Education

Fewer Kentucky schools meet annual goals, but state results show improvements in some areas

5th graders Jywan George, left, and Trey McElroy worked as a team on a science project in Kim Sword's science lab at William Wells Brown Elementary School in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, September 30, 2015. William Wells Brown has made significant improvements in state test scores. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
5th graders Jywan George, left, and Trey McElroy worked as a team on a science project in Kim Sword's science lab at William Wells Brown Elementary School in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, September 30, 2015. William Wells Brown has made significant improvements in state test scores. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

Fewer Kentucky schools met their annual goals for 2014-15 in the state's accountability system, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of state data released Thursday.

The goal was a one-point improvement for schools classified in 2013-14 as "needs improvement" and one-half point for schools that already were rated "proficient" or "distinguished."

The analysis found that 339 elementary schools did not meet their goals in 2014-2015, compared with 209 in 2013-14.

At the middle school level, 198 schools did not meet their goals, compared with 93 in 2013-14. For high schools, 60 did not meet their goals, compared with 35 in 2013-14.

A total of 117 schools classified as distinguished and 145 as proficient didn't meet their goals.

"While we would like to see big gains in achievement every year, it is not uncommon to see some ups and downs from year to year," Kevin C. Brown, interim education commissioner, said in a statement. "Overall, we are moving in the right direction from where we started."

Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said this year's results fell short of some of the goals Kentucky set for educational improvement.

"Our statewide elementary and middle school results are below the goals set by the Kentucky Board of Education," she said. "While the high school outcomes met these goals and college and career readiness continues to increase, it is important that we recognize the weaknesses in other areas and actively build more consistent year-over-year improvement going forward," Ramsey said.

The percentage of students scoring at proficient and distinguished levels was relatively flat compared with 2013-14.

However, the percentage was higher in nearly every subject and at every grade level than in 2012, the first year of the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress tests, state officials said.

Students in groups that historically have had achievement gaps continue to lag their peers across multiple content areas and grade levels.

The state Department of Education is "addressing these persistent gaps by assisting schools and districts in the development of plans to meet the needs of all students," Brown said.

The number of students graduating from high school who are considered college- or career-ready continues to increase, state officials said.

In 2015, the college/career readiness rate increased to 66.8 percent — up from 62.5 percent last year and 54.1 percent in 2013. The four-year graduation rate is up as well, to 87.9 percent — from 87.5 percent for the 2013-14 school year.

"The gains we are seeing are the result of a lot of hard work by our teachers, administrators and our students with the support of parents, community members and our education partners," Brown said.

The number of schools and districts performing at the highest levels is up from last year. A total of 704 schools and 120 districts are classified as proficient or distinguished.

Seventeen high schools are "priority" schools, nine in Jefferson County. Schools or districts in need of assistance were labeled priority, meaning persistently low-achieving.

No other county had more than one.

"Focus" schools or districts generally had the largest achievement gaps and/or the lowest graduation rates in the state.

Seventy-six high schools, including all five of Fayette County's high schools, were focus schools because of graduation rates or gaps.

Twenty-six high schools statewide were schools of distinction — which means they scored in the 95th percentile of schools — or schools of distinction/high progress, including Corbin High School, Jackson City School, Russell High, Boyle County, Allen Central and Betsy Layne in Floyd County, and George Rogers Clark in Clark County.

For at least the third year in a row, Jefferson County's duPont Manual was the highest-scoring high school in the state.

Fort Thomas Independent was at the top of school districts. Robertson County was ranked at the bottom.

According to the Herald-Leader analysis, 74 elementary schools in the state were classified as schools of distinction.

Statewide, 328 elementary schools were classified as needing improvement or needing improvement/progressing. Of those, 91 also were focus schools or focus schools/high progressing.

W.B. Muncy Elementary School in Leslie County saw some of the biggest gains, from 36.4 out of 100 in 2013-14 to 61.9 in 2014-15.

Buckhorn High School in Perry County had another big gain from last year, from 55.0 to 72.5.

Middlesboro Elementary had one of the biggest losses: from 66.8 to 58.0.

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