Hartstern Elementary first-grade teacher Betsy Philpot helps students during class on May 29, 2019. (WDRB file)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kamry Wade, a first-grade student at Hartstern Elementary, can recite the scores he received on the final round of Measures of Academic Progress testing with ease.

"My math score was 212 and reading was 221," said Kamry, a 7-year-old who is one of tens of thousands of students in Jefferson County Public Schools who have taken MAP tests throughout the school year.

JCPS students showed progress in MAP scores throughout the year on average, yet about half of the district’s kids aren't at grade level in reading or math. Superintendent Marty Pollio says 50.1% and 44.3% of JCPS kids are reading and doing math at grade level, respectively.

Pollio says the results give teachers and school leaders an early look at which students need the most help to catch up academically. Such interventions, he said, can make major differences for kids who have fallen behind.

"We still know we've got a lot of work to do, but we're encouraged about the progress and the direction that we're going in," he said.

MAP testing, which is expected to cost $1.9 million in the 2019-20 school year per district budget documents, is in its second year at JCPS, starting in elementary schools last year and eventually covering up to the 11th grade currently. Students complete three rounds of testing – one in fall, another in winter and the final one in spring – in reading and math, and their scores are used to determine how much they've grown academically.

Students in elementary schools showed the largest gains in this year's three rounds of MAP testing, improving from an average reading score of 176 in the fall to 188 in the spring and from an average math score of 178 in the fall to 192 in the spring.

Middle- and high-school students showed some growth on average, but to a lesser extent. Scores for middle-school students jumped four points and five points in reading and math, respectively, while high school scores improved by one point and four points in reading and math.

Hartstern was among JCPS schools that experienced the largest jumps in MAP scores from the fall to the spring. Students there improved their average reading scores by 15 points and their average math scores by 16 points.

Principal Duan Wright, in his fifth year at Hartstern, said MAP testing has allowed the school to make earlier targeted interventions for kids who have fallen behind. After a round of MAP testing, students who scored in the bottom 20% are identified for additional help.

"As a third grader if you're on a first-grade reading level, we will individualize instruction where you're getting first-grade reading instruction as well as third-grade instruction in the same day," Wright told WDRB News.

Hartstern's numbers of students performing at grade level largely mirror JCPS as a whole. About 50% of the school's students are at grade level in math and 49% are reading at grade level, according to Wright.

Still, Wright sees trends moving in the right direction at his school. He said 73% of students met or exceeded their personal MAP growth goals in math and 69% met or exceeded their growth goals in reading.

Seeing the final results from this year’s MAP testing filled him with "a sense of pride," he said.

"We want kids to grow every day that we come into the school," Wright said. "… When you begin to look at kids individually and monitor their growth and see them growing, it's a joy and a pride that comes in knowing that you are successfully doing the job."

Across the district, Pollio said MAP testing shows that more than 2,000 additional students are reading at grade level and nearly 3,000 more are at grade level in math.

Pollio said he would like to see every JCPS student at or above grade level in reading and math, and that programs like the district’s Summer Backpack League will yield progress on that front. About 3,000 JCPS students will participate in the summer learning program, he said.

"We've got to make sure that we provide those ongoing interventions and that summer work so we don't have that summer slide, and my belief is that we’re going to continue to see this growth until we get to every kid," Pollio said.

"The change doesn't happen, the improvement doesn't happen just because we say we're setting a goal and we want to get there," he added. "Where the work has to be done, obviously, is in the instructional work each and every day and the systems that are in each and every school to support that work. That's the tough, hard work that we're doing."

Students like Kamry will go into next year ready to topple another set of MAP goals. He entered the year hoping to score at least 171 on the reading test and 188 in math.

"It made me feel proud of myself," Kamry said. "I didn’t know I could do that good."

Whether the aspiring scientist meets his personal career goals remains to be seen.

"I could do really cool experiments and then I could use chemicals," Kamry said. "Hopefully I can make a chemical that gives me super strength. Then I could be a superhero."

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