Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Viewpoint: Four accountabilities at once

Since 1998, Kentucky has layered on four different sets of assessment and accountability requirements, only one of which can be linked to our 1990 reform:
  • In 1999, we launched CATS, using its results to set 2014 goals that take all subjects and all levels of student performance into account.
  • In 2001, the federal government added NCLB accountability for proficiency in just reading and mathematics, with separate scoring for each disaggregated group.
  • In 2002, Kentucky added achievement gap targets for disaggregated groups with SB 168.
  • In 2006, Kentucky added Explore, Plan, and ACT readiness tests under SB 130, with required additional learning opportunities for any student who scored below CPE standards.
That's a lot.

Bluntly, it's too much.

Accordingly, I'm not willing to characterize the Kentucky Education Association's position as finding "KERA too demanding," as the Courier-Journal did this morning. CATS accountability as the KERA approach has not been the only demand educators have juggled in recent years.

I'd be a happier citizen if CATS accountability had continued during our transition to a new test. I'd also be happier if KEA had taken a different position on that issue, and if there had been a way to remove any of the other accountability pieces instead.

Nevertheless, I do recognize the multiple loads educators have been carrying. I know that a person can ask to lay down some of that burden without rejecting our whole education reform.

I also know that, once we get through the transition period, SB 1 offers some strong positive opportunities for Kentucky's children, including those noted here.

Turning those opportunities into reality is the most important education work ahead. We will only succeed with Kentucky teachers as central participants, and we will only succeed by working with the largest organization speaking for teachers' concerns.


  1. Susan,

    I don’t think you can reasonably claim that the requirements from SB-168, 2002 Regular Session, now codified as KRS 158.649, added more accountability.

    This legislation creates a rather weak set of provisions requiring local districts to set gap targets and then monitor school performance.

    The only consequences are to create and update gap improvement plans and to submit those plans to KDE for review after a school misses closing a gap for four years. The only KDE reaction to those plans is to provide assistance to schools to make those plans more robust.

    There is no impact on the CATS Accountability Index.

  2. KRS 158.649 provides in relevant part:

    "(8) Notwithstanding KRS 160.345(8) and 158.070(8), if a local board determines that a school has not met its biennial target to reduce the identified gap in student achievement for a group of students, the local board shall require the council, or the principal if no council exists, to submit its revisions to the consolidated plan describing the use of professional development funds and funds allocated for continuing education to reduce the school's achievement gap for review and approval by the superintendent. The plan shall address how the school will meet the academic needs of the students in the various groups identified in subsection (1) of this section."

    "(9) The superintendent shall report to the commissioner of education if a school fails to meet its targets to reduce the gap in student achievement for any student group for two (2) successive biennia. The school’s consolidated plan shall be subject to review and approval by the Kentucky Department of Education and the school shall submit an annual status report. The Department of Education may provide assistance to schools as it deems necessary to assist the school in meeting its goals."

    The word "approval" indicates that a council loses important authority when it misses a goal, first to the superintendent and then to the Commissioner.

  3. I'm sad to have rejected a comment full of substantive facts and focused arguments because it opened with a personal attack. Same comment without the opening sentence would be great.

  4. Susan,

    The fact that a council has to get plan approval isn’t much accountability. That’s just a slight increase in oversight, at best.

    As far as I can tell, no council will lose important authority even if it writes a plan that KDE approves and then does something different from the plan. The law has no real teeth in it. Key decisions on funding and curriculum remain with the council even if gaps remain endemic in the school.

  5. I want a public education system that brings forth consistently good teaching. That requires a healthy balance between accountability for results and support for those working to get those results. Four different sets of expectations running simultaneously won't cut it.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!