Fayette County Public Schools has made major strides in closing student achievement gaps and raising proficiency during the past six years, but there is much to do, Superintendent Stu Silberman said in a "state of the schools" presentation Tuesday morning.
Silberman noted only three Fayette schools were scoring at proficiency level on state tests when he took over as superintendent in 2004, and 24 have reached that level now. Overall, he said, the district has moved 76 percent of its students into proficiency during the past few years.
Proficiency levels among some student subgroups in the district have improved during the same period. For example, the percentage of Hispanic students at proficient or distinguished level in reading is up more than 89 percent since 2004, according to district figures.
Among students with limited reading proficiency, the number who are proficient or distinguished has more than tripled. Math proficiency more than doubled among African-American students, and Hispanic students since 2004.
Despite all that, plenty of challenges remain, Silberman said.
Five of the district's 25 student subgroups failed to meet target goals on tests this year — enough to keep Fayette County Public Schools from making "adequate yearly progress" as defined under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
And Fayette County still must lift 26 more of its schools to the proficiency level during the next four years if it is to meet the state goal of having 100 percent of schools at proficiency by 2014.
"Back in 2004, we had so much work to do, and we still do," Silberman said.
His comments came during a presentation at the Good Morning Bluegrass meeting of Commerce Lexington, at the downtown Hyatt Regency.
Silberman said the district ranked in the top third among the 174 districts statewide in terms of test scores in 2004. Now, it is seventh overall, he said.
He credited several factors for the improvement, including hard work by teachers and administrators, tutoring by community residents, and the 5 cents per $100 evaluation property tax approved in 2007 to help the school district update facilities.
The district has "declared war" on achievement gaps, Silberman said.
"We're not going to be happy until we get to 100 percent proficiency," he said.