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Measuring School and District Performance

This is part two of the series designed to help parents better understand the new accountability scores being released this Friday, November 2nd.

Forget everything you knew about CATS!
As stressed in our Friday email, it is difficult to compare scores from the previous state accountability system (CATS) to the new accountability system. Standards are more challenging and assessments more difficult. From the link to follow you can access the first article: (http://www.scott.kyschools.us/districtNewsArticle.aspx?artID=1844)
The new accountability system includes measures not used before, such as growth score, gap score, and college and career readiness score. Unlike the CATS scores which ranged from 1 to 140, the new system ranges from 1 to 100. Comparing these would be like comparing the scores of a basketball game to a football game. While you might expect the basketball game to be higher scoring; we are now playing football!
So how is district and school performance measured?
The scores are based on three to five of the following measures depending on grade level. The amount each measure is worth for your child’s school is included in parenthesis:
·         Achievement: based on student scores on state tests (Elementary-30%; Middle School-28%; High School-20%)
·         Gap: based on the scores of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, receive special education services, are limited in their understanding of the English language, or whose race is identified as African-American, Hispanic, or Native American (Elementary- 30%; Middle School-28%; High School- 20%)
·         Growth: compares student growth from year to year against the growth of similarly performing students across the state (Elementary- 40%; Middle School- 28%; High School- 20%)
·         College/Career Readiness: based on college readiness exams, aptitude tests, or technical certificates (Elementary-N/A; Middle School-16%; High School- 20%)
·         Graduation Rate: based on the number of students who graduate within four years of high school (High School- 20%)
Once the assessments are scored, each school in the state is rank ordered according to school configuration (e.g. elementary, middle school, high school). Each school and district then receives one of three ratings:
·         Distinguished- the top 10 percent of districts or schools (90th percentile)
·         Proficient- the top 30 percent of districts or schools (70th percentile)
·         Needs Improvement- schools or districts below the 70th percentile
Because the system is based on a continuous improvement model, roughly 70% of all schools/districts will fall in the Needs Improvement category.  The danger with such a system is many people will automatically assume our schools or state educational system is failing. Please understand this is the way the system is designed – much like the bell curve. It is critical that parents and community understand this is not indicative of a failing school. We must resist the temptation to equate the percentiles to letter grades; the system is not designed this way.
Why the Change?
In 2009, Kentucky legislators passed Senate Bill 1 which totally revamped the state’s educational system. This piece of legislation called for new and more rigorous academic standards as well as a new accountability system to assess these new standards. In 2011, Kentucky once again assumed its role as an educational leader by being the first state in the nation to adopt the Common Core Standards in English/language arts and mathematics. These new standards were first taught and assessed during the 2011-12 school year. To date, 45 other states have adopted these rigorous standards and are closely watching Kentucky’s success in implementing and assessing this new curriculum.
So why change? In a dynamic, constantly changing world, education can no longer remain the same. If we are going to prepare our students for success in a global society, we must reevaluate and redesign our educational practices, curriculum, and assessments. We have to raise the level of expectations for our students. We must teach our students how to research answers to their questions as well as how to discriminate fact from opinion. Students not only have to be actively engaged in their coursework but must take ownership of their own learning. We must teach our students to problem-solve, reason, and think critically. We must provide them not only with knowledge and skills but also the confidence to succeed in a competitive, global marketplace. We, as an educational system, must think beyond proficiency in basic skills; our students must be college and career ready when they graduate.
As a parent, what can I do to help my child?
1.       Stay involved in your child’s education by establishing a two-way dialogue with their teacher. Talk with your child’s teacher about his or her areas of strength as well as areas to improve. Let them show you strategies so you can work with your child at home.
2.       Set high expectations for your child.
3.       Familiarize yourself with what your child should be learning this year. Review the classroom learning targets.
4.       Monitor your child’s attendance and grades.
5.       If your child is in middle or high school, ask the counselor how to access his or her Individual Learning Plan (ILP), which contains test scores, career interests, and tools that will help you plan for his or her future.
6.       Show your child you value education and their success is important to you.
7.       Get involved – join the PTA/PTSA/PTO, booster organizations, volunteer in your child’s school, etc.
Working together as partners, we can make a difference in the success of our children.

If you would like to download this article, please click here.

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