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School Board Discusses Covington Test Results

The results of Kentucky's new K-PREP standardized test placed Covington Independent Public Schools at the bottom statewide. At Thursday's meeting of the Covington Board of Education, district staff presented how they intend to work with that data and how they will work to improve the scores.

Superintendent Lynda Jackson said she and staff members are milling over the scores and will present some plans soon, likely at the December board meeting. "Part of our problem is that children didn't finish the test," Jackson said. "They weren't used to working under time constraints. They got anxiety, and we need to work on that." Jackson said that at a recent staff meeting she and others for comparison were given seven minutes to complete an ACT reading passage and that similar anxiety even affected those adults.

"We have to realize we have to put them in those situations, but how do we ease them into it?" Jackson is working with principals to formulate a plan.

District administrator Bill Grein said that he met with each member of the school board to go over the findings. "This is our baseline year," Grein said. "We're not happy with where the results fell in our district." He added that principals at some of the district's higher performing elementary schools were surprised at the low scores achieved on the test that was administered last spring. But even though Covington's scores were low, districts across the state suffered the shock of lower-than-usual performance and even the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is still struggling with the data, Grein said. The district was given updated sub-data from the tests on Wednesday only to have KDE pull it back shortly after.

Greine also noted that 377 elementary schools across the state were within fourteen points of each other. Schools are awarded a point for distinguished and proficient scores, half a point for apprentice scores, and no points for novice scores. "We get no points for novice and that probably hurt us the most," Grein said. "We have to fight for every point. A few points could make a lot of difference in your percentile ranking." Greine said the district will target groups of low-achieving students to help move them up.

"This is very undesirable and yet this is our baseline now and where we start from," said board member Krista Powers. "It's important for us to accept the facts and then make the plan and work the plan, Don't stay disappointed too long. We're going to move our way up."

Board member Mike Fitzgerald requested that the district put together data on how many transient students were enrolled at CIPS during the test, suggesting that that may have played a role in the lower scores.

Member Glenda Huff, two days after being reelected to her fourth term on the board, spoke of the negativity on the campaign trail. "I know how hard we are working," Huff said, sitting next to Fitzgerald who lost his reelection bid. Huff will serve with newly elected members Joyce Baker and Kerry Holleran. Huff, Baker, and Holleran were described as establishment candidates by a group of candidates that participated heavily in the Fix Covington Schools online group. Board member Jerry Avery was not up for election this year and a fifth seat, vacated by Denise Varney who resigned in August, will be filled by an appointment from the Kentucky Department of Education. Powers did not seek reelection.

"Don't let that negativity on the campaign trail bring you down," Huff said to the staff present at Thursday's meeting. "The citizens of Covington spoke loud and the people who will be in these seats are the ones that deserve to be there." Huff started to fight back tears as she continued. "The tree is planted, it's bearing fruit and we are going to see results. Education is a slow process. We can't change things overnight. KDE has been here and said we are doing great things in Covington. Don't lose sight of that. I know how devastating these scores are."

PHOTO: Covington School; Board meeting at James E. Biggs Early Childhood Education Center/RCN

Written by Michael Monks