The Kentucky Department of Education is rolling out a new rating system to grade the academic performance of schools and their districts, KDE announced this month.
Beginning next month, when the 2018-19 Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress scores are released, schools and districts will be graded on a one- to five-star scale, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. The new system was approved by in 2017 the Kentucky Board of Education.
The system is different from previous iterations of the statewide accountability system, which used terms like “proficient,” “distinguished” or “needs improvement” to grade schools and school districts.
Elementary and middle schools will receive star ratings based on student assessments in reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing; and student growth in reading and mathematics, according to a KDE news release. High schools will be rated based on student assessments in reading, mathematics, science and writing; academic or career readiness; and graduation rate. Elementary and middle school accountability will contain a measure of growth on English language proficiency for English learners on an exam that includes speaking, listening, reading and writing in English. High schoolers will be graded for the attainment of English proficiency.
Achievement gaps among students will be taken into consideration in the new rating system, with schools and districts subject to a one-star penalty if significant achievement gaps exist between groups of students, according to the news release.
Elizabethtown Independent Schools Superintendent Jon Ballard said the new accountability system could be easy for others to understand, but the school district will take steps to explain how the new system is different from the previous accountability system.
“It could be something that’s pretty simplistic for people to understand but the devil, as always, will be in the details,” he said. “What does five stars mean? What does four stars mean?”
Ballard said it is possible others may compare the star ratings to other reviews that use star ratings, such as a movie or restaurant review.
“Which is why I say it’s very important that people kind of get in there and do a little bit deeper dive into the data than just stopping at ‘Oh, we’re a four-star, we’re a three-star,’ because there’s a lot that goes into determining how many stars you have,” he said.
HCS Superintendent Teresa Morgan said she was happy the new accountability system acknowledged student improvement but noted circumstances are different for each school.
“In all accountability systems, you have the positives and you have the concerns,” she said. “The reality is you’re still placing every school on the same system even though each school is in itself its own entity.”
Morgan gave an example of how schools with high transient rates or a high percentage of students who are on free and reduced lunch would affect the school’s performance.
“So when we go to these systems, it is really important for us to focus on the growth of our students and how far they have come from where they started,” she said. “However, the state wants every student, no matter the situation. They are all graded on this.”
Morgan doesn’t think the star system would be perceived differently when compared to the “proficient,” “distinguished” or “needs improvement” grading criteria.
“I don’t feel that’s going to be a perception by the public or by the parents,” she said.
The star rating, along with other education data, will be available on the new Kentucky School Report Card, located online at kyschoolreportcard.com.