SB 158 Accountability: Committee Sub Makes Improvements, Invites New Questions – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

SB 158 Accountability: Committee Sub Makes Improvements, Invites New Questions

Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee approved a committee substitute version of Senate Bill 158, and sent it forward for consideration on the Senate floor. We’ve revised our two-page overview of how the bill compares to Kentucky’s current law and practice.  The following are my thoughts on the bill as amended.

Positive Moves on Group Reporting and CSI schools

Changes made by the committee substitute include four steps that address areas that concerned us in the original bill. With the revised provisions, the bill:

  • No longer limits the dashboard portion of the school report card to showing results for groups of 30 students or more. That change means that the current 10-student rule can stay in place.
  • Names the Kentucky Department of Education as the sole provider for audits of schools identified for CSI (comprehensive school improvement). That reverses the earlier bill language that did not allow the department to do audits at all.
  • No longer prohibits audit teams from assessing the capacity of principals and superintendents to lead turnaround work at CSI schools. As revised, the bill calls for a wide-reaching look at the school being audited, allowing the audit team to identify leadership issues if the evidence warrants doing so.
  • Calls for the department to identify approved vendors to provide turnaround services to CSI schools, with local school boards deciding who to engage for that work. The department will also report to a legislative committee annually on the work those vendors do. (There may still be a need to clarify whether the Department itself can be chosen to provide the turnaround help.)

A Change In Need of Discussion: Achievement Gap Definitions

SB 158 now calls for a changed understanding of achievement gaps, moving from looking at the differences in results for student groups to looking at differences between group results and performance goals. In many conversations, we hear the new version referred to as a “gap to goal” approach.

Our initial thought is Kentucky already has ambitious goals for proficiency in assessed subjects, for graduation rates, and for moving English learners to English proficiency, spelled out in Kentucky’s current plan for implementing ESSA (the federal Every Student Succeeds Act). We hope to get clarification on:

  • Whether those ESSA goals are indeed the ones to be used.
  • Whether the 2030 ESSA goals or the year-by-year interim measures of progress toward those goals will be used.
  • Whether each group’s results will be compared to Kentucky’s ESSA goals for all students, or, instead to the separate goals for each group (with the note that we’re concerned about the possibility of the same score being counted as showing a gap for one group and not for another).
  • If ESSA goals will not be used, how the performance goals will be determined?

The final section of SB 158 currently contains not-very-specific language encouraging the department to “assign more weight within the academic indicators in the statewide accountability system for progress made toward goals by the subgroups.” We also hope to explore:

  • Whether that language can be tightened to use “gap to goal” analysis as the method for making group results more important in state accountability reporting.

Further Thinking: Dashboard Design

Schools currently receive ratings on a set of indicators, reflecting their current scores or “status.” Under SB 158, schools would receive both that status rating and a second “change rating,” based on how this year’s results differs from last), and status and change would receive equal weight in schools’ overall ratings. After exploring this concept further and looking at a related approach already being used in California, we have two new topics we want to explore:

  • Whether showing three different ratings (status, change, and overall) for each indicator for each group on the dashboard is too complex and whether showing the overall result there (with greater details available somewhere else) might be a more effective way to show major patterns to the public.
  • How parents and other citizens can be given clear roles in helping ensure the planned dashboard is provides clear, complete, useful information.

Some Continuing Views on the Original Bill

Carrying over from my earlier post on SB 158, we continue to:

  • Support the change providing that test scores and readiness indicators will not be used in statewide graduation requirements.
  • Support the provision that local school board members can start their charter school authorization training after a charter application is filed.
  • Share concern about using norm-referenced percentiles and distribution data to determine indicator ratings.

Overall, we look forward to continuing to engage with the bill sponsors and other members of the legislature about each part of SB 158, and we appreciate the consideration our thoughts have been given in the work so far.

For more information on the bill, our analysis is here, and the official legislative language is here.

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