We used to call them “Persistently Low-Achieving Schools,” but that sounded too negative.
So, the state’s educators renamed them “Priority Schools” when Kentucky got its waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). They are still the same schools, and for sure they need close tracking. After all, they were the bottom 5-percent performers in Kentucky over a multi-year period, and we are spending a lot of money in them trying to boost student performance.
Some of that close tracking is supposed to take place tomorrow when the Kentucky Board of Education gets a briefing on what has been happening in the Priority Schools. That briefing package includes a slide containing the following statements:
This sounds pretty good. According to Kentucky’s new Unbridled Learning school accountability system, six of the Priority Schools have moved up all the way from bottom of the heap to the “Distinguished” category, ranking them in the top 10-percent of all Kentucky schools. Eight more of these troubled schools are now “Proficient” performers, placing them in the top 30-percent category.
Unfortunately, I have some problems with that characterization.
This table, which is slightly shuffled from one I published on the 16th of December, raises serious concerns about what Unbridled Learning is telling us (click on the table to enlarge, if necessary).
In this shuffled table, the six “Distinguished” Priority Schools are listed first along with their reading and mathematics proficiency rates from the first two years of KPREP testing. I show scores averaged for all students, for whites only, and – where enough of them are present – for blacks only, too. Those scores came from each school’s report card, as noted in the table.
Notice that when scores declined for a student group between 2012 and 2013, I shaded those score sets in pink.
There is an awful lot of pink in this table, and too much of it is associated with those supposedly top 10-percent performer Distinguished Schools.
Three Distinguished Schools saw declines in reading scores across the board. An additional school, one of only two Distinguished schools that reported black scores, saw a decline in its black reading scores.
Things look much worse when we move down the table to the “Proficient” schools.
Half of the eight Proficient Schools saw across the board score declines in reading.
Three-fourths of the Proficient Schools saw declines in math.
Three of the Proficient Schools saw declines in BOTH reading and math!
If NCLB were still in force in Kentucky, a drop in either math or reading scores in the second year of a revised testing program like KPREP would lead to those schools being identified for sanctions.
But, NCLB is under waiver.
So, despite clear decreases in performance in the key areas of reading and math in many Priority Schools, shortcomings in the functioning of Unbridled Learning means the Kentucky Board of Education is going to be told tomorrow about progress, instead.
I’m sorry, but that will not be doing right by the students in these schools.
It’s time for the board to take a serious look at the messages we are getting from Unbridled Learning versus what is actually happening in those schools and to start making some changes – NOW!
And, it’s time for a careful review of the impacts of a waiver from NCLB that some in Washington have continually criticized as inappropriate, as well.