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JCPS Makes Minor Improvement, Still Lags Behind State in School Scores

Sarah Yost prepares her classroom for her new students at Wesport Middle School, in Louisville, Ky., on Friday, August 8, 2014. Photo by Eleanor Hasken
Eleanor Hasken
Sarah Yost prepares her classroom for her new students at Wesport Middle School, in Louisville, Ky., on Friday, August 8, 2014. Photo by Eleanor Hasken

The state's latest accountability scores for public school districts show a slight improvement for Jefferson County Public Schools.

The small bump in Jefferson County's overall accountability score to 64.5 last year from 64.2 in the previous academic year was short of the annual goal set by the Kentucky Department of Education classification system.

The accountability scores, released earlier today, are calculated using a handful of metrics, including state test scores, school curriculum and graduation rates.

See how JCPS and other districts fared in WFPL's searchable database.

JCPS showed moderate improvement in its college and career readiness rate, graduation rate and achievement scores. The district also bettered its gap performance rate, which gauges the success of students in traditionally under-performing groups, such as non-English speakers and minorities.

"I am pleased that we continue to move forward," said Dewey Hensley, the district's chief academic officer. Still, he noted there is plenty of work to do.

For example, the district's growth rate, a measurement of individual student scores compared to peers, dropped slightly.

As for what's considered the major measure for school success, JCPS is slightly behind the state average for college and career readiness. About 63 percent of JCPS students are ready, according to the data, whereas 67 percent of students are considered ready statewide.

"Are we helping our students who leave K-12 education be ready for the next step?" Rhonda Sims, associate commissioner with the Kentucky Department of Education, asked rhetorically.

"We see way too many kids that aren't proficient yet," Hensley said.

For instance, less than half of the district's students in elementary, middle and high school are reading at a proficient or distinguished level.

About 42 percent of high school students are reading at a novice level. Statewide, 56 percent of high school students read at higher levels.

Meanwhile, in middle school, JCPS students lag behind statewide levels in math by nearly 7 points, according to the data.


The district's graduation rate climbed slightly to 81.4 percent over the previous academic year. The statewide graduation rate is 88.9 percent.

Hensley said district officials didn't find any surprises in the most recent data.

He said scores are reaching a leveling off point after large gains in past years. He also noted that as schools improve, target goals get bumped up and the bar is continuously raised.

To push beyond the plateau, Hensley said the district has a plan for improvement. The top priority, he said, is to continue working to close the achievement gap. Other initiatives include attracting stronger teachers, placing more support within struggling schools, providing more social support for students and getting all third graders reading at grade level.

Among the district's struggling schools, or "priority" schools, six met target scores set by the Kentucky Department of Education, according to the data. And one of the district's priority schools improved enough to shake the status.

However, the only three schools in the state to enter "priority status" are in Jefferson County: Byck Elementary, Roosevelt Perry Elementary and Moore Traditional.

Sims said for a school to enter priority status, it must score in the bottom 5 percent of like-level schools statewide, and the school must have missed its target score for the past three years.

JCPS also has three schools ranking within the top five in Kentucky: The Brown School, Louisville Male and duPont Manual High School.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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