instructional programs to be conducted through online, phone and other non-traditional methods on days when school could not otherwise occur due to weather or health-related events
  • approved revisions to 702 KAR 4:160, Capital Construction Process and the related forms to streamline the school construction process, include the Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract delivery method and address changes to the forms
  • approved 704 KAR 3:090, the regulation outlining components for a district-wide response to intervention system in grades kindergarten through grade 3
  • heard presentations on the Task Force on Middle School Interscholastic Athletics; information about repealing current state regulations and promulgating a new regulation to streamline and update processes for implementing leadership reviews in Priority Schools; and the Homegrown Kentucky program.

The Kentucky Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting Feb. 6, 2013, in Frankfort.