Ky. Panel Eases Standards for Poorer Districts
The Kentucky board of education last week voted to ease the state's ''academic bankruptcy" law as it applies to school districts with heavy concentrations of students from low-income families.
The move will allow the state to set lower standards for scores on standardized tests for impoverished districts.
Along with dropout and attendance rates, test scores are one of three criteria established by the state's 1984 school-takeover law. The statute makes districts that fail to achieve specified amounts of progress each year in those areas subject to direct control by state officials.
Under the plan adopted by the board, districts with relatively few students from poor families would be expected to have higher scores on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. But no district would be penalized as long as its scores met or exceeded the national average on the test.
James Parks, a spokesman for the state department of education, said some board members compared the new rule to golf handicapping.
"The formula is intended to recognize the fact that districts with large numbers of kids on free or subsidized lunches have a tougher job than those with a lower proportion of economically deprived kids," Mr. Parks said.
The plan will reduce the threat of state intervention for many of those districts, he noted. It will allow such systems to meet a "predicted level of performance" rather than a rigid standard.
The formula was crafted by department, school, and university officials using complex statistical concepts.
It will apply to scores in reading, language, mathematics, spelling, and learning skills on the test, which is given in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th grades.
An advisory panel established under the 1984 law had recommended the change.
Some board members expressed concern, however, that the move could send the wrong message--that it is acceptable not to educate underprivileged students as well as other children.
"That is not the thrust of this measure," Mr. Parks argued. "It is more an effort to recognize the tougher circumstances these districts face in trying to meet the law's goals."--rrw