By Madelynn Coldiron
It rivaled the intensity of a football huddle.
The KSBA Fall Regional Meeting in northern Kentucky had ended, but members of the Dayton Independent school board were still in their seats, asking questions of each other and their superintendent and reviewing handouts about the state’s new assessment and accountability system.
One concern: the 70 percent of schools and districts that will fall into the “needs improvement” category of the new system – and how Dayton will be viewed with that label, said board member Dianne Huff.
PHOTO: Kerri Schelling, KSBA’s director of Board Team Development, presents at the Northern Kentucky Fall Regional Meeting.
Superintendent Jay Brewer said the district’s October newsletter was designed to be preemptive by explaining the new system and how it will work. Board member Jeff Volter also had an action plan in mind. “We’ll get the questions figured out, look at the data and develop talking points about it,” he said.
KSBA’s 12 regional sessions were designed to present the essentials of the new assessment and accountability system, tailored to those areas in particular that board members need to be familiar with.
“We have talked with the Kentucky Department of Education to get answers to what board members need to know about the accountability system, its major elements and school and district report cards,” said Kerri Schelling, KSBA’s director of Board Team Development, who is one of a team that has been presenting the information.
Five components are measured in the new system, producing an overall score, Schelling explained at the Oct. 2 regional meeting in Union. These are achievement (proficiency), achievement gap in subgroups, student growth as measured against academic peer groups statewide, graduation rate and college and career readiness. The latter two will not be measured for elementary schools, and graduation rate will not factor in for middle schools.
Under the new system, the five factors produce an overall score. Like scores are grouped in percentiles – each school and district has a percentile rank and a classification based on that rank. Those in the 90th percentile or higher are classified as distinguished; those in the 70th through 89th percentile are labeled proficient; and anything below the 70th percentile is “needs improvement.”
Program reviews are gradually being worked into the formula, along with teacher and leader effectiveness measures that are yet to be determined. Under KDE’s current implementation plan, by 2014-15, the five achievement components will count toward 70 percent of the overall score, while program reviews will count for 20 percent and teacher effectiveness for the remaining 10 percent.
Schools and districts also have overall annual goals to meet – called annual measureable objectives – as they work their way toward 100. Similar goals are set for the five components. Stairstep-like targets will also be established so schools will be able to stay on track to meet their ultimate goals.
The school report cards delineating this information are “a one-stop shopping center for all data related to assessment and accountability,” Executive Director Bill Scott explained in reviewing that document for attendees.
“There was confusion every single time” the state changed its testing system in the past, Brad Hughes, KSBA’s director of Member Support Services, warned board teams at the Northern Kentucky regional meeting.
He suggested ways districts could get ahead of the curve. These include:
• For superintendents, meeting with the local news media in advance to educate them about the new accountability system. Board members similarly should educate themselves about the new system.
• Breaking down the data in advance to identify positives and negatives; and activities already in place and those planned to improve student scores. Both administrators and board members should be able to communicate this information.
• Using other venues to explain the testing system and the local results, including the board meeting itself.
While the questions prompted by the new system have varied in the meetings at each of the 12 KSBA regions, there have been some common threads, Scott said.
“The general concern we’re hearing is that the members don’t fully understand how negative of an impact these new scores could have. So many districts have put so many things in place and so many districts are doing great things, and yet they know that these new numbers are lower and they are concerned about how that will be perceived by their constituents, by their parents, by their teachers,” he said.
Board members also seem to be struggling with the cut scores that determine the major classification that schools and districts are in. Those are set by the federal waiver of the No Child Left Behind Act, Schelling explained. But, she said, as district overall scores improve, their percentile rank also will improve, as will their classification – at least for now.
“The idea is once the system is fully implemented and all three of KDE’s strategic priorities are in place –the program reviews and teacher and leader improvement are part of the accountability formula – the distribution of overall scores will be recalculated to locate the 70th and 90th percentile scores and will be locked in for a five year period,” she said.