Most Kentucky schools lose ground in state assessments

jwarren@herald-leader.comSeptember 27, 2011 

Pike County elementary schools continued to rack up big scores in statewide results from the 2011 Kentucky Core Content Test, which were released Tuesday.

Four Pike County elementary schools put 100 percent of their students in the proficient or distinguished categories in at least one subject. Leading the way was tiny Blackberry Elementary, which put 100 percent of its students in proficient or distinguished in four of five tested subjects: reading, math, science and ­social studies.

Blackberry, which has just 144 students in grades K-5, was the only Kentucky public school of any size to do that.

No Fayette County school reached 100 percent. Fayette County's leading performers this year included Rosa Parks Elementary, where 97.08 percent tested proficient-distinguished in math; and the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, with 96.99 percent proficient-distinguished in reading at the middle school level.

Pilot View Elementary School in Clark County had 100 percent of its students at proficient and distinguished in science, and was the only Central Kentucky school to reach that level in any subject area this year.

The tests, taken each spring, are used for state and federal assessments of a school's performance.

And while Pike County schools are making progress on the state assessment, the percentage of Kentucky public schools making adequate yearly progress, or AYP, under requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act fell to 43 percent, according to the test results. Last year, 55.6 percent of schools across Kentucky made AYP, and that was down from 60.2 percent the year before.

Almost 73 percent of Kentucky public schools reached AYP as recently as 2007-08.

Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said educators blame the decline on the fact that the NCLB target scores keep rising each year. Schools can improve their scores substantially in a given year, but still fail to reach AYP, she said.

Another factor, Gross said, is that larger school districts such as Fayette County must meet up to 25 NCLB goals to reach AYP. Missing one can knock them out.

A little less than 490 Kentucky public schools met all of their No Child Left Behind goals for adequate yearly progress this year, but 659 did not.

On a somewhat more positive note, 42 percent of students who graduated from Kentucky public high schools last spring were ready to tackle college or careers, based on benchmark scores from the ACT and other tests, according to separate data the state also released Tuesday. That's up from 34 percent last year. But it still means more than half of Kentucky's graduates in 2011 were not prepared for college or work.

This could be the last year Kentucky's state test results include provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, at least in its current form. Washington has invited states to seek waivers allowing them to drop requirements of the act while Congress works to improve it. Kentucky intends to request a waiver from the law, which is widely unpopular among educators.

This is also the final year for the Kentucky Core Content Test, which will be replaced next year by the new "K-Prep" test. The new test, which Kentucky students will take for the first time in the spring, will be based on new, tougher core-content standards.

Carlette Kiser, assessment coordinator for Pike County Public Schools, said district officials expected the strong results that were achieved on this year's core content test.

"We've put several things in place over the past three years, with a very intentional focus," Kiser said. "We analyzed test data from previous years and targeted students, content areas and curriculum areas where we needed help."

In addition to Blackberry Elementary, other Pike County schools at 100 percent proficient or distinguished this year were Bevins Elementary in social studies, Majestic Knox Creek Elementary in social studies, and Kimper Elementary in reading and science. It was Kimper's second straight year at 100 percent in reading. A fifth Pike school, Southside Elementary, was close to 100 in reading and math.

Blackberry Elementary principal Paul May said his school's four 100-percent scores resulted from several years of hard work.

"This is my 11th year here, and we started out about as low as you could get," May said. "It's been a long process. But the kids, the staff, the parents and everybody just worked at it really hard."

May said Blackberry's seven-year participation in the federal Reading First program was fundamental in "jump starting" improvement efforts at the school.

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