Education

William Wells Brown Elementary shows big jump in test scores; Bryan Station High also improves

Students in Eric Miracle's 3rd grade class raised their hands to answer a question as Miracle taught calendar math 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
Students in Eric Miracle's 3rd grade class raised their hands to answer a question as Miracle taught calendar math 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

The statewide test results for 2014-15 were both a cause for celebration and a call to action for Fayette County Public Schools officials.

The results were made public early Thursday.

William Wells Brown Elementary, which in 2013-14 was ranked lowest in Kentucky among elementary schools, increased its score by 19.2 points and moved up 26 spots among all elementary schools.

Its score rose from 35.4 out of 100 to 54.6. It is classified as "needs improvement/progressing," but it was among eight schools in Fayette County designated as "high progress" for having the best gains among elementary schools.

Also, after four years of academic gains, Bryan Station High School no longer is classified as a "priority," or persistently low-achieving, school.

Its scores increased from 62.6 in 2013-14 to 65.4. However, it is classified as "needs improvement," and its scores rank it among the lowest 20 high schools in the state.

"This year's scores give us many reasons to celebrate," said Marlene Helm, the district's acting senior director of academic services. "We still have work to do. Our sleeves are rolled up. Our focus is laser-sharp. We are determined to seize this opportunity to continue to make improvements."

The district's overall classification improved from "needs improvement" in 2013-14 to "proficient." Fayette County's overall 2015 score is 68.1, up from its 2013-14 score of 66.0.

District officials said there were score increases at more than 70 percent of Fayette schools that receive accountability ratings. Two Lexington high schools — Henry Clay and Lafayette — received "distinguished" ratings. No high schools in the district received that rating in 2013-14.

Among the lowest-performing schools were Mary Todd Elementary, Deep Springs Elementary and Crawford Middle School. In all, 24 Fayette schools were rated "needs improvement" in 2014-15, down from 29 in 2013-14.

Fifteen of those also were classified as "needs improvement/progressing" for making gains.

On the down side, the number of students who had "novice" ratings on tests last spring has increased. In 2014, 4,363 Fayette County students scored novice in reading and 3,334 students scored novice in math. In 2015, those numbers rose to 4,452 in reading and 3,568 in math.

"We have a moral imperative to close the achievement gap by reducing the number of novice learners," Helm said.

James McMillin, acting principal of Bryan Station High School, said the gains were important at his school, but continued progress also was needed.

"We are looking forward to building on those gains as we move Bryan Station to proficient status," he said.

State and district officials said they would continue to provide extra help at Bryan Station.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said Bryan Station is designated as a "focus" school — one of 23 in the district. Focus schools have large achievement gaps between groups of students and/or low graduation rates. Bryan Station also is part of a state pilot to reduce the number of students scoring at the lowest level.

The latest scores show Bryan Station struggled particularly in math and science. But achievement gaps between white and black students weren't as great as at other Fayette high schools.

Of the district's 52 schools, 28 earned ratings of proficient or distinguished.

Veterans Park Elementary was the eighth-highest-scoring elementary school in the state.

Fayette County had eight schools classified as distinguished/progressing and 11 classified as distinguished.

Five schools were honored as "schools of distinction" for having scores above the 95th percentile: Athens-Chilesburg, Glendover, Rosa Parks, Sandersville and Wellington elementary schools.

William Wells Brown principal Jay Jones said he thought test scores improved there because of the staff and strategies, including small-group instruction in reading and math, and dedicating time in the daily schedule to help students with writing.

"Our growth reflects a combination of faith and hard work," Jones said. "When we got our scores last year, it was a blow to the staff. We had to pick ourselves up, stay positive and stay focused on the kids and what we needed to do for them."

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