Fayette schools’ overall achievement up slightly, but widening gaps come as “shock” to Shelton

September 27, 2011 

Students left Kathy Keinath's 3rd grade class at James Lane Allen Elementary, 1901 Appomattox Rd, in Lexington, Ky., Monday, September 26, 2011. James Lane Allen significantly closed achievements gaps among its African-American and Hispanics students in results from the 2011 Kentucky Core Content Test which are being released Tuesday. Charles Bertram | Staff

CHARLES BERTRAM — ALL

Student achievement in Fayette County rose slightly, but some schools declined and overall achievement gaps widened in every subgroup of students in comparison to last year, according to results from the 2011 Kentucky Core Content Test.

Superintendent Tom Shelton singled out the widening achievement gaps as a "disappointment," noting they occurred despite the district's focus on closing gaps.

Shelton pledged that the Fayette schools would "celebrate what's being done well and recognize what's not working" as it strives for improvement. "Obviously the higher you get … the gains become a little more difficult," he said. "So, we didn't have as dramatic gains as we've had in the past."

Among the district's brighter spots, Harrison Elementary School boosted its score on the district's in-house Transition Index to 99, up from 77 three years ago. The index is calculated based on the state test scores.

Meanwhile, James Lane Allen Elementary significantly reduced achievement gaps among its African-American and Hispanic students.

Eight of Fayette's 12 middle schools raised their index scores this year, but 17 schools had declines and eight recorded no change.

In another key measure being released Tuesday, 68 percent of 2011 graduates at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School were considered college- or career- ready — the seventh-highest rating in Kentucky. All five Fayette high schools improved their college-career readiness this year, although Bryan Station climbed only to 29 percent.

Fayette County's overall transition index score rose to 94 this year, the highest yet, mainly due to increases among middle and high schools, district officials said.

Some Fayette schools made progress in closing their achievement gaps, including Glendover Elementary, Stonewall Elementary and Lafayette High School, all of which recorded double-digit increases in the percentages of African-American students at proficiency in reading. James Lane Allen, Arlington Elementary and Stonewall Elementary all had double-digit increases for African-American students in math.

But that wasn't enough to keep overall gaps from widening. Shelton, who took over as Fayette superintendent on Sept. 1, called the increasing gaps "a shock" and "a surprise."

"I'm not aware that we had any expectation of either a substantial improvement or a decrease," he said. "We'll have to look at the specifics to see in what areas things have been working, and what areas have not."

Results released Tuesday show, for example, that Fayette's overall achievement gap in math worsened slightly, going from 25.47 percentage points last year to 25.89 this year for African-American students.

The gaps grew from 15.92 to 16.94 for Hispanic students, from 12.61 to 12.69 for low-income students and from 30.63 to 34.13 for students with disabilities.

"We are accountable to our community for the achievement of all our students," Shelton said. "We want to make sure all students are achieving at high levels, and that's a priority of the board and the district."

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