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LaRue aims for top 10 percent of Kentucky school districts

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School column

By RON BENNINGFIELD

A longstanding rule for organizations is that their objectives must be measurable and must have stretch—attainable, but requiring change and effort.

With that tenet in mind, LaRue County Schools has set as its goal to be in the top 10 percent of Kentucky school districts.

“It all starts at the top, and our board of education set a goal of becoming the pre-eminent district in the state,” Sam Sanders, LaRue County Schools superintendent, said. “I have to give our board credit. They approved a certified salary schedule that was one of the best in the state, ranking 10th in 2012.”

“We have been able to attract and retain outstanding teachers and administrators,” he said.

Also, the board approved two years ago Laptops for LaRue, which will enhance the 21st century learning skills of high school students.

Sanders noted the district’s Explore, Plan and ACT scores are consistently at the top of all schools in the area and state.

District accountability trend rankings, which take into account all student assessments at the elementary, middle and high school levels show that LaRue County Schools have advanced from being in the bottom 25 percent in 2002-03 to the top 25 percent in the 2010-11 school year.

Latest composite Explore scores from the assessment taken by eighth-graders reveal that LaRue County Middle School was among the top 11 percent of Kentucky middle schools last year.

Scores from Plan have improved from having 63 percent of the state’s 10th-graders scoring above LaRue’s sophomores in 07-08 to LCHS students placing in the top 34 percent in the 2011-12 school year.

ACT results show LaRue’s students in the top 20 percent of those taking the test in Kentucky.

There are several reasons for the increases.

Paul Mullins,LCHS principal, said school staff is committed to academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular excellence.

“We all share in the belief that the LCHS mission is to prepare students to be proficient in 21st century skills that will enable them to pursue life goals, participate fully as active citizens and become responsible community members,” he said.

The school employs PLC’s (professional learning communities) through which teachers and administrators work collaboratively to seek and share learning and to act on that learning to enhance their effectiveness as professionals for students’ benefit, said Mullins.

Through early student-release each Friday, teachers are able to meet to develop interventions for students needing help. The school schedules 40 minutes per day, four days per week, when students with specific needs get extra instruction in smaller settings.

The top-10-percent goal pertains not only to core academic areas of reading, science social studies, and math, but also to other areas such as agriculture.

“In each of the last four years we’ve had teams competing in National FFA Contests,” said agriculture teacher Misty Bivens said. “We’ve also had many students in individual contests throughout the years compete in speaking, job interview and proficiency contests at the national level, and 30 to 40 different students competing in FFA events at the state level with high degrees of success.”

Hodgenville Elementary School principal Sue Osborne said her school’s objectives include implementing the new Kentucky Common Core Standards through new curriculum maps, instructional units and assessments.

“We have made writing across the curriculum a priority in all grade levels,” she added. “We also provide intervention time for students needing extra help to master skills, and enrichment opportunities for students ready to move on,” she continued.

The district’s journey to the top 10 has been marked by many accomplishments including being named by the The Courier-Journal as one of the “Top Work Places” in 2011 and 2012 and being in the top 20 districts in Kentucky in student achievement compared to per-pupil spending.

“The district has received numerous awards over the past couple of years and this community has to be proud of our school system and what our staff and kids have accomplished,” Sanders said.

 Ron Benningfield is a correspondent for LaRue County Schools.