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Project: Accelerated Learning Framework to Close Kentucky Achievement Gaps (October 2020-September 2021)



R5CC will collaborate with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to identify and create a repository for evidence-based practices that yield the largest reductions in achievement gaps. After synthesizing the recent literature reviews on addressing anticipated “COVID-19 slide” and identifying the most effective strategies and resources, R5CC will organize this information into an accelerated learning framework to support strategic budgeting, curricular, professional development, and staffing decisions. This work will also support: 1) the new KDE commissioner’s interest in restructuring the state educational system for greater organizational effectiveness and better teaching and learning outcomes and 2) KDE’s interest in updating the (now defunct) coaching and mentoring program in Y3 or Y4.

High-Leverage Problem

In 2019, only 39% of white and 14% of black fourth grade KY students scored proficient or better in Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); and yet, the National Council on Teacher Quality reports that few KY teacher prep programs cover evidence-based literacy instruction, which suggests that those strategies are not being implemented in the classroom. During summer 2020 meetings of the Interim Joint Committee on Education, Kentucky superintendents expressed concerns about COVID-19 related learning loss and widening equity gaps, underscored by variable rates of student participation and uneven access to resources and supports during Spring 2020 virtual learning. A survey conducted by the American Institutes for Research found that students in wealthy districts were introduced to new content during virtual learning while students’ virtual learning in poorer districts focused primarily on remediation, an instructional decision that exacerbates achievement gaps. Should this trend continue, it follows that achievement gaps will widen and all content areas will be affected. On July 13, the Kentucky Department of Education released guidance on assessing and closing gaps through formative assessment for real-time, data-based instructional decisions, “Academic Re-entry, Stage Two: Meeting Learners’ Academic Needs.” But given the anticipated education budget shortfalls (8+%) and current progress toward KY’s student success goals (articulated in the 2018=23 state strategic plan), KY LEAs will need to focus less resources to address greater needs.

Approach to Capacity Building Services

Two Year 1 R5CC projects were canceled by KDE due to shifting priorities, and that focus on evidence-based practices (EBPs) has been reenergized in the accelerated learning project, which includes the same focus. R5CC will build KDE and KYECs’ capacity to identify, select, and support KY LEAs’ implementation of EBPs for improved educational outcomes (and reductions in achievement gaps) and increased organizational effectiveness (to increase alignment, integration, and efficiency of practices, policies, and resources across the educational agency).