October 8, 2013

Laurel County shows big gains on state report card

By Rob McDaniel
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The Kentucky School Report Card is out and, for most Laurel County schools, it’s been a good year.  Most of the schools in the district showed over all gains in the second year of the state Department of Education’s “Unbridled Learning” assessment and accountability model.

The scores and information that were released on Friday, Sept. 27 help establish what students are expected to learn in each grade.

Nationally, the scores are called Common Core State Standards. They have been adopted by 46 states, including Kentucky; they are now called Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

Currently, the tests establish new academic standards in English/language arts and mathematics. Standards for other subjects such as science and social studies are under development.

Officials in Frankfort said the data showed students’ performance, college and career readiness, and the number of high school students graduating were increasing overall across the state.

Most schools in the Laurel County School District saw improved results. District-wide, Laurel County achieved an overall score of 58.7, placing them in the 75th percentile of districts in the state. This is up from 55.8 in 2012.

“The recently reported scores for the 2012 ‘Unbridled Learning: College/Career-Readiness for All’ Kentucky state accountability model show gains in student achievement across the county,” said Superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett.  “Laurel County School District has progressed from an average performing district in the state which was classified as ‘Needs Improvement’ to a ‘Proficient District.’”

Hunter Hills and Bush scored among the highest elementary schools in the state, earning the classification of distinguished/progressing. 

Hunter Hills Elementary achieved the 13th highest score and Bush Elementary scored 26th highest out of all 730 elementary schools in Kentucky.  As a result, Hunter Hills was rewarded with the High Progress School award.

 “We now have two elementary schools considered ‘schools of distinction’ by KDE,” Bennett said.  “A school of distinction is the highest possible classification for a school in the state accountability system.”

Three schools — Sublimity Elementary, Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary and Johnson Elementary — got “Proficient/Progressing” classifications due to their increase in overall scores.

Cold Hill Elementary’s overall score decreased this year but they maintained their proficient classification.

Additionally, overall scores went up at Colony, Hazel Green, Keavy and London elementary schools this year.  Due to the increase in scores, those schools received the state designation of “Needs Improvement/Progressing.”

Camp Ground Elementary, a “Proficient” classified school in 2012, received a downgrade in their classification, moving them to the “Needs Improvement” category.

North Laurel and South Laurel middle and high schools maintained their 2012 “Needs Improvement” performance classifications. 

North Laurel High School’s overall score showed the largest gain in the district at 56 — a near seven-point increase, raising their state percentile from 23 to 58. 

South Laurel High School showed similar improvement with their overall scores increasing to 55.5, placing them in the 57th percentile across the state.

North Laurel Middle School showed small improvements with their overall score increasing 0.7 points, placing them in the 52nd percentile across the state.

Despite seeing a 0.1 point decrease in their overall score, South Laurel Middle School maintained their position in the 57th percentile of schools across the state.

According to Bennett, each middle school produced gains in the achievement (percentage of students scoring proficient and distinguished) and gap (percentage of disabled and low-income students scoring proficient and distinguished) portions of the accountability model while showing slight drops in the growth and college/career readiness portions.

“The overall results speak well of our highly skilled team of professionals throughout the district who care about kids,” Bennett said.  “The support of our Board of Education, staff, parents, community and the hard work of our students is reflected in this progress.  Although we still have much to do and a long way to go, we are certainly pleased with the results.”

In response to the recently reported increase in scores, Tharon Hurley, chief academic officer of Laurel County Schools, was pleased with the improvement but planned to set higher educational goals for the district next year.

“I am very proud of our students’ and teachers’ accomplishments,” Hurley said.  “Any time one of the largest districts in the state can obtain positive growth such as this, there is reason to celebrate.  In this age of education, there are certainly higher expectations for students and much greater demands on our teachers and principals, but they have all worked very hard and the result is higher learning for our kids.  Our goal for next year is distinguished.”

Laurel County School District wasn’t the only local school district to see improvement this year.

East Bernstadt Independent Schools made a big overall gain as well.  The independent school district, which has classes from kindergarten to eighth grade, earned an overall score of 57.1, up from 46.5 in 2012. 

Additionally, they scored a 62nd percentile rank, which is considerably higher than last year’s 10th percentile.

Due to the significant improvements, the district was classified as a “Needs Improvement/Progressing” district.  They were also rewarded by the state as being known as a high progress district.

 Last year, the district was classified as a “Needs Improvement” district and was recognized as a “Focus District.”

More information on the Kentucky School Report Card can be found on the KDE’s website at