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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Department of Education will handle year-end testing materials and monitor annual K-PREP assessments at eight elementary schools in Jefferson County Public Schools this year after a review flagged irregularities in recent years.

In a March 29 letter to JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio, former Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt wrote that KDE will handle K-PREP material distribution and monitor testing at Audubon Traditional Elementary School, Brandeis Elementary School, Coleridge-Taylor Montessori Elementary School, Greathouse Shyrock Traditional Elementary School, King Elementary School, Rangeland Elementary School, Stonestreet Elementary School and Stopher Elementary School.

That decision comes after a statewide KDE review raised concerns of “the validity of test scores in a number of schools, including many in JCPS,” Pruitt wrote in the letter.

Pollio said that irregularities flagged by KDE involve a high rate of student erasures on K-PREP tests administered in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

He said to his knowledge, the matter will be included among findings in the ongoing KDE audit of JCPS. He said he supports this year’s monitoring, saying the matter is “not an investigation.”

“We’ve spoken to the principals. We’re confident that they’ve done things right, but in the end as we always do, we welcome KDE and collaborate with them and make sure everything is done appropriately," he said Thursday before the Hilliard Lyons Excellence Awards honoring JCPS teachers.

Pruitt wrote that KDE staff would be on-site as testing materials were opened and inventoried for the eight elementary schools April 9. Agency staff would seal each school’s testing supplies with tamper-evident tape and open them when K-PREP exams begin.

KDE employees will be at each school to monitor test distribution and administration and seal materials afterward each day, according to Pruitt’s letter. The K-PREP testing window for JCPS is May 10 through May 16, with makeup days from May 17 through May 23.

Parents at the affected schools have been notified of KDE’s decision to monitor end-of-year testing.

Audubon Traditional Elementary Principal Tiffany Marshall wrote that the state “has noted that there is no investigation or allegations of impropriety, but KDE staff will be in our building during testing this year to ensure there are no irregularities with implementing our testing materials,” according to a letter obtained by WDRB News.

“Our staff welcomes the review and will be working with KDE to ensure compliance with and the integrity of all testing policies, practices and procedures.”

The elementary schools listed for monitoring by KDE include some of the top and lower performing schools in JCPS.

Greathouse Shyrock, for example, outpaced the district and the state in every testing category during last year’s K-PREP exams, with 93.9 percent of its students scoring proficient or distinguished in reading, 94.6 percent proficient or distinguished in math, 96.4 percent proficient or distinguished in social students, 91.1 percent proficient or distinguished in writing and 94.3 percent proficient or distinguished in language mechanics.

Those are slightly higher in some categories than the year before KDE spotted irregularities in erasures, with 91.9 percent of students hitting top scores in reading, 90.3 percent in math, 95.4 percent in social studies, 88 percent in writing and 96.3 percent in language mechanics.

At the other end of the spectrum, 17.8 percent of King Elementary students score proficient or distinguished in reading, 15 percent in math, 23.4 percent in social studies, 7.8 percent in writing and 17.4 percent in language mechanics last year.

Those scores are largely down from the 2014-15 school year, when 22.3 percent of King students scored proficient or distinguished in reading, 22.8 percent in math, 14.3 percent in social studies, 10 percent in writing and 16.5 percent in language mechanics.

Pollio said the district has found nothing to indicate that the schools did anything “out of line” on end-of-year state exams based on past results.

“More than anything we’ll let the process work and work with KDE to make sure that our schools are doing practices appropriately, but I have confidence in our schools that they are doing things ethically and appropriately,” he told WDRB News.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that testing for JCPS will be from May 9 through May 15, as Pruitt wrote in his March 29 letter. JCPS said the testing window is May 10 through May 16, with makeup dates scheduled May 17 through May 23.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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