Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt says he wants the state’s new accountability system to be both a spotlight and a flashlight.
“We have really good things going on (in our schools). We should be able to highlight that,” Pruitt told school board members at the July 7-8 KSBA Summer Leadership Institute. “But we still need a flashlight to shine a light on things we need to improve on.”
During his opening session remarks, the commissioner provided highlights of the proposed new system, which includes personalized options for students, a focus on instruction with student proficiency and growth, and an innovation pilot for a competency-based model.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt discusses
the state’s new accountability system during the opening session
of KSBA’s Summer Leadership Institute in July.
The new system, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 18, will no longer score districts. It will instead use a star system with districts rated from five stars to one star.
“This year when you see the accountability come out in the fall, there’s no scores; there’s no labels. It’s just simply here’s how your district performed,” Pruitt said.
“I hope that we get back to the conversation of what are we doing for kids? Not what are we doing for the big banner I’m going to put on my school. We’ve got to really change how we think.”
Districts will receive their overall star rating based on how they perform in six indicators: achievement gap closure, proficiency, growth, transition readiness, opportunity and access, and graduation.
Pruitt discussed the six areas and suggested questions board members should ask about each.
“When we think about making the choice of quality or compliance, what we’ve got to think about is accountability for all starting with me (and) going all the way down to our students,” Pruitt said. He told board members they have his permission “to think outside the accountability box.”
Pruitt said the new system is designed to help students, not to make the adults comfortable.
“I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be perfect,” he said. “I do believe it’s going to be the best in the country. And the reason I say that is because Kentucky did a better job of having more people involved in this. When I say Kentucky had over 6,000 people to this point to have their fingerprint on this, it’s not an exaggeration. We are also more comprehensive than any other state that I’ve seen so far.”
He said his No. 1 issue is closing the achievement gap, noting Kentucky has “a lot to overcome” in that area.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to have long-term and intermediate goals. Pruitt said Kentucky’s goals are:
• To increase student proficiency rates significantly for all students in the state by 2030. (Specific goal to be set for each student group.)
• To decrease the achievement gap of lower-performing student groups by 50 percent by 2030.
• To increase the proportion of English language learners making significant progress toward becoming proficient in English language.
• To significantly increase the graduation rate for all students and each student group.
Opportunity and access
One of the new measurements in the new system is opportunity and access.
“This is the one I’m probably most excited about. It’s also the one nobody else is really doing across the country,” Pruitt said. “I don’t believe you can solve the achievement gap if you don’t solve the opportunity gap. If you don’t give kids opportunities to learn, they’ll never learn.”
Pruitt said another key component to the new system is making sure students are ready for every advancement along their educational path, not just college ready. “Are our elementary kids ready for middle school, are our middle school kids ready for high school?”
He said the Kentucky Department of Education will do a study in order to “backtrack college readiness all the way back to middle school.” Students’ composite test scores will be used to determine if they are ready to move up, so those who excel in some areas but need work in other subjects won’t have to be retested.
“It’s important we don’t test our kids more than we have to,” he said.