With session on horizon, state lawmakers discussion education ideas

Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, leading a presentation on Bill Request 176: A Joint Resolution Related to School Accountability.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The 2021 session of the Kentucky General Assembly is less than two months away and lawmakers have ideas to improve education in the Commonwealth on their minds.

Two presentations during yesterday’s Interim Joint Committee on Education informed lawmakers on plans to improve accountability and literacy in K-12 schools.

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Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, and Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, presented Bill Request 176: A Joint Resolution Related to School Accountability, to the committee.

“We would like to develop a committee that evaluates flexibility in the federal required assessments, so that we can have accountability measures that don’t just provide data to the state at the end of the year, but that they also provide information that can drive instruction,” Bojanowski said.

According to the presentation, Kentucky requires more testing for K-12 students than the federal government requires and spends roughly $21 million assessments each year. Individual districts also spend millions on testing each year.

Bojanowski and Banta have several concerns with the current accountability system. According to their presentation, the current system results in test-based instruction and does not give teachers information that improves instruction, among other concerns.

If passed, BR 176 would require that, “the commissioner of education to convene a strategic Assessment and Accountability Committee to examine opportunities to improve the approach to assessment and accountability.”

The committee would be required to report their findings to the Interim Joint Committee on Education by Dec. 1, 2021 and again on Dec. 1, 2022.

According to the presentation, the committee’s findings could lead the state to implement testing that more accurately measures what a student knows and gives teachers a better idea of who is falling behind throughout the school year. Currently, students as young as third-grade are only given end-of-the-year assessments instead of assessments throughout the school year.

While the resolution’s goal would be to find a way to reduce the amount of state required testing, Banta clarified that: “In no way would we ever interfere with a district’s decision to have more tests… We’re simply addressing the mandatory testing.”

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, and Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, also gave a presentation on efforts to improve early literacy. Both lawmakers proposed “Read to Succeed” measures in the General Assembly’s 2020 session.

“I’m convinced that this initiative, with appropriate funding, is the best way to improve Kentucky’s standing and reduce achievement gaps in the state,” West said.

According to the presentation, the expanded early literacy measures envisioned by the legislators would amend parts of KRS 158 and KRS 164 while also introducing a new chapter to KRS 164. It would also create a literacy coaching program, repurpose the reading diagnostic and intervention fund to train and support teachers and library media specialists and more.