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HCS values test scores, keeps focus on improvement

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Column by Nannette Johnston, HCS superintendent

By NANNETTE JOHNSTON

The test scores have been released and we are proud to have six schools whose scores earned proficiency status from the Kentucky Department of Education. That means their scores are in the state’s top 30 percent.

The design of the new testing and accountability model allows no more than 30 percent of Kentucky’s schools to be labeled as proficient or distinguished. That means 70 percent of schools always will be labeled as “needs improvement.” Several schools in our district were a point or less from the designated 30 percent, or proficiency.

As a district, our score was merely six-tenths of a point away from being labeled as proficient. An increase in next year’s scores at the district or school level does not ensure a proficient label. Because Kentucky has developed a bell curve model to classify or label schools and districts, schools can make tremendous progress each year but their points and progress might not earn them the status of proficient or distinguished. This label will adjust based on their ranking in relation to all schools and districts in the state.

So, what’s in a label? Does a label determine how you do your work? If a sports team wins or loses a game, does that determine the way in which they practice? To improve as a team, the players and coaches don’t study the scoreboard or the label of W (won) or L (loss); they hit the practice field and strive for continued improvement. Visionary and focused leaders and teams know practice is the most important variable in predicting success. They work with their players to refine their skills and teach them to work together to meet individual and team goals. The Hardin County Schools team of teachers, staff and administrators follow the same philosophy. We measure our success in multiple ways through consistent and continuous growth and improvement.

What steps are we practicing to continue our progress and growth?

  • Working in professional learning communities to learn and grow as teachers and leaders.
  • Visiting classrooms as teacher and administrator leaders to fine tune our craft.
  • Analyzing students’ daily work and assessments as a team to guide learning for every student.
  • Increasing the opportunities for experiences that include relevant and high-level skills through advanced courses and deep content and curriculum.
  • Building community partnerships to ensure that our students are receiving the work ethic and professional skill sets needed to be college and career ready.

How do we know our steps are working? Multiple indicators continue to validate continuous growth and progress of our students.

  • The district graduation rate has increased eight percentage points from 2010 and all three high schools increased rates.
  • Our dropout prevention efforts are working across the district, measured by an increase in graduates from our Hardin County High School program and a decrease in the number of students who drop out of school.
  • ACT scores continue to increase in each high school.
  • EXPLORE, an ACT preparatory test for eighth graders, and PLAN, an ACT preparatory test for high school sophomores, scores are increasing.
  • MAP scores continue to verify every student is making individual growth and progress.

The numbers that mark our data are on the rise. However, the strength in our district is the things that our students, teachers and staffs are doing in our schools every day. The daily art of teaching, learning and caring that occurs in and out of our classrooms every day is top-notch.

I appreciate the dedication and leadership of our school board and the passion and hard work of our team of teachers, administrators, instructional assistants, interventionists, child-nutrition workers, custodians, grounds crews, transportation workers and central office staff. They are what I consider the best of the best and drive our success.

Yes, data is critical and we welcome a new testing system that gives us yet another measure of progress. But in the end, our most meaningful measure is to prepare every single student for success in life.

Nannette Johnston is superintendent for Hardin County Schools.