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Progress can't keep up with federal expectations

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By Mallory Bilger

SHEPHERDSVILLE ee" Although most Bullitt County schools made marked progress toward reaching their 2009 No Child Left Behind goals, the stakes seem to be getting higher faster than faculty members and administrators can produce the required results.

Many educators become discouraged in the trek to reach NCLB 100 percent proficiency by 2014, voicing that federal requirements require progress too quickly without accounting for the time it takes to see true progress.

Bullitt County’s Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Greg Schultz presented the district’s quarterly review of academic progress to the Bullitt County Board of Education Tuesday evening and his presentation reiterated that the district is making positive progress but still has work to do.

“We’re making progress, we’re not making as much progress as we’ll need to meet these NCLB goals,” Schultz said of the goals, which go up another 10 points next school year.

Schultz said it takes time to produce results and the district is already seeing the fruits of its labor in many areas.

He said Bullitt County schools improved in 14 of the 15 academic assessment areas for elementary, middle and high schools. Last year the district only improved in 9 out of those 15 areas. 19 of the district’s 22 schools saw overall gains in NCLB scoring indices.

He said the district also saw a reduction in the number of students scoring novice ee" the lowest possible score ee" on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.

Schultz said district progress is needed in the areas of reading for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. Nine of the district’s elementary schools made the NCLB prescribed yearly adequate progress, while only two middle schools made this goal and none of the district’s high schools achieved it.

“The more we dig, the more we find there is to do,” Schultz said.

Board of Education Chair Sammy Allen said he felt the public has been lead astray about the district’s progress. “We’re moving forward,” he said. “All this tier stuff has just kind of done us an injustice . . . but the goal goes up every year so we’re just playing leap frog right behind it.”

Superintendent Keith Davis asked each principal to share what they have done to improve test scores and the overall learning process. Many principals attributed their successes to teacher commitments and students who respond well to a challenge.

Lebanon Junction Elementary Principal Staci Goedde said her school’s progress this year can be attributed to setting high expectations for students. LJES was under NCLB state sanctions two years ago but now is among the county’s strongest elementary schools. “Kids will live up to expectations that you put in front of them and our kids do that,” she said.

Shepherdsville Elementary Principal David Pate said his teachers are working hard and that improvements are being made, but the NCLB numbers unfairly reflect different. SES met 11 of its 12 NCLB goals, which, by federal standards, is not adequate progress.

“Only in the field of education are you looked at (as failing) when you meet 11 out of 12 goals. The general public doesn’t realize, they just see a no,” Pate said of the school’s failure to meet adequate yearly progress. “Obviously we’ve not arrived, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Davis said the public needed to understand that when a school is labeled failing or unable to meet adequate yearly progress, it is often because of one or two areas where the school only missed its mark by one or two points. He added that often the school is progressing in those areas, but NCLB scores don’t reflect that overall.

“Things are going well. Our community has a right to be proud. We still have a long way to go,” Davis said.

Schultz said he felt confident that teachers have been given ample tools and resources to produce successful students, including the collaborative learning communities, more personal student focus and state-of-the-art technology to enhance lessons.

“I really believe we’ve given the teachers a lot of tools but now we have to give them the time,” he said.