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Takeaways From Kentucky's Release of School Test Results

Kentucky has released its annual accountability results showing how schools are performing. We know it's a lot of information, so we thought we'd boil down a few takeaways.

The themes in bold below are what the Kentucky Department of Education measures, explaining how the state determines which schools are doing well. (You can also find more information about specific schools from us.  Go to our searchable, sortable database with 2013 results for every school in Kentucky.)   Also, I'll be discussing the test results at 1:20 today on Byline. Tune in at 89.3 or stream at WFPL.org. I'm also answering questions on Twitter at 3 p.m.—ask questions using the hashtag #kyresults. Proficiency: Below are proficiency rates for reading and math (those students scoring either proficient or distinguished on their exam) among Jefferson County Public Schools students. They have always been the subjects to watch, but the state also shows proficiency rates for science, social studies, writing and language mechanics. The scores did not move much since last year. There were slight improvement, and a large drop in high school math scores, which last year was 46 percent. (The state's average is in parentheses.)

  • Elementary Schools: 42 percent proficient in reading (KY 48); 41 percent in math (KY 44)
  • Middle Schools: 42 percent proficient in reading (KY 51); 33 percent in math (KY 41)
  • High Schools: 53 proficient in reading (KY 56); 36 percent in math. (KY 36)

Takeaway: While JCPS did make gains in all the categories above (except high school) the rates are still below the majority threshold. This is partly because Kentucky raised the bar last year with the Common Core standards. Superintendent Donna Hargens says she wants to focus on reading, and she wants to increase emphasis on early childhood education. College- and Career-Ready: Students can be college- or career-ready if they meet certain benchmarks on certain tests, or earn certifications. JCPS high schools improved over last year and but still behind the state average. Schools can earn additional points if they graduate student who are college and career ready. The scores below are without those additions.

  • JCPS: 51 percent
  • Kentucky: 54 percent
  • JCPS (2012 score): 45 percent
  • KY (2012 score): 47

Takeaway: Both JCPS and the state now have more than half of students meeting the college- or career-ready marks. This does mean than some students who are earning a high school diploma aren't graduating college or career ready. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says this could mean students and/or families will have to pay more money for remediation courses once they get to college. Gap Group: This group consists of African-American, Hispanic, Native American, students with disabilities, living in poverty and with limited English skills. The state measures the gap group to meet federal requirements to ensure schools are doing enough to help these student populations. There was a drop in middle school reading, but an increase in reading scores at the high school level. Then there was improved math scores at middle and elementary level, but a drop in math at high school level.

  • Elementary Schools: 32 percent proficient in reading (KY 38), 31 percent in math (KY 34)
  • Middle Schools: 32 percent proficient in reading (KY 40), 23 percent in math (KY 29)
  • High Schools: 40 percent proficient in reading (KY 43), 28 percent in math (KY 26)

Takeaway: The gap groups are still struggling to meet levels of all other students. The gains made at the gap level in various subjects mirror those slight gains for all student groups, including a drop in math scores.   Growth: It's an important measure for schools because it shows how many students who are measured against like-peers are showing adequate progress in reading and math at certain grade levels.

  • Elementary Schools: 58 percent proficient in reading (KY 60), 60 percent in math (KY 60) and both 59 (KY 60)
  • Middle Schools: 55 percent proficient in reading (KY 60), 57 percent in math (KY 60), and both 57 (KY 60)
  • High Schools: 55 percent proficient in reading (KY 57), 57 percent in math (KY 57), and both 56 (KY 57)

Takeaway: There were slight declines in the number of students making adequate growth gains in reading and math. Further, last year JCPS elementary and high schools had better growth measurements than the state. This year they slipped slightly. Graduation: The way Kentucky calculates graduation rates is in transition this year. The state is moving to the "cohort rate" that has been adopted by almost every state and is a more accurate count of who graduates from the system by tracking individual students moving through the system. The Average Freshman Graduation Rate is an average, of course. This year, both rates are provided and the AFGR was used for the last time to see whether Kentucky schools met their graduation rate goals. Next year, it's entirely the cohort rate.

  • Cohort Rate: 77 percent in JCPS vs.86 percent in KY
  • AFGR Rate: 68 percent in JCPS vs. 78 percent in KY

Takeaway: Under the new formula, graduation rates seem better than previously reported. JCPS still lags behind its peers but several of the district’s lowest performing “priority” schools have made very strong gains. (Image via Shutterstock)

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