Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

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  • An Absent-Minded Quest

    I’ve been feeling somewhat like an adventurer on an epic quest in search of the answer to a question that, in my mind, should be fairly simple: What is chronic absenteeism? As part of the new accountability standards, I assumed that a functioning definition for the term MUST exist somewhere in the vast catalogues of information we now access on the Internet. After all, it was defined and utilized within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and as part of the Office of Education Accountability (OEA) report. Yet, the more I asked, the more the answer changed. Surely, the definition must be somewhere. Yet, as part of my journey, slaying the dragons of red tape and being the new “guy”, I was informed - much to this researcher’s chagrin - that a singular definition of chronic absenteeism does not exist. Though the many permutations of the discussion are similar, there are nuances. On my quest, I came across these similar (yet different) definitions: Chronic absenteeism is typically defined as missing 10 percent or more of a school year -- approximately 18 days a year, or just two days every month. (Obrien, 2013) Students who are chronically absent—meaning they miss at least 15 days of school in a year—are at serious risk of falling behind in school. (U.S. Department of Education) Chronic absenteeism measures attendance in a different way, combining excused, unexcused and disciplinary absences to get a complete picture of how much instructional time students are missing. (Jordan, Miller, 2017) The criteria for chronic absenteeism varies, but generally students who miss 10 or more days of school or 10% or greater of the school year are considered chronically absent. (Carter, 2018) Chronic absenteeism—or missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason—is a proven early warning sign of academic risk and school dropout. (Bruner, Discher, Chang, 2011) And of course, I asked Merriam-Webster: 1: prolonged absence of an owner from his or her property 2: chronic absence (as from work or school); also: the rate of such absence.

    Declining results in most subject areas and widening achievement gaps in many Kentucky schools evident in the recent release of state test results prompted the Prichard Committee to call for renewed public attention and action around progress in public education. “Today’s results are everyone’s business,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Prichard’s executive director. “For the Commonwealth’s system of public education to continue to improve and build on the progress in the last generation, citizens must be aware of the results for their schools and districts and begin to have courageous conversations about how to serve more students well. This is a moment of opportunity, a time to begin co-designing solutions with educators, students, parents, community and business leaders – side-by-side at the local level.” The Prichard Committee spotlighted three major trends from the test scores, the results of exams that students across the state took last spring: * The youngest elementary students made only slight gains over last year in elementary reading and declining results in elementary mathematics.  This pattern applies across nearly all student groups, with signs of better progress only for English learners.  * Results show an alarming drop in the number of students meeting Kentucky’s college readiness benchmarks on the ACT, including 5 percent declines in English and mathematics and a 7.5 percent decline in reading.  The significance of those results is important because after changes to the state’s testing and accountability system, ACT is the only academic readiness measure that can be fully compared to last year’s results.  * Even in schools performing relatively well overall, some groups of students are performing no better than the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state. For schools at all levels, 2018 is the first year of identifying schools for targeted support and improvement (TSI). This identifies schools based on having one or more student groups with performance like the lowest 5 percent of schools. This data show 418 schools have group results at that disturbingly low level, including 320 schools with very low results for students with identified disabilities. Read the full Sept. 26 press release about test results at
  • New Offering: A Quick Look At Each School's 2018 Results

    Kentucky’s new data files on student results can be a bit daunting, not least because assessment performance is shown in a Excel file with 187,846 rows of data. An innovative school dashboard, with much more accessible displays, is under construction but not available yet. While we wait, we’d like to offer students, parents, and other citizens another way to begin their exploration. Our Quick Look reports offer a single page for each school. On that one page, you’ll find results for all student and for 12 students groups, including percent proficient/distinguished in each tested subject, and also including the four-year graduation rate for high schools.
  • Kentucky Board of Education Moves Forward with Proposed New Minimum High School Graduation Requirements

    Today’s approval of the proposed new minimum high school graduation requirements by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) includes the framework developed with business leader and educator engagement as well as the inclusion of high stakes requirements for students first introduced during the first reading of the KBE on Aug. 2. The board chose not to delay action as requested by community and civil rights organizations, as well as educator groups, which would have provided more time to allow research and evidence to inform the proposal. While this is disappointing, we encourage citizens and stakeholders to use the public comment period to pose their questions and make their concerns known. We’ve provided a timeline for the process below and will continue to provide research and analysis on the proposal to help ensure Kentucky employs the very best strategies to increase student success. “The basic framework of Kentucky’s proposal, developed over the last eight months, has the potential to be transformational for Kentucky’s students if we provide the time, resources, and guidance our educators need to deeply develop rich, rigorous, and relevant personalized pathways for our students,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey. “As the process moves forward, the KBE and stakeholders should consider the perceived value-add of high stakes exit exams and if the tradeoffs in opportunity cost and systemic supports are where we want to place the state’s capacity” We are grateful to our partners who are also committed to the rigorous review of the research and more intentional public engagement on behalf of our students, including: the Louisville Urban League, Kentucky State Conference of NAACP Branches, the Urban League of Lexington – Fayette County, Teach for America -Appalachia and Partners for Education at Berea College.
  • What Research Tells Us About Exit Exams and the State Board of Education’s Responsibility

    The Prichard Committee and partner organizations have called for a delay of the Kentucky Board of Education’s vote on proposed minimum high school graduation requirements, requesting due diligence in the Board’s review of the proposal brought to them on Aug. 2, 2018. This is a critical issue given the changing nature of our economy and the fact that only 65 percent of Kentucky’s 2017 graduating seniors received a college or career ready diploma. The basic frame of the proposal, which includes a core academic foundation and more personalized pathways for students, holds promise for ensuring a more meaningful high school diploma for Kentucky students. Creating more meaningful diplomas is a critical issue given the changing nature of our economy and the fact that only 65 percent of Kentucky’s 2017 graduating seniors received a college or career ready diploma. However, two late additions to the proposal - exit exams in reading and mathematics and requiring a student to be transition ready to graduate - are vague in their details and have benefitted from little to no public discussion or input. If approved, the proposal would be a significant shift in Kentucky’s accountability model. Kentucky vests significant responsibility in an appointed body of citizens to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) and their hiring of a professional Commissioner to lead the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). The weight of this responsibility requires the KBE and the KDE to thoroughly research and analyze proposals for assurance that they will serve to move our state system of public education and Kentucky’s students forward. With that in mind, the following is a review of the body of research on exit exams which we began to put together following the proposal to the KBE in August. While the details of the Department’s proposal have not been clearly spelled out and may not be identical to any one implementation model from other states, the findings of the research can and should be used to inform Kentucky’s approach to increasing student success.
  • Rising Graduations and Declining ACT Scores in 2018 High School Results

    Compared to 2017, high results released today showed continuing improvement in graduation rates, but an alarming drop in high school juniors reaching the ACT benchmarks established by the Council for Postsecondary Education.
    As shown in the table below, graduation increases were reported for all students and for every group except for Hispanic students’ four-year graduation rate.

  • 2018 Middle School Results Are Mixed

    Compared to 2017, middle school KPREP results released today showed potentially important increases in reading and writing proficiency, but also showed proficiency declines in mathematics and social studies.
    As shown in the table below, this pattern was visible for all students and also English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, Hispanic students, and students…

  • 2018 Elementary Results Raise Concerns

    Compared to 2017, elementary school KPREP results released today showed declining levels of proficiency in math, social studies and writing and only small increases in reading proficiency.
    As shown in the table below, this pattern was visible for all students and also for students with identified disabilities, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, African American…

  • Transition Readiness: The Kentucky Definition

    Kentucky has identified eleven ways our high school students can show that they are ready for success in college or a career, with schools getting credit if students fulfill any one of the eleven options. Those options are set up in the regulation creating our new accountability system, 703 KAR 5:270. Under that regulation, the Transition Readiness Indicator will reflect four kinds of data on high school graduates: Students demonstrating academic readiness Students demonstrating career readiness English learners who meet criteria for English language proficiency Students who participate in the alternative assessment program and meet academic or career readiness criteria on those assessments