Finding a Path – Navigating Kentucky’s New Education Accountability for Parents and Community Leadership
Over the next two years, state education leaders will be working to shift the ways they evaluate and communicate about student learning in Kentucky public schools and school districts.
While I have 142 questions about how all of this will play out, here is one of the most important:
Will these new approaches provide parent and community leaders with meaningful information they can use in their efforts to champion better opportunities and outcomes for children and youth?
From delving into the policy weeds in the Kentucky accountability plan (now approved by the U.S. Department of Education*), I suspect that the answer will depend on decisions yet to be made. Although state leaders have already made many decisions about how this will all work, numerous decisions remain. Parent and community leaders also have decisions about how they engage with the work underway, and how they use the information the system ultimately makes available.
Here are some thoughts for how these leaders can maximize parent and community leadership through the implementation of the new plan.
- Commit to lifting up parent and community leadership at every step. As challenges and potential solutions emerge, ask, “How will this decision help parent and community leaders use information about educational opportunities and student results in their community’s schools?”
Parent and community leaders
- Choose a handful of specific things that matter most to you. Learn about them and track them over time. Work with others to take action based on what you learn. For instance, a community leader might choose the number of students who are chronically absent from school in early elementary grades because local organizations can partner with schools on efforts to reduce absenteeism. (See AttendanceWorks for ideas about how.)
- A parent leader may prioritize the number of high school students completing early postsecondary opportunities, with an eye toward ensuring that other parents and their students from different backgrounds understand the availability and benefits of these opportunities.
- Thinking of ways to partner with schools to encourage recruitment and retention of accomplished teachers and school leaders, a local business or higher education leader may specialize in examining the rate of new teachers in a school or teacher turnover rates.
- If you want to go further, contribute your time and ideas to crafting how the state communicates information to the public. The Kentucky Department of Education will be designing a new online “dashboard” to illustrate data for schools and districts. Your input can help build tools that work for real parents and community leaders.
- If you are especially brave, you can dig into the policy and data weeds. This system has a lot of components and it’s not quite clear yet how they will all fit together. Although not everyone needs to be an expert on the system, it’s powerful for some parent and community leaders to have this depth of knowledge. No matter how thoughtful an original plan, as it’s implemented across schools and classrooms, issues will arise. Often parents (and of course students) have the first views into where problems pop up. It makes a difference for parent and community leaders to speak directly to state policy leaders about these issues.
In my next post, I’ll address the dedicated policy wonks, outlining a few weedy thoughts about the implementation of the new accountability system.
*For additional background on Kentucky’s plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), please check out Susan Weston’s blog post covering various questions about the new system.