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EIS in top pack for college and career ready students

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By Kelly Cantrall

kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com
A local school district leads the way in preparing students for life after high school.
Elizabethtown Independent Schools is one of only a handful of districts in Kentucky in which 45 to 61 percent of students are considered college or career ready. The readiness figures are derived from Kentucky Core Content Testing data. The majority of Kentucky districts fall into 16 to 32 percent brackets.
The score is created by using data from the ACT test taken by high school juniors, the PLAN test taken by sophomores and the EXPLORE test taken by eighth-graders. The ACT is a predictor of how well students will perform in college.
EIS administrators attribute the success to good preparation for the tests itself and effective instruction that readies students for more difficult subjects in college. But they agree there is more work to be done as well, as very few districts have a score above a 62 percent.
B.J. Henry, assistant principal of Elizabethtown High School, said there is no plan in place that prepares students for the ACT beyond the usual instruction they feel already works. But Karen Branham, assistant superintendent for instruction, said a plan is being created that administrators hope will push the scores higher.
“The good news is we’re getting good results without an intentional plan,” Branham said, adding that results should improve with a plan in place.
The testing data not only creates a college and career readiness score, it also is used to pinpoint students who need extra help, Branham said.
The school provides guidance to students considering their options after graduation. Common tools in that endeavor include career days, excused college visits and opportunities to work in businesses during the school day, which allows students to acquire work experience.
Students also fill out Individual Learning Plans, which act as an ongoing scholastic resume and tracks classes and activities they’re involved in and how they will assist them in future plans.
Senior Hannah Miller said the opportunity to take advanced classes has led her to feel prepared to attend college in the fall.
Senior Evan Pennington said the way classes are taught, showing how to apply skills instead of just learning facts, prepares students for college-level learning.
Administrators are working on ways to improve instruction and students’ chances of success beyond high school. Branham said the district wants 80-90 percent of students career ready instead of 46-61 percent.
Branham said teachers are breaking standards  into small lessons and assessing daily whether students have an understanding of them so everyone is proficient at the lesson before the class moves on.
English teacher Jo Anna Breunig includes material and skills that she knows her students will need when they enter college, such as how to write a research paper. She also prepares students for multiple-choice tests, such as the ACT, and includes extensive study of grammar in lessons — a core component of the ACT.
Breunig said she has students who return after graduation to tell her how much their high school careers have helped them.
“We do challenge them to think on an insightful and analytical level,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747.