KDE convenes committee to analyze assessment results, accountability system

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Catrina McDermott, the principal at Pineville Independent School, makes notes as a group discusses expected and unexpected impacts of Kentucky’s school accountability system during a meeting of educators and education stakeholders assembled by the Kentucky Department of Education. Photo by Mike Marsee, Oct. 22, 2019
Catrina McDermott, the principal at Pineville Independent School, makes notes as a group discusses expected and unexpected impacts of Kentucky’s school accountability system during a meeting of educators and education stakeholders assembled by the Kentucky Department of Education. The group was tasked with analyzing and reviewing Kentucky’s assessment results and accountability system.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Oct. 22, 2019
  • Part of the discussion centered on how much weight achievement gaps should be given in the accountability system.
  • A report on the group’s recommendations will be presented to the Interim Joint Committee on Education, and the recommendations also will be considered by the Kentucky Department of Education.

By Mike Marsee
mike.marsee@education.ky.gov

The impacts and consequences of Kentucky’s school accountability system were examined Oct. 22 in Frankfort by a committee assembled by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).

The group of educators and education stakeholders was tasked with analyzing and reviewing Kentucky’s assessment results and accountability system, which included the implementation of the new 5-star rating system for schools and districts for the first time.

The impact of achievement gaps in Kentucky’s accountability system was debated in the meeting, with the discussion centering on whether achievement gaps are overidentified or underidentified – or whether they should be part of the accountability system at all.

“There was a big difference of opinion among the participants,” said Jennifer Stafford, the director of KDE’s Division of Assessment and Accountability Support.

State law requires KDE to convene a committee to analyze state assessment results and examine and consider the expected impacts, unintended consequences and potential for all schools to reach the highest ratings in the state accountability system. KDE released assessment and accountability results for the 2018-2019 school year and debuted the new 5-star rating system Oct. 1.

The committee was made up of administrators, teachers, parents, higher education officials and representatives of stakeholder groups.

“It was a good opportunity to pull a stakeholder group together that has a lot of diversity and different perspectives and see what kind of issues bubble up that we could use to potentially improve the system,” said Rhonda Sims, the associate commissioner in KDE’s Office of Standards, Assessment and Accountability.

“We know that we will have to open the accountability regulation to make some changes required by the U.S. Department of Education, and at that point it becomes part of the board’s conversations, part of the commissioner’s conversation. If something actually becomes a formal, proposed change, there will be many opportunities for everybody in Kentucky to weigh in.”

She said the group raised many of the same concerns that KDE has heard since the assessment results and school and district ratings were released.

 “I think it just reinforces that these things are on people’s minds as potential changes to the system,” Sims said.

None of those topics came as a surprise to Sims and her staff, who surveyed members of the group in advance to help identify topics for the meeting.

A discussion on growth, one of five indicators included in the accountability results for the 2018-2019 school year, included the question of how to value growth when a student’s performance level doesn’t change but a year of learning has raised the student’s expectations along with his or her knowledge level.

There also were concerns about how to include English learners who come into the state with interrupted schooling and low English language proficiency.

A report on the meeting will be presented to the Kentucky General Assembly’s Interim Joint Committee on Education. Sims said the recommendations also will drive conversations at KDE about possible changes to regulations that govern the accountability system.

“This is an evolving system,” Sims said. “It’s going to have some changes as you grow it and people live with it and start to see its intended and unintended consequences.”

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