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This week, Ky. schools will get rated for the first time since the pandemic

school desks classroom
Photo by J. Tyler Franklin
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The Kentucky Department of Education will release test scores and ratings for the state’s public schools on Tuesday, offering the first meaningful glimpse of statewide school performance since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal law requires the state to rate schools each year. The ratings are meant to communicate to families and policymakers how well their schools are faring. Ratings are based on standardized test scores, graduation rates, student survey data and other outcomes the state measures. 

Because of learning disruptions from COVID-19 and challenges bringing students together for testing during a pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education waived this rating requirement for the last two years. 

The DOE waived testing altogether in the 2019-2020 school year, which was when students initially moved to remote learning. The following year, the department did require Kentucky students to test. However, because of ongoing disruptions and remote schooling models, far fewer students than usual participated. Many experts cautioned against drawing conclusions using the data.

With all Kentucky students back to in-person learning last school year, the spring of 2022 was the first opportunity schools had for full participation in standardized testing. 

Many parents, politicians and policymakers are anxious to see how pandemic-related learning disruptions will play out in those scores.

New rating system

Tuesday will not only be the first time schools are rated in three years, it will also be the first time state officials use a new color-coded system.

The grading scale looks like a speedometer, with a red section on the left being the lowest score, and a blue section on the right being the highest. The speedometer replaces the five-star rating system, which was trotted out for just one year before lawmakers scrapped it

State education officials have expressed concern that the frequent rating system overhauls confuse parents, and make it difficult to track schools’ progress over time.

Tuesday’s release will also mark the first time in two years schools will be flagged for monitoring, audits and interventions based on their test scores and other outcomes. These consequences can result in staffing and leadership changes.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.