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Room for improvement

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Test scores show MCPS is

By The Staff

The results from the 2009 Kentucky Core Content Test, released Wednesday of last week by the state education department, show that there is definitely room for improvement for local schools, three of which are listed in "declining" status.

According to Marion County Superintendent Donald Smith, the school district lost focus last year for several reasons, which he believes contributed to the drop in test scores.

"Not trying to make excuses, it was just one of those years," he said. "Like Murphy's Law... Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. The ice storm... new superintendent search... we just lost focus."

But, just like a coach does with his team, it's time for the school district to refocus and look at the target areas that need to be improved upon, Smith said.

Smith believes parental involvement is key, and the district is beginning to actively seek out parents to volunteer with students.

But, most importantly, it's critical that the school district and community stay positive.

"Let's stay positive and ride the ship and get it going back in the right direction," he said. "This district has been making continuous improvement for years. This one year is not indicative of things going wrong."

Marion County Board of Education Chairwoman Sister Kay Carlew said, initially, she was very disappointed with the district's test results. But, that disappointment provides the district with a challenge, she said.

"As a school board member, I look at what I can do so no child slips through the cracks," Carlew said. "I am aware that we have had to make district cuts. But we had wanted to make those cuts without hurting our students. Is there a connection between the cuts we were forced to make and the decline in the progress of our students? I know the teachers and principals are already putting names to the students who are slipping. I will be listening to our principals and teachers, to hear what they need from the board to turn our district around."

The test scores, which measure the percentage of students who are proficient in each subject, are used to calculate whether schools made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law. That law requires all schools to reach proficiency in math and reading (a score of 100) by 2014.

Statewide, 60 percent of the state's 1,158 public schools met their NCLB goals. That's down considerably from last year when 71 percent of the state's schools achieved their goals.

As a district, Marion County met 94 percent of its NCLB goals. The district fell two percentage points short on its graduation rate goal, which was 84.

Marion County is now ranked 71 out of 174 school districts in the state. That is a considerable dip from its 2008 ranking, which was 33.

Carlew said she and the board will not sit back and watch the school district continue to decline.

"No one could be pleased with a declining district," she said. "I promise you that nothing will be left unturned as we look at this problem. We are here for all students so we will set out to see what we can do better and smarter to meet the needs of all students."

Two of the district's seven schools, St. Charles Middle School and Marion County High School, failed to make adequate yearly progress as required by No Child Left Behind and were listed in "declining" status.

  Marion County High School...  

Marion County High School met nine of 13 targets, or 69 percent of its NCLB goals. MCHS didn't meet the reading or math targets for students with disabilities and also didn't meet the math target for free/reduced lunch students. MCHS also failed to meet its graduation rate goal.

Superintendent Smith, along with State Sen. Dan Kelly, State Rep. Jimmy Higdon, Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly and Marion County High School Principal Taylora Schlosser have formed a committee to address the graduation rate problem in Marion County and have begun an initiative called "Graduate Marion."

"We're having grassroots conversations," Smith said. "The first phase is awareness. We have to make sure people are aware of the graduation rate."

Test scores also reveal that MCHS experienced declines in reading, math, science and social studies, but did improve in writing on-demand.

According to Principal Schlosser, she and her staff are very aware of the school's decline and are aware of the areas that need addressing.

"Obviously math is one of those areas, as well as graduation rate," she said.

She and her staff have formed testing groups, are targeting individual kids who aren't making progress, and are attempting to determine why those students are struggling.

"We have to zero in on some kids and make sure all kids are making progress," Schlosser said. "We are going to look at all students. Any student that has a failing class, we are going to look at that child and see what that child needs."

Schlosser said the test results are discouraging because MCHS is one point above the state average in math on ACT exam results, but at the same time the school didn't make adequate yearly progress.

"I know we are a declining school but I still see a lot of positives because we are above the state average with our 11th grade class and our graduating seniors. And our AP scores are phenomenal," she said. "I think when you are looking at a school there are lots of things to look at. We are making some gains, and there are some areas we're not."

Schlosser hopes parents and the community as a whole remember that test results are only one indicator when evaluating the effectiveness and success of a school.

"We have a great staff. We care about kids. We want what is best for all kids," she said. "And we are going to address the whole child, not just one area."

  St. Charles Middle School...  

St. Charles Middle School met 11 of 12 targets, or 92 percent of its goals. SCMS failed to meet the student with disabilities reading goal. SCMS also showed declining scores in reading, science and social studies. However, the school showed considerable improvement in the areas of math and writing on-demand.

According to Principal John Brady, SCMS has gone from an overall score of 96 in 2007 to a 91 in 2009. While it's good to be in the 90s, the downward trend must be reversed, he said.

"We have had an enrollment increase over the past few years without a significant increase in resources," he said. "Our disability group has also increased over the past couple of years. There has also been an increase in the frequency and severity of some student behavioral and academic issues."

To address the behavioral issues, this year SCMS has implemented a new five-year program, PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), which is meant to improve the school's culture.

"It will be a while before the full benefit can be observed," Brady said. "There have been some immediate positive effects already observed during the current school year."

Brady also said that he and his staff will be examining the school-wide reading curriculum and looking for ways to improve it. This includes using Title I funds to increase the focus on reading content, implementing a remedial reading program to address struggling readers, strengthening the school's Professional Learning Communities, and ensuring professional growth for the school's reading teachers.

Brady said SCMS is also examining its science, social studies, and writing programs. These three areas had scores in the 80s and need to be improved, which will also improve the school's overall score, Brady said.

SCMS is also implementing the AdvanceKY "Laying the Foundation" program to increase the rigor of science, reading, English, and math classes.

In addition, SCMS is putting a higher focus on team teaching, which is when teachers go into other teachers' classrooms to collaborate and to provide individual student assistance. Teachers are also using the team teaching time to pull students into their classrooms for individual and small group tutoring, which will help improve the focus on students who are scoring at the novice and apprentice performance levels.

"Saint Charles Middle School is an excellent middle school and the issues over the past couple years have been challenging to handle," Brady said. "The students, parents and staff of Saint Charles Middle School are confronting the cultural, academic and behavioral issues, and I have already observed a positive change in our school. I feel confident the assessment results for this current school year will reflect the improvements we are implementing."

  Lebanon Elementary School...  

While Lebanon Elementary School met all of its NCLB goals, it experienced a decline in every subject - reading, math, science, social studies and writing on-demand. As a result, the school is listed in "declining" status.

According to Principal Donna Royse, there are many factors that could explain her school's declining test scores, but she said she doesn't want to make excuses.

"I want to focus on what we will do to make our scores improve next year," she said. "We have been awarded a Math Achievement Grant and we are confident that it will have a positive impact on our future math scores."

Royse said she and her staff have already began to disaggregating the test score data and have named the students who scored the lowest. She and her staff will develop a plan to help those students improve, and will also work on their school improvement plan to find ways to improve instruction, parent involvement, and issues of equity, she said.

"I want to reassure our parents and community that we are working very hard here at Lebanon Elementary," Royse said. "I also want parents and readers to realize that we may be declining but our score is still 93. But, we are not content with it. We know that some of our students performed to their best of their ability on the test. We are proud of them. Sometimes test scores do not reflect the progress some of our students have made. Next year at this time, I feel confident that you will be asking what did we do to improve."

  Calvary Elementary School...  

Calvary Elementary School not only met all of its NCLB goals, but it also improved in every subject area, with the exception of writing on-demand, where it experienced a small dip in its score.

CES is listed as "already at 100+" status, which indicates that the school has already reached the state's goal of 100 or higher by 2014.

  Glasscock Elementary School...  

Glasscock Elementary School also met all of its NCLB goals and experienced significant improvements in the areas of math and writing on-demand. GES noticed declines in the areas of reading, science and social studies.

GES is listed in "improving" status, which indicates that the school is making progress but not at a rate quick enough to reach 100 by 2014.

  West Marion Elementary School...  

West Marion Elementary School met all of its NCLB goals and showed an increase in its reading and social studies scores. However, WMES experienced declines in math, science and writing on-demand.

WMES is listed in "already at 100+" status, which indicates that the school has already reached the state's goal of 100 or higher by 2014.

  Lebanon Middle School...  

LMS met all of its NCLB goals for the second year in a row, which helped move them out of Tier I NCLB consequences. The previous two-year cycle LMS failed to meet adequate yearly progress, which means they were considered a No Child Left Behind Improvement School. A series of consequences (called "Tiers") is required of NCLB Improvement Schools for each subsequent year the school or district does not make over-all AYP. Tier 1 of consequences requires the school to give "school choice" to students, and several students transferred from LMS to SCMS.

However, because LMS met AYP last year and this year, it is no longer facing any consequences.

LMS also showed improvement in its reading, math and science scores. LMS noticed significant declines, however, in its social studies and writing on-demand scores.

LMS is listed in "improving" status, which indicates that the school is making progress but not at a rate quick enough to reach 100 by 2014.

  SCHOOL BY SCHOOL TEST SCORE SNAPSHOT  

School     Year     Reading     Math          Science   Social Studies     Writing on-demand

  CES          2007     91.20         89.60         84.44        81.82                      81.82                   2008     84.55          86.55        86.11         78.57                     69.05                   2009     90.09          92.79        88.37         80.65                     67.74   GES          2007     76.83          60.98       54.55          69.23                    40.00                   2008     79.59          68.03       69.09          76.60                    46.81                   2009     76.36          72.12       68.09          70.59                    52.94   LES          2007     79.72          67.83       72.88           68.57                   60.00                  2008     76.33           70.41       80.00           67.86                   58.93                  2009     74.52           66.88       74.63           43.48                   50.00   WMES     2007     79.75           70.66      79.55            72.37                   71.05                  2008     82.92           80.00       79.22           66.28                    77.91                  2009     83.33           79.39       78.48           78.48                    64.56   LMS          2007     65.53          44.01        67.79          54.26                    41.86                   2008     68.81          57.43        60.63          61.38                    46.90                   2009     69.25          58.02        61.24          48.84                    32.56   SCMS      2007     77.23          69.97        68.09          59.05                     55.24                   2008     73.58          69.90        59.60          68.37                     47.96                   2009     71.17          73.01        56.73          54.64                     49.48   MCHS      2007     62.61           51.12       39.91          47.51                     27.04                   2008     65.84           51.16       45.58          44.65                     40.19                   2009     58.70           47.51       42.08          43.44                     42.86     HOW THEY SCORED  

School     2007 score     2008 score     2009 score     Status

CES            112                  105                  111                 Already at 100+ GES              93                    96                   94                   Improving     LES               99                    98                   93                   Declining WMES        102                  103                  102                  Already at 100+ LMS              86                     88                   87                   Improving SCMS           96                     93                   91                   Declining MCHS           79                     76                   81                   Declining * DISTRICT  90                     91                   88                   Declining   * Already 100+ status indicates that the school has already reached the state's goal of 100 or higher by 2014. * Improving status indicates that the school is making progress but not at a rate quick enough to reach 100 by 2014. * Declining status indicates that a school's 2009 results were lower than its 2007 results.   NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND RESULTS   CES met 9 of 9 targets GES met 12 of 12 targets LES met 12 of 12 targets WMES met 13 of 13 targets LMS met 13 of 13 targets SCMS met 11 of 12 targets MCHS met 9 of 13 targets   * SCMS didn't meet the student with disabilities reading target.

* MCHS didn't meet the students with disabilities reading or math targets and also didn't meet the students who receive free/reduced lunch math target. MCHS also failed to meet the graduation rate target.

  REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT RANKINGS   School                 2008 Rank          2009 Rank Bardstown          101                       117 Boyle                     28                         28 Campbellsville   149                      159 Casey                  119                         96 Danville               110                       110 Marion                    33                          71 Nelson                 143                        134 Taylor                     89                           70 Washington           76                           79