JCPS posts gains in latest round of test scores - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS posts gains in latest round of test scores

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Most of Jefferson County's public schools made progress on state tests and are doing a better job of making sure students are ready for college and a career, according to new results released Friday by the Kentucky Department of Education.

The results show that 95 of the district's 137 tested schools met their annual performance goal set by the state – up from 75 last year. But they also show that only 43 of the district's schools achieved proficiency based on a combination of their students' academic scores and growth, achievement gaps, college readiness and graduation rates.

Overall, Jefferson County Public Schools now ranks in the 51st percentile among the state's public school districts, up from the 35th percentile last year and the 23rd percentile in 2012.

“We are a moving and improving district,” said JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens. “We are pleased to be where we are and we've come a long way, but we also have a long way to go. These results show that we are doing the right things in our classrooms. We just need to build off of the momentum.”

JCPS also met its graduation and college and career readiness goals for the first time this year. According to the data, the district's graduation rate increased from 76 percent to 79 percent. In addition, 61 percent of the district's students are considered college and career ready – up from 51 percent last year.

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Across Kentucky, overall student performance, college and career readiness and the number of students graduating from high school are improving – results that show the state's schools are making progress, said Terry Holliday, the state's education commissioner.

But less than half of the state's elementary, middle and high school students still aren't proficient in math. And many kids are still struggling to read on grade level.

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“We've made some significant improvements, but still have a lot of work to do,” Holliday said. “The gains we are seeing are the result of a lot of hard work by our teachers, administrators and our students – they all share in this good news.”

Overall student performance in Kentucky has greatly improved from 2012 - the first year of the state's new accountability and testing system, called Unbridled Learning.

Making improvement

In Jefferson County, 49 percent of the elementary students, 45 percent of middle-schoolers and 50 percent of high-schoolers scored proficient or better in reading, compared with last year's rates of 41 percent, 42 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Math proficiency rose slightly, ranging by grade level from 37 percent to 47 percent proficiency, compared with 33 percent to 41 percent last year.

Eight schools – Chancey, Cochran, Hawthorne, Jacob, Klondike Lane, Medora, Sanders and Wilt elementaries – made gains across all six subject areas tested.

Cochran, located on Gaulbert Avenue near the University of Louisville, went from the 14th percentile in the state last year to the 34th percentile this year – a big jump for a school that just four years ago was the second lowest performing elementary school in the state.

Principal Tim Foster credits the school's success to a number of initiatives aimed at boosting achievement.

“We target each and every child and show them that we believe in them,” he said. “We are also constantly looking for ways to promote their work and their achievements. They love certificates and seeing themselves, so we do a lot of celebrations.”

Foster said Cochran was also the first school in JCPS to offer breakfast in the classroom and believes that has also helped. Not only are more kids eating breakfast, but the school has also been able to use the time that would have been spent in the cafeteria on boosting instruction, he said.

“It used to be that they would arrive in the morning and stand in the cafeteria and wait for breakfast,” Foster said. “Now, as soon as they arrive in the building each morning, they are going straight to the computer lab or to the library, or they are working in small groups with teachers. We use every minute.

Chris Perkins, principal of Iroquois High – where the percentage of students considered ready for college and careers jumped from 32 percent to 48 percent – said setting short-term goals is important.

Iroquois made gains in five of the six subject areas tested – including a 28-point jump in U.S. History end of course exams. Last year, only 11 percent of students were proficient in that subject, compared to 40 percent this year.

The school, once considered one of Jefferson County's lowest performing, still has a lot of work to do – only 24 percent of kids are proficient in reading and 21 are proficient in math – but those figures are much higher than they used to be.

“Baby steps,” Perkins said. “Any forward progress we make even if it's small, it's not just something to celebrate, but something to reflect upon.”

Program review

This year, there is a new component of the system accounting for 23 percent of a school's overall score that was not based on test scores, but on how well the school has integrated arts and humanities, practical living/career studies and writing across its curriculum.

Called “program reviews,” state officials say the new component considers whether the school is providing students with high-quality learning opportunities.

State officials have said that traditional paper-and-pencil tests limit the evaluation of what students learn. With program reviews, schools have more flexibility to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in non-traditional ways.

The program reviews were included in the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2009 – statewide legislation that called for more rigorous academic standards and new state tests based on those standards.

Not everyone believes the program reviews are a good idea, with critics saying it could be a way for schools to inflate test scores. Others say the reviews present a more accurate description of what kids are learning in the classroom.

At a glance

Among the schools in Jefferson County ranked in the 99th percentile in the state: duPont Manual and Louisville Male high schools, middle and high schoolers at the Brown School and the sixth grade at the Academy at Shawnee.

Carter, Greathouse-Shryock and Stopher elementary schools also ranked that high.

The lowest ranking schools in Jefferson County: Myers and Frost middle schools and Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School.

Two of those schools – Myers and Frost – underwent major changes this school year in an attempt to turn them around.

Myers Middle School in Hikes Point closed at the end of the 2013-14 year and its seventh and eighth grade students were reassigned to Waggener High School in St. Matthews, while incoming sixth graders were reassigned to 10 other middle schools across the district.

In addition, Frost Middle School became a sixth grade academy and features smaller class sizes and other methods aimed at boosting student achievement.

Seventh and eighth graders who would have attended Frost are now assigned to Valley High School, where they are housed separately from the high schoolers in a part of the building where the Phoenix School of Discovery used to be.

Hargens said Thursday the official release of test scores shows that those changes were necessary.

“It was exactly the right thing to do at both schools,” she said. “We had to do something different in an effort to get different results.”

Individual student test scores won't be mailed to parents until the end of October.

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