Kentucky Board of Education Virtual Meeting, November 6, 2020

  • Based on guidance received from the KBE, staff from the Office of Assessment and Accountability will bring recommendations to the board at its regular December meeting.
  • In the coming months, multiple stakeholders will be consulted on the changes to the accountability system and the board will be presented with input from the various groups.

By Jacob Perkins

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) met for a special virtual meeting on Nov. 6 to discuss the impact on Kentucky’s accountability system resulting from the enaction of Senate Bill (SB) 158 (2020).

The bill, which became law on July 15, amends KRS 158.6455 to create an accountability system that includes an annual differentiation of all public schools in the state using multiple measures that describe each district’s overall performance, school and student subgroup.

Building on the introduction of state and federal laws and accountability requirements in SB 158 at the October KBE meeting, staff from the Office of Assessment and Accountability (OAA), joined by Brian Gong, senior associate for the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, met with the board to discuss and receive initial guidance on amendments to the system.

Rhonda Sims, associate commissioner of OAA, said SB 158 aligns with requirements in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

In the new system, performance is based on a combination of academic and school quality indicators. These indicators include student assessment results, progress toward achieving English proficiency by limited English proficiency students, quality of school climate and safety, high school graduation rates and postsecondary readiness.

When determining the overall weight of each indicator, Sims recommended the board consider implementing an index method.

“We have used an index system for many, many years in Kentucky,” she said. “It allows you to combine multiple measures into overall performance. …

“It also makes it pretty easy for the folks at the school and district level who are accustomed to looking at weights as well.”

To use an index method, the board would need to agree with how each indictor is weighted, said Sims.

In the previous accountability system, proficiency in state assessment results for reading and mathematics accounted for 35% of the overall performance, while the separate academic indicator – which is state assessment results for science, social studies and writing – accounted for 26%.

Lt. Gov. and Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Jacqueline Coleman, who serves as an ex officio KBE member, noted the importance of science, social studies and writing and exploring the possibility of weighing them equally in the accountability system.

“I think we have to make sure that we value the skills that science and social studies education bring to the classroom and to our kids,” she said. “And certainly writing because that is such a key piece of the literacy focus.”

Also in the previous accountability system, elementary and middle schools had the same accountability weights, while high school had separate weights.

Board member Patrice McCrary said she believes elementary and middle should be separated in the new system to allow for individualized weights for elementary, middle and high school levels.

As for how to communicate an overall accountability designation for each school and district, board member Randy Poe said the board should avoid a system that utilizes symbols, similar to the previous star-rating system. Instead, he suggested a simpler approach.

“Colors for parents are simpler and straightforward,” he said.

The board also:

  • Discussed a color-coded system that would help identify status and growth. The colors discussed by the board were red, orange, yellow, green and blue. The board agreed that red should represent schools in the bottom levels of performance on each status and change indicator, and blue should represent schools with the highest designation. There were varying opinions on where other colors would fall on the table;
  • Discussed the federally allowed factors of age, degree of English language proficiency and degree of interrupted schooling and how they can be incorporated for English learners into the state’s accountability system; and
  • Discussed the minimum number of students needed to form a student subgroup for accountability and reporting. Kentucky has historically used a minimum of 10 students per grade that applies to schools and student groups. Board members discussed the possibility of changing the minimum number of students to 30.

In the coming months, multiple stakeholders will be consulted on the changes to the accountability system and the board will be presented with input from the various groups.

Commissioner’s Report
During his report to the board, Education Commissioner and Chief Learner Jason E. Glass expressed appreciation for the COVID-19 mitigation strategies that have been implemented in schools.

However, he said he still is concerned about the rising community transmission rates throughout Kentucky.

“When we see those community transmission rates increase, it puts all the more pressure on the systems that schools have in place to try and keep open and safe,” Glass said.

Glass urged communities to practice the same safety measures being used in schools, like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. As long as community transmission rates continue to rise the way they have recently, schools can continue to anticipate disruptions, Glass said.

COVID-19 wasn’t the only major concern Glass had upon his arrival to the Commonwealth, he also was prepared to face potential budget shortfalls in the coming year as a result of the virus.

“We got some good news from the governor’s office this week that we are not expecting to have to balance this year’s budget with reductions,” he said.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) had planned on making an 8% budget reduction and recently presented its draft budget reduction plan to Budget Review Subcommittee on Education.

To conclude his report, Glass introduced Thomas Woods-Tucker, KDE’s first chief equity officer and the new deputy commissioner of the department’s Office of Teaching and Learning.

For more about Woods-Tucker and his background, read his profile on Kentucky Teacher.

Woods-Tucker said he looks forward to working with the board to “identify and eliminate some of those barriers that perpetuate inequity in our school system.”

“I’m excited to be here and excited to learn,” he said.

Kentucky Board of Education New Vision and Mission
During the KBE’s October retreat, Glass led the board in an exercise that allowed them to reflect on the board’s current vision and mission. During the exercise, members felt both needed to be improved.

They expressed interest in establishing a new vision, mission and goals that keep students at the center of the conversation while acknowledging new skills needed for teaching. Additionally, the board wanted to put a focus on the current issue of racial inequities and academic slides caused by the pandemic.

To address these priorities, KDE’s chief performance officer Karen Dodd led the board through a process to establish a new vision and mission statement. The board will continue to review those statements until its regular meeting in December. At that time they will further revise, if needed, and vote on approving the statements.

After both the vision and mission statements are approved by the board, members will then turn their focus to further refine their goals and define actions they will take to achieve those goals.