KDE releases new state test results

Author: Lisa Deffendall • First Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012

Baseline year points the way for future growth

The first glimpse of how Fayette County Public Schools stacks up against new, more rigorous state standards contained few surprises. The state’s second-largest district, with roughly 40,000 students, includes both the top-ranked schools in Kentucky and some of the lowest performing.

“We have schools within our district that are successfully meeting the learning needs of many of our students, and we also have schools that need some different supports and structures,” Superintendent Tom Shelton said.

FCPS ranked in the 69th percentile of districts in the state and received a Needs Improvement classification. The cutoff for proficiency is the 70th percentile. Results showed the achievement of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, receive special education services, are learning English as a second language, or whose race is identified as African-American, Hispanic or Native American continues to trail their peers.

“We very clearly have achievement gaps to deal with,” Shelton said. “Reaching all of our students is not just a matter of trying different pedagogies and new instructional strategies. We also need to address the culture and climate in our schools and find ways to build intentional relationships with students that enhance the teaching and learning process.”

In 2009, Kentucky legislators passed Senate Bill 1, which required many changes in the state’s public education system. It included a call for new, more rigorous academic standards and new state tests based on those standards. Senate Bill 1 also called for a more balanced assessment and accountability system focused on student readiness for life after high school.

“We have new standards, which are based on mastery,” Shelton said. “We also have new structures in how schools and districts are evaluated and a whole new scale for those scores.”

In years past, schools and districts were rated according to overall student performance on state tests. Now there are different measures of student success, such as individual student growth, college and career readiness, graduation rates and the performance of students who traditionally have not been successful.

The scale is also different. Schools used to earn a score from 0 to 140, and now scores are from 0 to 100. Once scores are calculated, all schools in the state are rank-ordered and assigned a performance rating depending on how they compare with other schools in Kentucky.

Of the 51 in Fayette County Public Schools that received accountability ratings:

  • 14 were classified as “Distinguished,” meaning they performed better than 90 percent of schools in the state.
  • 9 received “Proficient” ratings, meaning that their ranking was better than 70 percent of schools in the state, but below the 90th percentile.
  • 28 schools were deemed “Needs Improvement” because they fell in the 69th percentile or lower.

Although the new system was designed to relegate roughly 70 percent of schools in the state in the “Needs Improvement” category, only 55 percent of Fayette County’s schools fell in that category.

“With all of the changes in the past year, it’s been difficult for schools to have a feeling of how they were doing. So there’s been a lot of apprehension about these scores,” Shelton said. “Now we have a benchmark, a starting point for where we need to move forward to ensure all students are college and career ready. To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’re at.”

This is just the beginning of a new way of teaching, learning and measuring success. This first year lets us know how much work lies ahead of us. It doesn’t mean students or schools have declined – they’re just being measured against a different standard.

In addition to the three overall ratings, schools can also receive labels that designate them for outstanding performance or emphasize that they have to address the unacceptably low performance of certain subgroups of students.

Across Fayette County, 20 schools were identified as “Focus Schools” because they have groups of students by race, socio economic status, special need or English proficiency performing well below minimum standards.

“We’ve got work to do, because every student needs to be at that proficient or above level,” Shelton said. “We have to build very intentional and specific plans around our low-achieving schools because now we know where our deficiencies and gaps are. The work has already begun.”



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