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JCPS Students Better Prepped for Kindergarten, but Screening Needs More Research

More Jefferson County Public Schools students entering kindergarten are prepared than the state average, but local educators say whether that translates to higher student achievement scores on state assessments is inconclusive.

Over 100 Kentucky school districts piloted the new Brigance kindergarten readiness screener this year. The results show statewide around 25 percent of students are school-ready when looking at various academic and cognitive factors. In JCPS, 34 percent of students are school-ready, according Chief Academic Officer Dewey Hesley.But the district’s third grade test scores—when the state first begins to measure students—are lower than average on core subjects like reading where only 42 percent of elementary school students are proficient or distinguished. Statewide 48 percent are proficient or distinguished.One reason for such a higher number of school-ready students might be partly attributed to the number of JCPS students entering the district who also attended an early childhood--or pre-kindergarten--education program, said Marco Munoz with JCPS data management and research.“I think this speaks to the effort that we’re doing in our early childhood program in JCPS,” he said.The JCPS data management staff estimates in the past three years around 40 to 45 percent of JCPS students attended a publicly funded early childhood program.Statewide around 25 percent attend a government funded early childhood program, according to Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross.Although educators say the new screeners shouldn’t be use to correlate with  a state's academic assessments, the results of the screener can point to some early indicators for at-risk students, which Brigance says “have historically had substantial predictive validity and thus identified the majority of children who have school difficulty five months to six years later.”The screeners are often used to identify potential developmental delay and also potentially gifted students, said Katie Nicholson, director of Brigance products.“It’s not specifically tied to standards, it’s tied to performance later on,” she said.Now, JCPS officials say the district will try to show the screeners “predictive validity”, or how well they can predict outcomes on the state’s assessment later, but they’ll start by isolating parts of the screener and the accountability system that may correlate. This will likely take a few years, said Munoz. “It’s very dangerous to compare those two things because they are really set up in a different way,” he said. The district plans to review this year’s kindergarten screener scores to their standardized tests in the third grade, which would be the 2015-2016 school year. “We’re going to just isolate the academic component of the Brigance and then compare it to the K-PREP reading which is also just academic,” he said. Munoz says the district may consider how some of other domains the Brigance considers could tie into the new standards with JCPS students. The five domains include approaches to learning, health and physical well being, cognitive and general knowledge, language and communication. All districts are expected to implement the Brigance screener next school year.

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