The following is a statement issued by Fayette County Schools on the results from the state’s assessment tests.
STATE ACCOUNTABILITY SCORES AFFIRM SUPERINTENDENT’S CALL FOR NEW DIRECTION
Results from the most recent round of state tests corroborate what external audits, our state diagnostic review and more than 12,000 students, employees, families and community members have said for the past year – Fayette County Public Schools is in need of improvement.
“These scores are another piece of evidence that the district’s previous plan for accelerating the achievement of all students did not work,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. “We are three months into our new strategies and I am confident that we are making the right changes.”
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On Thursday the Kentucky Department of Education released its annual district and state scores on the “Unbridled Learning” accountability system, which combines student test score performance with other measures of student success like career and college readiness and graduation rates. Fayette County earned a score of 64.9 out of 100 possible points.
“These results reflect the district’s past efforts and direction. It tells you where we’ve been, but that is certainly not where we’re going,” Caulk said. “With the support of our school board we have invested this year in strategies that will tap into the unlimited potential of our students, the talent of our staff, and the commitment of our entire school community to meet the needs of every child.”
In May, Caulk released his Blueprint for Student Success: Achieving Educational Excellence and Equity for All, which outlined 100 strategies FCPS would undertake immediately to improve student outcomes. The district began employing these strategies to support schools in July.
Changes included adding college and career coaches at each of the district’s high schools and hiring more teachers to work with students with special needs, students identified as gifted and talented and students whose home language is not English. A four-year plan has been developed to add even more teachers in those areas until every school is adequately staffed.
Support is being provided to ensure individualized learning for students through research-proven instructional strategies and specific help for schools with large numbers of students whose needs are not being met – called “partnership zone” schools.
Other improvements include a districtwide curriculum, tools to regularly monitor student progress, leadership development for principals, professional learning for classroom teachers and an induction program for new teachers. Systems have been put in place to ensure that school leaders visit classrooms regularly to assess student engagement and learning and that district leaders visit schools regularly to support and monitor leaders.
Caulk invited the community to follow the district’s progress on this work.
From the front page of the district website, the community can access the “Blueprint Status Tracker,” which displays whether each strategy is green to indicate that the task is complete, yellow to indicate that work is in progress, or red to indicate no work has been done. It also includes hyperlinks to email the “process owner” – a district administrator who is responsible for implementation, providing a status update, and staying within the budget we will assign to each.
“We are taking action,” Caulk said. “The tracker allows our community to hold us accountable for following through on what we promised.”
Principals and district leaders gathered in July for a Superintendent’s Leadership Institute in which many of the new initiatives were introduced. Follow-up leadership meetings, small group work sessions, site visits by the superintendent and school directors have reinforced the new structures, and a professional learning center will soon offer regular workshops for staff members.
District support centers on three main focus areas: Standards, Curriculum and Instruction, Continuous Improvement and Assessment, and Learning Culture and Environment. In each area, a team of district staff uses data to determine the best way to tailor service plans to the needs of individual schools.
Along with tracking efforts on the 100 strategies, Caulk invited the community to use another new tool recently added to the district web page to see if the work is impacting student success.
“State and federal accountability ratings were never intended to give the public the full picture of what goes on in our schools,” Caulk said. Which is why, for the first time in its history, Fayette County has created a “District Scorecard” for the community to track progress throughout the year.
“We developed this for our families and community,” Caulk said. “We want them to have a holistic picture of the work happening in our schools that goes beyond literacy and numeracy and gets to the true purpose of education.”
The scorecard includes seven categories: student achievement, student growth and development, college and career readiness, learning culture and environment, family, student, and community engagement, additional academic indicators, and world-class operations. The scorecard will be updated as data becomes available, so progress can be seen as it happens, rather than once a year.
“I appreciate and respect the role that the Kentucky Department of Education plays in accountability and this does not replace their work,” Caulk said. “Our journey to becoming a world class system of great schools requires us to hold ourselves accountable by monitoring multiple data points and leading indicators over the course of the year rather than waiting for an annual state rating.”
Thursday’s release is the fifth year of data gauging school and district performance since the state adopted higher, more rigorous standards, tests, and accountability measures. Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt has created an Accountability Steering Committee to redesigning the state accountability program, and Caulk has been invited to serve on that team.
“I’m excited to be able to participate in this effort,” Caulk said. “Each school is different and unique with its own set of challenges and success and we need a system that sets a clear standard of excellence and compares a school with itself.”
Individual schools will communicate with their families about the state accountability results released Thursday. Caulk cautioned against trying to compare this year’s results to last year’s results because there have been changes to how scores were calculated.
More important than today’s score or label, Caulk said, is the work that happens next.
“The real focus should be on what we’re going to do differently because of what we see and I encourage all of our families and community members to partner with our schools and support substantive changes,” he said. “We have two moral imperatives – to help students who are reaching toward proficiency and to accelerate those who have reached proficiency to global competency. Our students deserve no less.”