In a recent column about Kentucky’s new 5-star accountability system, I noted that the release of test scores and school accountability data does not represent the end of our collective work to ensure all children are learning at high levels. Instead, the release of accountability data is an opportunity to engage in data-informed dialogue with schools and school staff about the strengths and areas for growth for both schools and students.

With the recent release of testing and accountability data based on student performance during the 2018-2019 school year, I want to highlight a few areas to pay attention to on the Kentucky School Report Card and talk briefly about why this data matters.

First, every school, every district and the state has its own landing page. This page contains basic information about your school, much of it displayed visually in charts and graphs. The additional graphical displays of data is intended to give families and non-educator community stakeholders an easy-to-understand snapshot of a school’s strengths and areas for growth.

At the top of the page is the school’s star rating, ranging from one star (the lowest) to five stars (the highest). The school’s performance is based on a wide variety of measures – called indicators – such as student performance on state-required tests, how much academic progress students have made from one year to the next (academic growth), and for high schools, the school’s graduation rate and how prepared students are for life after high school (transition readiness). Additional information on how the 5-star system was designed is available on Kentucky Teacher.

Below the star rating is a category called federal classification. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is required under federal law to identify schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), which means a school’s overall performance is within the bottom 5% of Kentucky public schools by level (elementary, middle, high school), or if it is a high school with a graduation rate below 80%. Schools identified as CSI have additional responsibilities for school improvement, but this designation also makes them eligible for additional funding and support for their turnaround efforts.

This fall, KDE also must identify schools for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI), which means a school has one or more groups of students whose performance is at a very low level. Specifically, this year, a school will be labeled as ATSI if it was designated last year as TSI (targeted support and improvement) because one or more groups of students scored at or below students in any of the lowest-performing 5% of schools in the same grade band (elementary, middle or high schools).

Schools will have nothing listed if their performance in the state accountability system does not meet the criteria for identifying school as ATSI or CSI.

The 5-star rating and federal classifications are important indicators of how well all students are doing in a particular school or district. Kentucky, like the rest of the country, has long fought to reduce achievement gaps. The state’s new accountability system and the School Report Card help families and communities see quickly where schools and specific groups of students may be struggling.

For example, if a school would have been rated 5-star or 4-star, its rating will be reduced by one star if there are significant achievement gaps. Kentucky’s new accountability system is built on the philosophy that a school or district cannot be a top performer unless it is ensuring that all groups of students, regardless of background, are learning at high levels.

Additional information about underperforming student groups can be found by clicking the Learn More button under the Federal Classification headline. If a school is CSI or ATSI, a box will pop up that explains why it was designated as such, including identification of specific student groups that are underperforming.

New to the School Report Card this year is the School Accountability page, which can be found by clicking on the link beside the Star Rating that says “View Accountability Data” at the state, district and school level. This page was designed to make it easier for people to see how well a school or a district is doing on each of the indicators used in the accountability system. All of the indicators, from proficiency to transition readiness, are displayed in a scale that tells you at a glance whether that indicator is very low, low, medium, high or very high. In addition, there is comparison data that can be used to see differences in school, district and state results.

The accountability system and the School Report Card are both about increased transparency and communication with parents and stakeholders, and driving school improvement. My hope is that families, districts, schools and community stakeholders use the information on the School Report Card as a starting point for honest and productive conversations about a school’s many areas of strength, areas for growth and plans for working collaboratively to ensure each and every student is well-prepared for his or her future.

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