Quick Takes

Kentucky lawmakers hear update on KERA and school assessment methods

By: - June 6, 2023 4:17 pm
Students get off buses at an elementaryschool In Louisville, KY

The Kentucky Department of Education named Robin Kinney to serve as interim education commissioner. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Kentucky lawmakers on Tuesday heard an update on the state of Kentucky education assessments and what policy changes could impact their future. 

Lu Young (Kentucky Department of Education)

Lu Young, the chairwoman of the Kentucky Board of Education, told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Education that it’s time to reconsider the backdrop of past accountability and assessment measures as the state moves forward. Young highlighted the department’s vision of “United We Learn,” which focuses on giving students a more vibrant education and encourages school innovation.  

A key component of that could be engaging community members in the conversation. In such conversations, she said she has heard that state and local business leaders are looking for students who can think critically and solve problems.  

“I don’t know that we veered so far off the path. We were knocked off the path several times by the federal government, frankly, along the way. But now I think we have this window of opportunity as a commonwealth to think about how deep and authentic learning experiences can become the norm in Kentucky,” Young said. 

Young was among Kentucky Department of Education officials who addressed the committee Tuesday. No voting actions were taken during the meeting, but the information could be used to shape the General Assembly’s policies in the 2024 legislative session. 

The lawmakers also heard from Jim Flynn about the status of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, which was enacted in 1990. He said goals of the act included school accountability for students’ process in content and performance assessment, but other factors that have disrupted KERA’s progress were the 2008 recession, the coronavirus pandemic and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. 

Committee co-chairman Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, said at the start of the meeting before Flynn’s presentation on KERA that it would be “good for us to take a pause and look back” and “try to identify where it is that we need to go” when it comes to shaping future policies. 

In his remarks, Flynn said Kentucky is not alone in facing these challenges. He talked about solutions other states as well as some Kentucky schools are exploring such as incorporating community-based accountability systems. 

The representatives from KDE, who along with Young included ​​Associate Commissioner of the Office of Assessment and Accountability Rhonda Sims and Director of Division of Assessment and Accountability Support Jennifer Stafford, discussed current assessment and accountability metrics, along with federal and state requirements. The data presented had caveats like partial testing in recent years and changes in school tests. 

At the end of the meeting, Tipton said the conversation about assessment and accountability must continue. 

“Our children deserve us to do better,” Tipton said. “We’ve got to analyze the data, figure out how we can improve the educational system in Kentucky because it’s their future.”

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.