Schools expect dip in scores

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By Brad Bowman

On Friday, the Kentucky Department of Education will release test results from its new Unbridled Learning Model, ranking schools and districts based on scores.

The model’s design will place only 30 percent of the state’s schools in a distinguished status leaving 70 percent of state’s schools in a ‘needs improvement’ category.

“We are sharing standards across the state and not tests,” Eminence Independent Schools Instructional Supervisor Thom Coffee said. “There are many things I like about the new model. I like that it focuses on getting our students college and career ready. I don’t play the assessment game although a lot of schools do. We should focus on teaching our students.”

The accountability model measures schools and districts based on a point system involving several different components: achievement, gap, growth, college readiness and college/career readiness.

The components

The achievement component measures student performance in reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing.

The gap component is a newer part of the test which measures growth, students who fall into a percentage including the student population of special education, free and reduced lunch, minorities,etc. The new model doesn’t allow for each student to be counted several times in various categories but is part of a non-duplicated gap group.

The growth component compares students who had similar scores across the state a year ago and compares that score with the present score to measure their growth.

The college readiness is measured by  the percentage of students in three content areas on EXPLORE tests at the middle school level who reach the required benchmarks.

The college/career-readiness rate score is measured by college placement tests, career measures and ACT benchmarks.

According to Henry County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Kricket McClure, the percentages are weighted differently at each level.

“Achievement and gap scores make up 30 percent of the score and growth is 40 percent at the elementary level,” McClure said. “The high schools in the state are scored 20 percent in each and the middle schools will have 20 percent for each except for college and career readiness which will count for 16 percent.”

Many schools are expecting lower test scores not just because of an increased rigor and higher standards, but because of the change in scale.

“The biggest point difference is the scale,” McClure said. “The previous scale was 0 to 140 now it is 0 to 100 to makes schools more proportional. The scores by this scale will necessarily be lower since it is a lower scale for everyone.”

The accountability model will also factor in high school graduation rates, which according to Coffee presents some obstacles for a small school like Eminence.

“At a larger district you are going to have an influx of students,” Coffee said. “For every student you lose because of the family relocating and moving to another area you usually will get another student. If we had for example, 38 freshmen and six of them move out of the district or attend another school our freshmen graduation rate will be 32 and the school will take a hit for that.”
Coffee considers education at Eminence to be a 12-year process where the proof of the district’s effectiveness lies in its graduating seniors.

“The number that matters most to us is college career readiness,” Coffee said. “We either prepared them or we didn’t. We should focus on teaching our students.”

Statewide test results will be released Friday.

For more information about the new accountability model for testing in Kentucky visit: www.education.ky.gov/comm/UL/Pages/default.aspx


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