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Education Commissioner Floats New 'Star' Rating System For Kentucky Schools

School hallway
Eleanor Hasken
Sarah Yost prepares her classroom for her new students at Wesport Middle School, in Louisville, Ky., on Friday, August 8, 2014. Photo by Eleanor Hasken

Kentucky’s education commissioner is offering details of how regulators could measure public schools' progress improving and educating students. The move comes after the legislature voted to overhaul the school accountability system this spring.

The new system would rate schools and districts on a scale from one to five “stars” based on how well they improve in six categories: proficiency, growth, graduation rates (for high schools), closing the achievement gap, transition readiness and opportunity and access.

In a meeting Monday, Stephen Pruitt, commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Education, said the proposed rating system would put more pressure on schools to improve.

“We wanted to be very focused on making sure that our students really go back to what schools are supposed to do—and what schools are supposed to do is give students the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue their passion,” Pruitt said.

The state board of education will consider the proposal next month for implementation in the 2018-19 school year.

This spring, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, an omnibus bill that will gradually remove Common Core standards from Kentucky classrooms, change the way students are tested, use teachers to create new education standards and replace what legislators called time-consuming school self-evaluations.

Under Pruitt’s proposal, schools and districts’ “star” rating will be calculated based on how well the institutions live up to the following categories:

  • Proficiency: in end-of-year tests, students will continue to be rated "novice," "apprentice," "proficient," or "distinguished."
  • Growth: how well students advance towards proficiency from year to year.
  • Closing the achievement gap: how well schools help minority students, students with disabilities and those who speak English as a second language improve in English, math, science and social studies. Schools wouldn’t be able to score above 3 stars if they don’t make progress in this area.
  • Transition readiness: how well schools prepare students for the next stage in their educations or careers.
  • Opportunity and access: how diverse schools’ course offerings are, including visual and performing arts, cultural studies, gifted and talented programs and providing career opportunities that are available in the school’s region.

The new law also created a process to review academic standards every six years, starting in the 2017-18 school year.

Over the next six years, standards will be reviewed by teachers and lawmakers providing recommendations that will eventually go to the state board of education.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.