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Moving Forward

By Keith Davis

 For the normal citizen who doesn’t sit around studying student assessment results, the multiple ways in which schools and school districts are measured can be extremely confusing. 

One day, the Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) results are released.  Then the Council for Better Education (CBE), The Kentucky Association of School Councils (KASC), and the Pritchard Committee for Academic Excellence issues their combined “Transition Index” which was constructed because the state changed the school accountability model three years and they wanted a consistent yardstick to maintain public confidence. 

Then, to add more confusion, the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) scores come out. 

They are based on the KCCT scores in math and reading, but cut everything up into subgroups (racial, income, learning disabilities), and if one or more sub-group (up to 25 subgroups - we have 13) doesn’t meet the standard, then the school and/or district is deemed to have failed to meet what is called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and labeled a failure. 

I am sorry that our public and supporters cannot be given a clear, consistent picture of student performance, and things will likely get a little more complicated as Kentucky implements the quite positive changes under Senate Bill 1 and the federal government begins revisions on the expiring NCLB law. 

From the outside, I imagine that the whole system appears to be designed to confuse rather than inform, but I believe that if the state government, which is constitutionally responsible for Kentucky schools is allowed to follow the course the General Assembly has set we will eventually have a good yardstick based on student achievement, achievement growth, performance gap reduction, college and career readiness, and graduation rate.

For now though, the best thing we have is comparing ourselves to how others are doing and showing you how we are improving as schools and as a school district. 

Keep in mind that there are 174 school districts (120 county districts and 54 independent districts).  BCPS is the 7th largest of those 174 districts.

Below, I will lay out some numbers that tell me that our school district is heading in the right direction, thanks to our staff and students, as well as the large amount of community support that has become evident in our county. 

On the Kentucky Core Content Test, the district’s average percentage of student scoring proficient or better rose from 60.1% to 67.0% in between 2007 and 2010. 

On the Transition Index, our district went from 137th place in 2007 to 98th place in 2010 and we are listed as “Improving.”  On this ranking, we were six points below state average in 2007 and now are within one point of the state average. 

In the percent of students scoring proficient or better in math and reading, Bullitt County students are ranked 84th of 174 school districts. 

This is better than the state average percentage of 68.3%.  Three years ago, we ranked 117th, when we were in the bottom 1/3 of districts. 

No district even close to our size has had better growth than ours, so this is something for which we should be very proud as a community. 

In fact, every indicator of student achievement has been rising, especially at the elementary and middle school levels.  

Reform of this magnitude does take some time before it becomes fully ingrained in the culture of the district, and the effects of the changes are not immediate. 

Our district implemented full-day kindergarten five years ago, the effects of that decision are now being seen, but those students have not yet made it to the middle schools or high schools.  Similarly, our older students have not been exposed to the changes we have made in instructional practices and curriculum pacing (when certain things get taught) for their entire academic career, so I anticipate that as our better prepared younger students come up through the system, the teachers in the upper grades will have a better prepared group of students that they can take farther. 

In the meantime, the middle and high schools are putting interventions in place to assist those who are not as prepared as we would like them to be.

The bottom line is this:  Bullitt County Public Schools has always done a good job with most students. 

We have always sent a lot of students to college or off to careers and there are many, many success stories.

But, we are committed to providing more opportunity to more students, to pushing every student toward greater heights, challenging our most naturally gifted students, and providing additional support for those who struggle. 

We do not do this to meet the mandates of some test or law, but because we have a moral duty to our children and community to give them every single opportunity for success that we can possibly provide. 

The data shows that we have done well so far, but you shouldn’t see anyone who works for BCPS looking satisfied, because we understand that we have some work to do before we fulfill our vision to the leader in educational excellence.