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District makes notable gains

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By Mallory Bilger

It’s no secret between teachers in the Spencer County Public Schools that fighting for progress, especially within the auspices of the No Child Left Behind Act, has been and will continue to be an uphill battle.

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Educators in the county and across Kentucky have just received their Kentucky Core Content Test and NCLB scores and, for most Spencer County schools in most content areas, there are reasons to celebrate.

For the first time since the 2004-2005 school year, the district has made what NCLB deems as Adequate Yearly Progress, which is a mechanism that identifies how schools need to improve in the content areas of reading and math. The district also met all 13 of its Annual Measurable Objectives in reading and math. The KCCT’s math and reading scores are used to determine the district’s NCLB status.

KCCT scores not only assess students in the areas of math and reading, but also in science, social studies and on-demand writing.

Based on the KCCT’s combined proficient and distinguished scores – which are part of the novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished test grading system – all of Spencer County’s schools improved when compared to other Kentucky schools. The district as a whole moved up 33 slots in the state’s combined proficient and distinguished rankings from 152 to 119 out of 174 districts.

The school making the biggest jump was Taylorsville Elementary which moved up 155 slots from 605 to 450 out of 738 Kentucky elementary schools, meaning that the percentage of TES students scoring proficient or distinguished on their KCCT increased dramatically.

TES principal Chuck Abell gave the students a lot of credit for their excellent effort and coming to school prepared for the test, which is administered in the spring.

“You have to give credit to the kids. It’s always exciting to see your kids excel. It’s so well deserved,” Abell said.

Spencer County Elementary met all 10 of its NCLB goals for the year and TES met all 12 of its NCLB goals. TES has two more goals than SCES because its population of Exceptional Child Education students – better known as special education – is large enough to be included in the assessment data while Spencer County Elementary’s ECE population is not.

Spencer County Middle School met 10 out of 12 of its goals, falling short in the subcategories of reading assessment for all students and reading assessment for students with disabilities.

Spencer County High School met seven out of its 10 goals, falling short in the subcategories of math assessment for all students, math assessment for white students and math assessment for students eligible for free or reduced lunch. The school did make Adequate Yearly Progress in reading, however.

Across the district, on-demand writing and social studies were identified as key problem areas for almost all the schools. There has also been a state-wide trend showing students falling below proficiency in social studies. The percentage of students scoring proficient or distinguished in social studies has steadily declined in the last four years at both of the district’s elementary schools. However the middle and high school both made gains in that area.

Superintendent Chuck Adams said he was pleased to see that math scores improved, with all schools making gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient or distinguished.

“It really pleased me to see math basically leading the way. Math is probably the only common element of KCCT, NCLB and the ACT,” Adams said.

He added that the district will need to refocus on social studies, especially at the elementary level where it is often neglected until fifth grade, when students are tested on it for the first time at the state level.

He said teachers often feel pressured to focus on other subjects that are assessed before fifth grade.

“It’s really hard to put a finger on social studies. Social studies is so broad and targeting the (Kentucky Department of Education’s) requirements is tough,” Adams said.

Each school also made improvements over last year’s scores in science and reading.

“Everybody’s just doing such an awesome job,” said school board member Mary Ann Carden. “I’m so excited to see where we’re going.”

But most administrators and teachers agree that the work is never done and that as the bar for Adequate Yearly Progress continues to be raised every year, it will be continually difficult for schools to make gains.

Adams said he can’t help but be pleased with the progress made by the district this year. When he came to Spencer County four years ago, the district was ranked 164 out of 170. He believes continued achievement will be possible if the climate for students and teachers is correct.

“You’ve got to consider where we were. Coming in and understanding where we were academically, you had to start with the culture, climate and atmosphere,” he said. “What we have been able to do is take all four schools and in all content areas move them up.”