Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis

Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis

We have some big changes coming up in education over the next year and I want to take some time to share how it will be impacting your family and your school.

As you might have read, the U.S. Department of Education approved Kentucky’s state plan on how to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in May. The plan outlines how the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will implement specific federal programs, hold schools accountable, ensure equity and promote success for every Kentucky student.

The Commonwealth’s ESSA plan is guided by several major goals, including:

  • Increasing academic achievement for all students.
  • Increasing the graduation rate for all students.
  • Increasing the proportion of English language learners making significant progress toward learning the language.
  • Cutting the achievement gap for each student group (such as students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, African Americans or students with a disability) in half by 2030.

Our new accountability system – which has been two years in the making – will help us make these ambitious goals a reality by shining a spotlight on whether all students have access to rigorous classes and whether they are making adequate progress in learning the skills they need to ensure they will be prepared for life beyond high school.

While our new accountability system ultimately will make it easier for parents to understand whether their schools and district are making progress by using a one- to five-star rating system, it will take time to get the full system in place. The 2017-18 year is a transition year. While the KDE will not report stars this year, it will identify the lowest performing schools for additional support – either Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI). Schools that are not identified as TSI or CSI will be identified as Other.

Elementary and middle schools will be evaluated for the 2017-18 school year using these measures:

  • Proficiency: Reading and mathematics scores on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) tests.
  • Other Academic Indicators: K-PREP test scores in science, social studies and writing.
  • Growth: The change in students’ performance toward the goal of proficiency and beyond in both mathematics and reading.
  • English learners: How much progress English learners are making toward attaining English language proficiency based on the annual ACCESS test.

High schools will be evaluated for the 2017-18 school year using these measures:

  • Proficiency: ACT scores in reading and mathematics.
  • Graduation Rate: This is based on how many students graduate four years after entering high school. Any school that has a graduation rate less than 80 percent is automatically identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement.
  • Transition Readiness: This includes a wide variety of ways students can demonstrate they are ready for life after high school. Included in this measure is meeting benchmark scores in reading and mathematics on a college admissions exam (the ACT), scoring at benchmark on at least two advanced coursework exams (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International), completing an apprenticeship, or successfully meeting the benchmark scores on an industry certification exam or KOSSA (based on articulated credit).
  • English learners: How much progress English learners are making toward attaining English language proficiency based on the annual ACCESS test.

I’d like to thank the hundreds of people from across the Commonwealth who gave their time and expertise over the past two years to help us design this new accountability system and help us prioritize what is important in the state’s accountability system. But we’re not quite through yet.

Even the best information about school performance is useless if it’s not easily understood, so the KDE is working with a vendor to create a new online School Report Card. With an anticipated launch in November, the new card will feature an easy-to-read dashboard that lets parents and educators quickly see how well their school, district or the state is doing to help all children succeed.

My goal with a new School Report Card is to make it easier for parents, educators and community members to work together with schools to ensure each and every child has access to an extraordinary education. And don’t worry parents, you will still receive an Individual Student Report about your child’s test performance during the early fall, just like you always have.

We will be reaching out to parents and other stakeholders later this summer for input on whether the new School Report Card is delivering on KDE’s promise to make the Commonwealth’s accountability system transparent and easy to understand. We’ll also be seeking help from teachers to develop new content area tests and ensure the tests align to our state standards. And in mid-2019, we’ll be reaching out to school and district leaders to help us set the standards for what makes a school 5-star rather than a 1-star.

When our new accountability system and Report Card are in place for the 2018-19 school year, I believe we will have one of the most innovative and useful accountability systems in the country. We couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you.