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Studies Favor JCPS Turnaround Model “Project Proficiency”

Part 3 of WFPL’s series this week looking at three collaborative studies on Project Proficiency from JCPS administrators.For the first time, studies are showing the affects of Jefferson County Public Schools’ "Project Proficiency," the district’s response for turning around student achievement in its persistently low-achieving (PLA) schools, according to the No Child Left Behind Act.  The effort ensures all students understand the top concepts in math and reading in depth, and it requires teacher collaboration to move the lowest achieving students forward. Three practicing JCPS administrators recently collaborated on a capstone to earn their Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development from the University of Louisville.  The capstone challenged Project Proficiency's assumed success by looking at student math scores from the 2010-2011 school year and comparing those scores with control groups. Glenn Baete is the high school liaison for JCPS and he's the former principal of Doss High School.  Baete’s portion of the study looked prior achievement levels to determine how much progress was made by students in classrooms using Project Proficiency.  “We found that a student’s individual social economic status didn’t matter in this study,” he said. This is crucial to Project Proficiency because prior achievement is one of the biggest predictors of future performance, said Baete. In order for Project Proficiency to be effective for turning around low-achieving schools, the program must bring up test scores from all students regardless of socioeconomic status. Studies show conflicting data related to socioeconomic status and classroom achievement, but Baete’s study concludes by offering quality instruction, including interventions through Project Proficiency, students can become proficient at a higher rate. Baete looked at data from 8th grade students who scored “novice,” which is below proficient, on the state’s assessment test (Kentucky Core Content Test), and compared those scores to 11th grade scores from students with and without Project Proficiency. Only 4 percent of students without Project Proficiency met the “proficient” mark in 11th grade, while 16 percent of students with Project Proficiency  became “proficient.”  Baete’s data also concluded that Project Proficiency may help close achievement gaps.  The math data, considered from 110 classrooms across 11 low-achieving schools, showed a 31 percent variance, or achievement gap, between the schools. Classrooms that implemented Project Proficiency in math brought that variance down to 14 percent. In social studies, where Project Proficiency was not implemented, the variance went from 25 to 21 percent. Baete attributes Project Proficiency. "If achievement went up and variation reduced then instructional practices had to improve in all classrooms in the study.” he said  This could be a method for attacking certain achievement gaps, Baete said, since many of the PLA schools often include a larger minority population. The idea behind Project Proficiency is to steer away from subjective grading practices and measure student achievement using standards-based grading. Teachers are expected to give the most weight to learning the top three concepts in reading and math over a six-week grading period and they must make sure all students are scoring at least 80 percent on assessments. If they aren't, there are interventions in place. To see the full series this week looking at Project Proficiency, click here.