Commissioner of Education vows that public education assessment scores will improve under new guidelines

10/05/2017 12:17 PM

FRANKFORT – Despite a mixed bag of results in the latest K-12 state public school assessment scores, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt believes that with reforms coming as a result of Senate Bill 1, passed during the 2017 session, better days are ahead for Kentucky’s students.

According to the data, Kentucky’s four-year graduation rate increased to 89.8 – from 88.6 percent last year and 88.0 percent the previous year.

Students took close to 52,000 Advanced Placement tests last year and nearly 26,000 earned qualifying scores of three or higher, which was more than in past years.

ACT scores, which are based on all public school juniors taking the test last spring, increased across the board in English, mathematics, reading and science. The overall composite score is also up over the past five years, from 19.2 in 2012-13 to 19.8 in 2016-17.

Additionally, a greater percentage of students met Council on Postsecondary Education readiness benchmarks.

Overall Next-Generation Learner Component scores increased slightly at the elementary and middle school levels, but were down at the high school levels with elementary scores rising from 68.3 a year ago to 68.6, middle school scores rose from 68.1 to 68.4, while high school learner scores dropped from 63.4 to 62.3.

Achievement gaps between different groups of students persisted in many areas and will be a major focus of the department of education, schools and districts under the new accountability system.

Pruitt acknowledged that the latest results show it’s time to retool the state’s education system.

“From a K-PREP standpoint we were flat, which is certainly a cause for us to ramp things up,” Pruitt said. “Usually when you see state assessments start to go flat, you realize that’s when it’s time for us to do something new. It’s also a time for us to refocus on instruction.”

Kentucky is in the process of phasing out its old accountability system, and replacing it with a new system created under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky Senate Bill 1 (2017). The new system is expected to be in place by the 2018-19 school year with accountability first reported in the 2019-20 school year.

As a result of the transition, this year’s release does not include overall accountability scores, classifications or rankings for schools and districts, although KDE will continue to support low-performing schools and districts during the transition period.

“What our new system should do is start to get us back to what good education should be which is really equipping every student to follow their passion, whatever their passion may be,” Pruitt said. “Hopefully, it will be a better informed student, we can help them see what career opportunities are available for them, what majors that could lead to better careers are available to them.”

One concern that Pruitt has had since he came to Kentucky has been the high school graduation requirements and how they match up with what a student needs to have a successful postsecondary education track.

“When Kentucky did their graduation requirements before, I think they were right on the money with what they needed at the time, but now, we’ve kind of moved beyond that,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt knows that education and economic development go hand in hand in looking how to attract new businesses and jobs to the state, and he feels that the new accountability system will help to do just that.

“We’ve got a new robust accountability system that’s not about points, but about kids,” Pruitt said. “It’s a system that’s going to value and actually encourage districts to value the types of industry and the types of careers that are available in the regions of their state.”

Studies show that the foundation of a child’s education is laid between pre-school and third grade, and that fact is something that Pruitt says will not be lost in moving forward to a better education model.

“We know that by the age of three, our low income students have heard thirty million words less than their counterparts, so we’ve got to have a greater focus on that,” Pruitt said. “At the same time, we’ve got to realize when we talk about something like reading or math, it can be just about reading or math because the problem solving, the thinking part comes through the science, social studies and the arts.”

Looking ahead, Pruitt says KDE is redoing all of the tests by letting Kentucky teachers determine what content will be included.

“We’re going to be focusing on proficiency in math and reading, but also science and social studies,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to take a different look at transition readiness moving forward. We’re going to have a greater focus on what our schools are offering in terms of opportunity for our kids.

Click here to see current and past state assessment results for all public schools and districts in the state.


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