When schools across Kentucky receive test scores next month for the 2018-19 school year, they’ll also get new ratings ranging from one to five stars as part of a new system for grading school success.

The ratings, which will be assigned to every school, school district and the state overall, are meant to highlight one measure in particular: what schools are doing to boost academic achievement for all of their students.

No school will be able to achieve a perfect rating of five stars if it has significant achievement gaps between student groups, and it will be docked one star if such gaps exist, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.

For Gary Houchens, a Western Kentucky University professor and Kentucky Board of Education member, the new rating system is a reflection of a balancing act. How can you rate a school’s success in a way that’s simple, while also accounting for all the factors that make a successful school?

“There’s just so many ways that overall performance rating can gloss over important details,” Houchens said. Schools may be successful in ways that are masked by a summative score, Houchens said, such as a school that has gradually grown the academic achievement of its poorer students, for example.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, elementary and middle schools will receive star ratings based on student assessments in reading, math, science, social studies and writing and students’ growth in reading and math skills.

High schools will be rated based on reading, math, science and writing assessments, along with the high school’s graduation rate and its students’ “transition readiness,” or how ready they are for college or a career.

Additionally, elementary and middle schools will be graded on the growth of their English learner students in acquiring language proficiency, along with high schools, which will be measured for students’ English attainment, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.

Houchens said he plans to serve on a state-level standards setting committee charged with coming up with clear descriptions for each of the five-star rating categories and parameters for each.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher wrote in an email to the Daily News that the group will hold its first meeting Aug. 23 and other meetings Sept. 4 and 5.

“They will complete that work before the results are released,” she wrote.

In the past, some school district leaders have expressed concerns that the five-star rating approach could give a misleading picture of a school’s success.

In July of 2017, when the state was still developing the new school accountability system, Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields compared the approach to online restaurant reviews.

“It’s like we’ve become Yelp,” he said.

Asked on Monday if he sees the system in its current form as too reductive, Fields said he’s still concerned most people won’t go deeper than the overall rating.

Fields said the district will use assessment data to inform its work with students, but that it will view it through the lens of other services it offers to students, such as serving more than 90,000 meals to students during the summer break.

“Test scores that we get are one measure. We’ll use that data to help us improve our work, but it’s not the only measure,” Fields said.

Houchens also encouraged parents to dig into the success indicators for their school, which will be available next month along with the rating at the Kentucky School Report Card at www.kyschoolreportcard.com.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

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Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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