Education

State lawmakers have proposed changing Kentucky’s new 5-star school rating system.

A bill filed by Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) proposes changes to graduation requirements, grading metrics and how schools are identified for turnarounds. Givens said the bill is an “update” to the 2017 legislation that created the accountability system.

“This continues to refine that in very positive ways,” he said. “And that’s the motivation for the bill.”

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) rolled out a new accountability system in October 2019. It gives schools a rating from 1 to 5 stars based mostly on standardized test scores and graduation rates. One of the most significant changes Givens is proposing is to start grading schools on a curve. The bill would also give students’ progress on tests equal weight to their performance.

The measure would also change how often the state identifies turnaround schools, or schools in the bottom 5%. Management decisions are turned over to the state or outside groups at these schools, and sometimes there are staffing changes. The current system requires the state to identify schools for turnaround every year. Givens’ bill would have the state identify schools every three years.

Interim state education commissioner Kevin Brown said his department is already exploring the changes it would need to make.

“Anytime there’s change it can be difficult and frustrating for schools and districts,” he said.

The bill would also make it easier for districts to use private vendors to lead turnaround efforts in struggling schools. Right now, most districts use the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to manage turnarounds. The bill would require KDE to create a list of approved “vendors” to lead turnaround efforts. Vendors could be nonprofit groups, colleges or universities, or for-profit companies.

Turning around a school is something it’s vitally important we get it right,” Givens said. “KDE’s been doing that quite well from the feedback I’ve heard for some time. That doesn’t mean those processes can’t be improved.”

School districts could chose which vendor to use. Givens said the bill does not exclude districts from choosing the Kentucky Department of Education.

Brown said he wanted the bill to make it more clear that districts could choose KDE.

“I’d like to see that tightened up a little bit,” he said.

The bill passed out of committee and heads to the Senate floor.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.