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ISSUE: Unbridled Learning test scores
OUR VIEW: Progress is worth the spotlight
The first scores from Kentucky’s new school assessment system released this month gave educators a good look at where students stand.
It’s long awaited information. The model was overhauled, the student tests were tougher and while school districts were focused on the numeric scores, their status, so to speak, would depend on the performance of every other district in the state.
The top 30 percent of schools are determined proficient or distinguished, meaning the benchmark for proficiency will change every year. Schools essentially will be competing against each other to stay out of “needs improvement” status.
Great successes were found in the scores for area schools. West Point Independent School and Meade County Schools tied for 16th place among Kentucky’s 174 school districts, putting them in the 91st percentile. LaRue County Schools ranked 20th. Elizabethtown Independent Schools ranked 23rd. Six Hardin County Schools were deemed proficient. Congratulations to those students and teachers.
All should strive for a spot at the top and celebrate their climb.
Yet, not long ago, state officials warned against rankings. In fact, rankings weren’t released and you needed a spreadsheet program or a lot of extra time to figure out where schools ranked. The common analogy was that if two schools, one at the south end of the state and one at the north end, raced to Florida, success would depend on miles per hour, not who got there first.
It made sense then and it makes sense now. All of Kentucky is racing for proficiency and all gains — not just the gains that push a district into the top 30 percent, the top 10 percent — should build momentum.
Some school administrators have said they are not overly concerned with the label, from needs improvement to distinguished, but focused on individual scores and progress. That’s important. It’s up to districts and schools now to tear apart this data and use it to determine what’s working in the classroom.
Parents, too, should take a closer look at the data. A lot of attention has gone to districtwide composite scores, but the scores break down to schools and subjects. Every district and every school has its own report card. All are available at http://applications.education.ky.gov/SRC/.
The information, along with schools’ internal assessments such as Hardin County Schools’ MAPS program, gives teachers knowledge to build improvement plans.
It also challenges us to think about how education will move forward and what priorities and attitudes need to shift.
The report cards also contain non-testing data that show, for example, 92 of the 110 students at West Point Independent School receive a free or reduced-price lunch. It seems obvious to ask what we can learn from West Point Independent School about closing achievement gaps for lower-income students.
Elsewhere, almost 95 percent of LaRue County Schools’ computers meet minimum state standards, compared to about 72 percent statewide. How does that play into student performance and how can schools make it affordable?
So, now, let’s start talking, planning. This was a baseline year and from here, we fortify and build.
The editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.