Education

Fayette County test scores drop; district rated ‘needs improvement’

Multiple students including Caroline Thomas, center, were eager to answer a social studies question about longitude and latitude at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Lexington Wednesday. The school was No. 8 among elementary schools statewide on test scores.
Multiple students including Caroline Thomas, center, were eager to answer a social studies question about longitude and latitude at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Lexington Wednesday. The school was No. 8 among elementary schools statewide on test scores. palcala@herald-leader.com

Statewide test results for 2015-16 show that the Fayette County school district’s overall classification dropped from “proficient” in 2014-15 back to “needs improvement,” where it was two years ago.

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Fayette County’s overall 2016 score is 64.9 out of 100, down from its 2014-15 score of 66.7. The results were made public early Thursday.

“These scores are another piece of evidence that the district’s previous plan for accelerating the achievement of all students did not work,” Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk said. “We are three months into our new strategies and I am confident that we are making the right changes.”

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt and his predecessor Terry Holliday have both told Fayette County officials that they must raise academic achievement and make progress on closing the achievement gap between minority, disabled and low-income children and other students.

Caulk, who was hired just before the start of the 2015-16 school year, released his Blueprint for Student Success in May, outlining 100 strategies the district is employing to help schools.

Changes include adding college and career coaches at each of the district’s high schools and hiring more teachers to work with students who have 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, the district statement said.

Pruitt said in response to questions about Fayette County’s classification that he is concerned when any district’s results decline.

“It should always be about continuous improvement,” Pruitt said. “When a district goes backwards, it’s time to take a good hard look at what’s going on.”

Source: Kentucky Department of Education

Twenty-nine Fayette County schools were classified as “needs improvement” or “needs improvement/progressing.”

On the plus side, 17 schools were classified as either “distinguished” or “distinguished/progressing.” Six schools were additionally designated as “School of Distinction”: SCAPA at Bluegrass and Morton middle schools; and Meadowthorpe, Rosa Parks, Clays Mill and Wellington elementary schools. Morton rose to that level from proficient and Meadowthorpe from proficient/progressing.

Rosa Parks Elementary School, generally a high performer, ranked in the top 10 elementary schools in the state.

Principal Leslie Thomas said the school put a focus on students most affected by the achievement gap.

“That’s what ultimately threw our scores over what they have been in the past,” she said.

Among other schools in Lexington, results varied widely:

▪ Two of Lexington’s five public high schools — Tates Creek and Bryan Station — were classified as “needs improvement.” Tates Creek dropped from a proficient rating the previous year. Bryan Station ranked in the bottom 10 of all public high schools in the state, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of the scores. District officials have been providing more support at Bryan Station for several years, at times with assistance from the Kentucky Department of Education.

▪ Two other high schools — Henry Clay and Lafayette — were rated distinguished. Paul Laurence Dunbar was proficient.

▪ The School for the Creative and Performing Arts, or SCAPA at Bluegrass, ranked second among middle schools in Kentucky.

▪ Liberty Elementary School rose from a proficient/progressing classification to distinguished.

▪  Crawford Middle School and Winburn Middle School, which feed into Bryan Station High School, ranked in the bottom 10 middle schools in the state, according to the analysis.

▪ Cardinal Valley Elementary School, with a score of 43 out of 100, and Mary Todd Elementary School, with a score of 44.4, ranked in the bottom five elementary schools in the state.

▪ Squires Elementary School saw the biggest decline in Fayette County, dropping 17.5 points from 72.2 to 54.7.

▪ Picadome, Athens-Chilesburg, Ashland and Cassidy elementary schools all dropped from distinguished or distinguished/progressing to proficient. Garden Springs Elementary dropped from proficient/progressing to needs improvement. Dixie Elementary Magnet dropped from distinguished to needs improvement. Edythe J. Hayes Middle dropped from proficient to needs improvement.

▪  William Wells Brown, which in 2013-14 was ranked lowest in Kentucky among elementary schools with a score of 35.4, improved in 2014-15 to 59.3. In 2015-16, the score was 51.6. It remains a needs improvement school.

Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk announced in a press conference at Tates Creek high school that the Fayette County Public Schools received a $600,000 grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust system to establish an Office for Educating B

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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