Wide_JCPS Class.jpg

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Fewer than half of all Jefferson County Public Schools students tested at grade level in reading, while just more than one-third showed grade-level proficiency in math in the winter round of diagnostic assessments.

Measures of Academic Progress testing results obtained by WDRB News in response to an open records request show that 45% and 36% of JCPS students tested at grade-level in reading and math, respectively, in the second round of diagnostic testing in the 2021-22 school year.

“It is overwhelming for sure, but we also have some real bright spots, schools that are showing that they know how to accelerate growth,” Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman said in an interview Friday.

Those results come as JCPS raised the MAP proficiency standards for the spring round of diagnostic testing, Coleman said.

The district had considered students testing above the 50th percentile — or in the top 50% — of their grades as achieving grade-level proficiency. Now, students must hit the 60th percentile — or in the top 40% — to be considered at grade level in their subjects for the third and final round of MAP testing this year, she said.

“We’ve done that because we found that the 50th percentile — the students at that point — still weren’t all scoring proficient on state assessments," Coleman said. "And so we want that to be a better correlation."

WDRB News has requested results from spring MAP assessments.

The winter MAP results provide a stark look at academic achievement at JCPS as the district, like others across the U.S., continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on learning.

The 2021-22 school year is the first time JCPS students have been in classrooms for the entire school year since the pandemic began late in the 2019-20 term.

Fewer than half of students at 94 JCPS schools tested at grade level in reading. At 23 of those schools, fewer than a quarter of pupils tested at grade level in reading.

JCPS students fared worse in math. MAP scores show fewer than half of students at 104 district schools tested at grade level and fewer than a quarter of students at 51 schools hit that mark.

Schools with the lowest MAP scores often serve student populations with high concentrations of poverty. Many also struggle with chronic absenteeism, district data show.

Thirty-one percent of JCPS students were considered chronically absent in 2021-22 after missing at least 10% of instructional days as of April 11, according to district data provided in response to an open records request.

Sixty-one schools included in MAP testing data exceeded the district’s average chronic absenteeism as of April 11. Just 10 of those schools — Butler Traditional High, Central High, Crosby Middle, Farnsley Middle, Fern Creek High, Highland Middle, Jeffersontown High, Johnsontown Road Elementary, Kammerer Middle and Valley High — matched or exceeded the average JCPS MAP scores in either reading or math.

The 51 other schools with high chronic absentee rates averaged 28% of students testing at grade level in reading and 19% of students demonstrating grade-level proficiency in math, according to an analysis of MAP data.

“We have a major attendance crisis in our district, and if they’re not there, it doesn’t matter what all we have to offer,” Coleman said. “If we can get them to school, I believe we can get results, but we’ve got to get them to school.”

MAP scores show significant achievement gaps between Black and white JCPS students in both reading and math. Kentucky’s largest public school district already struggled with persistent achievement gaps before the unprecedented learning disruptions prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sixty percent of white JCPS students tested at grade level in reading compared to 29% of Black students, and 51% of white students tested at grade level in math while just 19% of Black students achieved such results, according to MAP scores.

Coleman says JCPS is “aggressively” working to bridge achievement gaps, an issue facing other school districts nationally. JCPS, through its racial equity plan, is developing culturally responsive curricula for its schools and academic acceleration plans for its students, she said. Expanded learning opportunities, such as the district’s Summer Backpack League and Elev8 learning centers, are also part of the district’s plans to help those who have fallen behind academically.

“One of the things we said, and you heard it across the country throughout the pandemic, is that we cannot go back,” Coleman said. “I mean, it wasn't working, and so we have an opportunity to really shift the system.”

Disadvantaged students also lagged district averages in reading and math proficiency:

  • Thirty-five percent of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals tested at grade level in reading and 25% achieved grade level in math.
  • Seventeen percent and 15% of students with disabilities tested at grade level in reading and math, respectively.
  • Twenty-one percent of English language learners tested at grade level in reading and 20% demonstrated grade-level proficiency in math.
  • Twenty-three percent and 15% of homeless students tested at grade level in reading and math, respectively.
  • Thirty percent of students in foster care tested at grade level in reading and 19% hit that mark in math.

While COVID-19 ignited unprecedent learning disruptions as students transitioned to remote learning, Coleman says some silver linings emerged from the pandemic. JCPS has turned to virtual tutoring to help students make up ground academically, for instance.

“That wasn’t even something I really paid attention to before COVID,” Coleman said.

The district has partnered with two online tutoring companies to help students struggling in classes. About 8,000 students have gotten help from Massachusetts-based FEV Tutor, according to Coleman, and JCPS announced its partnership with Paper, which has offices in California and Canada, on Monday.

FEV Tutor uses students’ MAP scores to customize programming to meet their academic needs, Coleman said. Students at more than 100 schools have access to tutors virtually multiple times each week in 20- to 30-minute sessions through FEV Tutor, she said.

Paper tutors focus on helping students with homework, particularly writing, she said. Students get “very specific, high-quality feedback” on their writing within about four hours from Paper tutors, Coleman said.

“This is a way to provide an individual teacher multiple times a week for every student,” Coleman said. “There’s no way we could even have enough humans to do that, so this is really interesting. This is going to be a really interesting trend to follow.”

Registration for the Summer Backpack League closes Friday, and Coleman believes the district will hit the 10,000-student target for enrollment in summer programming.

She hopes next year’s round of MAP assessments will tell a different story after students get extra help inside and outside the district’s classrooms.

“I would put us up against anybody with the resources that we have and the support we offer for our students,” she said. “... I hope that we will begin to see a significant increase in these numbers and a significant closing of those achievement gaps.”

A copy of the district’s winter MAP testing results can be downloaded here:

Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.