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State Test Results Another Mixed Bag in River Cities, NKY Schools

Glenn O. Swing Elementary continues to be a major story in local education.

For the third consecutive year, the Covington school is classified as "distinguished/progressing", and even increased its score on the Kentucky assessments, the results of which were released Thursday. It is the 20th ranked elementary school in Kentucky and the top-ranked elementary in Kenton County.

“We are very proud of our staff, students and families,’’ said Scott Alter, principal of Glenn O Swing, who also recently took over the same role at John G. Carlisle Elementary, too. “Our school is competing with some of the top schools in the state.’’

But "Glenn O." is a rare bright spot in Covington's report.

Overall, the district ranks 171 out of 173 in Kentucky. Holmes Middle School is the 5th-worst in the state, and Holmes High School is the 9th-worst. Sixth District Elementary School is the 9th-worst in the state and saw one of the biggest declines in Kentucky, a drop of 17.5 points.

Across the state, the number of students graduating from high school and considered college/career-ready increased again, and more students are scoring at higher levels in most grades and subject areas since the state launched its assessment and accountability system five years ago, according to data released Thursday by the Kentucky Department of Education.

This year, the college/career readiness rate increased 1.6 points over last year to 68.5. The four-year graduation rate also went up - to 88.6 from 88 in 2014-15.

“Kentucky schools are to be congratulated for their continued progress on graduating more students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in the 21st century,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt. “The gains we are seeing are the result of a lot of hard work by our teachers, administrators and our students with the support of parents community members and our education partners.”

The numbers of schools and districts performing at the highest levels are up from last year. A total of 802 schools and 138 districts are classified as either proficient or distinguished.

For the first time, that includes Dayton Independent Schools, which earned a proficient rating, though its overall score dropped half a point and it did not meet its goal, according to the data. However, the district moved up in the state rankings from 125 last year to 115 this year. Editor's note: This story was updated on November 8 to reflect a change in Dayton's rating and ranking. The state corrected errors that were discovered and Dayton is now rated as "distinguished" and ranked 70. See updated story about Dayton here.

"We are super excited because for the first time our district has been designated as a proficient district," said Jay Brewer, Superintendent of the Dayton Independent Schools. "Not only that, but both our Middle School and our High School have qualified as distinguished. Five years ago, we were 171 out of 173 school districts, and now we are a proficient school district. We have a great staff, and our teachers are doing a great job. This is the first time we have achieved distinguished, and this is great news for our students, our staff and our community."

Newport Independent Schools increased its score and moved up in the state rankings, but remains a "focus district". 

"This is the fourth year in a row that we are up," said Kelly Middleton, Superintendent of the Newport Independent School District. "As a district we are up 4.2 points. The best news is that our High School is proficient, and is considered a High Progress school, meaning that we are in the top ten percent in growth in the whole state. Our middle school is up 10 points. Our elementary went down, and we know we need to focus our attention on that. We still have a lot of work to do. It is a mixed bag. But five years ago our high school was in priority status and now it is proficient. We are very proud of that."

Bellevue Independent Schools dropped 15 points in the state rankings, from 155 in 2015 to 170 out of 173 this year. "Our focus on literacy and math is being realized in the student achievement category, with all three levels – elementary, middle, and high – staying steady or improving," said Superintendent Robb Smith. "Our ACT composite scores have been improving over the last 5 years with this year being the highest. In addition, our graduation rate improved and continues to be a point of success. Bellevue High School’s overall score places them right at a proficiency rating, needing 0.1 point for the honor.

"Areas of development for the district include continuing to focus on gap groups and ensuring optimal growth for all students," Smith said. He added that the district's initiative, The Bellevue Classroom, is founded on teachers teaching explicit strategies so that students are equipped "to tackle any instructional task." That program is in its second year. "We look forward to seeing even greater successes in the future," Smith said.

Ludlow Independent Schools also saw a steep drop in its ranking in the state, moving from 85 last year to 120 this year, as its overall score dropped 2.9 points. The district remains classified as "proficient". 

"We are very pleased that each of our schools are classified proficient, and so is our district," said Michael Borchers, Superintendent of Ludlow Independent Schools. "Our elementary school increased their overall score by 7.3 points. Middle School math had a significant increase, and high school writing scores are very strong again this year. As a district, our GAP students out-performed the state at all three levels, elementary, middle and high school."

Across Northern Kentucky, there were highs and lows reported on Thursday.

The worst news is in the Silver Grove Independent School District, which is the lowest-ranked district in the state, at 173. It dropped 11 spots from last year. All three of the district's schools are ranked near the bottom: Silver Grove High School is 227 out of 228, Silver Grove Middle School is 317 out of 326, and Silver Grove Elementary is 707 out of 709.

The region's traditionally strong districts continued their successes. Fort Thomas is ranked 3 (down from the top spot last year) and Beechwood is 5.

Erlanger-Elsmere saw a big improvement and an upgrade from last year's "needs improvement" status. The district is now rated "distinguished" and jumped from 126 last year to 48 this year. "We are so very proud of every school in our district," said Dr. Kathy Burkhardt, Superintendent of Erlanger-Elsmere Schools. "The overall 'Distinguished' classification of the Erlanger-Elsmere School District is only possible because of the results of all schools in our district.  Each school’s calculations are combined to make up the district’s calculations."

Here is a look at each Northern Kentucky school district, in order of achievement and with the schools' rankings out of 173 districts, 228 high schools, 326 middle schools and 709 elementary schools noted (NOTE: Some schools are not designated as "middle schools" by name traditionally, but are named as such for the purpose of these scores and rankings and refer to grades 6,7,8):

FORT THOMAS

District Rank: 3, Distinguished

Distinguished: Highlands High School (16), Highlands Middle School (14), Moyer Elementary (11), Woodfill Elementary (12), Johnson Elementary (41)

BEECHWOOD

District Rank: 5, Distinguished/Progressing

Distinguished: Beechwood High School (4), Beechwood Middle School (16), Beechwood Elementary (221)

CAMPBELL COUNTY

District Rank: 29, Distinguished

Distinguished: Campbell County High School (32), Grant's Lick Elementary (27), Cline Elementary (34), Reiley Elementary (132), Crossroads Elementary (231)

Proficient: ​Campbell Ridge Elementary (309) 

Needs Improvement: Campbell County Middle School (191)

WALTON-VERONA

District Rank: 32, Distinguished

Distinguished: Walton-Verona High School (5)

Proficient: Walton-Verona Middle School (173) Walton-Verona Elementary (294)

ERLANGER-ELSMERE

District Rank: 48, Distinguished

Distinguished: Lloyd High School (41), Arnett Elementary (154), Lindeman Elementary (200)

Proficient: Tichenor Middle School (155)

Needs Improvement: Miles Elementary (498), Howell Elementary (577)

BOONE COUNTY

District Rank: 68, Distinguished

Distinguished: Boone County High School (27), Ryle High School (59), Conner High School (106), Gray Middle School (7), Conner Middle School (38), Ockerman Middle School (120), Kelly Elementary (67), Shirley Mann Elementary (71), Erpenbeck Elementary (84), North Pointe Elementary (158), Longbranch Elementary (166), Thornwilde Elementary (224)

Proficient: Cooper High School (132), New Haven Elementary (298)

Needs Improvement: Camp Ernst Middle School (211), Jones Middle School (260), Burlington Elementary (467), Florence Elementary (467), Chester Goodridge (498), Ockerman Elementary (512), Stephens Elementary (535), A.M. Yealey Elementary (585), Hillard Collins (675)

KENTON COUNTY

District Rank: 80, Proficient

Distinguished: Dixie Heights High School (101), Twenhofel Middle School (104), R.C. Hinsdale Elementary (56), Kenton Elementary (107), Beechgrove Elementary (139), Ft. Wright Elementary (149), Piner Elementary (154), Ryland Heights Elementary (241)

Proficient: Simon Kenton High School (125), Scott High School (134), Turkeyfoot Middle School (155), Summit View Academy-Middle (227), River Ridge Elementary (302), Taylor Mill Elementary (302), Caywood Elementary (332), White's Tower Elementary (346), Summit View Academy-Elementary (404)

Needs Improvement: Woodland Middle School (245)

DAYTON INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 115, Proficient

Distinguished: Dayton High School (106), Dayton Middle School (118)

Needs Improvement: Lincoln Elementary (475)

Editor's note: This story was updated on November 8 to reflect a change in Dayton's rating and ranking. The state corrected errors that were discovered and Dayton is now rated as "distinguished" and ranked 70. See updated story about Dayton here.

LUDLOW INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 120, Proficient

Proficient: Ludlow High School (175), Ludlow Middle School (153), Mary A. Goetz Elementary (292)

SOUTHGATE INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 143, Needs Improvement

Needs Improvement: Southgate Middle School (199), Southgate Elementary (455)

NEWPORT INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 167, Needs Improvement

Proficient: Newport High School (153)

Needs Improvement: Newport Intermediate (692), Newport Middle School (253)

BELLEVUE INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 170, Needs Improvement

Needs Improvement: Bellevue High School (192), Bellevue Middle School (290), Grandview Elementary (681)

COVINGTON INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 171, Needs Improvement

Distinguished: Glenn O. Swing Elementary (20)

Proficient: Latonia Elementary (317)

Needs Improvement: Holmes High School (220), Holmes Middle School (323), John G. Carlisle Elementary (525), Ninth District Elementary (598), Sixth District Elementary (700)

SILVER GROVE INDEPENDENT

District Rank: 173, Needs Improvement

Needs Improvement: Silver Grove High School (227), Silver Grove Middle School (317), Silver Grove Elementary (707)

Written by Michael Monks and Patricia A. Scheyer