Education

Before state lawmakers left Frankfort this week, they passed changes to the school accountability system. If signed by the governor, the measure would scrap the state’s 1-year-old 5-star rating system, and replace it with a color-coded speedometer. The changes are modeled on California’s school rating system.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. David Givens (R-Greesnburg). Supporters, including Rep. Steve Riley (R-Glasgow) who carried the measure in the House, say the dashboard is “more detailed and insightful,” than the 5-star system the state department of education spent four years crafting.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Tatman says the department is concerned about how frequently Kentucky changes its rating system.

“This has resulted in a lack of consistency over the last several years, and can lead to a lot of confusion for parents and other stakeholders as to how their school is performing,” she said in an interview with WFPL News.

Tatman said changing the system will also cost more department resources and taxpayer dollars. The measure has been sent to the governor’s desk.

Changes In Accountability

In addition to the dashboard, the measure also includes changes to the state’s accountability system that bring it in line with federal laws on how it identifies schools for state intervention and improvement. The state got in trouble with the U.S. Department of Education last year, for failing to identify schools that had significant achievement gaps.  This bill, Givens says, fixes the problem, and puts the state back in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

However, Tatman said other proposed changes will initiate a new set of negotiations between the U.S. Dept. of Education and the state over whether it complies with ESSA.

“The US. Department of education has indicated that it’s one of the most complex accountability systems in the country,” Tatman said.

In a blog post, Prichard Committee president and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey wondered if the “dashboard” display, with an indicator for “status,” “change” and “overall” might be “too complex.”

Status would show the performance of students on state tests for the year. Change would show how much improvement students made over the year, no matter where they started. And overall would be a combination of “status” and “change.”

The measure would also make it easier for schools identified for improvement to use private “vendors” to lead school turnaround efforts, instead of the state department of education.

Finally, the measure removes the requirement for local boards of education to get training on charter school laws and regulations. Boards of education would only have to get trained if they received an application.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.