Almost all Fayette County public schools improved over the past two years, according to new data from the state's achievement testing system.
About 94 percent of Fayette schools raised their scores since 2006 on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.
Those gains helped 58 percent of the county's schools meet their two-year goals, which are used by the state to judge school performance. Two years ago, only 34 percent of schools met their goals.
"As a district we are moving forward with our progress," Fayette Superintendent Stu Silberman said. "Are we where we want to be yet? Absolutely not. But we are moving, and we're moving at a good pace."
Fayette posted an overall district score of 86.1 out of a possible 140. All Kentucky schools have the goal of reaching 100 by 2014.
Veterans Park and Rosa Parks were among the top 10 scoring elementary schools in the state, while SCAPA at Bluegrass and Morton were among the top 10 middle schools.
In general, elementary schools in the district saw larger gains than middle and high schools.
The four Fayette schools with scores below 70 are all middle or high schools. They include Crawford, Leestown and Tates Creek middle schools and Bryan Station High.
Silberman and other district officials said they are trying to learn from what has worked at successful elementary schools to help Bryan Station High and others that are struggling.
"We know that it works at the elementary level, so the middle and high schools can see what works," said school board chairwoman Becky Sagan. "And the elementary kids are moving up; they're in middle schools now so we know that they're prepared."
CATS scores are a combination of results from state and national tests in seven subjects, including writing, science and social studies. Also factored into the scores are non-academic indicators, such as attendance, retention and dropout rates.
The tests are administered annually, but the state combines two years' worth of scores to judge a school's progress. This is a judgment year.
Dramatic changes were made to CATS two years ago, including the addition of math and reading exams to several grade levels. Those changes made it necessary for the state to provide each school with two scores — an adjusted score that is comparable to scores from previous years, and an unadjusted score that shows how far each school is from the ultimate goal of 100.
All scores in this story are adjusted two-year scores because the state is using those scores to measure whether schools met their two-year goals, have progressed or need assistance.
For schools that aren't progressing, the harshest judgment is Assistance Level 3, which means the state critiques the school, provides resources and assigns it an education expert.
There were three Fayette Schools — Johnson Elementary and Crawford and Tates Creek middle schools — requiring assistance this year, all at Level 1. This means those schools are far from reaching their goals. The schools will get a state audit and are eligible to apply for some extra assistance.
However, all three of these schools were judged against broader district goals because of changes in student attendance boundaries.
Johnson — which went from a score of 58.2 two years ago to a 74.1 — was given a districtwide goal of 87.2 for elementary schools. So although the school appears to be well away from its goal, it actually improved by 15.9 points.
The lowest-scoring Fayette County schools were Leestown Middle with a 66.2 and Bryan Station High with a 68.
Earlier this year, Bryan Station failed to meet No Child Left Behind goals for the fifth year in a row and had the district's lowest score on the ACT, a college-preparation test that was taken by all juniors.
Those ACT results, along with similar tests for younger students, count as 5 percent of high schools' total score under CATS.
Not only was Bryan Station the lowest-performing high school in Fayette County, its two-year score was the lowest in the region. It was one of the bottom 20 high schools in the state.
School district officials will conduct monthly "walk-throughs" at Bryan Station, as they have at several elementary schools, to work with administrators, provide support and eventually establish an achievement plan to target all students.
Fayette High School Director Mike McKenzie said Bryan Station teachers already meet once a week to review student work and all high schools are developing schedules to do the same.
"We need to change our mind-set so we own every single kid," he said. "And that's the challenge before us."
Yates Elementary, which has a high population of minority and low-income students, appears to be meeting that challenge.
Yates raised its two-year score from 73.4 in 2006 to 94.1 this year.
Principal Ketsy Fields, who's been at the school for eight years, said staff and administrators stopped making excuses for themselves and students and focused on kids and making sure students learned.
Now, the school offers during- and after-school tutoring in math and reading and has clubs for math, science, chess and other subjects.
"We just pretty much said that whatever (obstacles) they bring stops at the door and we do whatever we can to make sure they get it," Fields said.
For the first time, no Kentucky school scored below 50 on its combined 2006-2008 Commonwealth Accountability Testing System score. Almost 70 percent of schools scored 80 or higher on the state test. Schools have until 2014 to reach 100 out of a possible 140.
All schools — including Fayette
Number of schools whose scores were:2004-06 2006-08 % change
Below 60 17 8 —53
60 to 69.9 150 62 —58
70 to 79.9 444 291 —34
80 to 89.9 370 454 +23
90 to 99.9 162 268 +65
100 or better 44 91 +107
Number of schools whose scores were: 2004-06 2006-08 % change
Below 60 1 0—100
60 to 69.9 8 4-50
70 to 79.9 18 8 —56
80 to 89.9 13 17 +31
90 to 99.9 6 11 +83
100 or better 4 10 +150
Source: Kentucky Department of Education.
Compiled by Linda J. Johnson, computer-assisted reporting coordinator.