When he’s described the level of students performing on the novice level on state assessments – indicating a minimal understanding of grade-level standards – Education Commission Wayne Lewis has been correct to cast the situation as an academic emergency.
While the recent release of assessment results for the 2018-19 school year did show some student growth, we still have work to do when it comes to helping students achieve proficiency in reading and math. Novice reading and mathematics levels for elementary students have increased by almost a full percentage point since 2015, and the gaps between student groups are even more disturbing.
In elementary reading, only about 16 percent of white students statewide are scoring at the novice level, while about 40 percent of African American students fell into that category. There’s a similar gap in elementary math as well, with just about 11 percent of white students scoring novice, while for black students, that number is about 32 percent.
Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate the work educators are doing every day in our schools. Increasingly, our culture looks to them to solve social problems – poverty, drug abuse, and hunger – despite the limited resources they’re working with.
Still, we cannot allow this to become an excuse. These gap students only have one shot at an education, and teachers no doubt understand that better than anyone.
That’s why we applaud the commissioner’s efforts to assemble a group of stakeholders – several of whom are teachers – to revisit school curriculum across Kentucky and make sure it meets the highest standards.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, the task force will study the state’s current curriculum strengths and weaknesses, consider solutions for policy, practice and school equity and make recommendations for improvement.
We believe Lewis put it best when he described the task force’s scope in a recent interview with the Daily News.
“This task force is intended to take a look at where we are as a state with curriculum, how we make curriculum decisions and thinking about how we can better ensure that every kid, regardless of district, has access to high-quality curriculum that’s aligned to our new academic standards,” Lewis said.