The final Unbridled Learning accountability classifications for Kentucky’s public schools were released on September 27, 2013. That September release was already very late. Under the score reporting provisions of Senate Bill 1 from the Kentucky 2009 Regular Legislative Session:
“Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, the reporting requirement in this subsection shall be no later than seventy-five (75) days following the first day the assessment can be administered.”
In other words, with testing starting by the beginning of May, if not earlier, the law says school systems should have received their Unbridled Learning scores before August. And, while the law does not seem to explicitly say so, there is an implication that parents, the public and policy makers were also to have this data in hand before the next school term started. That didn’t happen.
But, now, MANY months after the final Unbridled Learning results became public, the HarlandDaily.com reports: that Harlan Independent schools superintendent C.D. Morton just told his board of education that “the scores had been recalculated after some previously omitted scores were included.”
Here we are, nearly half way through the school term, and Unbridled Learning still needs corrections.
Harlan Independent is a very small school district. Based on its 2012-13 Average Daily Attendance of only 694 students (find the ADA data for every Kentucky school district in this Excel file), Harlan Independent is the 24th smallest district in the state. How a small number of students somehow got missed for all this time is a mystery. I’m glad Harlan’s data was finally made right, but one wonders what other mistakes may still be lurking in this complex program.
Furthermore, I am still concerned about clearly questionable Unbridled Learning school classifications that award some of the top ratings to schools that score at the very bottom for math and are actually seeing declines in reading.
It seems like time for the Kentucky Board of Education and the legislature to take a hard look at what Kentucky’s two-and-a-half-year-old school accountability program is actually producing.
Keep in mind, Kentucky isn’t just working on the second year of a new accountability program. This state has struggled to get a decent school assessment system up and running ever since the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was passed in 1990.
KERA promised Kentuckians a much better school system in exchange for a lot more money. So far, our schools have indeed spent a whole lot more money (Total School Revenue in 2013 – $6,600,135,371 / Total School Revenue in 1990 – $1,961,198,515), an increase in real funding after inflation of 88 percent based on constant 1990 dollars).
However, as KERA moves into its 24th year, we still see Kentucky schools getting little more than a hand slap – sometimes even praise – despite single-digit white and black math proficiency rates (Example: Table 2 in our new report shows Latonia Elementary School in Covington had a 0.0 percent math proficiency for its black students but got scored as: “Proficient/Progressing” and “High Progress School”).
That sort of nonsense isn’t going to fly anymore, and Kentucky’s education leaders need to start talking about how to improve Unbridled Learning now.