William Wells Brown Elementary School celebrates progress on state test

Aaron Woods, a first-grader, danced during a pep rally Monday hosted by the United Way at William Wells Brown Elementary School.
Aaron Woods, a first-grader, danced during a pep rally Monday hosted by the United Way at William Wells Brown Elementary School.

It was a jubilant Monday at William Wells Brown Elementary School in Lexington with a community pep rally celebrating that the school's test scores are no longer ranked lowest in Kentucky among elementary schools.

"I didn't think it was going to happen so quickly," said fifth grader Jenise Smith. "The students decided to listen and learn."

In 2013-14, William Wells Brown Elementary was ranked lowest among elementary schools in the state's accountability system.

But in scores released in October, the school 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. William Wells Brown, a high poverty school on East Fifth Street in Lexington, continues to be 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.

"It's what happens when people pull together to help schools," said principal Jay Jones, whosaid the success represents the hard work of the teachers but also volunteers from the United Way of the Bluegrass, Big Brother Big Sisters of the Bluegrass and other organizations.

"Our goal is to create a network of support inside and outside of school," Jones said.

The United Way of the Bluegrass hosted the pep rally to celebrate success with students, teachers, administrators, volunteers and staff for improvements on the KPREP or Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress tests.

Students cheered loudly as their teachers were recognized and the Lafayette High School band played pep songs.

Jones said the staff had made changes in the way students were taught.

They used data about students — including their test scores —to drive instruction.

Karen Morrison, a media specialist who oversees some reading groups, said she attributes the gains to smaller class size "and going back to the basics."

Jennifer Mitchell, a coach for teachers, said she thinks it helped that teachers were willing to learn more about Kentucky's academic core standards of what students should know and be able to do at various levels.

Teachers "were willing to learn and to help students to grow," Mitchell said.

Lexington Police Sgt. Rahsaan Berry said officers had been helping out with the school's academic team.

"We want to use all of our resources to make it better," he said.

Bill Farmer, president and CEO of the United Way of the Bluegrass, said there previously had been six volunteers at the school through the United Way, and the organization added an additional 80 this past academic year.

The goal is that by the year 2020, every public school in Fayette County would be performing at a proficient or distinguished level, he said. The district still has several schools classified as needs improvement in the state's accountability system.

"We fundamentally believe that every person who lives in our community has a commitment to help every child be successful in school," Farmer said.

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