District notes bright spots in mixed results of NCLB

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By Robin Bass

The sentiment expressed at Monday night’s school board meeting was one of disappointment over the “mixed results” of recently released test scores.

The Kentucky Department of Education released data last Wednesday indicating how well schools and districts performed in relation to the federal-mandated No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and in the Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT) administered in the 2008-09 school year. 

Spencer County School District scored 84.6 percent in their annual yearly progress (AYP), or 11 out of 13 targeted goals. This makes the fourth consecutive time that the district has not reached their goals, placing the school system in the category of Tier 3 consequences. No individual schools were placed in a tier status.

Assistant Superintendent Norma Thurman told board members that, as required, a letter will be sent to parents later this week notifying them of the district’s status. Other consequences are that a comprehensive district improvement plan must be completed within 90 days and the school system must undergo a scholastic audit, something Thurman said the district welcomes because it allows another critical eye to review their educational processes.

Thurman said recommendations from previous scholastic audits have been that school systems “need to operate as a district” and not as individual schools. She also saw a need for closing the gaps in Exceptional Children Education (ECE) and “beefing up” student performance in open response questions.

Not all the news was bad. Thurman said “bright spots” included Spencer County Middle School making 100 percent of their targeted goals for the first time.

“I think we got the right people on the bus,” said SCMS Principal Ed Downs, of his teachers and staff. “As teachers continue working together, it’s only going to get better.”

Downs said that eighth graders had the best performance of their middle school career. His hope was that the district would continue to provide the resources needed to insure subsequent classes will benefit as well.

Spencer County Elementary School continued their track record of meeting 100 percent of their NCLB goals, while KCCT scores dipped slightly in reading, math and social studies. Principal Karen Larimore said her team of teachers is now focusing on ways to keep children who have excelled in the past, motivated to keep on learning.

After making 100 percent of AYP last year, Taylorsville Elementary School met only nine of their 11 targeted goals. Part of the reason is that ECE students did not meet AYP in reading and math.

After reviewing the scores with teachers, TES Principal Chuck Abell said that there was not as much effort placed in preparing students open response questions as in year’s past.

“We had hoped that it had become embedded in the classroom,” said Abell.

In previous years, the school had open response coaches and placed students in small groups to work on that aspect of the testing.

While disappointed, Abell said he was also motivated to make sure his students were capable of performing better in the future.

Spencer County High School was the lowest performing school in the district and met only 70 percent, or 7 out of 10 target goals. All classifications of students failed to make AYP in math at the school.

“It was very difficult to pass these scores out at the high school,” said SCHS Principal Jocelyn Lyons.

Lyons said that only 15 other Kentucky high schools ranked lower than Spencer County. Her goal is to find out what the top schools in the state are doing to prepare their students and integrate those techniques into the high school.

“We need to make sure our students are receiving what every other student in Kentucky is receiving,” said Lyons.

According to the KCCT transition index, both elementaries and the high school are in a declining status. The middle school has been labeled as improving. While SCES may be technically in a declining state, their transistion index was still two points higher than the state average.