Next week the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) considers progress reporting requirements for Kentucky’s three worst performing school districts (Jefferson County, Christian County, and Covington Independent). Signaling where the worst of the worst problems lie, the Kentucky Department of Education recommends that Jefferson and Christian County should only have to report to the KBE twice a year, while the clearly more problematic Covington district will have to report four times a year.
But, is this really sufficient oversight for chronically low performance?
To explore that question, I talked to Rick Loghry, past president of Mason & Hanger – a high-tech firm previously headquartered in Lexington that has extensive expertise and experience in improving production plant management. Loghry was very emphatic that seriously under-performing organizations need much more frequent oversight – monthly – to create an effective turn-around in a reasonable amount of time.
Then, I asked Loghry a key question – given that our highly criticized CATS assessment only provides results for schools and districts annually, and actually only provides a final judgment on schools and districts every other year, what could be used as a basis to make meaningful reports on monthly progress? We both quickly realized that Kentucky’s current school assessment system is totally inadequate to support any sort of meaningful monitoring function, be it monthly, once a quarter, or even once a year.
As things stand, any monitoring in these troubled school systems will have to rely on other indicators and testing programs. However, there has been lots of controversy about how well other tests and measures do, or do not, mirror Kentucky’s curriculum and core content for assessment documents. Who knows if the results from these alternate measures will have any validity?
It’s obvious that Kentucky’s failure to establish an effective school assessment program has implications that run far deeper than questions about how frequently failing schools or districts need to report on progress. It’s the development of the measurement tools to make such reporting meaningful, not how often they are used, which should be the KBE’s first priority of business.