(FRANKFORT, KY) – A new report released today by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank, questions the lack of research and effectiveness of School Based Decision Making (SBDM) councils more than a quarter-century after the Kentucky Education Reform Act mandated this governing approach for virtually every school in the commonwealth.
“There remains major confusion about who’s really in charge of what, and even experienced educators are still getting into trouble due to SBDM laws,” said Bluegrass Institute education analyst Richard G. Innes, author of Bluegrass Institute – School Based Decision Making Policy: A Closer Look. “Serious doubts exist about how well this school-governance system is functioning.”
The report shows academic gains in Kentucky are coming much too slowly. For example, the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing in 2015 shows:
- Far fewer than one in two of Kentucky’s fourth-grade students meet muster in either math or reading.
- Eighth-graders do even worse, with only 28 percent performing at the Proficient level in math.
- The commonwealth’s black students’ results can only be described as abysmally unacceptable.
The study also includes an analysis of detailed management audits performed in 10 of the commonwealth’s lowest-performing schools and discusses voting patterns in elections for parent representatives on their councils. Neither area offers encouraging results.
Several serious but common deficiencies are found in the low-performing schools, including the failure to appropriately address curriculum issues.
“Curriculum selection is a major responsibility of school councils that current law doesn’t allow local school board members or the superintendent to control,” Innes said. “If the school councils don’t do a good job on curriculum, who holds who accountable?”
The study also examines evidence that parent interest in school councils is minimal, at best. The number of parents voting for parent representatives for the councils in the vast majority of Kentucky’s schools is less than 10 percent of the number of students enrolled in each school.
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