There's a data board on a wall at Lexington's Millcreek Elementary with every student's name and notes that track academic progress.
It's part of principal Greg Ross's plan to hold teachers accountable and reduce the number of students classified as "novice" as opposed to "proficient" or higher in the statewide accountability system.
"A lot of our students come from some tough backgrounds, but we know they can overcome their surroundings," Ross said at a recent Fayette County Public Schools board meeting. He is beginning his second year as principal at Millcreek.
Seventy-nine percent of Millcreek's about 480 students have household incomes that qualify them for free or reduced-price lunch. Sixty percent are minorities.
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The achievement gap between minority, poor and disabled students and others has been a problem at Millcreek, earning it a "focus school" designation.
But when statewide test scores were released Oct. 1, Millcreek had good news: Its scores rose from 50.0 in 2013-14 to 58.6 in 2014-15. Though the school is classified as "needs improvement/progressing," it has also earned the label of "high progress."
Ross said he was not satisfied with the increase in the score.
"We're very disappointed that we are not proficient, and when we become proficient, we are going to be very disappointed that we are not distinguished."
He said, however, that the "goal is not to focus on the score, the goal is to focus on academic excellence for every student in the building.''
At the September regular board meeting, Ross provided data that said Millcreek had 80 students reading at the novice level and had a goal of reducing that to 60 or less. The school had 65 students at the novice level in math, with a goal of reducing that to 45 or fewer, he said. Administration at the school, officially known as the Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary, is taking teachers to other schools to show them the best practices.
Seventeen teachers at the school have four years of experience or less.
However, Ross said teachers, support staff and his fellow administrators at Millcreek are "passionate about seeing kids reaching their full potential."
He said when they find that students have not mastered a skill, they reteach it.
Fourth-grade teacher Laura McCullough said those students are taught in small groups inside and outside the classroom.
Even when McCullough is teaching the whole class, she said she turns that class into a workshop setting so each student gets individualized instruction.
Ross said when students are asked what is expected of them, they readily reply, "excellence."
Board chairman John Price commended Ross on that approach.
"I think students live up to high expectations," Price said.
Also, Ross said in an interview, "our expectations for our teachers are extremely high."
Still, Ross said, because of the "needs improvement" label, "we know we have some perceptions in the community that we have to change."
He said he had been in contact with Urban County Council member George Brown and was going to homeowners association meetings to invite area residents to come to the school anytime.
Price liked that idea.
And board member Daryl Love said, "I love the data wall," noting that it raised the question, "How do we use this data to grow?"
"It's going to take that kind of intentionality as we move forward," Love said.