The Fayette County Public Schools are among 13 Kentucky school districts that have failed to make progress goals on statewide tests for eight or more years, according to a list released by the state department of education Tuesday.
But Superintendent Stu Silberman insists the list presents a misleading picture of academic progress in the county school system.
It's the first time the state has released a specific list of districts in this category, although the information has been available in previous years in state test results.
Silberman argued that being on the list doesn't necessarily give an accurate reflection of the Fayette schools, noting that the district's data show that it has lifted 76 percent of its students into proficiency level on state tests over the past several years.
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"Sometimes the various data sources don't actually match up," Silberman said. "The 76 percent increase is huge for us, and it actually ranks eighth highest in the state. We feel very good about where we are heading."
Other districts are Adair, Bourbon, Bullitt, Campbell, Carter, Clark, Grayson, Hardin, Jefferson, Knox and Simpson counties and Covington Independent.
The state department of education said it will offer help to the districts but will focus on five districts whose combined percentage of students scoring at proficient or distinguished in reading and mathematics were the lowest. Those are Carter County, Covington Independent, Hardin County, Jefferson County and Knox County.
Fayette made the list because some subgroups among its students have failed to make adequate annual progress goals in reading and math on statewide tests, as defined by No Child Left Behind. Fayette has 25 subgroups, including African-American students, Hispanic students and disabled students.
Each subgroup must score at or above target levels in reading and math. If any one group misses its target, the entire district is considered as failing. The targets to be met also keep increasing. This year, they rose by 8 percentage points in reading and 10 percentage points in math.
Only one of Fayette's subgroups failed to meet goals last year. This year, after goals increased, five of the 25 subgroups missed out, even though overall student performance actually increased, district officials said.
"We'd like to make 25 out of 25 targets for No Child Left Behind, although we have struggled with that," Silberman said. "But we do feel very good about the movement we're making with kids moving into proficiency. We'd like to be at 100 percent, and we are focusing on moving more and more kids into proficiency."
Other school districts on the list are pleading similar cases.
John Wright, a spokesman for the Hardin County Public Schools, noted that the district made the new state list even though it made 20 of its 22 No Child Left Behind goals this year.
Educators frequently complain that No Child Left Behind essentially requires perfection from school districts, because missing even one goal means the district has failed the act's requirements.