I’ve been slowly collecting examples of how Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning school accountability program may not be getting the message right. Some of the early indications are found in the Bluegrass Institute’s “Blacks Still Falling Through Gaps, the 2012 Update,” where I point to several schools that got Unbridled Learning’s top award of “School of Distinction” even though they had enormous white vs. black achievement gaps of more than 50 percentage points.
Now, a powerful new example of why the ratings from Unbridled Learning are important has exploded into the headlines in Fleming County.
WKYT reports in “Fleming Co. students protest state’s recommendation to remove principal” that students in Fleming County High School are in an uproar after a new school leadership audit from the Kentucky Department of Education found that the principal was not getting the job done in this “Persistently Low-Achieving School” and needed to be replaced.
Not so fast, the kids said. They pointed to Fleming Co. High’s last two years of scoring from Unbridled Learning. If you look at the cover page from the school’s online report card (available from menus on line here), Fleming Co. High was rated “Proficient” overall by Unbridled Learning for both of the last two years and its supposed ranking among Kentucky high schools soared from the 71st to the 87th percentile between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school terms.
Doesn’t that make the Fleming Co. kids’ case???
Does that mean the auditors are wrong?
There may be problems with Unbridled Learning.
When you look at some bread and butter education statistics – the “All Students” proficiency rates in Fleming Co. High for reading, mathematics, science, social studies, writing at both grade 10 and 11, and language mechanics – the school scored below state average for every single subject.
The school was also below state average for achievement gap calculations for every subject listed above except mathematics.
How does that square with an overall rating in the 87th Percentile?
The answer may lie in other areas Unbridled Learning evaluates like high school graduation rates and student growth.
The point is that right now the auditors’ recommendations conflict sharply with Kentucky’s own, very impressive scores for this school from Unbridled Learning. Either the state’s school assessment program has problems, or the auditors may not have done their job well.
Regardless, I suspect it will be really hard to remove a principal who can point to the state’s own assessment program and say his school now ranks near the very top of all high schools in Kentucky.
And, the pressure is clearly on the Kentucky Department of Education to reconcile its two, very different appraisals of what is happening in Fleming County High.