Explaining Kentucky's 5-star accountability system


Kentucky’s 5-star school accountability system is scheduled to go live at the end of September or early October. It will offer parents across the Commonwealth a new and more transparent way to understand how their children’s schools are performing.

Using school and student data from the 2018-2019 school year, the new system will provide an overall rating for each Kentucky public school ranging from 1 (the lowest) to 5 (the highest) stars. Schools’ new star ratings, along with other important education data, will be available online at

As called for by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Senate Bill 1 (2017), schools are held accountable for student assessment results in all core subjects (reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing), improving the English language proficiency of English learners, student growth in reading and mathematics at elementary and middle school, and graduation and transition readiness at high school.

There are a few things in the 5-star accountability system all education stakeholders – from parents, to community members, to school administrators – need to understand.

First, the system is designed to focus attention on the need to close achievement gaps. When using the term “achievement gap,” we at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) mean the difference in academic achievement between specific groups of students, such as economically disadvantaged students as compared to their wealthier peers and special education students as compared to students who do not use special education services.

Closing such gaps is absolutely essential to Kentucky being able to better prepare each and every one of our students for success in postsecondary education and the workforce. While our public education system has advanced significantly over the past three decades, better meeting the academic needs of economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and students of color remains one of our greatest challenges. And the importance of meeting the needs of each and every Kentucky student has never been more urgent than it is today.

A school or district that would have been a 5- or 4-star will be reduced by 1 star if it has significant achievement gaps. A school simply cannot be recognized as being one of the state’s best if significant disparities between the performance of student groups remain. That’s what I believe. It is what leaders and staff at KDE believe. And I think that’s what you believe.

Second, it is important that everyone knows the hard work of districts and schools continues after they are notified of their ratings and performance in the accountability system. Accountability system results can be the beginning of meaningful conversations between schools and the families they serve. Once families can see where their school’s strengths are and where there are opportunities for improvement, conversations can laser focus on how families can work together with their schools to improve opportunities for their children.

Finally, there seems to be a large public misunderstanding that schools that rate lower than others will receive less funding. Nothing could be further from the truth. No funding will be withheld from a school or a district if it does not rate highly. In fact, the lowest-performing schools receive extra funding and support from KDE to help implement research-based strategies that will increase achievement for its students.

We are confident that Kentucky’s new 5-star rating and accountability system will help get more parents involved in their children’s schools, help create a healthy dialogue about how to overcome challenges and gaps, and ultimately will help us ensure each and every child is equipped for a successful future.

Wayne Lewis is the Kentucky education commissioner.

Kentucky Today’s Perspectives section provides a public forum for our readers to express their views on issues of importance. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and should not be construed as an official position taken by this newspaper. We encourage you to join in the conversation by sending your essays to We reserve the right to reject submissions deemed inappropriate.  


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Barbara Hale

Sorry to be so negative but no 5 star accountablitlity is going to help the issues that Mr. Lewis describes. Disciple is what will help these issues and if parents aren't going to support schools when the need to disciple students are there then the students need to be home schooled. The disciple in schools is what is hurting the education of our students. If my child is in a classroom of 30 students and you have 5 students disrupting the class, the other 25 are missing out on being taught. DISCIPLE NEEDS TO BE #1 ON ALL LIST FOR EDUCATION IN THE STATE OF KENTUCKY. Instead we are catering to the students that are disrupting our classroooms. Promising them candy or free time in the gym if they are good for one day. What is the reward for students that are good everyday, NOTHING!!!!!!! Plus they aren't evening getting an education for being good. This PBIS system is not the answer either, we just keep giving the disrespectful students a crutch to lean on. Parents need to be kept accountable: they can support their students teachers or they can home school kid. We are not doing our students any good by sending them out in the real world without an education. Education is not passing them to the next grade when they can't read or add, This " No Child Left Behind", is leaving students behind because they are moving to the next grade level when they can't read or add. Then at a certain grade level they can't do the work, so guess what, they act up to not be embarrassed by not being able to read. For employees at State level that are getting paid to come up with these stupid ideas, it's plan and simple spend you money to put students that are disrupting classes in a boot camp to learn discriple and if you don't get parents support, put the parents in the boot camp with their child so they can learn how to raise their child. Pretty plan and simple. When we had the paddle in the school and the Bible we did not have disciple problems, we didn't have disrespect to adults, we didn't have a lot of other issues. Get a grip on disciple or get into another business. One minute you don't want to say it is race but then on the other side you want to help with race. Leave race out of the equation and take care of disciple in the schools, NOW!

Friday, September 6, 2019

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