Measuring success beyond the test score

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Test scores released, MCPS moving forward

By Stevie Lowery

“We are not improving.” 

That’s what Kentucky’s interim education commissioner Wayne Lewis said about the state’s test scores, which were released at the end of September.

“There are not a lot of positives here,” Lewis said in a media release. “For the past five years, there has been virtually no movement. We are not improving.”

But, that’s not how Marion County Superintendent Taylora Schlosser sees it.

“We haven’t arrived but we are moving forward with a focus on each and every student regardless of their street address,” she told the Enterprise recently.

The most recent test results are the first under Kentucky’s new assessment and accountability system. Under this new system, accountability determinations are only made at the school level. Determinations are based on student performance on state assessments and other school quality indicators or measures, such as growth or graduation rate, depending on the grade level. Additionally, per Senate Bill 1, approved in 2017, the new accountability system does not provide a single summative score that ranks schools against each other.

The new and old systems are “fundamentally different,” making comparisons difficult, interim education commissioner Lewis said in a media briefing on Sept. 25. Under the new standards system, schools receive a label of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), or “Other.” CSI schools are among the bottom five percent of all schools. TSI schools have at least one student group performing as poorly as schools in the bottom 5 percent. Approximately 37 percent of Kentucky schools were labeled either CSI or TSI. Of the state’s 1,272 schools, 63 percent received the “Other” identification. Five of seven Marion County Public Schools received the “Other” identification. Knight Academy and Marion County High School received a TSI identification along with 374 other Kentucky schools. At Knight Academy and MCHS, students with learning disabilities performed as poorly as schools in the bottom 5 percent.

But, according to Superintendent Schlosser, regardless of what kind of standards system is used, MCPS knows what it wants its students to know and be able to do when they graduate. Standardized test results are not the only way MCPS will be measuring student success, she told the school board during a special called meeting on Oct. 15.

“In Marion County Public Schools, we are going to measure success beyond the test score,” she said. “We are working hard with kiddos each day for today… not for last year.”


How did MCPS do?

The district’s elementary schools scored above the state average in reading, math. Their growth scores, which show if students are making progress toward proficiency, are also above the state average.

Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades are also doing well in the reading and math, and are scoring significantly higher than neighboring school districts. According to school officials, MCPS will be focusing more of its attention on the areas of science, social studies and writing with these grade levels before the next round of state exams. Growth indicators for these grade levels are slightly below the state average.

Marion County High School students’ reading and math scores are above the state average, as well as their transition readiness scores. Transition ready high school students should be able to enter and succeed in entry level postsecondary courses without remediation or enter the workforce possessing the knowledge and technical skills needed for employment in their desired career field.

MCHS’s graduation rate, which is 95 percent, is also well above the state average.

Tammy Newcome, MCPS chief academic officer, said schools are digging into all of the testing data and are working on their school improvement plans, which will be submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education in December.

“We are very proud of our schools as they continue to show progress in reading and mathematics at every level,” Newcome said. “Teachers continue to work extremely hard to align curriculum to state expectations, monitor assessment data, and provide supports to make sure every child is success ready.”

Next year, schools will be rated on a new five-star rating system.

According to Superintendent Schlosser, MCPS will continue to focus on the 6 C’s, which are collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, content and commitment. 

“While Kentucky will use a five-star system next year, our portrait of a graduate – our North Star – will define our commitment to making sure all students are able to leave this district with a skill set that will be needed in an ever-changing world,” Schlosser said.