Could significantly undermine school focus on minority student performance
A new news release says the Kentucky Department of Education is asking for a waiver from some key requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Despite some appropriate criticisms, this federal act, often simply referred to by its initials as NCLB, created the first real pressure on Kentucky’s public school system to perform better with minority students, students from poverty and students with learning disabilities.
Under NCLB, schools had to separately show adequate progress each year for each student subgroup in the school. This emphasis on student subgroups was never required by either the original KERA period assessment, known as KIRIS, or the more recent CATS assessment, also now defunct.
Kentucky is launching a new school assessment and accountability program this year to replace CATS. The new program should be notably better than either of its predecessors. In fact, the new assessment does have an element that looks at performance gaps for minorities and other student groups, though only in math and reading. The education department wants to substitute this new assessment program for NCLB requirements.
The problem is that the emphasis on student subgroup performance is GREATLY reduced with Kentucky’s new state assessment program from the sort of emphasis NCLB requires.
Instead of monitoring separate, must-pass set goals for each student subgroup, the new Kentucky gap program results could become lost, averaged in with results from a number of other assessment areas. Under Kentucky’s program, all of the results from various academic tests, writing and arts program reviews, staff development and the gaps analysis will be added together to develop a final, single performance score for each school.
Only, that one, final number will be compared to the required target goals. Thus, a school could perform poorly for some student subgroups but still get an acceptable overall score due to unbalanced better performance in other areas. The end result would be: leaving kids behind.
To its credit, the Kentucky Department of Education has uploaded a ton of information about the new – and complex – state accountability system and its waiver request here (scroll to the bottom of the page to access the actual waiver request documents).
The public has until November 8, 2011 to e-mail comments about the waiver request here.
Because of the potential impact on the focus on closing achievement gaps, our readers might want to take the time to look over the material and let their opinions be known.