Of all the soundbites we’ve heard about Kentucky schools over the past few years, this one from the Cincinnati Enquirer still resonates with me: “If you’re a Kentucky mom or dad hoping to crack open this year’s report card to see how your school stacks up, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not that your school is doing poorly – that may or may not be the case. It’s that it’s getting harder and harder to tell.”
That was written last school year, which marked the beginning of a major shift in Kentucky’s school accountability system. While I think it’s great that we’re looking for new ways to measure our schools’ performance, the Enquirer has a point: all that information we’ve been collecting hasn’t exactly been easy for parents, community members, or even teachers to make heads or tails of.
For years, Kentucky has released a statewide “School Report Card” to help those stakeholders to do precisely that. But if you hadn’t noticed, those Report Cards were based on an old system that used some pretty wonky labels to identify how well our schools are performing.
High-falutin’ terms like “Proficient,” “High-Performing,” and “High-Growth” long dominated the old accountability system, and while those fancy monikers might make perfect sense to folks who have spent their whole careers in education, they’re also too muddy to mean much of anything to the average parent. And of course, with the transition to Kentucky’s new school rating system, schools didn’t receive any labels at all last year. So how the heck are we supposed to figure out how good of a job our schools are doing?
New & Improved
Just this week, Kentucky introduced the new and improved version of the School Report Card website, which includes all of the details you could ever want on your local school: student demographics, test scores, teacher qualifications, student safety details, parental involvement, and plenty more.
You can check out the new School Report Card for yourself at https://openhouse.education.ky.gov/src, where you’ll find the site’s main landing page and search tool. I think parents and other stakeholders will appreciate all of the interactive charts, graphs, and illustrations on this new Report Card that can help them get a better understanding of the data. After all, no one should need a degree in statistics to understand how well their kid’s school is doing. Fortunately, with this new version, it’s quicker and easier to learn about your local school’s performance than ever before.
Keeping The Focus On Equity
I particularly like the way that this new School Report Card aims to narrow in on achievement gaps between different groups of students. As we saw in the release of last year’s test scores, Kentucky is still struggling to boost the performance of minority and low-income students to the same level as their White, more affluent peers.
“It is imperative that we ensure every group of students is performing at high levels. We can’t leave groups of students behind,” Commissioner Wayne Lewis told WHAS11. “This is a moral issue. Our expectation must be that all of our students can learn at high levels, regardless of income, gender, race/ethnicity, or disability status. It is the schools’ responsibility to identify approaches, curricula, and strategies for meeting students’ needs. Our students and their families depend on it, and our Commonwealth depends on it.”
While the new School Report Card itself won’t do anything to bolster those efforts, the site’s new user-friendly layout should at least help stakeholders be more aware of the existing gaps. And with clearer data and a better understanding of our schools’ strengths and weaknesses, it will certainly help guide our discussions on how we can close those gaps.
But don’t take it from me. Go check out Kentucky’s new School Report Card for yourself.