Counties around Fayette see scores edge up

Nearly half the public schools in the counties surrounding Lexington met or exceeded their goals for the state's two-year testing cycle.

In the results released Wednesday, 38 of the 78 schools in Bourbon, Clark, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford counties met or exceeded their goal scores for 2007-08.

In 2006, at the end of previous two-year cycle, 35 schools in those counties had met or exceeded their goals in the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.

The schools with adjusted scores above 100 this year were Collins Lane Elementary in Franklin County, Trapp Elementary in Clark County, and White Hall Elementary in Madison County. Schools have until 2014 to reach 100 out of a possible 140.

White Hall Elementary, with an adjusted score of 116.9, was the highest-scoring of any elementary, middle or high school in the seven-county region. And it was the fifth-highest-scoring of any elementary, middle and high school in the state.

White Hall Principal Randy Neeley said the teachers and staff at the 705-student school have taken as their own the Madison district motto of "Every student counts." More than 40 percent of the school's students are enrolled in the free- and reduced-price lunch program.

"We're working with all kids," said Neeley, who attended White Hall as a child. "Instead of teaching to the top and to the middle, we're teaching to everyone. It's really taken hold the last couple of years."

In addition, the school has focused not only on reading and math but also writing.

"That's what's made the biggest improvement: students applying their knowledge in their writing," Neeley said.

Elkhorn Middle School in Franklin County had an adjusted score of 68.3, making it the lowest-scoring school of any in the seven-county region.

Elkhorn is also the only school in the region to be in assistance. But it is in assistance level 1, the highest third of total schools in the three assistance levels.

"Obviously, it's not a surprise. We knew we had some problems," said Wayne Dominick, spokesman for Franklin County Public Schools.

But Dominick said a new principal has assumed leadership at the 684-student school. And Elkhorn Middle has continued a team concept, begun in the 2007-08 year, in which students are divided into groups taught by a team of teachers.

"That way, the teachers can talk about, you know, 'Johnny is doing real well in my class.' 'Well, he's not doing well in my class. What's the problem?'" Dominick said. "We're trying to get down to the individual instruction for each kid."

Teachers have also begun a "name-and-claim" strategy, Dominick said, in which "teachers all get together and they pick out certain kids, and say 'OK, I'm going to take this kid and take him under my wing ... and have contact with him every couple of days,' to let them know that there's somebody out there that cares about them."

Elkhorn Middle has had some disciplinary problems in the past, "but they've real ly taken a handle on that," Dominick said. "You can't learn if there's disruption in the classroom. And the new principal, Willie Bartley, has done an amazing job of setting high expectations not only for his staff but for the students."

Model Laboratory Middle School and Model Laboratory High School, both on the Eastern Kentucky University campus in Richmond, were the highest-scoring middle and high schools in the ring counties. Model Lab High was the eighth-highest-scoring high school in the state.

The lowest-scoring high school in the seven-county region was Madison Southern High School in Berea.

Shearer Elementary School in Clark County was the lowest-scoring elementary school in the region, but it improved enough to be deemed "progressing."

Paris Independent was the only school district in the seven counties to be designated an "exemplary growth" district. (Of the 64 districts in the state to receive that designation, 30 were independents.) "Exemplary growth" means the three schools in that 800-student Paris district are progressing or met their academic goals, and they met the dropout and novice reduction criteria set for the schools.

"Being small is an advantage because we're able to give that individual attention," said Paris Independent Superintendent Janice Blackburn. "We have an individual plan for every child that is danger of failing for whatever reason, whether it is not being able to read well or truancy or it might be behavior problems."

Then each school has a "student success team" that analyzes data "to see which kids are a little shaky and what can we do to shore them up."