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‘Mixed’ results. See how Fayette schools did under state’s new 5-star rating system.

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Three schools in Fayette County Public Schools received the highest possible five stars in Kentucky’s new statewide accountability system, including Rosa Parks Elementary and SCAPA at Bluegrass elementary and middle schools, according to results released Tuesday by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis noted that the school district, overall, had a “mixed” performance. A Herald-Leader analysis found that in Fayette there were some stellar performers and some significant deficiencies.

Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk said results from state and national tests taken by students last spring and released Tuesday by the Kentucky Department of Education confirm that Fayette County Public Schools is taking the right steps to “improve targeted schools and expand access and opportunity for every student.”

Overall, the school district received a three-star rating on all levels — elementary, middle and high school — and Lewis said three stars could indicate good schools.

There were four schools that received the lowest one-star rating – Bryan Station High, Harrison Elementary, William Wells Brown and Winburn Middle. They were low or very low in their proficiency ratings, other academic (subject) results and growth rate. Bryan Station High also was rated very low in its graduation rate and transition rating, a demonstration of career and academic readiness, the Herald-Leader analysis found.

Winburn had three groups with significant achievement gaps, while the other schools with one star did not, according to the results released by the state. William Wells Brown Elementary also was in the bottom five percent of elementary schools in the state and was the only school in Fayette County of 50 in Kentucky labeled as CSI or Comprehensive Support and Improvement. The label means that the school will receive an academic audit by a team selected by the Fayette school district, and extra state and federal funding and support.

Six other Fayette County elementary schools that had received the CSI label for 2017-18 showed improvement from last year and did not keep that label.

Lewis mentioned that Yates Elementary, in particular, improved from a CSI school last year to a three-star school in 2018-2019 and called that “incredible.”

More important than today’s score or label, Caulk cautioned in a statement, is the work that happens next.

“The real focus should be on what we’re going to do differently because of what we see and I encourage all of our families and community members to partner with our schools and support substantive changes,” he said. “We have two moral imperatives – to help students who are reaching toward proficiency and to accelerate those who have reached proficiency to global competency. Our students deserve no less.”

He said during an extensive audit last spring, the Kentucky Department of Education concluded for the second time in his tenure that the district has the capacity to drive improvement in our schools.

“Today’s release underscores that with the flexibility afforded to our district for the first time last year under changes to state law, we made substantive changes that are yielding results for students,” Caulk said.

The Kentucky Department of Education also identified 11 schools in Kentucky, including Bryan Station Middle in Fayette County, for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement or ATSI, which means a school has one or more groups of students whose performance is at a very low level.

The Fayette school district, by far, had more schools with multiple achievement gaps than any other district in the state, the Herald-Leader analysis found.

A response from the school district on that point said while it is true that Fayette has more student categories identified for significant gaps than Jefferson County, it is also true that in all but one case, both Fayette’s student group and its comparison group are outperforming Jefferson County.

For example, for high school gifted and talented students, Fayette’s gifted and talented students had a gap rate of 114.1, which was 59.1 points higher than the comparison group, which had a rate of 55, the response said.

In Jefferson County, gifted and talented students had a gap rate of 103.8, which was 54.4 points higher than the comparison group, which had a rate of 49.4.

“So both our gap group and the comparison group outperformed Jefferson County,” the Fayette district statement said.

“Our differences may be larger, but our students are more successful. This is consistent for middle school gifted and talented students, middle and high school English language learners, and high school African-American students,” the statement said.

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Teacher Stephanie Scott works with students in her third grade class at Squires Elementary School in Lexington on Monday. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Caulk noted that Kentucky Department of Education leaders have said the new star system is not designed to rank Kentucky’s schools. The rating also is not meant to necessarily be a judgment or negative mark, he said, it is meant to start conversations about how to support student success.

Before the scores and brand new star-ratings were released, the district had already launched additional plans to accelerate student achievement, Caulk said. For example, the two elementary schools rated as one-star schools by the state — William Wells Brown and Harrison — have already been transformed into new models called “Promise Academies” this year, he said.

In Fayette County, according to a Herald-Leader analysis:

Nine schools initially rated four or five star schools lost a star because of significant achievement gaps (Beaumont, Cassidy, Clays Mill, Edythe J Hayes, Jessie Clark, Lafayette, Morton Middle, Dunbar, Wellington)

Five of those — Wellington, Jessie Clark, Edythe Hayes, and Clays Mill Elementary — had only one group with significant gaps.

In the new system, three-star schools and below did not lose a star because of significant achievement gaps.

Fayette had 15 2-star schools – Arlington, Booker T, Cardinal Valley, Coventry Oak, Crawford Middle, Frederick Douglass, James Lane Allen, Julius Marks, LTMS, Millcreek, Northern, Russell Cave, Tates Creek Elem, Tates Creek High and Tates Creek Middle.

15 schools got 4 stars, and three of those had significant gaps in one group.

18 schools got 3 stars.

19 schools had significant achievement gaps for one or more groups.

36 schools had no significant achievement gaps listed.

Only one high school had a high graduation rating (Lafayette, which got 3 stars for other reasons).

3 high schools had low or very low graduation rates: Henry Clay, Tates Creek and Douglass.

25 schools got low or very low marks for proficiency (in reading and math).

25 schools got low or very low marks in the other academic indicators.

7 schools got low or very low marks for growth.

27 schools got high marks for improvements and growth.

▪ 5 high schools got low or very low marks for transition ratings (how well students were prepared for college and careers) Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay, Dunbar and Tates Creek High.

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