Commonwealth Journal

September 28, 2013

Three local high schools receive ‘distinguished’ status

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Kentucky’s schools appear to be progressing well, according to scores released from the second year of the new “Unbridled Leaning” testing system. The same can be said for the three local school systems — Pulaski County, Somerset Independent, and Science Hill Independent.

Most noteworthy is the fact that the county’s three high schools, Pulaski County, Somerset, and Southwestern, all received “Distinguished” status, thanks to their scores.

“This is an exciting sign of the state of education in Pulaski County,” said Somerset High School Principal Wesley Cornett.

The “Unbridled Learning” system went into effect during the 2011-2012 school year after the state was granted a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, and it features a number of measures at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

The results are based on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP), administered in Spring of 2013 in five content areas: Reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing. At the high school level, four end-of-course exams were given to students in Algebra II, English II, Biology and U.S. History.

Kentucky’s school districts were measured on achievement, which are test scores pulled from reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing content areas; gap, which is a smaller population pulled from schools’ total student population and features those students considered to be academically disadvantaged, such as those in lower economic brackets, ethnic and cultural minorities, and special education students; and growth in reading and mathematics.

Also featured in the new testing system are measurements in college readiness — determined by the percentage of students meeting benchmarks in three content areas on the EXPLORE test at the middle school level and by ACT benchmarks met, college placement tests and career measures at the high school level. Also included in the results formula are graduation rates, based on the average freshman graduation rate, for high schools. .

Schools are given “Distinguished” status when their scores place them in the top 10 percent of the other schools in the state.

Schools and school districts are classified according to their scores, and they receive “Distinguished,” “Proficient,” or “Needs Improvement” ratings based on their comparison with other schools and districts in the state. That means there’s no set number that qualifies an individual school or district for a category. It all fluctuates, depending on how everyone else did for the year. Schools and districts scoring at or above the 70th percentile are classified as proficient (the top 30 percent) and schools and districts scoring at or above the 90th percentile are classified as distinguished (the top 10 percent).

“This is probably the most fair way to do this,” said Cornett.

High school results were formulated through achievement measurements, gap measurements, growth measurements, college and career readiness measurements and graduation rates. Each of those measurements were equally weighted at 20 percent each to total 100 percent of the score.

Pulaski County High School for the 2012-2013 year pulled in a score of 70.2 out of 100, placing it firmly in the 97th percentile among the state’s high schools. Southwestern High School also landed in the 97th percentile, with a score of 71 our of 100. That means both high schools were placed in the top 3 percent of high schools in Kentucky.

“The work at the high schools has been focused and intense,” said Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Steve Butcher. “This success is earned and will undoubtedly continue for them.

“We also had very high college and career readiness rates and graduation rates. This is assurance that we are turning out prepared students,” Butcher added.

Somerset High School scored 61.2 out of 100, placing them firmly in the 90th percentile among high schools in the state, which means Somerset High School was in the top 10 percent of all high schools. Cornett said their push for achievement in college and career readiness helped improve on last year’s scores, which garnered them a “Proficient” status.

“I am very, very proud of our staff and our students,” said Cornett.

Elementary school results were formulated through achievement measurements, gap measurements, and growth measurements. Achievement was weighted at 30 percent, gap was weighted at 30 percent, and growth was weighted at 40 percent.

Middle school results were formulated through achievement measurements, gap measurements, growth measurements and college/career readiness measurements. Achievement was weighted at 28 percent, gap at 28 percent, growth at 28 percent, and college/career readiness at 16 percent.

All three school districts appeared to do well in the second year of testing, including Science Hill Independent, which for the second year in a row received “District of Distinction” status. A breakdown of the districts’ remaining schools is below:

Pulaski County Schools

The Pulaski County Schools District as a whole received a “Distinguished” label, with a total score of 64.9 out of 100. The district is in the 93rd percentile among other districts in the state. This is an improvement upon the district’s achievement last year, which placed it in the top 10 percent of districts in the state, or at the 90th percentile.

“To have as many school as we do all scoring exceptionally well shows that we are in this as a team working hard for all the kids of our community,” said Butcher. “It shows that we expect quality education at all our schools and for all our kids. If you see a teacher today, tell them job well done. Our kids are in capable hands.”

All of Pulaski’s eight elementary schools garnered either “Proficient” or “Distinguished” ratings.

Nancy Elementary and Southern Elementary were both labeled as “Distinguished” schools. Nancy Elementary received a 72.9 out of 100, placing it in the 95th percentile, and Southern Elementary scored 69.8 out of 100, which landed it in the 90th percentile among state elementary schools.

Special recognition went to Nancy Elementary School, which was designated as “School of Distinction” because the school was included in the top 5 percent of elementary schools in the state.

“The foundation that our elementary schools establish is the start of our success,” said Butcher. “They consistently achieve at high levels and get our kids off to successful beginnings,”

The district’s remaining elementary schools all landed firmly in the “Proficient” range.

Eubank Elementary School achieved a score of 68.4 out of 100, placing that school in the 87th percentile. Northern Elementary School garnered a 66.9 out of 100 for a place in the 84th percentile. Students at Oak Hill Elementary scored 66.1 out of 100, landing in the 82nd percentile among elementary schools in Kentucky, and Pulaski Elementary School received a score of 64.7 out of 100, which helped it enter the 78th percentile.

Burnside Elementary School students pulled in 62.9 out of 100, which placed the school in the 71st percentile. Shopville Elementary School received a score of 62.6 out of 100, placing it in the 70th percentile.

On the middle school level, Southern Middle School students garnered a score of 59.7 out of 100, placing it in the 73rd percentile among other middle schools in the state. That is a significant improvement from the 2011-2012 testing year, during which Southern Middle fell into the state’s 56th percentile.

Northern Middle School was labeled as the district’s only “Needs Improvement” school, with a score of 56.7 out of 100. Northern Middle landed in the 60th percentile among middle schools in Kentucky. Schools that fall below the 70th percentile are automatically placed in the “Needs Improvement” category.

“We increased our focus on the middle schools last year and Southern Middle School made the gains we were looking for,” said Butcher. “We have already had several meetings with principals and curriculum teams in identifying improvements to continue the progress.”

Butcher said he’s optimistic Northern Middle will soon make the gains needed to place it into the “Proficient” category.

Science Hill Independent School

Science Hill School, a K-8 school located in northern Pulaski County, emerged from the 2012-2013 testing year as a “Distinguished/Progressing” school district based on the school’s overall score of 67.7 out of 100.

Science Hill School’s designation comes after combining scores of its elementary and middle school grades. The district earned a 98th percentile ranking, which means the district scored as well as or better than 98 percent of the 174 school districts in Kentucky.

Because Science Hill School District was placed in the top 5 percent of the state’s districts, Science Hill is recognized as one of three districts in the highest rewards category of “District of Distinction.”  

Science Hill Middle School’s overall score is 70.2 out of 100, which is up from 64.0 in the 2011-2012 school year, which landed the middle school in the 97th percentile and helped it earn a “Distinguished/Progressing” mark.

Science Hill Elementary School’s overall score of 65.2 out of 100 decreased slightly from the 2011-2012 score of 66.1, which helped the elementary school retain its “Proficient” status as scoring above 70 percent of the state’s elementary schools.

Science Hill Elementary students scoring “Proficient” and “Distinguished” are above state percentages in reading, math, science, social studies, writing and language mechanics, according to Science Hill District Assessment Coordinator Michelle Harville. The elementary school scored at the 79th percentile which indicates they scored as well as or better than 79 percent of the 730 elementary schools in Kentucky.

The elementary school landed in the 79th percentile.

Science Hill School Principal Rita Presley said the school’s staff and students celebrated the news on Friday.

“We are thankful for caring and compassionate staff members and hardworking students as well as the dedicated parents who are equal partners in our success,” said Presley. “Test scores are an indicator of student growth in knowledge, but we are also proud of the team efforts and community spirit that are an integral part of the tradition of academic excellence in the district.”  

Somerset Independent Schools

Somerset’s schools continued to progress in the second year of the “Unbridled Learning” testing system.

Hopkins Elementary School this year was identified as a “Needs Improvement/Progressing” school, with a score of 58.6 out of 100, which landed the school in the 54th percentile. As mentioned above, schools must land in the 70th percentile — or perform better than 70 percent of other schools at those grade levels — to achieve “Proficient” status.

But that score comes in above the 2011-2012 scores for the school. Last year, Hopkins received a 56.6 out of 100, placing it in the 45th percentile.

Somerset District Assessment Coordinator Cindy Ham said Hopkins is identified as a “Progressing” school due primarily to improvements in individual student growth scores. Improvements in fourth grade math and science achievement scores also contributed to Hopkins earning the “Progressing” label.  

Since Hopkins Elementary only contains students through 4th grade, its scores do not reflect fifth grade on-demand writing and social studies scores. Those content areas are assessed and reported with Meece Middle School’s scores.

Meece Middle School received a total score of 60.6 out of 100, which placed it at “Proficient” status for the second year in a row and in the 78th percentile. This was an increase from the schools 2011-2012 scores, which came in at 60.3 and placed it in the 77th percentile among middle schools in Kentucky.

Ham said significant factors were improvements in sixth grade math and eighth grade reading scores, and an increase in the percentage of students meeting the American College Testing system’s benchmark levels on the EXPLORE test in three of four tested content areas.

Ham said the scores indicate progress, but she said there are several opportunities for growth and improvement.  

“We have made growth the past two years that we are very pleased with,” said Ham.