There are two sides to every coin.
When it comes to assessment results, there is both good news and bad news.
We are not a school district that is afraid to confront the brutal facts and I will outline some of them below. But, the news from our assessment results is mostly good news and we need to acknowledge and celebrate that fact.
I hear from fellow superintendents all over the state that their goal is to be a top 10 ranked school district.
I joked with a small group the other day that only slots two through 10 would be available in a few years, so the competition for them would be fierce.
Looking at our current rankings, which I’ll discuss below, one might think that it is ridiculous to think that we will ever reach our goal of number one.
We have some very encouraging news that needs to get out into the wider community, on whose support we rely.
Positive momentum is growing as we can now look at many of our own schools as models for success and not look in other counties.
I depend on those of you who read this to cut it out, print it off, and spread it around.
Without getting too complicated, there are two ways to look at our results. One is the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The other is a state-specific index that mirrors the changes the last Kentucky legislature enacted under Senate Bill 1.
This one has become commonly known as the Transition Index and gives us a lot more comparative data to see how we are progressing in relation to other school districts.
The bad news:
•We did not meet our No Child Left Behind goals. Our district was required to meet 13 specific goals for math and reading. We met 12 of them.
We were required to have 60.86 percent of our students reading at a proficient or distinguished level.
Among our students that qualify for free or reduced lunch, we missed that percentage by 1.43% - very close, but no cigar.
Some would say 92.3% is a very good percentage, but NCLB is strictly pass/fail.
•Our district has 10 of our 21 schools that did not make all their goals.
The ultimate goal of NCLB is for every child to be proficient, regardless of learning disability or any other factor.
In 2001-2002, to avoid being labeled as “not-meeting goals”, we were required to have 37.4 percent of our student proficient at reading and 19.6 percent proficient in math.
The 2008-2009 goals were 60.8 percent and 49.7 percent, respectively. Next year, the goal line will move up another 10 percentage points for each, then another 10 points, then another.
It is hard for a reasonable person to see how any school or district will meet these goals, but that is our task.
The good news:
·On the Transition Index, BCPS improved from 150th place two years ago to 113th place this year.
This means we leapfrogged 37 other school districts in the state " while the other districts are also trying to improve their educational outcomes.
For a district as large as ours (6th largest in Kentucky), that is remarkable.
·The district made improvement in 14 of 15 academic areas. Only our high schools’ science results fell and they fell by a mere 2/100ths of a percent.
·Even though not making the goal, several schools experienced great success in increasing the achievement level of students with disabilities in all areas.
For example, 35 percent of 6th grade students with disabilities at Zoneton Middle scored at the Novice (lowest) level in reading last year.
This year, there were 0 percent at that level among the same group of students (now 7th graders).
At Bullitt Lick Middle, 63 percent of 6th grade students with disabilities scored Novice in math. This year, that percentage was reduced to 28 percent (a 35 percent decline in Novice). Progress of this magnitude should be celebrated, not seen as failure. It is through the efforts of teachers, principals, parents, and support staff that these students made tremendous strides.
·We have two schools (Lebanon Junction and Bernheim Middle) that were under state sanctions four years ago, that are now among our best schools.
LJES ranked 497th of 743 in the last round. This round, it moved up 248 slots to take its place in the top 1/3 of all elementary schools in the state.
BMS, in 2007 ranked 264th of 307. By 2009 " two short years " that school jumped over 193 other schools and is now us in the top 25 percent of middle schools in the state.
Those are simply tremendous gains and as these better prepared students progress to high school, we will see dramatic improvement at that level as well.
·Eastside Middle is ranked 27th in the state on the Transition Index. That is not top 10 percent; that is top 9 percent.
·Among counties that border our county, we ranked higher than all of them on the Transition Index. These other districts are good school districts and it is a testament to our teachers and students that we have surpassed them. Last year, we were behind them all.
The editor won’t let me use his whole paper, or I could go on and on with good news. Suffice to say that every school has something to celebrate and each school is sending out the good news in newsletters and at parent meetings.
Bullitt County’s educational system and Bullitt County’s children are inferior to none.
Every school " and the district " knows that it is still a long way from 113th place to 1st place and there is much work to do in surrounding our students with the supports and solid instruction that will be necessary to attain our vision.
Our people are working non-stop to provide the solid instruction, and have an excellent support network of caring adults in many capacities. But this isn’t enough.
A huge part of the support we must have is support from the community. If we want to be the best, we really must focus on the positive and avoid “running down” education in general or our county and school district in particular (while always confronting issues that need confrontation).
Progress is evident throughout our county - be it our schools, our homes, or our businesses. We should recognize and be proud of that fact; part of being a winner is behaving like a winner.
Teachers deserve our respect for the hard work they do, but I think I can speak for them when I say they would rather that every child come to school with sufficient sleep, properly prepared, and instilled by their parents and neighbors with a positive attitude toward learning.
Education is not punishment; it is huge opportunity for a better life that we - as a society - provide to every child. We need to remember always how blessed we are to live in a country that sets no limits on what one can accomplish and constantly encourage our kids to dream heroic dreams. That’s what we are doing at BCPS.