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NKY School Districts React to Newly Released State Scores

The results are in for Kentucky school districts based on last year's academic assessment.

This year is different - there are no rankings or classifications as in past years as Kentucky is in the process of phasing out its old accountability system, and replacing it with a new accountability system created under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Kentucky Senate Bill 1 (2017). The new system is expected to be in place by the 2018-19 school year with accountability first reported in the 2019-20 school year.

SEE ALSO: NKY's Highs & Lows in State Test Scores

Last year's results, which included such rankings and classifications, were a mixed bag for Northern Kentucky - which was home to two of the top five districts in the state (Fort Thomas at 3 and Beechwood at 5) and some of the lowest-ranked of the state's 173 districts (Newport at 167, Bellevue at 170, Covington at 171, and Silver Grove at 173).

This year, districts will receive only data for achievement, gap, growth, college-career readiness, and graduation rate.

According to the data, released by the Kentucky Department of Education on Thursday, the percentage of Kentucky public school students graduating from high school continued to increase; more students took rigorous Advanced Placement tests and earned a qualifying score of 3 or higher; and students scored higher with a greater percentage of them meeting readiness benchmarks on the ACT

Kentucky’s four-year graduation rate increased to 89.8 – from 88.6 percent last year and 88.0 percent the previous year.

Also, students took nearly 52,000 Advanced Placement tests last year and nearly 26,000 earned qualifying scores of three or higher – more than in past years.

ACT scores, which are based on all public school juniors taking the test last spring, increased across the board in English, mathematics, reading and science. The overall composite score also is up over the past five years, from 19.2 in 2012-13 to 19.8 in 2016-17. Additionally, a greater percentage of students met Council on Postsecondary Education readiness benchmarks.

“While this year’s results are different than what we have released in the past, they still show that Kentucky’s schools are making continued progress on graduating more students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century,” Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said. “The gains 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.

“As we move into our new accountability system over the next two years, we expect to see even more positive results as districts and schools move beyond test score and compliance mentality to a continuous improvement model that promotes proficiency and the closure of achievement gaps for every child,” Pruitt said.

Overall, achievement increased slightly at the elementary and middle school levels, but was down somewhat at the high school levels. Achievement gaps between different groups of students persisted in many areas and will be a major focus of KDE, schools and districts under the new accountability system.

In 2016-17, public school students in grades 3-8 took K-PREP tests in reading, mathematics, social studies, writing and language mechanics. Their performance is categorized as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished. This past year, elementary and middle school students, except alternate assessment students, participated in a field test of new science assessments aligned to science standards implemented in the 2014-15 school year. Performance levels are not reported for field tests. Additionally, to conform with the requirements of Senate Bill 1 (2017) students in grade 6 and 10 did not take a writing on-demand assessment this year, eliminating the ability to compare middle and high school level scores with previous years.  

High school students take end-of-course assessments in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History plus K-PREP tests in writing. There is no language mechanics score at high school this year due to ACT eliminating reporting of scores in that area.  

Student performance on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) was mixed, depending on the grade and subject. At the elementary level, the percentage of students performing at Proficient/Distinguished increased in social studies, writing on-demand and language mechanics. At the middle school level, the percentage of students performing at the Proficient/Distinguished levels increased in reading, social studies and language mechanics. High school students also made gains in science.


LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS REACT

“We are proud of the improvements in some of our schools,’’ said Covington Independent Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Garrison. “Covington saw major gains at Holmes Middle School and John G. Carlisle Elementary School. The middle school improved its Gap score by 52 points, its Achievement score 7.9 points and Growth score by 10 points from the 2016. The percentage of students scoring proficient and distinguished in Reading and Math was higher in 2017 than in any of the six previous years of the current K-PREP assessment.

“We are extremely pleased with John G.’s progress,’’ Garrison said. “The average score of Achievement, Gap and Growth for 2017 was 65.5, an increase of 13.2 points from last year.  Glenn O. Swing Elementary continues to be one of the top performing elementary schools in the state of Kentucky. Latonia Elementary also continued to improve its level of excellence from the previous year.  

“In some areas, we made significant gains. We will celebrate our successes and get back to work in those areas where we did not get the results we wanted.’’

"We are extremely pleased with the growth our schools have shown over the last year," Bellevue Independent Schools Superintendent Robb Smith said. "The system is changing, so the labels are no longer, but we still entered the numbers as we did last year. Our High school is considered distinguished. Both our middle and our elementary are on the cusp of proficient.   

"The improvement in the gap scores is like nothing I've seen before.  The high school went up 30 points in gap alone," Smith said. "All three schools showed improvement in gap growth. Our graduation rate was number one in Campbell County, and we went higher this year. We are well above 98 percent. At 55 percent in college and career ready, we are working on moving forward on that.

"The scores are a testament to the high school staff that we are meeting the individual needs of the students. I have an outstanding team. I couldn't ask for a better team. We are all extremely pleased."

Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Kelly Middleton said that his district and schools will be focusing on students not performing at proficiency levels in reading/writing, mathematics, science, and social studies, as well as closing the achievement gap and identifying student demographic groups that need additional support.

"The district and schools are in the initial process of analyzing the state assessment data," Middleton said. "Our district is focused on answering the following questions to guide our data analysis and development comprehensive improvement plans and 30-60-90 Day Plans."

From the preliminary data analysis, Newport Independent Schools has identified numerous strengths and areas of improvement, he said. Among the strengths, the superintendent cited, 7th and 8th grade students increased the number of students scoring Proficient/Distinguished in the areas of Math, Science, Social Studies, and Writing, and decreased the number of students scoring Novice in Reading, Math and Social Studies in 7th and 8th grade, and increased the number of students scoring Proficient/Distinguished in English, Math, Science, and Social Studies in the 9th – 12th grades.

Newport Intermediate School improved its gap score, decreased novice scores in some areas and increased proficiency/distinguished in others.

"We will continue to work on our writing scores district-wide to increase the number of students scoring at the proficient/distinguished level," Middleton said. "The high school will continue to lessen the gap in reading and math for individual student groups (African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Limited English proficiency, students in poverty [free/reduced-price lunch meal], students with disabilities and non-duplicated gap group).

"The intermediate school will strive to increase growth scores."

Dayton Independent Schools Superintendent Jay Brewer applauded the district's perfect college and career readiness score.

"Even though we don’t get an overall score this year we are very excited about our district high’s for College and Career Readiness (100 out of 100 possible points), ACT being at a district high of 20.3 (state average 19.8), and our graduation rate being 93.9 (state average was 89.7)," Brewer said. "We are pleased with our continued progress in literacy throughout the district, however we do see that examining what we are doing in the area of writing will be important to move our students forward. We are very proud of the hard work that our students, staff, and community are doing to grow our kids!"

In Ludlow, Superintendent Michael Borchers applauded the areas where the district did best.

"Although Kentucky is in a transition period away from the Unbridled Learning Accountability Model to a new accountability model, we are using our recent data to guide our instructional practices for the 2017-2018 school year," Borchers said. "We are especially proud of our on-demand writing scores, our college and career readiness rates, and our increased graduation rate. We continue to focus on improving individualized instruction for all students."

Beechwood continued to show strength. Year to year, the elementary school increased its enrollment by 36 students and test scores continued to rise. For academic content areas including Social Studies, Writing, and Reading, Beechwood Elementary students scored 89.1 out of a possible 100 points. Gap, including traditionally underrepresented and underserved students, scores increased by nearly 7 percent from last year, the district said in a news release. 71 percent of students grew in relation to their peers.
 
“That’s a phenomenal feat when considering that 75 percent of our students are already scoring Proficient and or Distinguished in the content areas,” said Zach Ashley, principal of Beechwood Elementary. “We constantly strive to better ourselves to prepare our students for the next stage of their school career.”
 
For the high school, K-PREP reports that nearly 90 percent of students earn a Proficient or better on their End of Course Exams. “Seeing this data in combination with the nearly 350 AP exams and 56 percent of those exams earning students potential college credit shows our commitment to excellence at all levels,” said principal Justin Kaiser. “Our ACT Composite score is the best in the state at 27.5. K-PREP assessments let us know how we are doing compared to the state, but AP and ACT allow us to compare our students to their peers across the nation. We also just gave the OECD assessment earlier this week that will let us know how we are doing compared to students from across the world.”
 
The district has a 100 percent graduation rate.
 
“We have a 4:1 Distinguished to Novice ratio here at Beechwood. In some contents, it is even higher. We have a small percentage of students who struggle and both buildings have strong systems in place to bring those students along with the rest,” said Dr. Mike Stacy, superintendent. “We design teaching and learning focused on students. We build resilient learners and leaders who are fearless in the pursuit of excellence and we are a uniquely intimate community developing globally competent
students.”
 
Fort Thomas Independent celebrated another banner year of academic achievement.

“Fort Thomas Independent Schools uses a variety of measures to determine the progress and achievement of students. Along with the state accountability, we use international and national assessments that demonstrate that our students continue to perform at a high level,” said Dr. Karen Cheser, Superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools.

“This year's state assessment does not include rankings and levels that we usually receive, but we can still use the data to make any needed changes. Next year's assessment system will be different, measuring items like transition readiness that we have not traditionally addressed. As usual, we will be proactive in ensuring our students do well, no matter the accountability system.”

At Boone County Schools, superintendent Randy Poe applauded his students and staff. 

“During this transition between the old and the new accountability system, Boone County Schools will continue to grow and transform to meet the needs of all students," Poe said. "These scores highlight the great work of our students, staff, and community. There are many positives that validate our work and additional challenges are noted that we will continue to strive to overcome on behalf of our students.”
 
“We are very excited to see our students continue to grow as learners and strive for continuous improvement,” said Krista Decker, Director of Assessment Support for the district.
 
To review the data for each school district and school, click here.
 
Written by Michael Monks and Patricia A. Scheyer
Photo: Holmes Middle School in Covington (RCN file)