Kentucky schools were in for a shock after the state's Department of Education released the accountability data for the 2017-18 school year.
This year's data set reflects a new accountability system, which ranks schools under two designations: Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). This new system was approved by the Kentucky Board of Education earlier this year, making this year a transition year.
Next year, schools will face a different type of accountability system with one that gives a 5-star rating, taking effect in the 2018-19 school year. According to information released by the Kentucky Department of Education, this system will allow for further differentiations between school performance. Pending approval of the state's Consolidated State Plan by the U.S. Department of Education, additional measures and indicators could be scheduled.
Under this new system, accountability determinations are only made at the school level. Determinations are based on student performance on state assessments and other school quality indicators or measures, such as growth or graduation rate, depending on the grade level. Additionally, per Senate Bill 1 (2017), the new system does not provide a single summative score that ranks schools against each other, according to the state's press release.
This system is designed to not only look at schools as a whole, but also to determine whether they are meeting the diverse needs of students in their buildings. The performance of every group of students must also be above the cut scores set by the state.
Out of 173 districts and 1,220 public schools, 51 schools in Kentucky ranked among the bottom 5 percent. Ranking in the bottom 5 percent places a school in the CSI category, meaning that school fell in the bottom 5 percent of schools at their level (elementary, middle or high school) or had a graduation rate below 80 percent.
"CSI schools are, by definition, the lowest performing schools in the state," said Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis. "Being on this list means a significant shift must be undertaken to better address student learning. This is not about shaming schools, leaders or teachers, but these schools can neither continue doing what they have always done, nor make only minor adjustments."
While Madison County Schools didn't receive any CSI rankings, its nearby neighbors in Fayette County had seven schools fall into that category, all of which were elementary schools. Those schools will be audited by the state, with state staff being dispatched to work in each school.
Madison County did have six schools fall into the TSI category, and Berea Independent's elementary school was listed as well. To have a TSI designation means to have at least one group of students performing as poorly as schools in the bottom 5 percent. Kentucky saw 431 of its schools in this category. The identified groups for Madison County and Berea schools were those with disabilities.
Madison County Superintendent David Gilliam said he was aware of the TSI schools before the state released its data, as those who have disabilities often face challenges, which is to be expected.
"We will continue to focus on those areas and meet the need of our special needs students to try and improve their learning," Gilliam said. "I am very positive we can do that."
Gilliam also said he was proud of the elementary schools test scores in reading and middle school scores in math and reading as well.
"We've made substantial jumps compared to previous years," Gilliam said. "We are always making improvements. Those numbers, when we look at them from year to year, we see a good upward trend. We're very pleased with that data."
The data show that academic performance in Kentucky has remained largely flat. Areas such as reading and mathematics saw the most trouble, but that was only half true in Madison County.
English was each of the school's strong suits, with science falling in second and math in third. The average composite ACT score for the 2017-18 year at Madison Central was 19.9, Madison Southern was 19.5 and Model was 22.2. A composite score is determined by the average of the four tests scores (English, math, reading and science) and is scored on a scale of 1 to 36.
While the state saw a drop in ACT composite scores across the board, with a 19.3 score, Madison County was slightly above the curve with each of it's high schools. The drop in scores, though, is a trend measured nationally. This year, the national average composite score was 20.8, down 0.2 points from the year before, representing a five-year low.
But since the 2007-08 school year, Madison County Schools have seen better composite scores, and worse ones. The 2017-18 composites fell on the better side. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has set systemwide benchmarks for English (18), math (19) and reading (20) on the ACT, as well. These benchmarks represent students who demonstrate academic readiness at the high school level.
When looking at ACT benchmark scores over the past 11 years, Madison Central High School has had, on average, 58.3 percent of students meeting the benchmark for English, 51.3 percent for science and only 39.4 percent of students meeting it in math. At Madison Southern High School, 53.7 percent of students met the benchmark for English, while only 36.3 percent for math and 47 percent in science.
Madison County's other high school, Model Laboratory, saw more than half of its students meeting the benchmark. For English, 75.5 percent of students met the mark, 71.1 percent in science and 61.8 percent of students in math, over the 11 years.
"This is a daunting moment of truth for our state. We cannot lie to ourselves about what these scores mean any longer. While the data are sobering, it allows us to get an accurate picture of where our schools are and strengthens our conviction in what is needed in the months and years ahead," Lewis said. "Instead of being discouraged, this is a call to action for schools, districts, educators, parents, students and community and business leaders. We must take bold and immediate action for the benefit of our students."
To view the data, visit http://openhouse.education.ky.gov/Data.
Reach Kaitlyn Skovran at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynskovran.