The Richmond Register

November 2, 2012

Local schools show growth in new state scores

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Unbridled Learning assessment scores were released today for schools across the state.

The scores are based on tests administered last school year (See sidebar for an in-depth explanation of the assessment’s components).

Statewide, 899 schools fell in the “Needs Improvement” category (69th percentile and below); 260 schools were labeled "Proficient" (70th to 89th percentile); and 137 schools are "Distinguished" (90th percentile and above).

Although Model Laboratory Schools are operated under a separate administration, its test scores are all included in the Madison County School’s data.

The Madison County district, as a whole, ranked in the 69th percentile. But, the ranking of Madison County Schools and Model cannot be determined separately (See chart for individual schools’ rankings and overall scores compared to state averages).

All data for the assessment and accountability system are located within the new School Report Card on the Kentucky Department of Education website.

Berea Community Schools

The Berea Community School district was ranked in the 38th percentile with an overall district score of 53.2. With an overall score of 53.3, the elementary school was ranked in the 33rd percentile. The middle school’s overall score was 49.5, which landed it in the 31st percentile. The high school scored 56.8, which ranked it in the 62nd percentile.

Although the percentile ranking system can “develop a sense of competition among schools and encourage districts to improve, focusing on ranking itself is really not a good idea,” said Superintendent Mike Hogg.

Because Unbridled Learning is the new assessment system in Kentucky, he said, “there is no way to compare this to the past. This truly is the launching pad – this is where we are going to start from.”

Over the past a few weeks, Hogg has been meeting with teachers and school leadership to “distill the assessment down to its essence” to determine what “high-quality teaching and high-quality learning looks like,” he said.

Under the old model, a school’s goal was to  raise student achievement above Novice or Apprentice, Hogg said. “But what is so strong about the new model, is it requires attention to all our kids. The ‘Growth’ piece is the most critical piece.”

The high school’s growth, measured in mathematics and reading, is one of the district’s strong points, Hogg said, with 74.1 percent of student showing growth in both subject areas.

Another strong point for Berea is student performance on EPAS, the ACT-series of tests that include the ACT, EXPLORE and PLAN, the superintendent said, with students achieving “well above state averages.”

Making sure students are proficient, maintaining that proficiency, and growing student achievement is the district’s “obligation to the kids,” he said.

One key to maintaining proficiency is to make sure students are on track at the youngest age possible, he said, and to implement “safety nets” for students who are not meeting standards.

“We have to take a more clinical approach,” Hogg said.

He used the example of a person with high blood pressure seeking medical attention. A doctor would not wait a year to bring that person’s blood pressure down. Instead, the doctor would prescribe treatment and schedule a check-up, he said.

“We don’t want to wait till the end of the school year to help kids meet standards when we have this data in October,” he said.

Madison County Schools

Among the county district’s 10 elementary schools, Silver Creek, Waco and White Hall were labeled “Proficient,” while the remaining seven were classified as “Needs Improvement” (any school that falls below the 69th percentile).

One elementary school, Mayfield, was also labeled a “Focus School” – schools with low achievement scores, and/or high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent for two consecutive years, and/or schools with low scores among student gap groups.

Of the district’s five middle schools, only B. Michael Caudill achieved proficiency, falling into the 84th percentile. The remaining four are in the “Needs Improvement” category.

Farristown and Madison middle schools also were both labelled a “Focus School.”

Focus School data is being analyzed by the district to determine the exact reasons for the classification, said Randy Peffer, chief academic officer.

The county’s high schools were both labeled “Needs Improvement,” while Madison Southern also was determined to be a “Focus School.”

“The district has been focusing on growth for quite some time using formative assessments,” Peffer said. “Our growth was our strength, and that is what I am most proud of.”

Not all students learn at the same rate, he said. The assessment will aid the district in “designing instruction to meet the needs of kids on their level.”

The county school district will provide informational and data links on its website at www.madison.kyschools.us.

Model Laboratory Schools

Both Model Laboratory Middle and High schools were ranked as “Schools of Distinction,” a label given to schools that fall in the 95th percentile and above. Both schools were in the 97th percentile.

 “These high scores in all areas reflect the commitment we have to the highest levels of achievement and our focus on preparing students for college and the challenges they will face as future leaders,” said James Dantic, director.  

Many Model junior and seniors take college courses at Eastern Kentucky University for dual credit,” Dantic said. “They score well on the ACT. Our seniors consistently obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships.”

Model’s elementary school, however, was ranked in the 63rd percentile, falling into the “Needs Improvement” range (schools in the 69th percentile and below). The elementary school also was labelled a “Focus School.”

“Achievement and growth rates were excellent,” according to a Model press release, but the school lagged in its Gap score.

“Growth Points tell the story for Model Elementary,” said Mark Cornette, the school’s assistant director. “Seventy-five percent of our students successfully showed growth.”

Cornette said the elementary school will focus on raising test scores for the Gap group, which includes students who are identified minorities, receive free or reduced lunch, receive special education or are English Language Learners.

“Actual achievement test scores are now only 30 percent of the total score given to a (elementary) school,” he said. “Since we are a small school, we were really impacted by the scores of a few students on our Gap index.”

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.