Local and state education officials have been warning the public to expect a drastic drop in school and district test scores. The waiting game is over as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) scores were released to the public early today by the Kentucky Department of Education.
And, with the results, Rosspoint Elementary clearly bucked the state trend, earning the coveted title as a “School of Distinction” based on its middle school students’ performance on the new state test.
“I was surprised,” said Principal Bryan Howard. “I felt we would be in the top 30 percent, but I never imagined we would break into the top four percent. However, that kind of trends with our EXPLORE scores. Our eighth graders were the 10th highest in the state of Kentucky last year and this year’s eighth graders scored even higher than last year’s. That will be reflected in next year’s data.”
An elated Howard offered all commendations toward his teaching staff.
“We have hard working, dedicated teachers who take pride in what they do,” said Howard. “They want the students to be successful and we are competitive. We want to show that our schools can compete with anybody.”
Howard noted that during the past two years, Rosspoint has been consistent in scoring despite “funding cuts.”
”We have found ways to continue to provide a top notch, quality education and ensure that our students are ready for high school,” he said. “Our per pupil spending is low compared to those in the other districts scoring where we scored. For value, you are getting a tremendous return on your investment at Rosspoint Elementary School.”
According to the data, other Harlan County Schools tended to follow state patterns as Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday had indicated would occur in numerous reports and presentations in recent months.
Across the state, 899 of 1,296 schools are now labeled as “needs improvement” as a result of the completion of the first year of testing. This indicates that the schools fell below the 70th percentile on the bell curve that has been used as a predictor for the anticipated lower scores.
“We are not shocked by the scores our schools received or the classifications placed on our schools,” said Superintendent Mike Howard. “Our district and school classifications are consistent with percentages predetermined by Commissioner Holliday and the Kentucky Department of Education. We had hoped a few more of our schools could move into the proficient category. However, the scores that we received indicate ample room for growth in this new accountability system for next year and the following years.”
The data released today shows that among the state’s elementary schools, 507 need improvement, 149 are proficient and 77 are distinguished.
For the middle schools, there are 232 listed as needs improvement, 65 proficient and 36 distinguished.
And, as was predicted by local and state officials, the high school level shows 160 schools in the needs improvement level, while 46 are proficient and only 24 are distinguished.
Howard said that seven of nine schools in his district were designated as needs improvement, consistent with the state average. Howard explained that in addition to Rosspoint, Evarts Middle School received good news in the results. He said Evarts Middle is classified as a “proficient school.” There are 284 schools in the state listed as focus schools. A focus school is one that has a non-duplicated student gap group score in the bottom 10 percent of non-duplicated student gap scores for all elementary, middle and high schools; schools with an individual student subgroup within assessment grades by level with a score in the third standard deviation below the state average for all students; or high schools that have a graduation rate that has been less than 60 percent for two consecutive years.
Of the focus schools, 103 are at elementary schools, 106 are middle schools and 75 are high schools. Three Harlan County schools were listed as “focus schools” — Cumberland Elementary, James A. Cawood Elementary and Harlan County High School. Howard stressed that Harlan County High School fell into the category for only one reason, a subgroup score of special needs students in writing.
“This is a very complicated accountability model that will be difficult for parents, community members and teachers to fully grasp unless they really take the time to do their research and fully understand what the rewards and assistance categories as well as the school classifications truly mean,” said Howard.
In reference to the high school subgroups, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Brent Roark said, “It is perplexing when you attempt to rationalize how an entire school can be classified as a ‘focus school’ based solely on the scores of special education students from one grade level in one subject area. Unless parents and community members take the time to understand what these labels mean, it is easy to be misled by the classifications and the rewards and assistance categories.”
Many schools don’t even receive scores in these gap areas because they don’t have a reportable number in the particular area. Schools with high numbers of free and reduced lunches, special education or ethnicity students have far more chances to be named a “focus” school than a school with a lower number of these students. Many schools do not even have reportable populations of students from these areas.
There are 41 schools listed as a priority school, meaning it is a persistently low achieving school as defined by state laws governing the assessment. There are no elementary schools listed as priority schools, while only nine middle schools earned the label. There are 32 high schools in the category.
As a whole, there are 121 school districts, including Harlan County, listed as needing improvement, 35 as proficient and 18 as distinguished.
Nine school districts earned distinction status and nine had highest performing district. There are 17 districts in the focus category.
Howard said this is the first year of this accountability model – unbridled Learning: College/Career Readiness for All which is based on the next generation learners. Other components are scheduled to enter the model in future years. The results stem from the assessment administered to students in the spring of this year, the ACT in late March, the EXPLORE and PLAN in the fall of last year and the College and Career readiness, which entails numerous test areas.
Schools completed tests collectively named K-PREP in the spring in five content areas of reading, math, science, social studies and writing. At the high school level, four end of course exams for algebra II, English II, biology and social studies are included.
Individual student reports and performance level definitions have been revised, but the terms remain the same. Students receive reports that place their performance on the assessment in each content area into categories of novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished. Roark explained that the new accountability model holds all schools and districts accountable for improving student performance and creates three performance classifications that determine consequences and guide interventions and supports. For 2011-2012, school and district classifications are based on five measures:
Achievement – Content areas of reading, math, science, social studies and writing;
Gap – Percentage of proficient and distinguished for the non-duplicated gap of all five content areas;
Growth – In reading and math, the percentage of students at typical or higher levels of growth;
Graduation rate – Based on averaged freshman graduation rate, referred to as AFGR;
Howard and Roark cautioned that it is important to keep in mind that the weights for each category of the accountability model will change with the addition of program reviews into the accountability model next year.