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November 12, 2012

School district ‘needs improvement’

New test gives schools guide to better prepare students for college and careers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Students in the Laurel County School District “need improvement” in math and reading.  The latest results from Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning report card are in. The district aimed high but has some room to grow.  

“Needs improvement is not an F,” Superintendent Doug Bennett said.  With the new testing model, he said, “the standards have been raised.  There’s increased rigor and as a result of that, every year it’s based on a percentile.”

Kentucky is the first state to adopt standardized testing in math and reading, and the first to assess them.  The district ranked 54th in the Commonwealth and overall, earned a score of  55.8 out of 100 points.  The statewide average was 55.2, which places Laurel County among the 121 out of 174 districts that fall in the “needs improvement” category.

 “As far as where we landed in the state, we’re about in the middle,” Bennett said.

The new K-PREP testing model is not comparable to the previous KCCT test, as K-PREP scores out of 100 and KCCT out of 140. The new test focuses on preparing college and career ready students.  It measures individual school and district achievement in math, science, social studies and writing; a performance gap from traditionally underperforming groups; typical or higher level student growth; middle and high school college/career readiness; and average freshman graduation rates.  Each category is worth 20 percent of the overall score for high schools.  

The state Department of Education reported that more than 47 percent of students in Kentucky’s public high school are prepared for college and/or careers — up nine points from last year, despite the increased academic rigor on the new test.  

“This increase, which translates to more than 4,500 students, is a direct result of Kentucky’s schools and districts focus on college and career readiness,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday stated in a press release last week.  “The overriding goal of the state’s public education system is to prepare students for the paths they want to take after high school, and this data shows that we are making progress toward that goal.”

According to the results, there are more than 230 college and career ready students in Laurel County high schools.  South Laurel carries the highest number of college and career ready students, while North Laurel High has more graduates.  The graduation rate for the district stands at 67.8 percent.

“We are not satisfied where we are,” said Tharon Hurley, director of Assessment and Accountability in the district.  “We will target areas for improvement, such as getting our graduation rate up and eliminating dropouts.  This will result in increasing our overall college/career readiness percentage in the future.”

Bush Elementary is the only school who received a distinguished rating for their achievement, gap and growth. Campground, Cold Hill, Hunter Hills and Sublimity elementary schools received a proficient rating.  Keavy Elementary showed the least amount of growth in reading and mathematics, while Cold Hill Elementary showed the most.

“Although more than two-thirds of schools and districts are in the ‘Needs Improvement’ category, this is not an indicator of failure.  The Unbridled Learning model is one of continuous improvement, and schools and districts now have a wealth of data to use as they plan for improvement in student learning and achievement,” Holliday said.

“We are taking steps to improve at school and district levels based upon our and state assessments.  However, the school level assessments (MAPS, common assessments) serves as quality control that helps to guide and pace out instructional planning.  We are placing increased emphasis on the analysis process to help focus instruction,” Bennett added.

For more information, visit education.ky.gov to learn more about the new accountability model and the district’s report card.

mmccrarey@sentinel-echo.com

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