Call to Order and Roll Call
The4th meeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee was held on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at 10:00 AM, in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex. Representative James Kay, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative James Kay, Co-Chair; Senators Alice Forgy Kerr and Gerald A. Neal; Representatives Linda Belcher and Mary Lou Marzian.
Legislatives Guests: Representatives Derrick Graham and Arnold Simpson.
Guest: Mardi Montgomery, Education Workforce Development Cabinet.
Presentation: Achievement Gaps in Kentucky Schools
Chairman Kay said the EAARS committee approved the Office of Education Accountability’s (OEA) report on achievement gaps in Kentucky public schools last year and will discuss the differences in educational outcomes associated with students’ race, ethnicity, economic background, and learning disabilities.
Bart Liguori, Director of Research, OEA, introduced Dr. Deborah Nelson and Logan Rupard, OEA analysts, who presented an overview of the achievement gaps in Kentucky schools.
Dr. Nelson said the study analyzes Kentucky achievement gaps at the state and local levels and compares the gaps to national levels. The data is also used to examine issues associated with gaps in national literature. The study includes focus on data and policy issues relevant as Kentucky prepares to revise their accountability system to comply with core requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal law that guides state policy as related to gaps. The study concludes many Kentucky schools have narrowed gaps, although challenges remain predominantly in the highest-poverty schools where out-of-school factors such as student mobility and homelessness affect achievement gaps. The study found critical in-school factors affecting achievement gaps were school and district leadership.
The report contains recommendations related to identifying gaps with the revised accountability system of aligning and simplifying policies related to achievement gaps and emphasizing recruitment, preparation, and support of leaders in higher-poverty schools.
Dr. Nelson said achievement gaps are defined as lower educational outcomes associated with race or ethnicity (black, Hispanic, American Indian or Native American); lower income (those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL)); and learning difference (disability and individualized education program (IEP) and limited English proficiency (LEP)). In the state accountability system, students are often combined into a single, non-duplicated gap group so that every student counts only once, regardless of how many groups with which they are associated. She said while gender is identified as a potential gap group in state law, federal law does not require that information. However, the OEA report does include gender-based differences.
Dr. Nelson said a variety of state and federal laws and regulations relevant to gap students are in place. OEA’s report focuses on issues directly related to the achievement gap through assessment and accountability including setting and monitoring goals, identifying schools with large gaps or low overall achievement for improvement, and outlining consequences for identified schools. Per ESSA, Kentucky regulations must be in compliance with regards to assessment and accountability by 2018. Although state law KRS 158:649 has similar goals as ESSA, Kentucky law requires all school and district plans to address achievement gaps, regardless of whether identified for improvement.
Dr. Nelson said FRPL rates for all gap students exceed the state average. Out-of-school achievement gap factors which are linked to poverty and educational performance are identified as poor health, nutrition, psychological stress, and access to resources. Resources include a family’s social networks and access to a broad vocabulary in the home. In-school factors link poverty with student achievement due to the environment within the school. In higher-poverty schools, students are more likely to be taught by new or less experienced teachers. The strong relationship between out-of-school factors and educational outcomes have brought educational scholars and advocates to disagree somewhat about the extent to which schools alone can close the achievement gaps.
Dr. Nelson said at the national level, 48 percent of black and Hispanic students attend higher-poverty schools. The percentage of black students in Kentucky who attend higher-poverty schools is slightly less than their national counterpart, and the percentage is much less for Hispanic students. Forty-four percent of black students attend majority non-white schools, compared to 27 percent of Hispanic students, which is different in Kentucky than in national studies.
Mr. Rupard said data relevant to measuring the achievement gap includes: the performance of gap group students compared to state averages for all students; the performance of gap group students compared to national counterparts; and the school-level gaps between students who are white, black, and Hispanic. The combined reading and math gap for elementary, middle, and high school levels indicates black students were approximately 20 percentage points behind at all levels, while Hispanic and FRPL students are 10 percentage points behind. Student with an IEP or LEP were over 20 points behind in elementary and over 30 points behind in middle and high school. This data represents only one year and does not include trend data.
In 2015, of the percent of students scoring proficient or distinguished on K-PREP math at elementary school level, FRPL students represent almost two-thirds of all students tested, and a single FRPL student may be counted in other gap groups. Non-gap students, or students who do not fall into any of the gap categories, outperform the all-student average of 48.8. The non-gap student average is 69.9 percent. FRPL students range 10 percentage points behind the all-student average. In math, 30.5 percent of black students and 37.8 percent of Hispanic students score at proficient or distinguished, compared with 51.7 of white students, which is slightly higher than all students. Similar trends were seen in middle and high school in reading.
Proficiency rates for elementary math from 2012 to 2015 showed all groups increased over the period, but not all improved at the same pace. In 2012, the gap between that all-student average and black students was 18 percent. In 2015, the gap grew to 18.3 percent. Hispanic students also fell further behind while FRPL students closed the gap slightly. Non-gap students improved more than the all-student average over the same time frame.
Mr. Rupard said in 2015, 24 percent of Hispanic students scored at the lowest level of novice in elementary math and nine percent scored at the highest level of distinguished, indicating that 2.7 times as many Hispanic students scored novice as compared to distinguished. Comparing all students, 18 percent scored novice and 16 percent scored distinguished, with a ratio slightly above one, indicating more students scored novice than distinguished. Values less than one would indicate more students scored distinguished than novice. All gap groups experienced ratios above 2.5 percent at every level, while non-gap and white students had several values less than one percent.
Beginning in December 2014, KDE initiated an extensive cross-agency effort to focus on the department’s goal of closing the achievement gaps. This effort sought improvement through comprehensive planning of 30-60-90-day plans, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and improving teacher effectiveness through the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES).
Mr. Rupard said that a statute requires examination of gender gaps. The average high school reading proficiency rate for females was 13 percent higher than males. In math, females also outperform males, although the gap is not as large.
Although larger gender gaps exist in some schools, this information is not included formally in the state’s accountability system, which led to OEA’s first recommendation that KDE should provide an equity analysis to schools and local boards identifying substantive differences among the various groups as required by statute.
Mr. Rupard said the four-year cohort graduation rates for all groups range from 94 percent for non-gap students, to 66 percent for IEP students, a difference of 28 percent. While 66 percent is lower than the other groups, Kentucky’s IEP and LEP students graduate at higher rates than national counterparts. College and Career Readiness (CCR) rates are lower for every gap group. Eighty-two percent of graduating non-gap students meet CCR requirements while only six percent of graduating LEP students meet those requirements, with a difference of 76 percent compared to non-gap students. The difference between graduation and CCR rates for all groups ranges from 12.2 for non-gap students to 61.5 for LEP students.
Dr. Nelson said the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only assessment that allows for a comparison of student outcomes among all 50 states. NAEP data indicates that all Kentucky gap groups outperform their national counterparts in 4th grade reading. In 8th grade reading, FRPL and Hispanic students outperform their national counterparts. Kentucky Hispanic students rank highest in nation in 8th grade reading and the gap between Kentucky Hispanic students and white students in 8th grade reading is the smallest in the nation. In math, Kentucky gap groups generally perform similar to or below their national counterparts. No single state has the highest performing gap groups in multiple grades and subjects and the full report indicates states which are the highest performing in particular grades and subjects. Compared to national counterparts on NAEP and ACT comparison states, Kentucky Hispanic students perform at or above, while Kentucky black students perform at or below. In the degree to which they are enrolled in a non-white majority poverty school, it is unclear whether the difference between black and Hispanic students compared to their national counterparts reflects in-school policies or out of school factors. Kentucky graduation rates are higher than national averages for all gap groups and are among highest in nation for FRPL students.
Dr. Nelson said NAEP assesses all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA) schools, comprised of children of military families. The highest performing were the DoDEA schools, which were established in 1946 to ensure that children from military families would not be forced to attend segregated schools near military bases. DoDEA schools are the highest performing NAEP jurisdiction for black and Hispanic students in 4th and 8th grade reading and math. In addition, DoDEA schools either have or among the smallest gaps between white and black students, or white and Hispanic students. Although it is unclear what accounts for these results, DoDEA schools differ from public schools in that more teachers have advanced degrees and DoDEA schools are less regulated than public schools. For example, DoDEA schools have not been subjected to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and will not be subjected to ESSA. Student performance in DoDEA schools may be reflected by social and economic factors in military communities, considering DoDEA students have at least one working parent, guaranteed housing and health care, and the schools serve as hubs in communities that are well integrated. While DoDEA schools do not provide any clear answers about policies that might affect achievement gaps, they raise the possibility that social and economic policy, along with educational policy, play a role.
Dr. Nelson said that, on average, students in all gaps groups perform below the average for all students in the state. Poverty is well known to affect performance, especially in the highest-poverty schools.
Dr. Nelson said that, in 19 percent of schools, FRPL students perform at or above the state average, while one percent of schools have FRPL students scoring greater than 30 percent below state averages. The report also divides schools in to those with greater than or fewer than 75 percent of students living in poverty. Although some elementary and middle schools with greater than 75 percent FRPL students are performing above or far above average for FRLP students, only two such high schools are included, and each performed far below the state ACT average of 23.
Dr. Nelson said KDE is required to report test scores for schools with more than ten Hispanic students. Twenty-six percent of these schools with reportable scores are at or above the state average for all students. Five percent of these schools are greater than 30 percentage points below the state average. The report shows that no middle or high school with greater than 75 percent FRPL students has Hispanic students scoring above the state average.
Dr. Nelson said that, in reviewing similar data for black students, ten percent of schools with reportable scores are scoring at or above state average for all students, while 15 percent of such schools are greater than 30 points below the state average. This indicates that a greater percentage of reportable schools with black students are far below the state averages than above the state average. No middle or high school above 75 percent FRPL students is performing at or above state averages.
The report contains a variety of data related to challenges that are faced by highest-poverty schools, which include out-of-school factors as well as in-school factors. Out-of-school factors include homelessness and mobility. In-school factors include teacher attrition and experience.
Homeless students are those defined as those who are living in temporary or unsafe conditions, or living with family or friends. The percentage of homeless students in the highest-poverty schools is eleven times greater than the lowest poverty schools. Chronically absent students are those who miss at least ten percent of enrolled days with either excused or unexcused absences. The percentage of chronically absent students is more than four times as great in the highest-poverty schools as compared to the lowest poverty schools.
Mobile students are defined as those who attend at least two schools during the same year. Student mobility rates are more than four times greater in highest-poverty schools versus lowest poverty. Many of the students included in the chronically absent and mobile groups would also be the same students who are homeless, since homeless students are more likely to be chronically absent and mobile. The report does not contain any recommendations about homeless, chronically absent, or mobile data. However, it appears the data shows the challenges facing students cannot likely be addressed through the education sector alone. Policy discussions about issues affecting educational gaps should include more than educators. Many school and district leaders are engaged in discussions about issues such as housing that may affect all of the indicators mentioned.
Dr. Nelson said out-of-school factors can impact in-school factors, such as how teacher labor markets favor lower-poverty schools. Perceptions of favorable working conditions are among the many issues that affect teacher labor markets. Lower-poverty schools may be favored due to students in the highest-poverty schools experiencing more unstable home environments. The report shows highest-poverty schools have much higher attrition rates and higher percentages of new and less-experienced teachers, especially in those highest-poverty schools with higher percentages of non-white students. Research shows that a key factor affecting a teacher’s willingness to continue teaching in a particular school is the quality of the school’s leadership.
In reviewing one elementary school of distinction, 65 percent of all students were proficient in reading and math as compared to the state’s all-student average of 52 percent. However, performance among students within the same school indicated large gaps in proficiency among white and black students. Although the state accountability system is intended to identify schools with large gaps, the system would compare the school’s black students to other black students in the state. Unless the comparison ranks the school’s students very low, the school would not be identified for achievement gaps. Average in-school gaps are larger in schools with distinguished status. In distinguished schools, the report shows 26 percent had white/black gaps greater than 30 percentage points and 14 percent had white/Hispanic gaps greater 30 percentage points.
OEA recommended regulation revisions related to school accountability by suggesting that KDE consider rewards for schools with small in-school gaps or consequences for those with very large gaps, compared to the state.
Dr. Nelson said that, during analysis of 42 Comprehensive School Improvement Plans (CSIPs) and 25 Comprehensive District Improvement Plans (CDIPs) through site visits to ten school in six districts, including over 50 teacher and classroom instruction observations, OEA found that districts and schools are not fully compliant with KRS 158.649.
Through the comprehensive school planning process, local schools and districts are required to analyze gap group data, set targets to reduce gaps in particular groups, and develop associated strategies to meet those targets. In monitoring how districts are approaching the comprehensive plan, OEA found that most schools and districts do not set targets for particular groups, but develop strategies or targets primarily for non-duplicated gap group or IEP students, and superintendents do not appear to be reporting schools that have failed to meet targets.
Dr. Nelson said policy requirements are complicated for comprehensive planning for closing gaps, due to overlapping state and federal laws. KRS 158.649 requires setting goals by local schools and districts, while ESSA requires KDE to set goals at the state level.
Dr. Nelson said local leaders are more attentive to requirements associated with the accountability system under ESSA. OEA recommends that, in revising 703 KAR 5:225, KDE should consider specifically incorporating key elements of KRS 158.649 that are not required by ESSA. For example, the regulation should require schools and districts through CSIPs and CDIPs to identify in-school achievement gaps and include strategies to address them. OEA suggests that, after the new accountability system is finalized, the General Assembly should revise KRS 158.649 to align requirements and reduce duplication with the new accountability system.
In response to Representative Graham’s request for a more simplistic explanation, Dr. Nelson said the easiest way to address goal setting is to require schools to analyze all of the data and identify all groups having substantive gaps. CSIPs and CDIPs must include a biennial target for all of the various groups where gaps occur. OEA’s Overview of Achievement Gaps in Kentucky Schools Report, page 75, table 5.1, provides examples of a CSIP and CDIP and looks at the achievement data to identify the substantive gaps with associated targets. The table summarizes all targets for unduplicated gap groups and the statute requires acknowledgement of all gap groups.
In response to Chairman Graham’s question, Dr. Nelson said the chart represents all schools in all urban and rural districts for which there were reportable scores.
In response to Senator Neal’s questions, Dr. Nelson said OEA’s interpretation of the statute regarding an unduplicated category is they are all grouped together in terms of goal setting, where each of the groups has goals assigned individually. The statute requires schools to break down any discernable gaps and create an improvement plan. Senator Neal expressed frustration with the large gaps still present after many years. OEA suggested recommendations that it believes will be helpful. Chairman Kay said that, because the subject matter and relating information is of deep concern and utmost importance, KDE Commissioner Stephen Pruitt will be available for questions after the presentation.
In response to Representative Marzian’s question, Dr. Nelson said CSIP is developed by the school council according to Kentucky law, which devolves much of the decision-making authority to schools. The council includes principals, teachers, parents, and community members, and the districts develop a CDIP with similar requirements.
Dr. Nelson referred to Senator Neal’s question and said OEA reviewed all research in other states to understand what is happening and how it would help understand Kentucky data. This is an issue that researchers and policymakers have struggled with for over 50 years, and a clear and concise answer is not available.
In response to Representative Graham’s question, Dr. Nelson said when reviewing DoDEA schools who have experienced success in reducing achievement gaps, there is no systematic research or evidence the schools on military bases had access to early childhood education or all-day kindergarten. Dr. Nelson said information indicated teachers may have more advanced degrees, although the content area is unknown. OEA visited one district that placed a huge emphasis on early childhood education and learned that black and Hispanic students performed better; however, OEA did not look at this information across the board systematically. Representative Graham suggested all useful data must be gathered and reported to determine practices in successful districts and which are the best practices to close achievement gaps. He emphasized that accountability from every level of education will help decrease gaps and provide a highly trained and skilled workforce for competitive businesses to be attracted to Kentucky.
Chairman Kay said EAARS has the ability to supplement and re-evaluate and gather additional information and data going forward relating to these and other study topics regarding the achievement gap.
Dr. Nelson said compliance with the statute requires CSIPs and CDIPs to include specific targets and an analysis of the documents to ensure compliance. Referring to Senator Neal’s previous question regarding disaggregation of data, Dr. Nelson said KDE does a thorough job of providing districts and schools with complete data as well as providing suggested goals for every gap group.
Dr. Nelson said the CSIPs and CDIPs must include strategies for closing gaps, along with the data found that supports the need for those strategies. Again, a concern is these plans are focusing on the unduplicated gap groups in the state accountability system rather than the particular gap groups, although many do contain plans for IEP students. Just because a strategy does not appear in the plan does not mean schools are not addressing the gap; strategies not reflected in a CSIP or CDIP may be in use. Conversely, a school or district may identify strategies to reduce gaps, but may never engage those strategies. Although the statute requires superintendents to monitor gap reductions targets and report schools that have failed to close gaps, OEA found this information is not being reported consistently.
Dr. Nelson said KRS 158.649 requires each school to identify its substantive gaps and set its own goals for reducing those gaps for each group, which must be approved by the superintendent. Schools across the state must decide whether they have gaps and implement improvement goals; however, federal law requires the KDE to set interim achievement goals for all of the gap groups. In the revision of the state accountability system, KDE will identify the target for every gap group in every school, which will allow school leaders to know if goals have been met, as required by federal law. With state law allowing the school to set their own goals, superintendents are in the position of getting state accountability data on all gap groups to know whether the goals are being met with the criteria set forth, followed by goals developed at the school level for each gap group. The federal government is requiring KDE to set statewide goals while state law requires schools to set their own gap reduction targets and for superintendents and boards to monitor those goals, which gets complicated.
Regarding complications with the achievement of targets, Dr. Nelson said one set of criteria is developed at local level while at the same time criteria is set by federal government requires the state to set goals for all students. From a superintendent’s point of view of monitoring the performance of gap groups in their schools, superintendents focus more on federal accountability because the accountability system is associated with funding and consequences more than with rewards. Additionally, with the focus on NCLB and ESSA, some newer principals and superintendents are more familiar with the accountability system and less familiar with the state law governing CSIPs and CDIPs.
Dr. Nelson said there are some elements of the state law that exceed federal ESSA provisions, which require that schools identified for improvement make plans to address gaps. Kentucky state law requires all schools to include plans, whether or not they are identified for improvement. After the new accountability system is finalized, OEA suggests the General Assembly may wish to revise KRS 158:649 to align requirements and reduce duplication and overlap with the new accountability system.
In response to Representative Simpson’s questions, Dr. Nelson said the state can recommend consequences for districts if schools continually fail to meet their goals and professional development funds may be deployed. However, federal laws differ, which creates another complicated and confusing environment for district and school leaders to track. Representative Simpson said that it appears to be an endless cycle of promulgating regulations, requirements, and modifications without achieving the core challenge of improving gaps. Dr. Nelson said that, for the last 14 years, KDE has taken many steps to identify novice reduction and attempt to address gaps. She gave an example of one success story leading to reduction in gaps as a result of KDE modifications and interventions in a higher poverty district which received intensive KDE assistance for years and made substantial strides and outcomes for FRPL students. However, the educators interviewed considered comprehensive planning to be sufficient in itself to reduce gaps.
Dr. Nelson said that, in revising regulations for the accountability system, OEA recommends the department consider incorporating elements of state law which are not directly required by ESSA. All school and district plans address achievement gaps regardless of whether they are identified for consequence. OEA recommends that after the new accountability system is finalized, the General Assembly may wish to revise the statute to align requirements and reduce duplication and overlap within the systems.
Dr. Nelson said comprehensive gap reduction planning can be a very effective tool. She referred to KDE’s assistance regarding 30, 60, or 90-day plans and the shortage of high school math teachers. Also, the length of compliance document, inflexible software, and monitoring of plans present other challenges.
OEA recommends in revising 703 KAR 5:225, KDE should consider reducing the number of specific elements that are required in every CSIP. OEA also recommends the role of district leaders in monitoring CSIPs and school improvement in general should be clarified, especially those in schools identified for consequences. Some of the elements currently required in all CSIPs could instead be included as elements that must be systematically monitored in all schools. District leaders are much closer to the situation, yet the regulation does not specify their role.
While site visits were designed primarily to explore the effects of comprehensive planning, Dr. Nelson said the most striking data collected was not related to planning but to local leaders. OEA’s findings are consistent with previous reports completed and with national research. OEA found that school improvement is less likely to be successful without effective local leadership such as high expectations, high support, trusting and positive relationships among students and staff, and flexible and efficient use of resources.
In analyzing gap narrowing regarding disproportionate discipline data, Dr. Nelson said male, special education, black, and FRPL students are more likely to receive disciplinary consequences for the same action. Staff and students should be held to high standards of behavior and respect. In larger gap groups, teachers reported principals may be reluctant or unwilling to discipline certain groups of student, or may not record all disciplinary incidents, having an unintended negative consequence and affecting the perception of building leadership.
Regarding gaps in enrollment in advanced classes, one principal had led an effort to determine why few black students enrolled in advanced classes and to institute strategies to improve participation. Following that effort, many more black students enrolled and test scores improved. In contrast, if students are enrolled in advanced classes but the material is not truly advanced, it is not beneficial to students. OEA observed very low rigor in advanced classes that contained many gap students in one school site visit, which raises concerns that grades in highest-poverty schools may be less predictive of test scores.
Dr. Nelson said gap-closing schools with high expectations for teachers and high support from principals resulted in colleagues who were eager to remain or transfer into those schools. In contrast, larger gap-group schools with principals who expected teachers to implement multiple initiatives, without sufficient support, resulted in requests for transfers to other schools.
OEA’s final recommendations concern recruiting, preparing, and supporting leaders in highest-poverty schools and districts. Dr. Nelson said that, while high quality leadership is important in all settings, it is especially critical in higher-poverty settings which require special skills and characteristics. She said there is limited state focus on preparing leaders for highest-poverty settings; however, ESSA includes a variety of funding sources to support this priority. One recommendation is that KDE should prioritize school improvement grants and awards for districts and other entities that are focused on developing leadership in highest need settings. In establishing decision criteria for awarding Title I school improvement grant awards under ESSA, OEA recommends that KDE consider the degree to which districts and other entities propose to recruit, prepare, and support principals and other school leaders in highest-poverty schools. OEA recommends that KDE encourage eligible entities to apply for ESSA national priority grant awards available under Section 2243 to fund school leadership recruitment and support.
Two additional recommendations by OEA emerge from communication oversights during the last several years while Kentucky compliance with federal law was governed by a waiver from NCLB rather than by the federal law itself. OEA observed that identification of focus schools deviated slightly from the method described in regulation and the distribution of federal school improvement funds was not consistent with information on the KDE website. OEA recommends KDE always include up-to-date information on its website about methods used to identify schools for comprehensive improvement or targeted assistance under ESSA, and methods used to distribute federal funds to those schools. OEA also recommends KDE should report to EAARS instances of conflict between ESSA law, regulation, or guidance, and state law or regulations.
Many Kentucky schools have narrowed gaps, but challenges remain in highest-poverty schools, where out-of-school factors invite broader policy discussions. School and district leadership is a critical factor. Policy recommendations include addressing in-school gaps, aligning and simplifying policies, and emphasizing leadership in higher-poverty settings.
On motion by Representative Belcher and second by Representative Marzian, the report on Achievement Gaps in Kentucky School was adopted by voice vote.
Approval of August 16, 2016 and September 20, 2016 Minutes
On a motion by Representative Belcher and second by Representative Marzian, the minutes of the August 16, 2016, meeting were approved by voice vote.
On a motion by Representative Marzian and second by Representative Belcher, the minutes of the September 20, 2016, meeting were approved by voice vote.
Acceptance of Reports
On a motion by Representative Belcher and second by Representative Marzian, the Kentucky Safe Schools report, as presented at the September 20, 2016, meeting, was approved by voice vote, as presented at the September 20, 2016, meeting.
On a motion by Representative Belcher and second by Representative Marzian, the 2015 District Data Profile Report, as presented at the September 20, 2016, meeting, were approved by voice vote.
Representative Belcher said that, while teachers must be included in the gathering of information, writing the CSIPs, and subsequent monitoring, she has concern as to the amount of time required to complete the process.
Chairman Graham said that, while all tests do not measure ability, he feels training teachers, administrators, and principals in forming relationships in postsecondary institutions is important to maintain stability on all levels, as they are connecting with children from different backgrounds and income levels.
In response to Representative Simpson’s question, KDE Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said the department’s number one issue is the achievement gap. KDE’s pillars are equity, achievement and integrity. The commissioner said he is appalled by the achievement gap both in Kentucky and nationally. He commended KDE for the work they have achieved but admitted much improvement is still needed moving forward. The idea of novice reduction came about because there was a recognition that schools were not meeting the needs of students, which created an initiative to work very closely with a small group of districts to think about decision making in terms of courses, instruction, curriculum, and digging deeper into what is creating some of the achievement gaps. Kentucky has spent 50 years trying to achieve this goal which ends with more testing, which indicates it is not working.
Commission Pruitt said there is a focus on improving instruction, helping improve decision making, and getting more students of color into advanced course work such as AP and IP as well as second and third year CTE courses.
Commission Pruitt said ESSA gives Kentucky a new opportunity to streamline what has been tried before and feels there is too much of emphasis on compliance and less on accountability.
Commission Pruitt says it is time to stop talking about the achievement gap and take action. It is imperative a cumulative effort to correct the gap by involving communities, KDE, and policymakers. Combining test scores and gap groups is needed to determine what grade and subject areas are affected.
In response to Representative Simpson’s question, Commissioner Pruitt said under the new federal law significant deficiencies are assigned as a priority status, which allows KDE an opportunity to give more directives and have a greater influence. The rhetoric must be changed from what can be legally done and what is right to do. While Kentucky has a moral obligation to educate children, high stakes accountability and high stakes assessment is leading to high stakes for students and their education. When discussing consequences, the manner in which improvement is being performed is important, as simply being on a list has not made a notable difference. He also acknowledges that having lower level classes does not help close the achievement gap, but is a disservice to the students. He said making citizens understand the problem is crucial.
Representative Belcher said that, while discussing state and local levels, it is important to get down to the school level. She is concerned that, with SBDM authority, how teachers can get needed training while still directing focus on what needs to be done. Commissioner Pruitt said the rhetoric and the relationships need to be changed. There is often much authority that is unused, and many times the relationship needs to be leveraged between the SBDM council to the district. District implementation of CDIPs is based on school plans. He would like to see the districts working more closely with the development of the SBDM to form a coherent district focus. Accountability should be about shared responsibility, and KDE’s responsibility requires a change in monitoring, being able to hold people accountable but at the same time allowing superintendent flexibility.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.