Pollio: Standardized Test Results Reflect 'Crisis in Education'

'The only thing we’re really asking for is valid data ... that accurately paints a picture of what’s happening in a school'

September 29, 2021 – Emphasizing that the results reflect “a crisis in education,” Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said the outcomes of the first statewide assessment tests taken since the start of the pandemic don’t paint a complete picture of student abilities or needs.

School districts across Kentucky were required to take part in a statewide assessment, now known as Kentucky Summative Assessment (KSA), in the spring of 2021. The test was administered to students after almost a year of remote learning and just weeks – in some cases just days – after returning to classrooms.

“The only thing we’re really asking for is valid data, accurate data, and data that accurately paints a picture of what’s happening in a school,” Pollio said. He added that having accountability testing at the end of last school year, “especially after what kids, faculty, staff and everybody went through for the better part of 15 months prior to that testing,” was a “terrible decision.”

“You lose a lot of sleep over test scores,” he said. “Teachers work so hard, principals word so hard, to make sure you have an accurate picture of the learning that is going on in the school, and the improvement that is taking place in the school, or to say what we need to do better.”

While this year’s assessments will not be a part of state accountability and will not immediately impact schools, Pollio said the effect of being in Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) for a year will be something districts across the country will be addressing for years to come. 

“There is no quick fix for the challenges our students face,” Pollio said. “We’re going to have to be very intentional about what we do over multiple years.”

Pollio noted that elementary students had about 14 days of in-person learning, and middle and high school students had about 10 days of in-school instruction, before they were given the standardized tests. In addition, about 25,000 fewer students than usual took the test last spring, “so we really have to talk about the validity of those numbers.”

Pollio said other measures of academic progress, such as MAP testing, are a much better and more accurate picture of student needs. “The MAP data shows us we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But this is much more reliable and valid data that our schools can act on right now. For many of our kids, we are going to have to provide intensive support to get back to where they were.”

Pollio said the district faces multiple challenges in providing the resources, opportunities and support  students need, including enhancing workforce and leadership development, improving technology, repairing facilities, updating student assignment policies and expanding instructional time. Even in the wake of an unprecedented number of learning opportunities this past summer, Pollio said, the district will have to triple or quadruple those programs and offerings next year to meet the need.

“I know we’re equipped to face this path ahead of us,” he said. “We’ve got the playbook and we’re ready to go. JCPS has proven time and time again during this pandemic that we got this. We will meet those needs of our students.”