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After nearly four years of development following the December 2015 passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Kentucky's 5-star accountability system for public schools went live this week.

For the 2018-2019 school year, 89 schools across the state (by level) received one star; 251 received two stars; 643 received three stars; 233 received four stars; and 56 received five stars.

Scores varied for the three public school district in Madison County from two stars to five stars.

Shannon Johnson and Model Lab High School each earned five stars.

"We are excited about the results of the spring assessment," said Madison County Schools Superintendent David Gilliam. "What we are seeing across the district is growth and progress, which is exactly what we strive for every year."

For Madison County Schools, Kingston, Kirksville, Silver Creek and White Hall elementary schools each earned four stars. Every middle school and high school earned three stars. Waco, Kit Carson, Daniel Boone and Glenn Marshall elementary schools earned three stars while Boonesborough earned two stars. Madison Kindergarten Academy does not participate in the ratings.

Highlights for Madison County Schools include being above the state average for elementary and middle school level in proficiency, separate academic indicator and growth. The district was also above the state average for high school level in proficiency, separate academic indicator, transition and graduation rate. At the elementary level, the district scored 11.8 points above the state average in separate academic indicator. At the middle school level, the district scored 9.8 points above the state average in separate academic indicator. At the high school level, the district scored 13.5 points above the state average in transition.

"The scores across the district are very encouraging," Gilliam added. "We have a good baseline from which to build for the coming years, and we are proud of the positive results. Our scores indicate that our students are growing academically, and our staff is working hard to ensure that progress continues."

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At Model, the elementary and middle schools earned four stars. Model's high school was one of seven to receive five stars.

"We are indeed proud to be one of seven schools in Kentucky whose students have earned this distinction, but even with that rating, there's room for us to grow and improve," said John Williamson, superintendent and dean of K-12 programming. "Moreover, until we have each of our students in grades K-12 at a proficient level, we are going to continue focusing on every child. Our current scores -- no matter how strong they are -- are not enough; we want each and every child to reach proficiency and beyond."

Williams noted that instruction at Model is focused on helping kids create, perform, design and engineer. He said the high ratings show Model and other schools have demonstrated a sense of academic excellence.

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Berea Community High School and elementary school scored three stars while the middle school earned two stars. Disability compared to non-disability was a significant achievement gap for each school, according to the report card.

"Parents should not be alarmed by two and three star status. As someone who actually did some of the blind scoring, I can tell you that there is plenty to celebrate when you are in a two or a three star range," said Diane Hatchett, superintendent of Berea Community Schools. "It means that you are doing some things right. There is room for growth, and that is never a bad thing because we are in the business of educating kids.

Hatchett told The Register there is plenty to celebrate at Berea Community as none of the schools are in TSI status or CSI.

She added cut scores give the district checkpoints for measurement and targets for growth.

"Looking at the data provides us with information needed to push our students to the next level," Hatchett said. "We will be examining the data closely to see what things we need to continue doing and things we need to do differently. We are not a one-size-fits-all school district. We are a system of schools seeking to meet the individual needs of the students that we serve.

"Our students represent a high population of free and reduced lunch in addition to a high number of students with disabilities. The data allows us to see where we need to focus our attention and laser in."

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Hatchett served on the 5-star Accountability Panel and said a lot of thought, time and energy went into establishing the cut scores. She said the process involved the voices of stakeholders representing superintendents, principals, college deans, business leaders, PTO presidents, teachers, representatives from cooperatives and even the state Board of Education.

"Federal law requires that states rate their schools and identify low-performing schools for additional support," she told The Register. "Kentucky is using the star rating rather than a letter grade like some states do. The star rating groups schools based on their performance during the 2018-19 school year. The star system is not meant to rank schools and districts or pit them against one another. It is a method of meeting the federal guidelines, and the star system does not define a district."

To see scores for each district and school, visit the report card online at kyschoolreportcard.com/home?year=2019.

Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.

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