Pruitt sees opportunity to 'do something special' with education in state

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FRANKFORT, Ky. -- State lawmakers heard an update on the Kentucky Department of Education’s proposal to change school accountability to meet mandates of Senate Bill 1, approved by the 2017 General Assembly.

Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Education Monday afternoon.

“We get to develop a system that really represents Kentucky,” Pruitt said. “I think for a long time, that’s been pushed down from Washington, D.C., so we have an opportunity to do something special.”

Pruitt said the system will keep students at its center. Overall school and district classification will be determined by six indicators: proficiency, growth (at elementary and middle school levels), high school graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, transition readiness and opportunity and access.

He said proficiency will continue its current performance levels of novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished.

Growth will include an annual personal goal for achievement with equal weight on reading and math state tests. Schools will be graded on how much its students’ performance moves toward proficiency.

Closing the achievement gap between student groups will measure English, math, science and social studies and the school’s performance on reducing the gap.

Transition readiness will focus not only on getting ready for college or a career, but moving from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. It has four components at the high school level, one of which must be met to earn a diploma: academic readiness for post-secondary education, technical readiness for a career, military readiness (including enlistment) and language readiness for those who have English as a second language.

Opportunity and access, another indicator for grading schools, includes student experiences and school factors that impact student success, beyond test scores. They consist of equitable access, rich curriculum, school quality and whole child support.

Schools will receive an overall accountability rating of one to five stars, but if they don’t close the achievement gap, will not be able to earn more than three stars, regardless of how well they score in other categories, Pruitt said.

In addition to the new assessment system, “We are going to be taking a hard look at how, in K-12, we can do better job of supporting social and emotional health,” Pruitt said. “You’re going to be hearing about me pulling some people together and really working hard over the next year, so I can come back with some recommendations on how we can do a better job of that.”

He also outlined some of their long-term goals. “By 2030, we want to reduce the achievement gap by 50 percent. That begins with next year’s kindergarteners. If we do that, it will be unprecedented in the country.”

By 2030, Pruitt wants an increase in the proportion of the English as a second language students to be proficient in English and to increase the graduation rates of all students and each student group.

The new accountability system will go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year.

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