Kentucky’s education accountability system is kind of like Kentucky’s weather. If you don’t like it, wait a little while and it will change. Next school year could potentially usher in a new accountability system after it was proposed during the Kentucky Board of Education’s Feb. 3 meeting.
Despite the potential changes, local school leaders say they have learned that if they just concentrate on helping students be successful, they will be okay in whatever accountability system they operate under.
Corbin Independent School District impact
For the Corbin Independent School District, the proposed changes to the accountability system will impact the district by implementing the change scores.
Deputy Superintendent Cynthia Davis said that schools already have status scores for each year, so adding the change scores will be the biggest change.
The proposed weights used to calculate the status scores will also impact the Corbin school district especially in the primary and elementary schools.
Because the primary school only has students in kindergarten to third grade, 91 to 96 percent of the school’s accountability score could rely on the third-grade students proficiency scores in reading and math since those students do not test in science, social studies or writing.
The elementary school could also potentially be at a disadvantage since proficiency data would come from only fourth and fifth grades.
With the proposed changes potentially altering the system once again, Davis said flexibility is key to the district’s success.
“[In] education, especially right now, flexibility has been the key word,” said Davis. “It is confusing at times. You do feel like there is a moving target [accountability system] that you are constantly working toward, but if you take the focus off of scores and just look at what is best for our community, what is best for our students in our schools and what are the best opportunities and experiences we can provide for them regardless of the moving target, if you are doing what’s best for students, those scores will equally show in that moving target.”
Davis said that the district and community take a lot of pride in varying the opportunities given to students.
“If you look at the programs that are being offered in the school, the art program, our science and social studies programs, are equally supported in this district as much as your core subjects,” said Davis. “Our school board, our staff, they all appreciate and want those opportunities and make sure that happens for students within the district.”
Davis said that with the possibility of state assessment scores having accountability this year, she believes that would not be to the benefit of students.
There has not been consistency across the state in terms of opportunities provided for students, said Davis. Some districts have had in-person learning for a lot of the year, but others have only had virtual learning.
While she said that testing would be a good option to see how learning has happened over the past year, using it as a status score could potentially do more harm than good.
Whitley County School District impact
For Whitley County Schools, Deputy Superintendent Paula Rickett said, “Our district is committed to providing our students with a valuable learning experience that will help them achieve at high levels and have success with graduation, college, career, and life.”
“The foundation for the old and new accountability system is the same so there has not been a complete overhaul, and districts and schools will be able to easily adapt to the new changes,” said Rickett.
Rickett said that the accountability system usually undergoes changes as a new Commissioner of Education is appointed to the Kentucky Department of Education. The changes, however, are made with the guidance and input of a variety of bodies.
To adapt to the new changes, Rickett said, “For Whitley County Schools, this means that all stakeholders – students, parents, principals, teachers, staff, and community – need to be aware of all changes and to better understand the accountability system.”
In addition to accountability changes, Whitley County Schools are working on a plan to complete state assessment this spring.
“Our district leadership is currently working on an assessment plan that will follow this KDE guidance and CDC guidelines,” said Rickett. “State testing provides information about school and student performance and assists in identifying gaps among student groups. Data from assessments this year will help us better understand the impact of the pandemic on student learning and the magnitude of the student learning loss.”
Part of the proposed accountability system relies on the proficiency scores produced by state assessment. Rickett said that COVID-19 may cause potential issues with the accountability system given its reliance on state assessment scores.
“All schools and districts have been affected by the pandemic, COVID restrictions, and reliance on virtual learning,” said Rickett. “One potential issue with the accountability system that will influence all stakeholders is that the assessments have to be completed in-person with trained staff. Any person who administers any part of the state assessment must complete required training sessions regarding the assessments.”
Williamsburg Independent School District impact
For the Williamsburg Independent School District, “The big-ticket item and categories that we know that we have to perform in has not really changed,” said Loren Connell, the district’s director of instruction.
“It has gotten to the point that because of the quantity of changes [in the accountability system] that it isn’t quite as frustrating,” said Connell. “What we know we have to do by any measure is provide an opportunity for students to master standards and again, get them ready for whatever type of transition they need to make whether that be from primary school to intermediate, intermediate to middle, from middle to high. As long as we are doing that, it has gotten to the point that accountability has changed so much that we don’t tune in to it.”
Connell said that if the accountability system stayed the same, districts would become much more attune to the particular system and model their instructional delivery so that it renders the highest possible testing accountability results.
“So much change over the past five to seven years, no district or no school has been able to sit down and really take a look at long term planning of how we are going to meet this measure and how are we going to move forward because the measures are changing,” said Connell. “Instead of trying to attain a certain accountability score, the focus has turned more to as long as we are providing opportunities and support for students to master standards, we are going to be okay with any type of accountability model that comes in.”
Connell said the district is more concerned with its students than it is with the numbers.
“Over the course of the past five or six years, we have been under multiple accountability systems,” said Connell. Despite the changing systems, the districts overall goal has remained the same.