December 2, 2013

School principals aim for higher test scores

By Rob McDaniel
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The Laurel County Board of Education met with school principals and administrators Monday night to discuss improvement plans for each Laurel County public school.

“We want to point out and recognize that after a data clean-up, the state released changes to the School Report Cards and London Elementary School was placed in the rewards and assistance category as a  ‘High Progress School,’” said Tharon Hurley, chief academic officer for Laurel County Schools. 

Originally, the school received the designation of “needs improvement/progressing,” however the new data shows the school is in the top 10 percent of most improving schools in the state. 

In the 2011-2012 school year, the school had an overall score of 51.3.  The school had an overall score of 61.8 points for the 2012-2013 school year, an increase of 10.5 points.

The board also held an informal meet and greet with school administrators.

Harmon Hodge, principal of South Laurel High School, reported to board members although test scores for last year’s juniors weren’t as high as they had hoped, the school administration is optimistic scores will increase in all areas.

As part of the plan to raise test scores at SLHS, Hodge and school staff has implemented practice tests for the ACT, as well as requiring more open answer questions during regular testing.

They are also planning on revamping curriculum to six periods to ensure students get more time in vital classes.

“We expect ACT scores to rise with this junior class,” Hodge said.  “There’s no way to compare two academic classes because each student is so different from one another, but we’re working on ACT preparation and expect to see positive results.”

While giving his report, North Laurel High School principal Mike Black said they are concentrating on college preparation at the school.

Black said NLHS is conducting mini ACT tests and trying to help students with time management in relation to testing.

“Time management skills will help students answer all the questions on tests like the ACT,” Black said.  “We did good last year, but this year we want to improve more.”

South Laurel Middle School administrators reported they had brought in some new math teachers to bring math scores up and that math was one of their primary areas of concentration this school year.

SLMS principal Jeff Reed said Explore scores went up and the administration expected them to improve or stay consistent this year.

“We’ll definitely be a proficient school again this year,” Reed said.  “If someone taught dance and drama, we would be distinguished, but at the moment we don’t have anyone to place in those type of positions.”

Reed mentioned the school has been participating in a global perspective writing program.  He reported his students have become pen pals with students in a small town in Italy and they have been corresponding with approximately 60 students regularly this school year.

North Laurel Middle School Principal Steve Morris reported that although reading scores at NLMS went up slightly, math scores had declined by five points.

“This year we are really concentrating on getting those math scores up,” Morris said.  “We restructured our schedule around math.  We’ve essentially placed our teachers in their strongest areas.”

Other schools in the district expressed concern in math and reading areas but all reported they were optimistic that test scores would improve through the efforts of staff across the district.

Also discussed:

• The board approved to re-create one cook/baker position.

• The board cancelled the regularly scheduled board meeting for Dec. 23.

• The board approved the Confidentiality Agreement for Free and Reduced Price meal status information.

• They approved the fiscal year 2014 TranspARTation grant for North Laurel High School and authorized the appropriate signatures.