2017-2018 Kentucky Test Scores Reveal Old Problems
The Kentucky Department of Education released a statement this September regarding the most recent K-12 test scores and introducing some of the new accountability standards. The new standards are scheduled to be fully implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. Under the new system schools will be rated on a five-star scale based on “performance on state assessments and other school quality indicators or measures, such as growth or graduation rate,” but schools would not receive a single cumulative score that ranks schools against one another.
The new Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis summarizes Kentucky’s 2017-2018 performance by saying “[w]e are not improving and achievement gaps between student populations continue to be incredibly disturbing.” The achievement gaps the Commissioner is referring to concern students of color and students with learning disabilities.
Most notably, the largest school district in Kentucky (and one of the largest in the nation), Jefferson County public schools saw below average percentages of proficient and distinguished scores in all categories and at all school levels.
Read also A Look Back at JCPS Testing Performance.
The Department of Education also introduced new designations for schools based on their testing performance.
There are 51 Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (CSI) in the state. These are the lowest performing schools in Kentucky. A CSI school is in the bottom five percent of schools at their level in the state or has a graduation rate lower than 80 percent. These schools will receive financial support from the state in the current school year to help them improve their scores. 5.1% of all Kentucky Schools were identified as CSI Schools – 5.1% of elementary schools, 5.0% of middle schools, and 5.8% of high schools.
There are 418 Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (TSI) in Kentucky. These schools as a whole may have average or above average performance in testing, but they have at least one student group that performs as poorly as the bottom 5% of schools in the state. This new designation is intended to help schools focus resources on students who may have been under-served but gone unnoticed because they were hidden by the school’s overall achievement data. 33% of all Kentucky Schools were identified as TSI Schools – 25% of elementary schools, 40% of middle schools, and 49% of high schools. The report points out that many schools were identified as TSI schools because of gaps in testing performance between students with disabilities and their peers.
Although CSI- and TSI-designated schools will receive state support to improve, the Commissioner emphasizes that “ultimately it is the responsibility of schools and districts to use the accountability results to chart a course that continuously improves achievement for all their students.” Because this year is an interim of sorts for the new school and district accountability standards, schools not designated CSI or TSI are identified as “Other” for this school year.
The 4-year graduation rate for all Kentucky high school students was 90.3%; the 5-year rate was 91.3%. However, the percentage of high school students who are transition ready was significantly lower – only 60.2%. More than thirty percent of students who graduate from Kentucky high schools are not prepared for college or for a career. White students and Asian students had above average rates of readiness, while African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and multiracial students had below average rates of readiness. English Learning students, students with Free/Reduced-Price Meals, and students with disabilities also had below average rates of transition readiness. When looking at types of readiness, 44.6% of all high school students were academic ready, and only 33.5% were career ready. The same achievement gaps present in the average transition readiness percentages persisted when breaking down academic readiness and career readiness.
See the breakdown of the percentages of proficient and distinguished scores by subject overall, for elementary schools in a district, for middle schools in a district, and for high schools in a district.